Concluding my Liverpudlian adventure with a stroll down Bold Street for some epic Indian streetfood…
Last week I raved about the slightly bonkers charms of the Allerton branch of Liverpool’s Maray. But it wasn’t their original restaurant I visited – that’s in Bold Street, arguably the coolest address in town.
Chock-a-block with banging little indie eateries and bars alongside more familiar chains and dubious late night takeaways, Bold Street has got it all covered; got a hot date you want to impress with your adventurous palate? Sorted – there’s a Peruvian just up the street. Had a few beers on a stag do and in dire need of some cheap ballast to soften the blow of tomorrow’s potentially terminal hangover? No problem, there’s the chicken shop.
One of the jewels in the crown of Bold Street has to be Mowgli, founded by barrister turned food writer turned restaurateur Nisha Katona. Mowgli specialises in the kind of Indian streetfood that Cardiffians might associate with the likes of Chai Street – it specialises in smallish plates that are massive on flavour. But I have to admit – aside from the Mint and Mustard side project’s untouchable Chicken 65, Mowgli’s is a bit of a cut above.
The first thing I got my teeth into was the Himalayan Cheese Toast, which Google reliably informs me actually is a thing. Best described as Welsh rarebit from a parallel universe, it turns out that a good sharp cheddar goes surprisingly well with a shedload of coriander. The pickle – which weirdly (but not unpleasantly) reminds me of sherbet lemons – steps in to prevent any potential clagginess. Well played.
Next come the Mowgli Sticky Wings, which look big enough to have been hacked off a member of the cast of Jurassic Park rather than your average farmyard clucker. Thanks to the gram flour coating and the rum glaze it lands somewhere between southern fried and jerk chicken. It’s messy as hell and all the better for it (thank god for the lemon wipes).
The Gunpowder Chicken is not quite as explosive in the heat stakes as it’s name might suggest, but makes up for it with a batter unlike any other I’ve tried; instead of the standard issue KFC-esque coating you might expect, the batter absolutely snaps, crackles and pops with a who’s-who of Indian spices. The sauce is a sweet, spicy and tongue-twistingly fruity whack to the chops too.
And speaking of sweet and spicy, the Treacle Tamarind Fries are properly special provided you’ve got a sweet tooth (though if you haven’t why the hell would you order them?). As with that most divisive of curry accompaniments, the Peshwari naan, it’s literally having your cake and eating it; a perfect mix of sweet and savoury that only Indian (and occasionally Chinese) food can deliver. The portion size is generous enough to feed half of Delhi too. Maybe not for everyone, but I absolutely loved it.
Pretty damn good then, all told. But while Mowgli’s is by all accounts one of Bold Street’s standouts, there is so, so much on offer here. Seeing so many indies located centrally was a real eye opener for me.
While I still don’t agree with the assessment of that big bloke with the hair, it does make me think Cardiff is missing a trick.
Take Caroline Street (no, really). Like it or not, it’s a genuine Cardiff institution – a go-to destination for the pissed and hungry. Wouldn’t it be ace if we could embrace that and make it into a real food-lover’s paradise without gentrifying its personality away?
Instead of vacant lots, betting shops and the single most depressing branch of Greggs on earth (quite an accolade), there could be a bunch of great little indie places nestled in amongst the old-school chippies and kebab shops; bustling little streetfood joints where people could get a real taste of Cardiff’s finest in the city centre, instead of having to venture into deepest darkest Roath or Canton, which, let’s be honest, most folks are never going to do.
Imagine the souvlaki gods Meat and Greek or the Cardiffornian Mexican food duo The Bearded Taco taking over the space formerly held by the capital’s most famous smut-peddler Colin’s Books for example. Though judging by that famous interview (the greatest piece of journalism ever produced by WalesOnline) they’d best give it a good clean first.
There are probably about a dozen reasons it’ll never happen (at a guess: savage rent prices and convoluted planning issues), but wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to choose between good old fashioned chicken curry and chips off the bone and streetfood of Mowgli’s calibre? There’s a place for both.
Cardiff and Liverpool have a fair bit in common – they’re both friendly, proud, working class cities that produce some kick-ass grub. Here’s hoping we can share their enthusiasm for city-centre indies in the future too.
Could Caroline Street ever be the Rolling Stones to Bold Street’s Beatles? Let me know what you think in the comments below or over on Twitter at @fuudblog