when an Indian is not just an Indian: Mem Saab, Northampton

Sorry for the gap between posts but since Goose returned from Cambodia the pair of us have been hyper busy at work and haven’t managed to get out anywhere to eat. We did have a superb roast at the weekend with friends but since you can’t all dine there it seems a little unfair to write out it (but thanks Fiona!)   FullSizeRender(11)

Finally this week we made back to Mem Saab, one of my favorite places to eat in Northampton. Mem Saab is not your average curry house; Northampton has several decent Indian restaurants from the traditional and mid priced (like The Star of India or Imperial Raj), through the slightly more interesting (Tamarind), right down to the cheap and cheerful (Imran Balti or the Balti King). One day I’m hoping my most excellent colleague (@HistoryMatt) will write a comprehensive guide to them all. Northampton is not as blessed as Leicester but you can certainly get a good curry here.

Anyway, to the (highly spiced) meat of the matter: did Mem Saab deliver?*

When you arrive at Mem Saab you have a couple of options: you can get there early early and enjoy a drink in their own cocktail bar (Corkers) next door. Or you can wait to be seated in their lounge area and have a drink while you wait, and peruse the menu at the same time. So we say sipping a John Collins (Goose) and a Manhatten (me) and people watched.

The decor in Mem Saab hasn’t changed at all in the ten years or so its been open. Its a fairly neutral beige affair, not at all like trad Indians but not really very ‘modern’ now either. The clientele is fairly smart and at this time of year often involves office parties. Goose thought the large group making the noise were from a hairdressers, maybe Toni & Guy. But it is rarely if ever boorish in there – something you can get in the other Wellingborough Road balti houses.

The cocktail are good – there’s a wide range of them and they are generous, cost is about £6 each. Hic :). We ordered our meal and wine ( a full but dry French Malbec) and waited to be seated. I guess we sat in the lounge for about 25 minutes but it was Friday night (8pm),  very busy, and thereafter everything came very promptly.

To start I had pan fried duck breast, cooked with red  and green peeper and onions. They call it ‘crispy duck’, no idea why because it was lovely a soft and well seasoned. It came with some torn lettuce and a drizzle of yogurt sauce. FullSizeRender(13)No complaints, I’ve tried most things on their menu and when I come again (for a xmas works do) I might opt for the Goan mussels which I remember fondly.

Goose decided to have the prawn puri and was very happy with it. They served quite a lot of it though, and we were glad we didn’t have any of the ubiquitous poppadoms that waiters seem to insist you buy. Poppadoms are basically crisps, Indian style. How often do you go out to dinner and sit down and say…can I have a bowl of crisps and dips first please? There’s a great south Indian in Stoke Newington that offers a medley of crispy fried treats with dips that serve as a starter to share; THAT is worth having, poppadoms are a waste of valuable food space.

(Picture: Crispy duck starter, £5.95)

We didn’t have to wait long before the mains arrived, in fact I might have given us another ten minutes to digest the starters  because they later gave us plenty of time to chat post meal – there was no sense that they wanted us out of there.

FullSizeRender(12)(Picture: Prawn Puri, £4.95)

Goose really liked the crockery, round and white with the Mem Saab logo and reminiscent of the Police place in Lisbon. Everything is very clean here, and the staff (a mixture of family and Eastern European waitresses) are attentive and know what they are doing. Mem Saab has a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere and works as a romantic venue, fun place for a work’s party or just a good place for friends to eat.

But on to the mains. We both went for lamb: I plumped for the lamb karahi with cayenne and jeera (cumin). Goose picked the lamb jaipuri. The karahi delivered a kick, a dense heat (a ‘sauna heat’ Goose said!) but the meat was a little tough. By contrast the jaipuri was soft and earthy and melted in the mouth – we shared and  I was very happy we did. IMG_1021

(picture: Lamb Jaipuri, £8.95)

We ordered a side dish, arbi with mushrooms and this was possible the little star of the show. Arbi is a yam like root vegetable, it had the texture of roasted chestnuts more than potato and I’d consider having that as a main in future (side are £2.75, veggie mains are about £7)

Rice was extra and we had a plain basmati – perhaps not up to their usual standard but still good – and a peshwari nan. Mem Saab’s peshwari nans really are worth having. Smaller than the huge things you can get elsewhere but smothered in rich pinky orange coconut mixture – absolutely delicious (its almost worth leaving them to the end and treating them as pudding). We didn’t have coffee or liqueurs, and took the remainders of our bottle of Malbec home with us.

The damage? £65 for two including wine and £12 on cocktails, pretty reasonable overall. Mem Saab is a reliable higher end Indian where you are guaranteed a good night out, great food and service.

Barnacles

* In fact after years of not doing so they have a take away service too 🙂

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