Soho Lunch Sessions #1: Mooli, 50 Frith Street

Thursday 24 November 2011

A couple of Fridays ago, I was invited to visit Mooli on Frith Street - the perfect excuse to start my new series of posts about lunching in Soho - the Soho Lunch Sessions.

Mooli, which celebrated its second birthday this month, sells Indian street food-inspired roti wraps, bags of poppadoms with spiced chutneys, daal and the unusual aloo papdi chaat - a pot of chickpeas, potato, tamarind, spices, yoghurt and pomegranate seeds, served cold.

I have to say, I was invited by the manager to visit the restaurant in my lunch break and was expecting to try a roti or two... SIX rotis, a pot of aloo papdi chaat, a pack of poppadoms and a strawberry and chilli lassi later and I waddled back to the office to attempt to work for the rest of the afternoon.

Mooli is not where I would immediately think of when - on the rare occasion I can take a full lunch break - I am looking for somewhere to spend that precious hour. I normally gravitate to LJ coffee house, Fox and Ginger or the like (i.e. somewhere that has sofas for me to sprawl on). However, Moolis is the perfect place to meet someone for a quick, informal lunch or dinner - they also have a licenced bar offering mojitos, Indian beers and tequila. The restaurant has the feel of a chain but surprisingly this is is the only one (so far... they are looking for premises at the moment for Moolis #2). It's light, bright and airy and not what you would expect from an Indian eatery.

I was introduced to the Mooli menu by Gabriele, the manager, who brought me some poppadoms with four different chutneys to try including raita, tomato chutney and a tamarind sauce, plus a pot of aloo papdi chaat. The poppadoms were a revelation. I'm used to the standard white, round ones from my local takeaway. These ones were flavoursome, fatter and crunchier than your average poppadom... and imported from India.

Poppadoms served with spiced chutneys
The aloo papdi chaat was a bit of a strange concoction. Sweet tamarind with cool yogurt, spiced chick peas and potato served with pomegranate seeds and a crunchy topping of fried puri (deep fried strips of dough).  It was a bit of a taste explosion and I'm not sure how I felt about it. I think the fact that it was served cold when I had anticipated something hot flipped my mind a little.

Aloo papdi chaat
Onto the rotis... I was advised to try them in order of spiciness, eating the mildest one first. So that would be the paneer - not something I'd normally choose on a menu but deliciously spiced and jam packed with flavour.

Paneer roti with tomato chutney and carrot

The chicken and beef were next - on the same level of spice as the paneer... enough to feel the heat but not to burn your mouth off. Then the chickpea - surprisingly this was my favourite... in this fiery little number the chickpeas still maintain their bite with a sauce of tangy tamarind and spring onion salsa.

North Indian-inspired Chana Masala Chickpea roti

Chicken roti with pickled turnip, raita and fenugreek
 The highly anticipated pork and goat were the last rotis to test. The pork because it has pomegranate seeds in and I am obsessed with these little jewels; and goat because, well, it's goat and how often can you order a goat wrap for your lunch in Soho? They both lived up to expectations. The goat, not too tough or dry, and suculent pork were both pretty spicy but not too hot to handle. The minted lime water really helped with the mouth burn.

Goan pork roti with pomegranate salsa
 I took some pretty rubbish pictures of a strawberry and chilli lassi that I won't bother to inflict on you but I can honestly say my lassi passion has been reignited. Lassis are traditionally supposed to cool you down - the yoghurt tempering the heat of the spices. Moolis turn this on its head with their chilli variety and it really works. Think of it as a grown up milkshake, with added bite. I don't think this is on their menu yet but it definitely should be...please!

I left Moolis a good few pounds heavier but without that dreaded heavy feeling you often get after eating at Indian restaurants - it actually felt pretty healthy. I'm also planning my return visit for tomorrow lunchtime for a goat wrap. My wallet won't be much lighter either as the mini Moolis start at a bargainous £3 and the larger ones at £5.

Moolis, 50 Frith Street, Soho
* Thanks to Gabriele at Moolis for hosting me, roti photo credits to Moolis


tori said...

Fantastic- am always on the hunt for good lunch spots in Soho- can't wait to read the rest of them.

Jeanne said...

Do you know, I have STILL not been to Moolis! Time to change that, methinks... Love chaat - it is a bit of a surprise the first time but quite addictive :)

Unknown said...

Tori... I'm aiming to do one a week so hopefully there'll be a lot of new spots for you to try!

Jeanne... yes, definitely worth a visit, I might have to try the Chaat again, perhaps it's something that will grow on me :)

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