I have to thank Trafalgar Transformed for introducing me to fine Indian dining at Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar in Haymarket. To celebrate the run of family comedy-drama East Is East at Trafalgar Studios, they ran a Twitter competition on photo fails. The prize was 4 tickets to the play as well as dinner at Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar. This was my winning entry:
Needless to say I was thrilled because I love the theatre and of course, I love food! In fact, food writer Zoe Perrett discusses precisely this combination on her blog specialising in Indian cuisine, Culinary Adventures of The Spice Scribe. Her post on food and the East Is East cast is a great read: An East Is East Feast – Talking Food with the Play’s Cracking Cast.
After we enjoyed the brilliant performance of East Is East, we headed to Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar with our stomachs rumbling in anticipation. As we arrived slightly before the restaurant opened for dinner at 5pm, we waited at the bar where the extensive cocktail menu was too good to pass up!
The bar’s ambience was very relaxing, with muted colours and the pleasant scent of incense to help us enjoy our pre-dinner drinks.
I decided on one of their champagne cocktails: the Fruit Cup Royal with Bombay Sapphire gin, Pimm’s No.1 and fresh fruit, topped with champagne. We each had a different cocktail and they were all expertly prepared: Mean Thyme (Bombay Sapphire gin, mint, thyme, vanilla, agave syrup and lime), Grapefruit Martini (Finlandia vodka, shaken – not stirred! – with grapefruit and its liqueur), and Margarita (Sauza Hornitos tequila, Cointreau and lime, served on crushed ice).
We were then shown to our table in the stylish and sophisticated restaurant. The large footprint has been well laid out and sectioned by wood panelling in order to create intimate spaces. We had a beautiful table, surrounded by comfortable round sofa chairs. The subdued lighting lent an air of relaxation, however we did ask for a candle to provide a little more light. Service was helpful and attentive throughout and our request was handled swiftly and professionally.
The drinks menu featured a good selection and we opted for Cobra beer, G&T and white wine (available by the glass – I had an excellent Picpoul de Pinet). Each drink complemented the meal in our own preferred way.
We ordered from the set menu, which we all preferred as the number of choices was just right and not too overwhelming. Our starters were beautifully presented and tasted as good as they looked. We had the shammi kebab (mixed vegetable tikka with date sauce) as well as the mahi tikka (salmon marinated with carom seeds and mustard, served with lime mayo and onion dill raita). We were all impressed by the vibrant flavours in our dishes, which were not the least bit generic.
The 4 of us all ordered the same second course, the chicken jhalfrezi. This dish, featuring spicy chicken thighs braised in onion and tomato with green chilli and capsicum, had just the right amount of spice and the chicken was tender and delicious. We each had steamed basmati rice on the side, but some of us had some extra naan (to mop up all that tasty sauce, of course).
Dessert was a type of crème brûlée I never tried before: mango brûlée, topped with spiced mango salsa. The freshness of the fruit was a good match for this dessert’s creamy texture and flavour. I always like to have a little something sweet to finish off a spicy meal and the mango brûlée did not disappoint. Tea and espresso were available to help us finish off the meal on the perfect note.
The 4 of us unanimously agreed that this was a top fine Indian dining experience and we thoroughly enjoyed Mint Leaf’s relaxing ambience and attentive service. The impressive cocktails and authentic Indian flavours certainly merit many return visits.
Trafalgar Transformed awarded me the prize of 4 tickets to East Is East as well as £100 towards dinner at Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar. My opinions and feedback on Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar are my own and have not been influenced in any way by the prize. Trafalgar Transformed and Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. I did not receive compensation for my review.
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