Restaurant Reckoning: Chez Mumtaj, St Albans
Nestled in between all the favourite chain restaurants lining the high streets of St Albans, Chez Mumtaj makes for a shining beacon of elegance and incredible food. Their tagline is Modern French-Asian Dining, but really they should change it to ‘Whatever We Cook is Fucking Scrumptious.’ From the outside the place looks like an unassuming office block. Once you’re inside though, it’s gorgeous. Soft lighting, lots of wood and leather, piano jazz singing out from the speakers.
We started off with a cocktail. AND MAN THAT WAS FRESH. My mojito tasted like a mint bush had got smashed on rum and then had punched me in the tongue. (Although my brother tasted it and looked confused and asked ‘Why does it taste like a shrub?’. Good.)
After much menu angst, we were brought an amuse bouche. And boy, my bouche was literally amused. A crunchy semolina shell encased a glob of spiced mashed potato, with a tamarind sauce to accompany. It packed a punch. And a kick and an elbow in the ribs for good measure.
I had Scallops to start. Juicy, soft and lovingly charred round the edges, they were smugly lounging on a bed of sauteed wild mushrooms and shallots and the taste party was completed with a saffron, cardamon and almond foam. Light and airy, this was the seafood version of ballet.
My brother really struggles with menus. He’s always terrified he will suffer from food envy. I do understand. There’s nothing worse than knowing you have made the wrong choice once the grub’s on the table. So he combated his fear of Menu Envy, (Menvy?) by ordering a meat platter. Duck, Lamb, Chicken, BRO. And some ‘Fruity Shit’ to go with it. He’s got a real way with words.
For main I opted for the fillet of beef. In my opinion a great steak can make or break a meal. There’s a pun in there somewhere but my fuzzy mojito head won’t allow me to find it. This hunk of meat (which was beefier than Hasselhoff in his red swimming trunk days) arrived atop a tower of wilted spinach with potatoes that tasted like they were the scandalous love child of a Maris Piper and a block of butter. Also there was an incredible celaric puree, which I think I could have drunk a pint of if given the option.
My sibling chose the Kashmiri lamb shank, which arrived looking like a finely cooked medieval weapon. It was huge. He could have grabbed it, knocked someone out with it, then rewarded himself by gnawing at the meat. He assured me it was fabulous. Well, he didn’t, because he was too busy devouring it, but given that it was gone in approximately six minutes indicated that it was pretty good. We also ate gunpowder-spiced potatoes, which would definitely win in a fight between them and McCain oven chips, wild mushrooms cooked with truffle oil and tomatoes and crispy basil and chilli and garlic and cilantro naans.
We rounded off with a chocolate fondant, a mango brulee and a cheese plate. All solidly and consistently delicious. It actually got a bit embarrassing the sound of the sex/tennis noises I was making with each mouthful.
The evening took a slightly less than elegant turn then when we popped into the pub next door The Farmer’s Boy where alongside the VERY GOOD real craft ales and cloudy ciders on tap there was a 1970’s cover band playing. Now I don’t want to alarm anyone but there was a FASHION EMERGENCY going on. All the band members were wearing sequinned shirts. Very kooky. All in all a wondercrump evening. If you’re looking for somewhere brill to scoff in Hertfordshire, Chez Mumtaj is certainly your best bet. I sort of love that somewhere this good isn’t in London. WELL DONE ST ALBANS YA LOOKING GOOD GIRL.
Find out more about Chez Mumtaj here:
P.S not that I’m pretending to be Anna Wintour or anything, but this FASHION EMERGENCY needs to be shared. (Secretly I quite like it. Shhhhh.)