• The Full Indian – Mowgli’s Nisha MBE bangs the gong

The Full Indian – Mowgli’s Nisha MBE bangs the gong

6 February 2019 by Neil Sowerby

OUR most memorable Indian breakfast took place outside a lakeside cottage in deepest Kerala. Across the murky pond from our loungers the staff were steaming idlis and assembling various chutneys and dals on the resort’s thali platters.

Suddenly a very different brekkie was snatched mere yards away from us. A snake slithered up the bank to gobble a rodent whole. Help! Room service rose to the occasion with a pitchfork to despatch the intruder and after all that kerfuffle our South Indian holiday breakfast became brunch.

Snakes aren’t on the menu when India does brunch/breakfast in Manchester. At Dishoom http://www.dishoom.com/food-drink/variations on their signature bacon naan lure the punters in. Or for something more filling order the Parsi power breakfast that is Eema Per Eedu (spicy chicken keema studded with chicken liver and topped with a brace of fried eggs).

Their breakfast selection runs from 8am to 11.45am each day. Over at the city’s second Mowgli, in Bruntwood’s new University Green complex off Oxford Road, they’re big on brunch (pictured above, not available at the Corn Exchange branch). Only served from 10am-12pm, the menu is enticing with the likes of ‘If India did the Full English?’ a ‘Smoke Back Mountain’ again emphasising the shared Anglo-Indian bacon bonding and – with Mowgli’s strong veggie emphasis – ‘A Temple Breakfast’ of tandoori seared paneer, Bengal spiced scrambled eggs, wilted spinach, fenugreek fries and Darjeeling chickpeas.

What is obvious about both places is their departure from the old curry house approach without sacrificing their deep Indian roots (and bacon). And they are successful. Dishoom, has expanded beyond its five London restaurants, first into Edinburgh and now at Manchester Hall.

Mowgli’s growth rate has been even more phenomenal. Its creator Nisha Katona has created seven branches inside five years with further to follow, based upon a template of the Calcutta-inspired food she and her own family eat every day (we’re particularly keen on Aunty Geeta’s prawn curry).

Nisha says of the restaurant dream she has risked everything to create: “I meticulously design every Mowgli inspired by the broken-down temple behind my Grandmother’s Varanasi home. I have such vivid memories of these vine covered temples behind her house. Wild monkeys roam free there, so the iconic monkey for me is a symbol of my childhood and the food heritage of which I am totally obsessed. 

“The monkey climbing the brick wall, the endless twines and vines and chaos. It is around these elements that I design every site. It’s not grand or plush but its honestly home.”

The risk is is paying off. Mowgli is the 17th Fastest Growing British company in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 list, helping to earn Nisha, a Wirral-based barrister turned Internet street food champion, an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List.

Not that there was any sign of bullishness or complacency from her at a Business Lunch at Mowgli, University Green, where she was interviewed by Bruntwood head of retail and  leisure leasing Andrea George and answered questions from an array of industry notables.

The setting is a tribute to her attention to detail. The latest Mowgli looks far more ambitious than the Corn Exchange venue, featuring a floating Indian Temple inspired ‘door on the wall’, a living tree, as well as hand carved pillars and signature lighting. All designed by Nisha herself. She has been cautious in seeking minority share outside funding and told her audience she couldn’t afford such a spectacular tree at every Mowgli.

ToM felt the accompanying food, featuring traditional lunchtime tiffin boxes, said it all, summed up by the playful, glorious  dish that seems to sum up Nisha and Mowgli’s approach. The Yoghurt Chat Bomb (above) has to be swallowed in one to get the full sensory overload. Chew tentatively and it explodes down your frontage. Such fun to watch that happen to a first-timer. Don’t warn them in advance!

Mowgli University Green, 124 Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9RD.