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The Mem Saab opened in 2001 and was the first Indian restaurant in Northampton to break the mould of the standard formula curry houses and to take the Indian dining experience to new heights with its food, décor, presentation and service. The restaurant is also unique with respect that it is actually owned by Indians, now whilst this may sound like stating the obvious, most so called Indian restaurants are owned and managed by Bangladeshis (formerly East Pakistan) which is certainly not India.
The Mem Saab who also have branches in Glasgow, Nottingham and Leicester, specialise in Punjabi food, the Punjab is famous for the Golden Sikh Temple and is the birthplace of Tandoori foods. The restaurant is housed in the old Mansfield shoe factory on Wellingborough Road and is spacious, light and airy with minimalist décor. It is divided into the two parts being a very plush lounge area boasting very comfy cream leather sofas where you can relax pre and post meal and the restaurant itself which is incidentally non-smoking although smoking is permitted in the lounge area. All the staff are smartly unpretentiously presented in smart pressed shirts and neckties, which excludes the ladies who wear smart blouses. It is also very quirky to hear the Asian owners speak in a very broad Scottish accent sounding like very educated Billy Connelly.
I have had the pleasure of dining at this establishment on several occasions but this time I went on Sunday afternoon for a three course buffet with the added bonus of entertainment in the form of Live Jazz. In the past I have never been impressed with eat as much as you like buffets as they tend be very unimaginative. Whilst I fully understand that choice must not be too hot and they must err on the side of not burning the unsuspected palates of their clientele, the choice is usually the very English Chicken Tikka Masala, a very bland lamb dish if offered at all and a very sloppy mixed vegetable curry of peas, potatoes and carrots. The Mem Saab surpassed itself on every course.
The starters consisted of a salmon and red snapper dish, seekh and shaslik kebabs, onion bhajis, garlic tossed mushrooms, vegetable pakoras, chilled shrimps and pompadoms, these were also accompanied with fresh homemade pickles and chutneys such as tamarind, apple, piquant onions, mango chutney plus fresh green coriander and mint chutney. All of the starters were moderately spiced so as not to mask the main flavours.
The main course offered a mildly spiced garlic chicken, a rich lamb dish in a clinging spicy gravy which boasted very large cubes of good quality lamb, a mixed aubergine and potato dish, ma ki dal which is very much a Punjabi speciality consisting of whole black urid dal in a spicy buttery gravy and Kuldi with gram flour dumplings which is a another Northern India speciality with a yoghurt and gram flour gravy lightly spiced with turmeric, a dish which I would never have dared to order as the description never has appealed to me but I'm really glad I did try it. Once again there was a choice of fresh homemade chutneys and pickle and of course rice. When we returned to the table Nan bread was also supplied and on my request chapattis were supplied at no extra charge (some of the best I have ever eaten).
The sweet trolley was a vast array of fresh fruits plus Rasgullah which is probably one of the most popular sweet dishes from India. It is milk based and is a little like the famous Indian cheese Paneer in its preparation method of separating the curds & whey, the curdled milk is then compressed, it is traditionally served in a very sweet syrup but on this occasion was suspended in rich cream.
The afternoon was a very enjoyable experience and the unobtrusive background entertainment added to the pleasure. The final bill for two of us was approximately £36 which also included 4 drinks in total, this sum perhaps a little over the average but the restaurant is far better than average and goes from strength to strength. Incidentally The Mem Saab have now opened a sophisticated champagne & cocktail bar in the adjoining building which is called Corkers, reports are good but far from a cheap nights drinking by all accounts but probably a small price to pay for a select environment and clientele.
Paul rated this 10 out of 10.