Mango curry restaurant on Brick Lane: Major Tourist Trap
90 Brick Lane, London, England
Brick Lane is famous for curry. It’s hard to choose a restaurant for two reasons, there are so many of them, and outside of each restaurant is a promoter, a young Indian man shouting out the restaurant’s best menu items, and promising free drinks and appies if you pick their restaurant. These guys are pretty aggressive, following you down the street, interrupting conversations, should you stop to talk to another restaurant promoter, and even opening the door and shouting ‘come in! come in!’ if you so much as just walk by their restaurant. And every single restaurant hangs a sign above their door that reads something to the effect of ‘Declared best curry by BBC,’ ‘Winner of London Curry Festival.’ I am pretty certain that translates to ‘Major Tourist Trap’ but we chose the ‘Winner of the Brick Lane Curry Festival,’ since their restaurant promoter promised us free drinks and appetizers. We were also promised half price on our entrees. Yes, we are suckers.
Our drinks were served right away, we ordered a mango lassi and a pineapple cocktail. The lamb pakora I ate earlier left me pretty parched so the cold, sweet and tart pineapple cocktail hit the spot and really quenched my thirst. The mango lassi was sweet, smooth and slightly creamy. The mango flavour was strong and the drink was mixed at the right consistency of light creaminess.
As an appetizer, we ordered popadum and dips. Popadum is an Indian cracker bread made from a bean flour and has the same crispy texture as potato chips. The taste is pretty bland, it’s more of a canvas for other flavours like dips and sauces. Our four dips were served in a cute long tray in four square shaped ramekins. The first was just a dry mix of onions, cucumbers and carrots. We pretty much left this one untouched. It tastes exactly like it sounds, nothing special or memorable. The second dip was extremely spicy so thank goodness we had the mango lassi handy, the yogurt in the drink provides the perfect cooling element for a tongue on fire. This second dip was filled with what I can only assume is a lot of curry powder, Indian herbs and spices and carrots and sesame. The third dip was a sweet and sour and slightly spicy concoction and the fourth dip just tasted like butter with basil.
For an entree, we decided to order the butter chicken. I had a mad craving for naan so I tried to order that to dip in the butter chicken. But our server insisted that their tandoori oven was broken and they couldn’t make naan that day. He suggested that we order rice which of course is more expensive. Since it was only a 20 pence difference, we chose the saffron pilau. It was pretty insulting though when a towering plate of naan was served to the table beside us seconds after our server took our order. So much for the supposed broken tandoori oven.
The butter chicken was served in a contemporary triangular dish. The dish was disappointingly shallow so there really wasn’t that much curry in this order. The chicken inside the curry was cut in strips. It was a little on the dry side, and I got the feeling that the chicken was only dunked into the sauce upon our order since it didn’t taste well marinated at all. The curry itself was a little runny. It was very mild in spice which is typical of a butter chicken, but it was too sweet to be considered a curry. They must have extremely flimsy judging standards for the Brick Lane Curry Festival.
The saffron pilau was alright. There were only a few dots of saffron in the rice. Other than that, there wasn’t anything memorable about it. We had more rice than curry, so we didn’t have to worry about not having enough rice to absorb all the sauce.
When our bill came, we were of course charged full price for the entree, and we were also charged for both of our drinks and our appetizer. When we tried to refute this, quoting that the restaurant promoter had promised us free drinks and appetizers and half priced entrees, our server argued that since we only ordered one entree between the two of us, he is unable to give us half price. He did waive the charges for the drinks and appetizer though. I suppose they bank on the fact that tourists never check their bills before paying.
Anyhow, I will never go back to Mango, and the next time I visit Brick Lane, I’ll stick to the street food.