Restaurant reviews

Mother India’s Cafe: An aromatic jewel in the heart of Edinburgh

After Thursday’s disappointment at the Clarendon Hotel Caroline wants to make sure that dinner on her first evening in Edinburgh is memorable for all the right reasons …

It is testament to the food at Mother India’s Cafe that it is usually one of the first places we head to when we are in Edinburgh. The city has a lot of curry houses and many are a lot closer to the Edinburgh Residence than Mother India so it says a lot about what’s on offer that we are happy to get a bus to an unprepossessing street off South Bridge when we feel the need for a good curry. Mother India’s Cafe has brought the tapas concept to Indian cooking, an inspired gesture which means that you can try lots of dishes without feeling gluttonous!

It is a popular venue with locals, visitors, students and those heading to the nearby Festival Theatre so I decided to book a table. I would not normally mind queueing for a table but did not want to inflict this on the seven month pregnant Mrs Foodie! At this point I was in the car (as passenger, not driver, I hasten to add) and thought I would use my phone to book online. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say I ended up with a table in Glasgow and the moral of the tale is not to book using a tiny screen on a phone whilst trying to look up all the time to avoid feeling queasy. Luckily the very helpful General Manager Asif Ali was very understanding when I emailed to cancel and even offered to phone Edinburgh to make our booking for us, which I thought was really going the extra mile.

Mother India Cafe in Edinburgh

Over to Leeds Foodie himself now, to review the nine dishes plus assorted breads which we had between the four of us.

Good customer service and good food do not necessarily go hand in hand, but more often than not they are linked! This was again the case after Caroline’s experience of Mr Ali being very helpful. The food itself was fantastic and really showed why we had such difficulty in getting a table (aside from human error on our part!).

Having been welcomed to the nicely decorated and well located Mother India Cafe in Edinburgh, we were swiftly offered the standard Indian restaurant opening gambit of poppadoms and chutney. Of course, being fans of both, we said yes, before getting another taste of why Mother India is held in such high esteem by critics and locals alike. We decided to go for some mango chutney and mixed pickle and were duly rewarded with nice (not horribly greasy as can often be the case) poppadoms and a tasty (with a subtle spice) double of mixed pickles and mango chutney. All in all a good start!

When Caroline had suggested the idea of going to Mother India, the one thing that had left me slightly concerned was the idea of having tapas style Indian food. Sure, you can go for a thali in a few more authentic places but this is a whole meal and not a tapas selection where you share your food with others. This fear was completely unfounded as it turned out! The portion sizes are not too big so that it feels like a full meal after eating one dish but big enough to be shared between a few people whilst allowing you to go back for more of your favourites.

It is also worth noting that the recommendations of the Mother India staff are worth following. Otherwise, I imagine that, especially when you take the sundries into account, you really could order far too much!

Anyway, enough of the logistics and on to the food! Caroline and Richard paired up as Charlotte and I had to avoid the shellfish options they were keen on going for (one of the pitfalls of pregnancy for foodies). With this in mind, we ordered four dishes between each pair as well as a few garlic pitta breads (that seemed to be the same as a naan to me!), some chapatis and some spiced onion. I understand that many people reading this might question why on earth I haven’t mentioned rice so far and suffice to say it was on offer! The reason why we didn’t go for it is that a lot of the dishes seemed rather appropriate to ‘mop up’ with bread. For us at least, the option of not going for rice paid off!

We ordered two chilli garlic chicken, two baby aubergine and potatoes, patina lamb, chilli king prawns for Caroline and Richard and spicy keema dosa and chilli fish cakes for Charlotte and I. All in all they were fantastic (also the elusive ninth dish will be revealed soon!).

The chilli garlic chicken was a real menu staple that shone through with a subtle hint of chilli that wasn’t overpowering but left a nice aromatic taste in your mouth and also smelled fantastic! The baby aubergine and potatoes could have been far too heavy but the two different textures complemented each other well before being brought together by a lovely understated sauce.

Mother India Cafe in Edinburgh

Caroline and Richard assure me the patina lamb was fantastic and for those who are seafood fans, the chilli king prawns are a healthy(ish!) and supremely tasty option.

The chilli fish cakes came with a lovely slightly bitter sauce that really complemented the aroma of the fish cakes, which had a hint of spice but a delicate flavour. The spicy keema dosa was our ‘risk’ dish as we had no idea what on earth would turn up as we hadn’t ordered anything like it before. While it was not my favourite dish (it was up against some very strong competition) it nonetheless provided a very different option to the rest of the food on offer and was a milder option if you are a chilli-phobe!

Mother India Cafe in Edinburgh

Mother India Cafe in Edinburgh

After devouring the first eight dishes we were left in that awful position of having a chapati left over that we simply couldn’t put to waste! After much discussion (and frankly acknowledgement that we were all very full) it was decided that we should choose to try the daily special, which was a variation on a chicken tikka masala. This was a real vindication of the quality of the food for us as normally a chicken tikka masala dish can be plain, boring or even worse like eating baby food. This was simply not the case at the Mother India Cafe. The chicken tikka masala dish was fantastic tasting, had a lovely spicy edge and came with the chicken itself cooked to perfection. If you are lucky enough to get a table at Mother India Cafe on a Friday night then you must make the effort to order this dish!

Mother India Cafe in Edinburgh

While we are not lacking in curry options when it comes to Yorkshire and Leeds, this was still a real treat and one that we will have to go back to next time we are lucky enough to come back to Edinburgh.

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