The best thing about leaving , even for a few months, is the number of farewell drinks and meals you can have. 2 and a 1/2 weeks to go and I’m up to 6 farewell parties, with a few more ‘quick drinks’ to slot in around packing, sleeping and taking antacids.

A selection of starters

Last night was farewell meal number 2 (we’ll skip over the Black Velvet, beer and kebab based meal number 1): a curry in with Sister Number 1 and Kung Fu Alix. In contrast to the first bon voyage meal, it was in Al Mirage, a Pakistani restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol and markets itself with the slogan The Healthy Choice.

Al Mirage is housed in an almost glamourous, chandelier-lit glass building on Upper Tooting Road and, opening the door, I was embraced by the meaty warmth of the grill and the noise from a giant screen showing cricket (farewell glamour). We huddled as close to grills as possible and, having starved ourselves all day, ordered a feast.

Poppadoms and chutney

Poppadoms came with a pot of sweet mango chutney, the chunks of mango caramelised and chewy like good-for-you sweets. We could’ve got through double the amount they gave us and I had to hold myself back from snatching the pot up and shouting: “Mine, all mine!” Friends will forgive many things, but chutney hogging isn’t one of them.

Chilli paneer

Our mango lassis arrived next and I expounded on the importance of not drinking the whole lot because it would fill us up and we had serious eating to do. I then drank the entire glassful in under 5 minutes, only pausing for brief gulps of air as I sucked at the straw. Sweet mango gave way to a rich, creamy aftertaste and the kind of dairy mouthfeel that explains why it’s very important we keep cows lactating.

For starters, we’d ordered chilli paneer, fish tikka and lamb chops. The chilli paneer was tender, my teeth sinking through it with barely a squeak of protest. Brushed with a mild, dry chilli marinade and charred black at the edges, it was good, but not the best version I’ve ever eaten (Hot Stuff, I salute you).

Fish tikka

The fish tikka had been expertly cooked, the aromatic coating flecked with chilli seeds encasing slabs of moist, flaking white fish. It had a whiff of fish and chips about it. In fact, with chips, curry ketchup and cumin laced mushy peas, it could make its way onto a fusion menu for an optimistic but ultimately debauched and doomed restaurant.

The big test was the lamb chops. Would they be as good as the legendary lamb chops of Tayyabs? Of course not. The were juicy and the soft, yielding meat was lightly spiced but they lacked the bone-chewing lickability of the Tayyabs’ chops. The problem lay with the lightness of the spicing – all three starters had been perfectly cooked but no flavours sang out of them. They were timid.

Aubergine masala

For mains, we’d ordered chana daal, bitter gourd masala and aubergine masala, along with some basmati rice and 2 plain naans (although they bought 3, apparently believing that no one could possibly want to share naan breads).

The break out hit was the aubergine masala, mostly due to the slippery soft, silken texture. A little sweet and with similar spicing to the lamb chops and tikka fish, it was good piled up on naan bread and devoured in great, sliding mouthfuls.

The bitter gourd masala was genuinely bitter with a wash of zinging lime that gave it a bit of nasal clearing zip. With a rich meat dish this would give you the palate clearing, digestive settling break you need to carry on eating more and more meat.

Chana dhal

The chana masala was garlicky, with a husky, slightly harsh final note of coriander. Our least favourite dish, we left about half of it, which the waiter offered to wrap for us with the remaining naans (they were huge and a bit bland, we really did only need 2). We took the naans and left the rest.

The bill, which also included a fizzing fresh apple juice, came to £34, not including service. Everything we ate had been really well cooked, but the flavours were lacking in places. A bit more swagger in the kitchen would turn Al Mirage from a local restaurant you can depend on to a London restaurant you’d take the tube to.

Al Mirage on Urbanspoon

Tagged with: LondonPakastaniTooting

13 Responses to Al Mirage, Tooting

  1. Well, it might not be Tayyabs, but hey, it certainly sounds good enough for me to want to pay a visit. Not least ‘cos it’s just ‘down the road’ from me. Not that I’m lazy or anything, but… 😉

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      It’s definitely a good restaurant to have on your doorstep. It has cosy local written all over it.

  2. Chris says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, even a proto semi-Tayyabs is still better than most other restaurants. This looks great – although no pictures of the lamb chops?

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      I took several pictures of the lamb chops, every single one of them out of focus. They’re kind of the black mass at the back of the back of the top picture.

  3. Gav says:

    Looks tasty! I’m lucky enough to be a short walk from Tayaabs and Lahore Can you do the next one north of the river, it is but a Northern line away to civilisation 😉

    Oh and did you ever do the fried chicken?

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      A short walk from Tayyabs and Lahore – lucky sod. They are worth braving the Northern Line for, I will have to do it again. The chicken is in my freezer, waiting to be breadcrumbed and fried. Its time will come soon.

  4. Lizzie says:

    Shame they wimped out of the proper spicing. I am constantly looking out for a Tayyabs equivalent, but since the East London line is opening soon, I guess there’s not much point bothering!

  5. Tootingboss1 says:

    I thought it would be good to let people know that I live in Tooting and this restaurant is definately a cut above the rest. My parents favourite!!!
    Spicy is not always best. I noticed the other day when I went past they have a “heart beat Award from the NHS and Wandsworth Council. Sounds good to me. Give it a try yourself

    • ginandcrumpets says:

      I agree, spicy isn’t always best but the spicing was a little bit samey in some of the dishes. It’d be nice to have a few flavours sing out rather than be a blanket of similar tastes. But I enjoyed my meal a lot and it’s a great place to eat. Not sure I’d take restaurant recommendations from the NHS, though, I’ve tried hospital catering!

  6. Tom says:

    I am super keen to take Jen for an amazing Indian meal in London. Of course there is Tayyabs but I was hoping the more “local” districts – Tooting, Norbury and Southall – might have something to blow it away. Maybe not on the grilled meats front, but on the basic curry side. Shame this wasn’t quite there but definitely curious if you do have any other recommendations of standout places.


  7. […] Read this article: Al Mirage, Tooting […]

  8. Shamim says:

    Tootingboss1 I know who are.Your not fooling anyone! I know your the owner of the restaurant. So Stop fooling the public by writing a good review about your own restaurant. Your food is not up to par! Food is average and it’s oily!!

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