For our anniversary, Andrew and I decided to do something a little different. We wanted to go out for a yummy vegan meal, but something a little more upscale than our usual choices, so settled on Mem Saab in Leicester. We love curry, so why not have it for a special occasion?
Situated in the High Cross, Mem Saab has become a Leicester favorite since it opened over 10 years ago for its Indian fine dining. We arrived a little early on a Wednesday to enjoy a drink in the champagne bar ahead of dinner, and were warmly greeted by the staff. We had informed them via email ahead of time that I was vegan – and they were more than happy to come over and point out the different dishes we could eat. The only problem was there were too many options! (I have such a hard time making food decisions – can’t I just have one of everything?!).
After a drink in the bar we were led upstairs to one of the main rooms in the restaurant. The room was comtemporary and spacious, without feeling pretentious or too sparse. There were several tables already seated which gave the room a nice, buzzy feeling – especially for a rainy Wednesday night when you’d expect it to be dead.
While we deliberated over the menu, we ordered a few poppadoms and pickles to munch on. The poppadoms were really light and airy, but perfectly crisp. The pickles are very interesting – they are unlike any I’ve had before, with mango chutney, spiced onions and apple & mint.
For our starters I ordered the chana puri while Andrew went for the special – potato and chickpea cakes with chutney. The chana puri was delicious – perfectly cooked with tomatoes and spices and just a bit of heat, and served on top of a flaky puri bread. Andrew really enjoyed the potato cakes and liked the delicate flavors combined with the sweet chutney. What was nice was that after our order was placed, the server came back to let us know that Andrew’s main wasn’t vegan (it contained egg) – just in case we wanted to share.
For our mains, we went for vegetable palak and the North Indian Jaipuri. The palak came with big, chunky vegetables including potatoes, cauliflower, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms, onions and peas, all of which was cooked in a creamy, spicy spinach curry (I asked for them to kick up the heat). The Jaipuri had similar veggies, but was cooked in a rich and earthy spicy tomato-based sauce, topped with carrot curls and coriander.
We also ordered a few side dishes, including bhindi dopiaza, an okra dish that we added aubergine to, and aloo dum, roasted potatoes infused with a blend of herbs and spices and cooked with onion, garlic and ginger. We rounded this all out with a side of boiled rice and a chapati to share. Each dish was delicious – but for me the standout was the palak. The mix of vegetables, ground spices, ginger and carmelised onion really brought the dish together. Andrew’s favorite was the bhindi, baingan mix. I say they were all pretty darn good.
While the dishes weren’t as powerful as the food we’re used to at our regular balti houses, there was a sophistication and subtlety to the dishes that really made them stand out. We also enjoyed the fact that they use a fraction of the oil you would get in a traditional curry restaurant – so it didn’t feel as unhealthy.
By the end of the meal we were too full to order a dessert, but were brought one on the house to celebrate our anniversary. It was a lemon sorbet which is Andrew’s favorite, and included a couple of dark chocolate swirls – so needless to say it went down quite well!
This was my first trip to Mem Saab as a vegan, and it really, really impressed me. Everything from the prompt email responses ahead of our meal, down to the helpful staff, delicious curries and complimentary dessert, made for a fantastic evening. If you have a special occasion, I would definitely recommend Mem Saab for a vegan curry in Leicester.