We recently went out with friends to Mem Saab, Leicester. We had got a voucher from Living Social so that four of us could enjoy a cocktail each and two food sharing platters to share for £25. We thought this sounded very reasonable and duly arranged to meet friends there. We were greeted by very friendly staff, who showed us through the entrance to an available table in the bar area. We hadn’t really expected this as we were eating, but the sofas were comfortable, if a little low down! Once we were comfortable, we perused the menu and chose our cocktails. Two of our party chose the Gin Bramble, which met with many appreciative noises. The Boy had a classic Big Lebowski White Russian, which was unusually (but yay!) served as a long drink, more bang for your buck! I tried a little bit and it was delicious and creamy. For some reason the menu declares you can chose between Tia Maria and Kahlua as the liquer in your Russian, but why you would ever have anything but the classic Kahlua is beyond me!
It is a good glass…
Finally, I had a Cosmopolitan. I hadn’t had one for about 5 years since I was served an absolutely terrible excuse for this classic in another, now defunct, Leicester bar. It was delicious – well balanced and fruity, with a sweet but not sickly finished. Delicious. Since there was four of us, we decided to order one seafood platter and one meat platter so that we could share them all between us. Looking at the platter ‘menu‘ on the wall, we saw that these platters would normally set you back £11.95 and £10.95 respectively, so we were looking forward to a good feed. Imagine our surprise when our waiter presented us with this:
Would you pay £22.90 for this? It’s a question.
I’m aware that Mem Saab advertise themselves as Indian Fine Dining, but I think there is some degree of piss taking going on here. I think we were all a little taken aback. Given that the time we’d arrived was cocktail happy hour, so we would have been able to buy our drinks on 241 if we hadn’t had the voucher, I was pretty unsure as to whether we’d received enough food to justify the spend! Even with the Living Social voucher, it was a pretty paltry show.
As we’d ordered two platters to share between the four of us, we ended up in the slightly farcical position of cutting small crab samosas in half to share with our partners, as we’d only received two on the platter.
Don’t get me wrong, it was delicious. The chilli and garlic prawns were quite heavily spiced, but satisfyingly so. They were problematic for everyone to eat as it was essentially a light curry, but with no rice or bread with which to ‘mop up yer juices’. The two samosas were small, but perfectly formed – I prefered the duck to the crab, but I will pretty much pick duck as a menu choice every time. The seekh kebab was the only disappointing piece on the plate – tasted like one you can get absolutely anywhere in Leicester…
And that’s really the problem with doing Indian Fine Dining in Leicester. Leicester is one of the Curry Capitals of the world. We are truly spoiled by the huge number of small, independently run Indian restaurants that produce consistently great food at extremely reasonable prices. So that, for me, is what made our visit to Mem Saab so disappointing. The food was enjoyable, but average for the locale. The prices, on the other hand, were unjustified. Maybe I misunderstand the nature of a ‘sharing platter’, but I shall leave it to more learned folk to discuss the semantics.
I’d be really interested to go back to Mem Saab and try their main restaurant menu. Perhaps that’s where the real touch of class is that sets them apart from every other Indian restaurant in the city. I have to complement their bar staff though – the cocktail waiter was professional, friendly, warm and knowledgeable, everything you could want.
It wasn’t all bad by any means. But I’m still loathe to give Mem Saab any more than 5 Extreme Points out of 10. And the night ended well. After a couple of weeks of life revolving around ‘That’ Leicester carpark and some as yet unidentified bones, it was with great relish that we went to the following Leicester venue and enjoyed a traditional pint under the gaze of a punter-made Richard III tapestry. Hilarious.
Two thumbs up from the archaeological community. We hadn’t even gone in yet.
Oh, and Mem Saab? There’s nothing more irritating than a long winded flash intro and ‘people enjoying themselves’ sound effects on your website. Please, please just let me access the info without all the bullshit. Thankyou.