When award winning Indian restaurant Mint and Mustard opened a home delivery and takeaway in Penarth in May queues snaked down the street.
Word soon spread that it more than lived up to expectations and from day one phone lines were busy and you could wait hours for food on a Saturday night.
So I decided to linger until the crowds died down to see what the fuss was about and if this was takeaway worth waiting for. It is. And the queues haven’t died down much.
Last Sunday we rang for a meal the moment lines opened at 5.30pm. Discouragingly the line was engaged for 15 minutes. This is an eatery that’s harder to reach than a GP’s surgery on a Monday morning. So I raced up in person. I’m glad I did.
Mint and Mustard serves the best Indian takeaway you’re likely to eat anywhere.
Award-winning head chef, Santosh Nair, and the host of the parent restaurant’s popular cooking classes, Sue Tasher, have worked with nutritionist Stephanie Lashford (who has worked with stars including Pierce Brosnan) to come up with a fresh, exciting menu which is free of additives and colourants.
There are even gluten-free, low fat and vegetarian options – for those wary of the food police being healthy doesn’t stop this food being exciting, innovative and most of all, delicious.
Forget greasy takeaways, this is exceptional food at a reasonable price.
Scouring the menu we decided to be adventurous and try things we hadn’t eaten before. We chose fish, chicken and red meat dishes – all without checking exactly what they were.
If Mint and Mustard is so good then every dish will be a winner, we reasoned.
We were right.
The fish dishes came in creamy, rich sauces with delicate spices and hints of coconut, more like a fusion between Thai and Indian than the heavy fish curries I’ve had elsewhere.
Alleppy Swordfish Curry was a beautiful saffron colour with generous hunks of moist fish which didn’t vanish into the sauce.
The Fish Moilee was served in a delicate salmon coloured gravy, the consistency of cream with a sharper taste than the swordfish and again, succulent, whole slices of fish.
The Nadan Khozi Curry was a medium hot chicken curry with subtle flavours and there wasn’t a hint of greasy tomato or onion in any of the four dishes we chose, just real pieces of cinnamon, curry leaves and what I think was lemongrass.
The highlight was the Lamb Coconut Roast made with Welsh lamb. The generous servings of meat were marinated and roasted in a dry, gently spiced coconut sauce, good enough to eat on its own with your fingers straight from the dish.
Everyone agreed this was their favourite dish and that this Indian was something special.
Rather than being masked in heavy, attention grabbing flavours this is subtle, fresh food with none of the sleepy, heavy feeling left by lesser takeaways.
The quality of the meat is better than you would get in most restaurants and stands out the moment you bite into it.
The food came with a serving of orange segments and a note explaining how the spices contain iron, which is more easily absorbed by the body when eaten with vitamin C.
The oranges also cleaned our mouths for the ridiculously rich pudding. We only got one portion of Our Famous Chocomosa (£3.50) because we’d heard how filling it is, and didn’t want to ruin the perfect feeling of such a well balanced meal.
Three sweet samosas stuffed with a rich chocolate filling were more than enough to share between five – just one bite and you’re in chocolate heaven.
The rice at Mint and Mustard is also worth a mention in its own right.
Fragrant and fluffy, the coconut rice came with tiny shreds of coconut, the ideal accompaniment to the fish dishes while the plain rice was light and airy without a hint of water.
So, is this food worth waiting for? Would I join a queue going out the door? Would I wait for hours and would I keep phoning when lines are busy?
This is the highest quality Indian food, made with care and skill. You won’t get food like this anywhere else in Cardiff, let alone Penarth – or possibly anywhere else in the UK – and that really is no exaggeration.
But rather than wait, it is much better to get there on the dot when it opens – or you could camp out in a sleeping bag Wimbledon-style to ensure you’re first in when doors open.
Mint and Mustard, 7 Glebe Street, Penarth. Tel: 029 20704705. www.mintandmustardathome.co.uk
Nadan Kozhi Curry: £6.75
Fish Moilee: £8.50
Alleppy Swordfish Curry: £8.50
Lamb Coconut Roast: £7.50
Steamed Basmati Rice: £4.20
Coconut Rice: £4.60
Our Famous Chocomosa: £3.50