Mint & Mustard – A small corner of Kerala in the Wye Valley

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Grand opening of Mint & Mustards Indian Street Kitchen in Chepstow. July 2017

We have it all in this article, a VIP gala opening, great Indian food based on traditional Keralan cuisine, a new and exciting restaurant in the heart of Chepstow and the Wye Valley, oh, and a little bit of an exclusive….

http://www.mintandmustard.com/locations/chepstow/
Traditional Keralan drummers

Well, street food has finally landed in the Wye Valley and for one beautiful July evening a very small corner of Chepstow town was transformed into a small section of the Chalai Bazaar (a famous market area in the Indian state of Kerala).

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
First dosa hits the pan.

For the grand opening of the Mint & Mustard Indian Street Kitchen now firmly, and stylishly, located on the ground floor of this small part of the Keralan state. The throng of invited guests, from far and wide, filled the street-side patio to capacity. Excited chatter about the already well established fine dining restaurant on the upper floor (see our previous blog http://www.wyedeandeliconfidential.co.uk/blog/mint-mustard-opens-in-chepstow/) being the currency of the conversation together with excitement about what this new addition to this very popular and ever growing restaurant will bring.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Tandoor chef in full swing

As you might expect from a Grand Opening, the staff were on top form, with the management present in the form of the very friendly Mint & Mustard owners Ajit Kandoran and Latheesh Kottilil and their Operations Director of Chai Street (the Cardiff based Street Kitchen restaurant), Ankur Baria all on hand and really very charming.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd

But, although the crowd were enjoying the social side of their invitation to this fab event, the overheard conversations said it all. All of the chatter was about the smells now emanating from the Tandoori, Chat and Dosa stands set up around the restaurant wall inside the patio to represent a Keralan roadside – all eyes were fixed on the activity here. The tandoor blasted heat at anyone who got too close. When the tandoor chef moistened the Seekh kebab and lowered it in you could hear the crowd salivate. Chicken and a glorious paneer tikka followed and the whole marinated fish went in two by two. And like any good roadside food, much of Chepstow’s evening traffic slowed to see what all the fuss was about.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Great service

If you were in any doubt that this was about the food, you only had to observe Executive Chef Santhosh Nair for a few moments. His steely overseers’ glare saw everything, and we mean everything that his chefs were doing in preparation for our street inspired feast. His bonhomie was reserved specifically for invited guests and it was great to see an accomplished exec chef communicate with his staff by extra sensory perception alone.

Heated by the earth’s core.

As we walked into the VIP reception a Chaat stand dispensed tangy snacks consisting of crispy dough balls, onion, chickpeas, fresh coriander and yoghurt dressing. These stands (thought to have started in Uttar Pradesh) are now widespread across Indian, Pakistan and Nepal and serve these tasty pick-me-up snacks to workers and weary travellers. A Dosa stand dispensed wafer thin dosa (water and flour pancakes) with a masala sauce and next to that, the tandoor stand with blazing oven driven into the bowels of the earth and those wonderful tikka snacks on long skewers.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Fish and Paneer tikka

A stylish bijou room at the back now decorated in muted subtle tones housed the buffet serving the Master Chef’s lamb special and chicken biryani with the full nine yards of accompaniments for tonight. In operation this will also be a private function room for hire. Boy, we could just see it laid out as a private dining room for a couple of dozen people. The management would also like us to mention that the room (with IT if required) is also available for business hire for meetings etc. We’ve eaten a lot of business buffet food, but we’ll wager here and now, whatever you want that the Mint & Mustard food will top it all.

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Beautiful fish, paneer and meat selection.

And there you have it. All fairly predictable for a Mint & Mustard event – top class service, a great and innovative idea delivered with aplomb and (most importantly) the best Indian food for miles!

David Broadbent Photography, Mint & Mustard, Indian, street food, Chepstow
Street food and Chaat

The idea of Mint & Mustard was borne from a dinner conversation of two hard working doctors, Ajit Kandoran and Latheesh Kottilil, would you believe. Sitting in an Indian restaurant close by their hospital dreaming of the food they used to eat back home in Kerala. Wondering why they couldn’t find it all in the UK led to, just a year later, opening the very first Mint & Mustard in Cardiff. We often talk of passion as the magic ingredient in food and drink and surely it can’t get more passionate than that!

Grand opening of Mint & Mustards INdian Street Kitchen in Chepstow. July 2017

Our exclusive? Keralan Cookery courses coming to Chepstow! The very charming and engaging Latheesh Kottilil told us that it was definitely on the cards for Chepstow’s development.  In the crowd we chatted to Dave and Lisa from Newport who had already been on the course in Cardiff. Ten minutes later they stopped telling us how good it was and how fantastic the chefs were and  only then because the food was served!

 

Links

facebook.com/mintandmustard/

Twitter @mintandmustard

www.mintandmustard.com

Mint & Mustard opens in Chepstow

 

Last night I went to a wake and a christening. All at the same time and at the same place.

Sadly, after many years, the Mughal Spice Indian restaurant in Chepstow is no more. The wholesome food and bonhomie of the brothers is a thing of the past. However, in its place is born an additional iteration to the very successful Mint & Mustard. The south-west based Indian food explosion has finally cracked the holy grail of the “Indian”, to offer distinctive, regional, genuine menu’s with a dash of great service and in cool surroundings. Although the new Chepstow outlet is pretty much just a lick of paint and a refresh for the old Mughal upstairs rooms at the moment, they have great ideas for the downstairs lounge. Anyone who has been to their other restaurants, particularly Penarth, will know that the decor style of this quickly expanding group is definitely upmarket and trendy with nods to all of the interior design trends and tricks of the new wave of uber-cool bars and restaurants.

Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room
Classy decoration in the upstairs dining room

As most now know, many of our beloved “Indians” have in the past been run by Bangladeshi folk. Nothing wrong in that, but since the days of the Raj, Asian food has been adapted and adopted by the British palate as only we seem to do with any world cuisine. Partly because of this restaurant menus became the anonymous high streets of the restaurant business. Homologous lists of dishes you could get from anywhere – with often differing resemblances to the stated contents.

Mint & Mustard is changing that. The reason for their success so far is simple? Of course the great levels of service are important but it’s the food. Genuine south Indian, predominantly Keralan, dishes all served up with lashings of style and presentation. Finally! An Indian restaurant that gets it all right.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Kerala, known as the “Land of Spices” because of its history as a spice trading centre to the world, sits on the Arabian Sea on the tropical Malabar Coast. No wonder then that fish is one of the staple elements of the Keralan diet. But it’s also famous for its meat and vegan dishes (Hindus in the Brahmin community are vegan). Coconuts abound in Kerala and, in all its forms, it’s a significant feature of the local cuisine.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Our starters of Scallop Thengapal served in their shells with an unctuous soft lemon and coconut milk sauce and the theatrical Keralan tiger prawns, deep fried in chilli and turmeric paste – delightful. A selection of mains followed which included expertly spiced chicken Kori Gassi, King Prawn Peera, chicken Dhaba Murgh with chilli, garlic and ginger and a Master Chef Mixed Grill Platter with an assortment of meat and fish tikka dishes. Accompanying sides of dals – Olan (butternut squash and cow peas) and of course Tarka dal.

Evoke Pictures Bristol Food Photographers

Tarka dal is such a domestic staple of Asian cuisine from Nepal to the southern tip of the continent that it’s a litmus for the quality of any Asian restaurant. If a restaurant can’t get this right, the thing they have been cooking at home and eating for years, then it doesn’t bode well. If the tarka dal is good, you can have confidence that everything is going to be just fine.   M&M’s tarka dal is great. Just the right amount of sauce, spice and texture in the lentils – a real treat.

Add to that a full house and lots of early evening atmos – and that’ll be another winner for Mint & Mustard!

 

Around the World in 80 Meals

Harts Barn Cookery School, Supper Clubs, passport, WyeDean Deli Confidential, event, social, evening,

 

It’s all about Food or Omne suum circa cibum as the Romans might have said when they lived and worked in the Forest of Dean.

We love Harts Barn Cookery School and we love what they do at the light and airy training kitchen on Monmouth Road at Longhope. The phrase something for everybody is often overused but maestro in charge at Harts Barn Cookery School, Yvette Farrell, really does try to offer events and activities for everyone! From artisan skills courses in bread making, cake making and decorating or even making your very own personalised chocolates – it’s all here. At half term there are specific classes for kids where they cook and create in their own holiday atmosphere.

But it is the next Supper Club (hosted in the quirky Apple Barn dining area) we are most looking forward to at the moment. We’ll be at the “Taste of Thailand” on Friday 26 February and just can’t wait! All those fabulous aromas of lemon grass, basil and spices. It’s going to be wonderful!

Harts Barn Cookery School, Supper Clubs, passport, WyeDean Deli Confidential, event, social, evening,

Supper Clubs are held in the Apple Barn each month throughout the year and there is a full list of upcoming events on the cookery school website. Next up is Greek Night (March), followed by Rustic French in April, Middle Eastern in May and a riot of tricolore with a Taste of Italy in June.

Harts Barn Cookery School, Supper Clubs, passport, WyeDean Deli Confidential, event, social, evening,

 

Yvette says “These nights are really social. Food always brings people together and we always aim for a really relaxed and informal atmosphere with great food”. Just a word, though, we know that the Supper Clubs are very popular and therefore booking is absolutely essential.

Drinks are available from the bar to accompany your meal, many sourced from great local suppliers.

Pick-up your culinary passport from Harts Barn Cookery School on your first fabulous night. Just like in the good old days of travel, you actually get your passport stamped by Yvette at the Apple Barn border and if you get enough stamps you’ll qualify for a Supper Club meal for FREE! Yes, we did say free.

Supper Clubs are a great social night out enjoying food from around the world, meeting new people from the area or from further afield (holiday visitors are always made very welcome) – all without leaving the glorious Forest of Dean.

If you are interested in learning more about the Supper Clubs go to the booking page to see what’s coming up or call 01452 831719; email info@hartsbarncookeryschool.co.uk

foody stamp (1)

 

All credit to Nigel Slater – Eating Together on BBC One

Nigel Slater, BBC, TV,
Nigel Slater: Eating Together – (C) Tigress Productions Ltd BBC Pictures – Photographer: Tom Blount

Don’t know if you have been watching Nigel Slater (cook, author, The Observer food columnist) in his new series for the BBC – Eating Together? Nigel, who describes himself as “a cook who writes” is someone who we have followed for some time, he travels the world, in culinary terms, cooking, tasting and meeting those who have bought such a wealth of flavours and cultures to the British palate. If you haven’t yet seen it you can catch a BBC One promo clip and taster for the series at www.bbc.co.uk/bbcone – we have and for a very special DeanWye reason!

Don’t jump up to put the kettle on immediately the next episode ends, but wait for the credits. Right there, if you’re quick, you’ll see the name Yvette Farrell! That’s right, the Yvette Farrell, our own local food hero, foraging Queen, Principal of Harts Barn Cookery School and this year’s Forester Business Person of the Year as well as being champion of all things local and wonderful (see previous feature).

Yvette Farrell - brains behind Harts Barn Cookery School
Yvette Farrell – brains behind Harts Barn Cookery School

The opportunity came about through a mutual acquaintance who happened to know that Nigel was one of Yvette’s all-time food heroes. Pretty soon she was signed up, amidst total secrecy, for a gruelling week long schedule of 10/12 hour days cooking for Nigel and the crew during filming. Yvette got to work behind the scenes of the new series, which started this week on BBC1 and will continue every Monday night at 7.30pm. She appearing in the credits of the show and her main role was to prepare food and catering for Nigel and the crew during the long days of filming.

“It was a great honour to work with my food hero, Nigel and he was every bit as likeable and caring as I had imagined he would be.  His approach to food and cooking is very much in line with my own beliefs and ethos – one that I try to bring in to the Cookery School every day. My highlight was Nigel saying I made the best Flatbreads he has ever tasted – which is a great boost as I have plans to develop the Forest Flatbread for production and put the Forest of Dean on the map in the same way the Cornish Pasty has  done for Cornwall!” Yvette commented.

“I run a ‘Hire A Chef’ catering service as part of the Cookery School, so I was well prepared for the hard work and the rewards really were fantastic,” she continued.

The new series sees Nigel Slater meet devoted home cooks across multi-cultural Britain to discover how food in this country has never been so exciting. From noodles, to dumplings and custard there are some dishes we all love to cook wherever we originate from in the world. In this series Nigel gathers inspiration from the distant cousins of some of his favourite recipes, finding out culinary secrets from across the world and discovering what makes different cultures within Britain tick.

For more information www.hartsbarncookeryschool.co.uk or contact Helen Hayes: helen@hartsbarncookeryschool.co.uk

@NigelSlater  Instagram.com/thenigelslater

A new annual food and drink event for the Forest & Wye? We hope so.

Well the dust has well and truly settled on the inaugural Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism Association’s new food and drink event Local Produce, See, Taste, Buy.  The event, originally conceived to match producers with potential clients from within the tourism associations’ extensive and diverse membership, was quickly turned over to a public event to coincide with English and Welsh Tourism Weeks respectively. Sited in the spacious “The Venue” function room on the CSMA site at Whitemead Park, exhibitors and visitors were protected against the worst the Forest spring weather might throw at anyone. In the event it turned out to be a beautiful Forest of Dean spring morning.

As the exhibitors built their stands before public opening at 10am the sights and sounds, and most of all, smells of our fabulous local producers started to build and fill in the background hubbub.

Great names in beer Hillside Brewery www.hillsidebrewery.com and cider, Severn Cider www.severncider.com were there in strength with Paul Williamson owner and head honcho from the Hillside Brewery with a broad selection of the great beers crafted up on the hill. Also showing, and tasting for the first time, their new Anzac beer brewed especially for the Gloucester Beer Festival. Nick Bull was in charge over at Severn Cider where, even though we were working hard, we had to have a small sample of their killer Severn Cider Perry.

Severn Cider, perry,                 3K5C1907          3K5C2145                 3K5C2154

Alongside these headline names in the now thriving local craft drinks industry, was the very tasty Apple County Cider with their “deciderly” good Dabinett and Vilberie dry and medium brands – very easy to imagine drinking those two beauties on a warm sunny evening! We also had Ty Gwyn cider, VQ Country Wines sporting their new swanky designer labels with the same great quality fruit wines still inside and Wye Valley Brewery. Parva Farm Vineyard were there too, showing a good selection of their Welsh wine from the terroir of Tintern  – some great news for Judith and Colin lately in that Marks & Spencer have taken their award winning Bacchus white wine into stock. We couldn’t resist a tasting stop at the amply stocked Chase Distillery stand either – hic!

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Adding to the ambience were the great aromas of James’ Gourmet Coffee brewing constantly in the background, Rayeesa’s Kitchen homemade curry sauce bases simmering away in the tasting pot and fabulous charcuterie cooking on the hot plate from the guys over at Native Breeds. Smarts Gloucestershire Cheeses seem to be essential to any successful food and drink event and no matter how many times you’ve tasted their Gloucester’s before, resistance is futile! Celia’s Pantry was on hand to dispense Caribbean inspired tangy chutney flavours to go with it all.

For dessert there were two great ice cream makers were there Kelsmor Dairy and Hillbrooks Luxury Ice Cream with their own distinctive flavours – all of course available for tasting. The Chocolate Bar had a dazzling array of beautiful handmade chocolates to tempt the palate for that sumptuous finish.

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The timing of the event is driven by the original concept to put producers and tourism association and other local buyers together before the busy Easter season and we think that that makes a lot of sense. A little later mind you and Whitemead would have been thronging with visitors to increase the footfall for the traders and give visitors a fantastic showcase of the produce and the ability to stock up the holiday larders both for their stay and to take home.

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The Venue is a great place for this event although perversely Whitemead don’t actually signpost the halls location at the site entrances which makes things difficult for new conference visitors. The public parking there is also very restrictive (the design and concept of the site envisaged all of the visitor cars being spread out over the whole site outside respective holiday lodges, caravans or tents).  We spoke to Mike Carter (centre manager) who had already identified this issue as a growth limiting factor for this and other conference events. He’s on the case he assures us.

Does this new event conflict with the hugely popular Forest Showcase event in the autumn fields of the Speech House Hotel  www.thespeechhouse.co.uk (Peter Hands and his chef from the hotel were there and actively looking for new local suppliers – featured image)? Not according to John Theophilus of the Tourism Association. “We developed this idea primarily as a trade show for producers to meet buyers from the local economy and tourism sector – and we think that it has worked extremely well! We are delighted so many members of the public came along too as it helps to spread the word about the great work being done in our tourism sector. This incidentally adds a great deal to the local economy. It’s events such as this that make you realise how widespread the influence of a thriving tourism economy can be to the whole local economy”.

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Overall we loved the concept and thought that, for a first year launch event, it was a real bonus to the local food and drink network. We would definitely have liked to have seen even more buy-in from local businesses – every tourism association member and every pub in the area were sent invitations and we think all of them should have attended!

We know only too well that profit margins for local businesses are always tight and the drive for economy in purchasing is a constant pressure on small business. Small artisan producers make up for this lack of “scale costs” with bags of flavour, localism, innovation and skill. This added value is demonstrated nowhere better than in the tourism sector because those values produce a cash sales equivalent and really register with visitors who want to buy local great produce.

If you run a business selling food and drink, why not follow the lead of the Tourism Association and look for one new local supplier today? Let us know how you get on, we’d love to tell your local collaboration story.

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