26 Aug 2014

Al Mirage

5 August 2014 – Al Mirage: A curry haze

Many times I’ve passed Al Mirage and questioned whether my eyes deceived me or not – how could any curry house try and upstage Mirch Masala at such close proximity? Nevertheless, this restaurant really does exist right next door and, as such, has to be counted in its own right.

Like two nomads, we wandered towards Al Mirage in search of another curry oasis. Here’s what we found...



Venue

Whilst most locals will be familiar with the virtues of Mirch Masala, I’m not certain the same can be said of its neighbour Al Mirage. However, one could be forgiven for assuming Al Mirage was the more famed of the two, given its more prominent position on the corner of Kellino Street and its more eye catching frontage. With glass walls and brightly lit interior it has a more welcoming feel than its rather understated rival next door. However, when seeing its palm tree logo and shabby chic exterior I can’t help but compare it to something out of Lego’s Paradisa range. Inside, a spiral staircase completes this allusion, as does the somewhat low budget, faux brickwork that fills two circular wall alcoves.


Recent refurbishments have been made, but the overall feel is one of incompleteness. The cut away first floor, staircase and overall space suggests Al Mirage has potential, but an idle fridge (more on this later) situated in the dining area sums up the haphazard layout and seemingly unfinished interior design.

The local scene is hardly awash with seven-star, Abu Dhabi-style lavishing, but Al Mirage doesn’t seem to be taking advantage of its assets. This can be summed up by empty tables, while punters queue next door. 5/10 for venue.

Starters and sides

Grilled masala fish
Roghni naan
Peshwari naan


Feeling a bit worse for wear, we took it easy on the starters and shared a grilled masala fish that came with cucumber and lettuce. Not the highest marks for presentation, and the coating looked a little over done, but generally the fish was tasty, with a nice kick to it.

No rice on this occasion, but the naans were ample. Both were decent with a fluffy and buttery texture, but this wasn’t consistent throughout.

Without much to go on, we’ll be generous with a 7 out of 10.

Curry

Tropical chicken balti
Lamb peshwari gosht

Sticking with our policy of choosing the most interestingly named items on the menu we went for the tropical chicken balti that lived up to its fruity name with a lovely tangy taste.

The peshwari gosht had a strong tomato richness and the lamb was just the right side of fatty, retaining its taste without being too gristly.

All in all, these were two strong performers with more texture that other creamier dishes on the high street. 7/10.

Staff

The staff ratings got off to a good start with a friendly hello upon entry, but the waiter did his best to undermine this positive first impression by giving condescending responses to our questions. After asking us how hot we’d like our dishes, he almost sniggered at our response of ‘medium’ as if we were a couple of amateurs. He then proceeded to bang my chair with the fridge door when he opened it to get our drinks out. A simple 'excuse me' would have sufficed, or better still don’t put the fridge there in the bloody first place! Luckily a friendly chat with another colleague redeemed the score a little, and Tom noticed that there was severe crossover between waiting and cooking suggesting a multi-talented workforce. However, we can’t be sure this wasn’t just disorganisation and the benefit of the doubt was lost when my chair got banged for a second time. He also attempted to clear my plate half way through the meal. 5/10.



Value for money
Al Mirage is a dry restaurant and not BYO so a point lost for VFM there, but prices are fairly standard. Nothing notable with portion size or quality so won’t get top marks, but all in all no complaints. 7/10.

Summary

With a name like Al Mirage, I was hoping to make a pun around 'seeing is believing', but it is more or less what you see is what you get. Once through the looking glass, the inside lacks character and recent updates fail to leave you impressed. The waiting staff are a mixed bunch and there isn't the buzz of next door. Shame, because I'm a big fan of Lego Paradisa. 32/50.

Al Mirage on Urbanspoon

24 Jun 2014

Rayyan's

3 June 2014 - Rayyan’s: Gosling down the curry


When we heard that Manchester United and Wales footballing legend, Ryan Giggs had opened up a restaurant in Tooting, called Ryan’s we thought it must be a lie.

It was.

When instead we heard that, rather than being a gastronomic venture by an ex-professional sportsman, Rayyan’s was a spin off from the guys behind Mirch Masala, the truth could not have been more welcome.

Then, when we heard that Rayyan’s is BYO we just had to get down there and check it out.

We were joined again by Liam who, for his third outing with us, gets… absolutely nothing.

Here’s what we thought.

Venue

This is another relatively new restaurant that has cropped up along Mitcham Road, away from the livelier High Road. Whilst this area of Tooting doesn’t traditionally draw the curry crowd, Rayyan’s may soon buck the trend. By their own bold claim they are ‘Pioneers of karahi’, a tag which not only suits their borderline location, but also the fresh look and feel of the restaurant.

Space is often at a premium in local curry houses, but at Rayyan’s tasteful uplighting and contemporary art brighten white walls and give the restaurant a light and airy feel. Whilst the low number of diners may have helped build this illusion there was certainly a more relaxed vibe, almost Mediterranean villa-esque. The brown leather furniture is also a bit more upmarket from the standard IKEA cheap seats found elsewhere and tasteful Indian pop adds a touch of authenticity.

All in all, a very pleasant addition to the scene and it even has its own TV advert (see Rayyan’s Facebook page) which deserves recognition. 8/10.

Starters and sides

Popadoms
Tandori mixed grill
Garlic naan
Kulcha naan
Peshwari naan
Two pilau rice



The popadoms to start with were average, but the accompanying salad was atypically fresh and a sign of better things to come. This came in the form of a deliciously juicy tandoori mixed grill which, as fate would have it, had three of each item; one kebab, chicken tikka, lamb tikka and lamb chop for each of us.

Tom then went naan mad (once again) and ordered a garlic, a kulcha and a peshwari naan to go with two pilau rice in some sort of carb loading frenzy. The garlic was slightly over done and all three weren’t as fluffy and light as can be found elsewhere. Unsurprisingly, whilst decent, the volume defeated us in the end, but this isn’t factored into the score of 7 out of 10, driven up by the succulent mixed grill.

7/10

Curry

Karahi Fish
Shank Murg Chana
Afghan Karahi Lamb



We followed a recommendation on the Afghan Karahi lamb and it didn’t disappoint. Whilst not as sizeable as Namak Mandi’s offering the flavours did match and a bite into the on-the-bone pieces revealed an irresistibly pink and tender centre.

The Shahi Murgh Chana was chosen on name alone and despite this relatively fancy label, this lentil based dish was rather non-descript. However, the Karahi Fish was out of this world. The fish almost melted into the curry on your fork creating a taste sensation, one of the best curries we've had; no visit should exclude it.

8/10.

Service

The guys here were friendly and very attentive. It may have been driven by a sparse Tuesday night crowd and our lingering presence, but they continually asked us if everything was ok. A vainer man might think it was due to our growing local celebrity, but I’m sure the reality was that they just wanted us to hurry up and leave. However, they did invite us to stick around just a little while longer with free kulfi – a nice touch that was greatly appreciated and which increases our service rating. 8/10.

Value For Money

At £48 for three, this isn’t the cheapest venue, but we did over do the naan order and £16 each for the feast we had was more than fair. Plus, when you throw in the free ice cream and BYO this is certainly good value. 7/10.

Summary

Overall, this slightly more premium offering from the guys behind Mirch Masala ticks all our boxes and has made us think twice about sticking to the well-trodden path of Tooting High Street. The curries may look a pound or two more and you can find better naans, but the contemporary surrounds and option to bring your own alcohol make this a place well worth adding to any Tooting curry fan’s hit list. This sentiment is reflected in our overall score of 38/50 placing Rayyan’s firmly in the Champions League spots of our leaderboard, something Giggsy himself would envy right now.

See what others thought:

Zomato - Restaurant search and Food Guide