For those who pride themselves on the finer points of Cardiffian chicken arcana, Mowlana has long been a name to reckon with. The name, perhaps. Since 2013 in fact. Their delayed post-pandemic reopening (for refurbishment) brought more panicked update queries to my inbox than any other Cardiff restaurant.
In short, it’s good to see it open again.
There have been some changes in the meantime. The menu of traditional Persian stews is a little slimmer since the pandemic, unlike me, with the sour-sweet fesenjān thickened with ground walnuts and studded with pomegranate a casualty.
Now the focus is firmly on favourites such as baghali polow (slow-cooked lamb shank) or the vegetarian gheyme badenjan with its stewed aubergine, split peas and saffron. Their famously huge naan, long as your forearm, is now a light, brittle-crusted airy loaf. There are welcome familiarities, too, of course: the freshly squeezed juices (mint is particularly good), that little pat of butter that melts through your rice, that sumac seasoning.
But however good those are- and they are- the inevitable headliner is that grill. And that joojeh chicken.
Marinating in minced onion, saffron and tenderising lemon means improbably tender chicken. Breast isn’t supposed to be as this, as tender as a lullaby, but time after time that grill gets it just right. Have it your way: add garlic, add chilli, add the citric sprinkle of sumac. Just revel in the simple pleasure of expertly-grilled meat, rice and salad.
It’s simple stuff, sure. But consistently effective. The lamb runs it close, too. Torn between the two? Add a skewer of koobideh– its just-fatty-enough minced lamb is gently smoky and juicy, or the lamb chops.
Restaurant writing tends towards chasing the new and the shiny, the latest distraction, like a cat skittering after a torch beam. That can mean little space to celebrate long-standing places which go about their business quietly and make people happy month in, month out. Mowlana does things simply. It does them remarkably well. They’ve been doing this for ten years and the food’s as good as ever. Meet the new boss: same as the old boss.
Mowlana, Clifton House, Clifton House, 2-4 Four Elms Rd, Cardiff CF24 1LE
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.