“ Address: 47 Fossgate, York, YO1 9TF „
York's 'Mumbai Lounge' is a rather slick contemporary Indian restaurant on the city's Fossgate. We turned up at Saturday lunchtime at the end of the half term week when the city was teeming with tourists but we didn't have a problem getting a table. In fact the restaurant was rather quiet and we were given a table in the window and right beside the door; only a couple of other tables were occupied and probably as a result the service was on the whole too attentive and verging on the obsequious at times. Yes, the slightly shimmery salwar kameez the waiters wore looked great but they appeared rather too frequently around the table and I soon tired of them.
This is a fairly glitzy establishment; a combination of smart and traditional - crisp white cloths and formal table settings - with lots of sparkles and shiny surfaces. Pop art representations of colourfully dressed Indian ladies make a bold statement on the walls. A brushed chrome and glass staircase makes quite a statement, leading to a snazzy lounge bar but we ate in the main dining room on the ground floor. There's a suggestion on the website to start or end your meal in the lounge and you can even bring your own music to be played (just cross your fingers that you don't book for the same night as the Steps fanclub).
We had been tempted in by the lunchtime specials posted in the window as there were several price options and a good variety of dishes. Each of the set menus offered a choice of two starters and two mains. Then there was rice and a naan bread to share; presumably if you go alone you get the choice of one or the other. I can't say that the choices were very exciting but, then again, I don't usually expect to find anything unusual on a set price lunch deal so I can't claim to be disappointed. All bases were covered, though, with curries of different levels of heat and meat, prawn and vegetable main course and starters available.
One thing I found quite irritating about 'Mumbai Lounge' was the strict division of labour; it was so intense it would have been specially commended by Lenin himself. Any request made would inevitably require the staff member asked not just to convey the request to the relevant colleague, but to send him to the table to hear the request for himself. The napkin waiter - I was still removing my coat and trying to stash my shopping alongside the table when he was trying to put the napkin across my lap - could not supply us with drinks, the drinks waiter could not take our food order, and so on. On top of that the drinks waiter would insist on filling my glass by leaning across me to reach for the beer bottle and at the end of the meal the young lad who brought the little bowl of orange wedges and hot towelettes insisted on opening both packets even though Himself had nipped off to the loo (by the time I had eaten the pieces of orange, I was wishing I still had the towelette to come).
Although the menus had seemed quite dull the presentation was excellent and it's fair to say that Mumbai Lounge has given the old favourites a new lease of life. For my starter I had chosen a menu with chicken pakora; three nice sized chunks of succulent chicken breast had been dipped in batter and deep fried until golden and crispy. When I cut into a piece I could see that the chicken had been lightly marinated before being coated. The pakora were served with a nicely dressed salad - and it WAS a salad, not just a feeble garnish as is so often the case; there was even avocado! One element that was a little odd was the slice of goats' cheese on top of the salad which, while it was delicious, really didn't work with the pakora. There were small amounts of two sauces - a white yoghurty one and a dark one which could have been a balsamic reduction or could have been one made with tamarind - artistically painted on the edge of the plate but, in my opinion, what this dish needed was a dip or sauce with a bit of heat in it.
Himself chose the menu that opened with the chaat massala and the menu gave away virtually nothing about what to expect. Instead of simply spooning the chickpea curry onto the puri and presenting that directing on the plate, the puri had been folded to make a wrap which had been cut in half and presented so the contents could just be seen. The chat massala was nicely spiced, lively without being crazy. The accompanying salad was again topped with goats' cheese - maybe they'd got some cheap?
For my main course I had a choice of chicken tikka bhuna or lamb balti and as I had already had chicken, I opted for the lamb dish. I was not disappointed. The lamb was very tender and there were no fatty or gristly bits to discard. I would have liked a bit more meat in the dish but at £6.90 for two courses and rice, it seems churlish to complain too much. The sauce was rich and spicy and a little hotter than most baltis but it had good depth of flavour and the generous use of fresh coriander really brought the dish to life.
With a choice of chicken tikka massala or South Bengal garlic chilli, the chilli dish was always going to be the curry expert's preference, and he asked for it with lamb. As it happens the dish was no hotter than my own on the whole, though a liberal sprinkling of fresh green chillies certainly provided a few fiery eruptions. This is certainly a good choice for garlic lovers as the lovely thick slices of garlic melted in the mouth having stewed in the sauce. (His menu was priced at £7.95)
We were very impressed by 'Mumbai Lounge', especially the value for money element. You expect a lunchtime offer to represent a good deal but this was exceptional in my opinion. The presentation of the dishes was excellent and, on the whole, the food was very good (barring the mysterious inclusion of the goats' cheese in our starters).
I really couldn't fault the surroundings; the décor was really quite unique yet comfort had not been sacrificed in order to look cool. The staff were polite and helpful though I'd have preferred to have seen less of them than I did.
Our initial expectations were not great when we saw the choices but we were pleased in the end with our choice of restaurant. Highly recommended.