Review: Mowgli

“In 2014, founder Nisha Katona had a nagging obsession to build an eatery serving the kind of food Indians eat at home and on their streets.”

Walking into the Cardiff branch of Mowgli, we were met with a dazzling spectacle of fairy lights and warm colour. The staff were so incredibly welcoming and helpful that we couldn’t help but feel instantly at home in this treasure cave. On their website they describe themselves as “not about the intimate, hushed dining experience [but] about the smash and grab zing of healthy, light, virtuosic herbs and spices.” This became apparent when sitting amongst the warm light as it felt like we were all together, enjoying a family meal.

The smells coming from the kitchen flirted with our senses as our eyes flickered upon their menu, swaying our temptation and making our mouths water. The menu is so interestingly varied it was so hard to pinpoint what we wanted. After much deliberation, and some help from the waiting staff, we opted to share; yoghurt chat bombs, the ruby wrap, gunpowder chicken, one of the office worker’s tiffin and some roti.

The yoghurt bombs were the first to arrive and set an extremely high standard for the evening. The Pani puri spheres held a perfect mixture of spiced yogurt, creating a beautifully cool sensation in the mouth. They were topped with pomegranate seeds, adding a refreshing sharp after taste which complimented the spicy tang well. The only regret we had was scoffing them straight away and not saving them for when the rest of the food arrived, as they would have acted as an ideal relief from the harsher spices of the curries.

The Yogurt bombs topped with pomegranate and coriander

The gunpowder chicken is described as a spiced chicken popper in a gluten free chickpea batter, and they were unlike any battered chicken I had ever tested. I can’t recall ever trying chickpea batter before, but after this experience, I would be reluctant to shy away from it if I ever see it on the menu. The chicken was succulent, the batter was crisp and the coriander and basil accompaniments were perfectly balanced, what more could you want?

The paneer in the ruby wrap was juicy and delicious and matched the “rainbow of Mowgli chutneys” well. I absolutely adore paneer in Asian cooking and this dish did not disappoint. However, if you are one of those unfortunate enough to not enjoy the taste of coriander, this dish is not for you as it was scattered in abundance!

 The curries we were given in our tiffin box were; Temple dahl, House chicken curry and Mowgli House Keema with a side of rice. The sauce from the chicken curry was my favourite and suited their description of “tame but tantalising”. I love a Keema and it is rarely seen on the menu, so I was really excited to try it. It was rich in flavour and almost reminiscent of Lebanese cooking due to the domination of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. I think of a keema as relatively dry curry due to the cohesion of the meat and sauce as one, so I was pleased we had ordered roti to go with it. The Temple Dahl was not my favourite as the lentils had a little more bite and the sauce was little wetter than I would have liked, however, the flavour was still delicious. I enjoyed the presence of the roti and they went down well, but they were a bit thin and my partner and I both agreed that we prefer a thicker flat bread.

The overall meal was stunning and a really enjoyable experience. The setting was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the staff were attentive and friendly. Although the curries were delicious, I favoured the street food dishes and when I return, I will be eager to sample as many more as I can! I would recommend this restaurant to anyone and I cant wait to show it to all my friends and family!

The Coconut tree

Originally written for Quench student mag

As someone who has grown up immersed in Sri Lankan food and culture due to my father’s heritage, the opening of The Coconut Tree in Cardiff was an exciting moment for me. When I walked into the restaurant for the first time, I remember being instantly hit with a cultural punch reminiscent of those lazy days spent in Sri Lanka. The menu offered everything I could have asked for in order to acknowledge a true Sri Lankan foodie experience; parippu, kotthu, slow cooked tuna in goraka spices, coconut sambol and of course… hoppers. I enjoy making my own egg hoppers at home but it is a laborious task and will often result in me spending the whole morning slaving over the hob for my family, so, ordering them from a restaurant is a nice change! At Quench we wanted to get in touch with The Coconut Tree, delve into the background of their restaurant and find out about the inspiration behind their Sri Lankan theme. We were also interested to learn how they had coped with lockdown and what effects COVID 19 could have on their future.

 I was put into contact with the brand director Anna Garrod who was able to shed some light on The Coconut Tree’s origin story and the five young Sri Lankans who wanted to ‘bring Sri Lankan streetfood to the masses.’ The beginning of their journey was accompanied by calls to Ceylon to attain secret recipes from their mums and handmade furniture from their dads. This authenticity is so prevalent in their restaurants and creates such a refreshing experience. They made sure that the menu offered variety with the abundance of vegetarian and vegan options, as well as affordability with the pricing starting at £2.50. This way they have been able to fulfil their mission of ‘true Sri Lankan hospitality that ‘Everyone is welcome to the Table.’ ’ Anna says that Sri Lankans were born making food for an occasion, and, if my family are anything to go by, this is definitely true!

The Coconut Tree own six different branches across the UK, but they don’t see themselves as a chain. They are a group of owners who work in the business every day and night, from cooking to finance, to operations. After their initial opening in Cheltenham, they were picked up by the Guardian as one of the best ‘cheap eats in the South West’ and their business exploded from there. Since then they’ve opened branches in Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford and Bournemouth. Cardiff attracted them as the ‘lifestyle capital of Wales’ and the Welsh’s friendliness and love of eating out! Anna commented on the fact that both Lonely Planet and The Sunday Times listed Sri Lanka as the No1 ‘Best place to visit’ and the benefits it subsequently had on The Coconut Tree’s success and profile. The Coconut Tree are going to be a part of the Castle Eats project at Cardiff Castle, so Cardiffians will be able to sit outside the castle and enjoy a takeaway from TCT al fresco! TCT is located on Mill Lane, next to Côte Brasserie and opposite John Lewis. This is a perfect foodie location, as it is surrounded by some of Cardiff’s finest restaurants and TCT acts as a unique addition to this collection. It stands out with its bold, dark branding and its outdoor seating and bar creates a welcoming vibe, encouraging passers-by to pop in for a legendary cocotail!

An image provided by TCT of their delicious food

On the topic of lockdown and COVID19, the lack of business proved to be a struggle for all small to medium boutiques. TCT’s Cardiff location had only been open for six months, so for them to have come through the worst of lockdown and survived it is a big success for them! Social media acted as a positive method to keep in touch with their costumer base and give updates towards reopening. They started doing takeaways on Fridays and Saturdays throughout lockdown, but have now extended to every night thanks to the extreme popularity they received. They’ve recently opened their outdoor space with plans to start trading inside as well, so it’s onwards and upwards for TCT! They are participating in the August Eat Out to Help Out offer Monday – Wednesday, so it’s the perfect opportunity to get down there and try out their amazing food!

I asked TCT what they would recommend to a first time coconuter and they responded with two new hybrid dishes that they’ve recently added to their menu:

  • Devilled Pork & Pineapple: Mixing two famous Sri Lankan dishes, this spicy, sweet, tangy and sour dish is a vibrant mix of juicy belly pork, red chilli, onion and banana peppers with garlic, spring onion and seasoning. The pork is cooked in the spices, before the veg is finished on a hot plate with the pineapple ‘Achcharu Style’. 
  • Chicken Curried Kotthu: Two of The Coconut Tree’s best-loved and best-selling dishes come together for the first time; Vegetable Kotthu (finely chopped roti cooked with egg and vegetables, cooked on a searing hot plate), topped with juicy chicken off-the-bone in a rich curry sauce made with fennel, cardamom, cloves, cumin, house curry powder, onion and cinnamon. 

They sound delicious and I can’t wait to try them! Everyone should get down to The Coconut Tree to sample their amazing food and cocotails!