You’ve probably spotted them as you strolled along Boar Lane: diners perched on swings, savoring their food while gently swaying.
The sign for Mowgli in Leeds city center may be underrated, but what you’ll find inside is anything but.
When we arrived for our evening reservation the place was already bustling and busy – so it was a pleasant surprise when we were told that one of the tables with swings was available if we wanted. And how could anyone say no?
For the latest food, drinks and the latest news in Leeds click here
Admittedly, the first few minutes sitting on the swing were a bit awkward. You don’t know where to put your elbows and suddenly it feels like everyone is watching you, waiting for you to fall.
They’re chained to the floor, so it’s not like you can hover around the table thankfully, and with a bit of shuffling I quickly found a position where I could rock gently while browsing the menu. It is very relaxing.
It’s a beautiful setting, with sparkling string lights around the windows, in decorative glass jars and around tree branches, and lamps hanging above the wooden tables. It feels both modern and traditional. The place was packed, the tables filled up almost as soon as they were emptied.
But of course you don’t go to Mowgli just for the swings and fairy lights. Mowgli says it’s about ‘how Indians eat at home and on their streets’ and has a mouthwatering array of street food and curries to choose from, such as a tapas menu.
The friendly staff asked if we had been there before (we hadn’t) and explained the menu to us, recommending that we choose two or three courses each.
After some anxieties, we opted for Bhel Puri, Chicken Gunpowder, Lamb Chops and Turmeric Chips from Maa, Mowgli Paneer, Bunny Chow and a side dish of Puri. We also ordered the Mowgli Chip Butty, but gave it up on the advice of our waiter Connor, who warned us that these are the same fries that came with the lamb chops and that if we ordered both of us would end up having ‘a lot of fries’. Fair play.
The Bhel Puri arrived in moments, served in a metal canteen and topped with fragrant cilantro and fresh chili peppers. It was light and crisp with a heat that slowly rose, but never got too much, and the sweet and spicy dressing was divine.
The food is served as soon as it’s ready, and the powdered chicken – chicken with garlic, ginger, garam masala, fried in chickpea paste – and Maa’s lamb chop and turmeric chips – lamb marinated in spicy yogurt, ginger and garlic, served with spice crisps – were soon delivered.
The lamb chops were the best dish of the night – blackened on one side, with a lovely grilled flavor, with tender meat that was beautifully marinated and melted in the mouth. They were awesome. The fries (more like shaped mini roasts) were also well seasoned, and the tomato, cilantro and mint chutney was a delicious addition.
On the Gunpower Chicken, served with a spicy, fruity chutney that was tasty enough to eat on its own. This dish was not what we expected – the batter wasn’t as thick or crispy as we thought it would, and the heat was mild enough for a dish with gunpowder in the name. But it was still lovely – tender, juicy chicken and delicate but delicious flavors that quickly got us to polish it all up.
There was a bit of a gap before the arrival of our last dishes, but it was a nice interlude after the first three dishes that we had devoured. The staff, who never seemed to stop, were friendly and attentive, filling water bottles and checking to see if everything was ok so that you felt taken care of but not overly fussed.
Bunny Chow Curry is nicknamed ‘Mowgli’s Highlight’, and when it was brought to our table, it became clear why. The chicken and potato curry is served inside a loaf of bread, the inside being placed on top like a fluffy cloud, with a thick crust holding the treasure inside. It looks amazing.
The curry was tasty, not as rich as the other dishes, and it definitely had more potatoes than chicken. But the crisp white bread was wonderful for cleaning it up.
The sauce that accompanied the Mowgli Paneer, however, was a delight. The paneer was wonderful (as always), but the spicy tomato sauce was something else, tangy and sweet with a subtle touch.
The puri was puffed up to perfection, part crispy and flaky, part soft and heavy, and the perfect vehicle to eat the rest of the delicious sauce that came with the paneer.
Full, and very happy, we finished our drinks by rocking gently on the swings and asked for the bill.
And our indulgent evening was surprisingly reasonably priced – even with the 10% service charge it cost us less than Â£ 70 for both of us including a bottle of wine – Â£ 68.70 to be precise. A Â£ 1 has also been added to the bill for a charitable donation, which supports local causes through the Mowgli Trust.
Enter your postcode to see what’s happening near you in Leeds
Leeds has award-winning Indian restaurants and with Bradford next door, you’re never far from a crunchy curry. But Mowgli’s tapas-style menu, exciting dishes and beautiful, lively setting made this special evening special and we will definitely be back.
Mowgli opened his restaurant in Leeds in 2020 – a precarious year to say the least for restaurants – but a year later it is clear that the novelty of swivel chairs and dishes to share has not faded for diners in Leeds. There are plans for restaurants in Bristol and Glasgow in 2022, and there are also locations in London, Cheshire, Cheltenham, Leicester, Cardiff, Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham, Oxford, Liverpool and Manchester.
I would recommend reserving a table – the original night we had planned was full – and while you can’t reserve the swing seats in advance, if offered one, go for it. After some awkward stirring, you’ll discover a new way to dream dinner.
Mowgli, Boar Lane, Leeds, LS1 5DA
Vegan and gluten-free menus available, as well as a children’s menu and party packages.
Book online or call 0113 403 3215
To get the latest email updates from LeedsLive, click here.