Glasgow at its best – the fabulous curries of Mother India
Best Curry Restaurants in Glasgow – Mother India
You know that moment when you walk in on a great meal? When your senses go berserk all at once and what’s on the menu has just become the single most important thing in your life? In my case, there’s a more than reasonable chance that that thing is going to be a curry.
Mother India is Glasgow at its finest. As much as the architecture, the history or the glorious weather, it is front and centre whenever I’m having myself a wee reflective daydream about the city I love to call home. Whenever my travels take me elsewhere, my first meal on return is always a curry. The first drink is always a cup of tea by the way, despite my whisky ramblings. Regular as clockwork. Glasgow, and most major cities in the UK to be fair, have an abundance of great curry houses. Whether catering to the Korma and Vindaloo diehards or to the increasingly popular, more subtle approach to spices and flavour distribution in curry making, there is an array of choice.
So, into the good stuff we go. As a regular I know their menu well. A gentle probing here and there to the staff reveal the best-selling dish to be Butter Chicken, and it’s no wonder. Devine just doesn’t begin to cover it. Creamy, nutty, rich and with a cheeky hint of cardamom (I’m going through a bit of a phase with it, don’t imagine I’ll come out of it anytime soon either) this sauce makes for a dreamy companion to the flavour-packed chicken breast. Lamb also rules in North Indian food of course and there are always numerous options here – the Lamb Mussalam with Okra is my favourite dish in this area.
Doing a full 180 from the adjectives that go with Butter Chicken, another personal favourite in Indian cuisine has always been their fish options. While I would normally veer in the direction of meaty options like Monkfish to hold the big flavours and spices that go with curry, I’ve recently been blown away by their haddock dishes. Melt-in-the-mouth stuff, the subtlety of the spice range comes through in abundance and makes for a perfect starter ahead of a richer main. Indeed, this is the style favoured by the restaurant in general – focussing on the delicacy of the ingredients. Getting the cumin, coriander, turmeric levels in proportion but never to the levels that the main ingredient is ‘lost’. The result is a powerful taste explosion that puts the traditional carry-out impression of curry firmly in the shade. Throughout the menu, variety is constantly prevalent. My journey generally goes something like this – fish starter; meaty main accompanied with bread and rice; and with comforting pakoras and refreshingly sweet ice cream either side of it all. The ultimate feast of champions.
A word on bread. Mother India has its own bread chef, a guarantee of quality. Nans do rule the day – the Peshwari is more than a bit special with coconut and almond ensuring it’s quite a journey – but parathas and roti are alternative companions. For drinks, I lean towards a pint with curry, I can’t help it, but the restaurant enjoys a strong wine list as well. Non-alcoholic options for the poor git lumbered with the driving include Mango Lassi, which is a truly outstanding way of getting one of your five-a-day in. In fact, it was Lassis that helped the restaurant stay afloat in its very early days, when the Glasgow hot summer heat (say, what?) pulled in curious punters looking for any form of refreshment they could get their hands on.
After my latest devouring of the above, I ask one of the chefs what his thoughts are on British/Scottish food. I manage to eke out that he’s fond of fish and chips, but let him off there before any fibs are required. No, as much as I love Scotland’s natural larder, the flavours to be had within Punjabi cooking in particular are on another level and it’s a style that I simply could not do without in day-to-day life.
I cook myself. It’s one of my favourite things to do, monopolising a kitchen and going at it with gusto. Curries are one of my most common efforts and while I’m a long way from the standard of Mother India, I’m not bad. And getting better thanks to the guidance of Monir – the owner of Mother India and driving force behind the restaurant’s own purchasable cookbook that includes the story of how the restaurant came into being. I’ve been pouring over the details of each recipe – it’s all in them of course – and I’m already picking up some new tricks along the way. I need to use cloves more often.
Meeting the man himself is nothing short of an honour. This is one of the bits I like most about having a Scotland travel blog. Generations of my family love, adore and idolise his restaurants and it has always been somewhere to bring us together, in good days, bad days and landmark days. Family birthdays, graduations, basically any chance to gather for a doo – invariably we end up here. Kind enough to chat with me for a bit, Monir discusses how it all began for the restaurant and how Mother India, after a rocky journey at times, has gone on to become one of the best curry restaurants in Glasgow and such an established name on the Scottish culinary scene. A Glasgow boy through and through, his story is both impressive and real. Impressive because of the perseverance and success that has been achieved; real because of the great many challenges that have had to be faced and overcome along the way. The hard work that has gone into creating and establishing his restaurants, the fact that it has not always been plain sailing and the key moments that have helped shape his product today. The story just makes me love the place all the more. Working my way through his cookbook informs that many of his skills in the kitchen came from a spell spent looking after his parents back in Pakistan where reliance on the land was everything and budgets were low. From caring for the family buffalo to growing herbs, much of the basics used for cooking in this spell have gone into the tastes that he has sought to deliver in his cuisine ever since.
So what’s the story? Kicking off in 1990, the restaurant was first set up in the West End of the city (during the Lassi gold rush) before structural issues forced a re-location to the South Side, where it just never quite got going. West End to the rescue once again though in 1993. My own neighbourhood and now, to my surprise, favourite place in the world, has that village mentality that is conducive to word of mouth. Word travelled fast. Years of success followed in the 90’s when the restaurant established itself as a regular for droves of followers. Its success at Westminister Terrace led to the establishment of the equally fabulous Mother India Café down the road on Argyle Street and also to an Edinburgh HQ in 2008 – just to keep anyone getting jealous. While everyone who knows the food scene in Glasgow, or Scotland for that matter, is now lauding the Finnieston area as the coolest place to be with the best concentration of amazing restaurants in the country (I agree by the way), it is without doubt that Mother India is a major contributor to this now being the case.
Now, Glasgow has the means to satisfy any and all curry lovers. I can rattle off ten outstanding restaurants off the top of my head that are all superior to any I’ve tried anywhere else (admittedly I’ve never been to India or Pakistan) and that make it onto my list of top Scotland travel tips, making the competition fierce and the prospects delightful for the Glasgow curry connoisseur. But for the atmosphere, the sense of the comfortingly familiar and for the consistently superb quality of food that I have been tucking into for many, many years, there is something extra special that makes this place the jewel in the crown.
I love this town, and this is one of the biggest reasons why.
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