Sunday, 11 January 2009

A tale of two restaurants in one city

I already mentioned the poor experience I had at the Mumbai Indian Restaurant in the previous post, but I'd now like to give a more detailed review of the place, along with another recently opened, modern-style Indian restaurant not a stone's throw away called the Bollywood Lounge.

So firstly The Mumbai Indian Restaurant, on Westgate, WF1 1BW. I had the unique experience of eating in this restaurant in December as my work's do. I say "unique" because I will not be returning at any time in the distant future. Entering the venue, you can see that a lot of effort and investment (and they do seem to crow less about the style of the place, but about how much was actually spent on doing the place up) has gone into the refurbishement, and the surroundings are very trendy. The bar area has all the cliches you see in property makeover programmes where they go on about on modern, clean lines and the like. However, we weren't to eat in this area, but unpstairs in a separate room.

First off we were offered poppadoms, which we only discovered later were, rather sneakily, not included in the £19.95 per-head cost. And by later I mean AFTER we had already settled the bill, thoguh it did actually explain how the cost was more than we should have paid. Started took a while to arrive, though wew actually quite good (especially the masala fish).

Then we waited for our main courses to arrive, and eventually they did, though weren't as warm as they shoulfd have been. These were a korai gosht, Mumbai makani, a korma, and a seafood masala - complete with rubber king prawns. The quality of these was at best mediocre, and nothing more than you would expect at any reasonable Indian takeaway or restaurant. Also they were rather oily which is a negative point in my book.

We settled the bill, but only then did we manage to convince the waiting staff that we were actually supposed to have dessert. These were disappointing as they had supposedly ran out of all Asian specialities, and I was even told that they had ran out of ice-cream, despite having something like 20 flavours listed in their menu, and the fact that party members who had the chocolate fudge cake had a scoop of vanilla.

In all we were in the restaurant four hours for a three course meal, which is completeley unacceptable, especially since the place didn't actually seem that busy and we had a dedicated waitress for the evening. So I would say this is defintely a victory of style over substance and I really would not recommend this to anyone but my very worst enemy.
It might be cheesy, but let's go for a marking system. I'd say no more than 1 out of 5

Now, compare this to the Bollywood Lounge Smyth St, WF1 1ED which I had the pleasure of dining at last night. This opened about a similar time to Mumbai, and is another modern-style Indian restuarant. This time there were two of us, and we had been looking for somewhere to eat having visited the cinema to see Slumdog Millionaire (an excellent film, which was, appropriately enough, set in Mumbai, home of the Bollywood film industry). We got an early table fairly easily and were give the very extensive menu which includes a huge range of unusual dishes. We settled on a starter of char-grilled chicken wings and a mixed vegetable bhaji which were good. We also had a bottle of the house red, which was an Argientinian malbec which was a decent glug. For mains we had chicken sangam and the akshay, both of which were new to us. They were very good, and arrived in good time. They were accompanied with a plain naan and a plain pilau rice which were also good.

The surroundings are pleasant, though perhaps not quite as intimate as the main dining area appeared in the Mumbai. Service was prompt, friendly and polite so the experience was so much better than that I had at their neighbours round the corner on Westgate. In total I'd say it is a great place to eat, though maybe a little expensive as Indian restaurants go. Don't get me wrong our bill came to £40 all-in which is pretty cheap for a meal for two, but as a quick post-cinema blow-out it is more than you might expect. It had become quite busy by the time we had finished and is probably popular with larger groups so maybe isn't the place for a quiet romantic meal for two as the layout is quite open and bright.
I'd give it 4 out of 5

In summary, it would usually be difficult to compare a large group on a party night out with a dinner for two. With a large group there might be a slightly lower quality of service and of food, true, but there is a basic standard that can be expected wherever and with how many people you eat which the Mumbai fell way short of., The Bollywood, on the other hand, easily achieved what would be expected for a meal for two. I suppose the two places are similar in that they are both recently opened, contemporary Indian restaurants, though it is probably fair to say the target demographic is different. Mumbai aims, it would seem, at young professionals, and Bollywood aimed more family-orientated. However, it is easy to see how style and swagger will not cover up for an inferior product, whoever you are trying to entice into your restaurant.

All new raison d'etre

Well I wanted to do a blog of the mundane, following on from the ones I did for my travels which you can find in my profile, and I posted an entry earlier about the post Christmas hangover. Now I was wondering what to blog about in general, then I was inspired this week gone by the site Sugarvine (I'll not even grace it with a proper URL, look it up, but really it has little value). On the Christmas do I had with work we had the most appalling dining experience at a new restaurant in Wakefield called Mumbai which I'll cover shortly. Being a bit pissed off with this I decided to write a scathing review on Sugarvine, though at the time the restaurant wasn't listed. Sugarvine is a UK website listing restaurants and allowing you to post opinions on them, so I though it would be fair to share my experience with the rest of the world.

Lo and behold, this week just gone I noticed the restauarant had appeared on the afforementioned site so I wrote a pithy review, which wasn't an absolute slagging off, as I did note the good points (like decent starters and surroundings), but the service was so bad my comments were concentrated on this. However, only after submitting this did I realise that they only publish good reviews, or recommendations of the place, and forward negative reviews to the restaurant, so I can expect some contact from this Indian, no doubt toadying and offering me something in recompense. It won't work. Worst of all though is that the two glowing reviews already posted for Mumbai are so clearly written by the restaurant themselves that it looks like the value of Sugarvine as a place to learn about where is good to eat is non-existent. Further more, that if they are expecting people using the restaurant to only post good comments, they are doing nothnig ore than advertising the eateries and expecting the pblic to do their job for them.

So. from now on, I will be chronicalling my experience in restaurants whenever I visit them and giving fair, though hopefully amusing, reviews. To come will be a double review contrasting two similarly styled places I have eaten in the last few weeks, the Mumbai and another modern Indian restaurant called Bollywood Lounge