I often wonder what it must be like to not be a walking cliche of your own nationality…
My forehead burns when the temperature rises above 15 degrees, my cuppa is always the same shade of anaemic beige, I ask people if I can climb into their suitcases when they book a holiday, I tell the hairdresser I love my ‘do even when I’m plotting their imminent death and I’m a stickler for my Sunday roast. If Sunday evening rolls around and I haven’t had to change into my pyjamas to accommodate the abundance of roast potatoes stowed away in my stomach then the English rose in me starts wilting.
However last Sunday, I broke the habit of a life time after accepting a very kind invitation from Rumi By Bukhara to go along and review their Mount Pleasant eatery which prides itself on authentic Indian cuisine.
After settling in at our window seat for two, we were promptly greeted with the big-hearted hospitality that is so synonymous with Asian dining. We pored the six-page menu over the crunch of perfectly crisp and bubbly poppadoms, only halting to slather on some sweet, warm mango chutney or deliberate the various dishes tempting us from the list. We were firmly fixed on the Indian section of the menu but if you’re dining alongside anybody who prefers their food sans spice then there’s a selection of steaks, American dishes and familiar British options to fall back on.
Have no fear though, my friends, this is merely a wise means by which Rumi can cater to the diverse tastes of a cosmopolitan city centre and not a flashing warning sign of a shoddy, Westernised excuse for Indian fare. You’re in safe, knowledgable hands here despite the less-than-authentic decor. Yes, Rumi by Bukhara might be a rather unique collaboration between Indian eatery, milkshake bar, dry cafe (no alcohol) and gelateria (complete with bright blue bubblegum ice cream) but when I thought outside the box, it’s a one-stop-shop of my favourite things.
So what did we order from this Aladdin’s cave of indulgence?
Well after doing what us foodies do best and swapping notes with my culinary comrade, Jack at the Almost Famous Liverpool new menu launch bash, I had had my sights set on the Tandoori Paneer Tikka (£3.50) before we had even got a review date on lockdown. For those who aren’t au fait with this traditional South Indian appetiser, it’s a soft non-melting cheese curdled with an acidic catalyst like vinegar or lemon juice to form something far more palatable than it sounds.
My pioneering venture into the world of paneer began at Barton Rouge – my top-of-the-list go-to for fine Indian dining, whether it’s a table for ten or takeaway for two – and it has left me hankering after the dish ever since. I excitedly ordered my paneer starter at Rumi, naively expecting to be presented with the very same dish I had devoured at Barton. Instead of the bubbling Balti dish filled to the brim with diced cheese and lashings of fragrant, spiced sauce I was served what the meticulous menu describes as cubes of cottage cheese marinated in lime juice, green chillies and a creamy sauce, cooked on a tandoor.
Showcasing a versatility to paneer that I hadn’t even considered, my four hunks of chargrilled cottage cheese were accompanied by a decorative yoghurt and chutney dip that I soon defaced through my overwhelming anticipation to dig in. Honestly, if you’re expecting to have your brains blown out with an avalanche of flavour then this isn’t for you – the dish was more tame than it’s description had led me to foresee but still something I wholeheartedly enjoyed.
If you’re a glutton for savour and spice, I’d suggested making like my partner in dine and going for the Chicken Tikka starter (£3.50) which basically emulated my paneer dish albeit substituting cheese for chicken. This was de-licious; as tender as you like and coming complete with that divine charcoal taste you can never quite master in a standard domestic kitchen. My mum lives (and feeds) by the mantra that you should never entertain a restaurant meal that you can cook better with your own fair hands but these beautiful, smokey chunks of chicken are definitely one of those things best left to the professionals.
Same has to be said for the two dishes we shared for our main course – they were definitely crafted with the culinary mastery of somebody whose skills who would put any curry I made in my own kitchen to shame. We went for the Handi Murgh Laziz (£7.95) and the Handi Tangri Laziz (£7.95), both of which comprised of fresh onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, hot spices, cream and coconut milk – the former a chicken dish, the second succulent pieces of lamb meat. Each dish on the menu comes with the option of mild, medium and hot spices and let me tell you, the medium certainly comes with attitude. Our choices were delicious, cooked to perfection and void of any of the oily residue that you can sometimes find with these types of recipes.
Thought we had forgotten about the mandatory naan bread? You underestimate me. Of course we had to order some pilau rice from a comprehensive selection of sundries and some Garlic Naan bread to mop up all of that aromatic goodness. Our host for the afternoon had insisted we also sample the Peshwari Naan so of course we were more than willing to sink our teeth into a layer of sweet, sticky coconut encased in a crispy aerated naan. (Word to the wise – one portion of rice is definitely enough for 2-3 people. We learnt that the food baby way!)
Despite not quite pipping my beloved Mowgli or Barton Rouge to the post, I’d happily recommend Rumi as one of the best Indian restaurants in Liverpool when it comes down to the edibles. If you can get past the oddity of sitting in what feels like a rather chilly ice cream parlour or dessert cafe while you fill up on hearty portions of Indian food, this is a great place to grab some good grub. However I almost feel like the colourful-but-clinical venue which could do with a punch of atmosphere (and maybe some background music) is selling the quality of the food short.
Had I been served the dishes I ate in more extravagant surroundings, I’d have not batted an eyelid had you told me my food had been prepared by acclaimed chef and I’d have left with no reservations about returning. So what I’m trying to say here is that Rumi is better than it looks and I’d love to see the brains behind the business embrace that and burst onto the Liverpool food scene with all of the potential that is bubbling away behind a rather humble facade.
Thanks for having us Rumi – for being the perfect hosts and for keeping us full for nearly 24 hours!
I was very generously invited to review this meal at Rumi by Bukhara but all words, photographs, opinions, teeth, hair, boobs and nails are my very own.