Please note that we are unable to verify the impartiality of guest reviewers, so readers should use their own judgement.
Mem Saab Re-Visited
It has been approximately 12 months since we last visited this Punjabi upmarket restaurant which has now been open for five years. The last time we ate at The Mem Saab was on a Sunday afternoon when we experienced the buffet lunch with the added experience of live background jazz which gave the ambiance an added dimension. My conclusion was an adventurous and well presented array of Indian cuisine which far exceeded the boundaries and my expectations, the experience had changed my preconceptions that the eat as much as you like buffet need not be bland and boring targeting the lowest common denominator in respect of not too spicy or exotic.
The Mem Saab is situated approximately a mile out from the centre of town and has its own private electronically gated car park which gives access to both the restaurant and its trendy champagne bar "Corkers". Although situated next to each other they have their own separate entrances and are not interconnected. We entered via the rear door from the car park and our presence was promptly and warmly acknowledged, we were shown the lounge area, which consisted of cream sofas in a relaxing and informal layout, the waiter efficiently and quickly, returned with our drinks order and the menu and wine list were offered for our perusal. It was nice to notice that its clean crisp minimal décor was not one bit tarnished after five years and looked just as fresh as it did when we first visited the restaurant a few days after it first opened its doors. A few improvements had also been added including its custom made personalised blinds and a few modern wall furnishings strategically placed as not to clutter or overpower the simple light environment.
The menu had changed a little but retained the few standard heat graded dishes so as not to take some of the English public away from their comfort zone but they are complimented by a choice of regional authentic Punjabi cuisine. After about 20 minutes we were shown to our table where the popadoms we had ordered were already waiting for us together with an array of home made pickles and chutneys, namely tamarind, piquant onions, apple and mint plus of course the good old sweet mango chutney because people expect it. The main course arrived promptly after we had finished the appetisers, I think we would have all have preferred perhaps a fifteen minute gap between these courses but that is personal preference and other people quite like the efficientness of that timing. I had ordered Lamb Nihari, this wasn't on the menu any longer but they were happy to oblige with what is essentially a Punjabi breakfast dish of lamb in a thin very aromatic gravy garnished with juliennes of fresh ginger. The other diners in my party had ordered Lamb Rogan Josh, which was full bodied with typical Kashmiri blend spices, King Prawn Palak, Palak Ghost and a light chicken dish concluded the non vegetarian selection. Now whilst most restaurants bulk their dishes with a very generous amount of gravy to make it seem you are getting good value for money, The Mem Saabs portions were exceedingly large with the main ingredient being far more plentiful than expected. In fact the lamb and chicken chunks were also twice the size of the norm, plus the lamb was very high quality lamb (not mutton) and the chicken was of the same high quality which was very tender and retained its natural moistness, the prawn dish was cooked to perfection. We had also ordered side dishes of Brinjal Bharta, Paneer in creamy gravy and baby new potatoes in masala gravy, two lemon rice were ample between the five of us and Pashwari Naan plus chapattis completed our feast. We had all ate far more than we should have done and most, except myself (I wonder why I'm putting on weight), declined a sweet course but who could resist home made Rasmalai, being sweet cheese discs boiled in syrup and served in cream flavoured with pistachio nuts and a hint of cardamom. The night almost complete we returned to the lounge area to enjoy tea, coffee and masala tea as to each individual's choice.
For a Wednesday night the Restaurant was very well patronised as it is most nights with the weekends usually full house so it is advisable to advance book. The Mem Saab is a very successful venue and its popularity is mainly by word of mouth and very little advertising. The food and service is consistently of a very high standard and shows the other ethnic restaurants in the town how it should be done. The menu is adventurous and the wine list is very well put together with some excellent choices albeit at a price, however our overall bill only a little higher than the average, but the overall experience in a class of its own where average was not an option.
Paul rated this 10 out of 10.