There are plenty of Indian Restaurants in Cardiff but few who could really come out on top in the Cardiff restaurant scene. Mint and Mustard is one of the few that I consider to be in the running.
I have eaten in the Mint and Mustard before but I have to admit, not since chef Anand George left to set up the Purple Poppadom. I was worried that it wouldn’t be the same and I didn’t want to be disappointed. After being invited to sample the new Chakara Fish menu, I am confident that Mint and Mustard still has plenty to offer.
With lots of Indian restaurants on Whitchurch Road, Mint and Mustard has a fair bit of competition but it has done well to set itself apart as a more ‘upmarket’ Indian restaurant and not your average curry house and is usually full and lively.
We were seated in the back of the restaurant with a party of food bloggers and other food lovers. As we chatted and munched on poppadoms, we were talked through the menu by the very proud Executive Chef Pramod Nair who has racked up quite a career in India including cooking for the queen when she visited Kerala. He designed the new menu which is to be served in Cardiff and a Taunton restaurant which has recently opened.
There is a Chakara Tasting menu available for £37.50 per person as well as an A la carte. We were treated to a tasting menu but it wasn’t the one available to customers. It was a selection of the chef’s best dishes.
We kicked off with a selection of starters. Each one was presented beautifully although as a tasting menu I’m not sure that they really worked together. We dived into scallops cooked in a saffron and coconut sauce, a spicy salmon mousse, a soft shelled crab and a saucy king prawn. The soft shelled crab was delicious and I could have happily eaten several of these. The prawn had some fantastic flavours but it was a little bit messy and I really enjoyed the mousse. However, the scallops were a little over cooked for my liking.
After a successful (and large) starter, we moved onto a King Fish Steak Vattichathu which was a served with shallots and tomato on a potato cake. The fish was lovely, I really like meaty fish and it worked well with the flavoursome sauce as it wasn’t a delicate fish and the potoato cake added an extra and welcome texture. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of this dish as I got over excited and forgot to take one.
Following this, was another selection of dishes that would usually be served as mains. The Queen’s Silver Pomfret was named so as this was the dish Pramod cooked for the queen. This came with a dressed crab in a masala sauce, fish cooked in a banana leaf and a serving of seafood rice. The Pomfret was a soft delicately flavoured fish. It didn’t need any bells and whistles because it was well cooked and beautifully flavoured. I really enjoyed the fish in the banana leaf which was lovely and tender but I wasn’t so impressed with the crab. I think a meat as delicate as crab was over powered by the masala sauce.
Quite full at this point, we moved onto yet another course. Each table was served a Konju Mango Curry (tiger prawns cooked in fennel, coconut and mango) and a Mixed Seafood Pachadi (cod, monkfish, shrimps, squid and mussels cooked in a pineapple, butternut squash and coconut sauce).
On holiday in India, I really enjoyed the fruity curries but I had never experienced anything quite like the pineapple one we tried here. Milky pineapple and fish might sound like a bizarre combination but believe it or not, it does work! I think it would be a great flavour for a chicken curry too. However, for me, the mango curry was the best. Mango is a favourite of mine and this was fabulous!
Stuffed beyond belief, it was time for dessert. After such a huge meal, we were relieved that the dessert was a light ice cream and for me a dish to remember. We were treated to a trio of jack fruit, rose and a mint and mustard ice cream. Jack fruit is one of my favourite fruits and reminds me of times in Asia so I loved this one. It had an unusual texture and the jack fruit flavours came through clearly (although a few of my fellow diners didn’t agree). The rose ice cream was similarly lovely and then there was the mint and mustard…
I can see what Pramod was trying to do with the Mint and Mustard ice cream and I think it was a novel idea but it wasn’t well received by everyone. In fact, I was the only person on my table to finish it. Even when I had eaten it all, I wasn’t sure whether I liked it or whether I had eaten it out of morbid fascination. The initial taste was like a Murray Mint but the aftertaste was of strong mustard and I’m not sure that the flavours really worked together. Pramod clearly enjoys experimenting though and I’m sure he will carry on with this to try and perfect it as it is still a work in progress.
Overall, I enjoyed the new Chakara menu. I think it has the potential to be really great. There are a few tweaks that could be made to improve it and I’m sure that with time, they will be made.
As we were invited along to this tasting and it we didn’t experience the menu as a paying diner would do or have the taster menu on offer to customers, it isn’t easy to comment on price and service. Therefore, I’m not going to give my usual spoon ratings but I would love to visit again on a normal night and chose from the a La Carte menu and I have a sneaky suspicion this would achieve a green spoon!