Maiyango is a restaurant (and hotel) in Leicester city centre. It opened 12 years ago and caused quite a stir because back in those days Leicester didn’t have many non-chains to eat in. In fact, Leicester was a bit of a foodie wasteland. And then Maiyango kind of led the way. I remember going not long after it opened and being impressed by the food and kind of Moroccan style dreamy decor. I took clients there 7 years ago for Christmas dos and secretly asked the bartender to make my cocktails virgin as I was pregnant. He kept my secret and no one was any the wiser.
Now, for some reason Maiyango hasn’t been on my list of restaurants to visit of late. Maybe it’s my burger obsession. Not sure. I was very pleased to be asked to come and review the tasting menu though before Maiyango closes for good on 22nd July. (A new restaurant is opening by the same team, but no details on what it is yet).
Okay so I’m going to be honest about the inside of the restaurant – I feel I can be a bit mean because, because well it’s closing for a refurb. So on some level the owners agree that it needs a refresh. There’s a lot of fabric swags, a lot of distressed wood, lots of cushions. It feels very much of the time it was designed, as you would expect. There are booths that are kind of secretive and a bit naughty. I could imagine going on a date and rather enjoying hiding away from the world in a booth. In short, I will be sad if the booths go. They’re fun.
Here’s a view from the booth:
The evening started with a delicious cocktail.
This is a tequila tea with honey, strawberry puree, prosecco, earl grey tea and lime. It was delightful.
Next up was a toasted seaweed dip with oil and bread. I can only describe the seaweed dip as dukkah on heat. It was so good I used my fingers to scoop the last of it from the all too small bowl.
I do apologise for the dreadful lighting in the pictures. The atmosphere is romantic in Maiyango. It’s not geared to instagramable photos. (Though my dining pal did help out with their camera phone torch later on).
Next up were pork cheeks with a poached king prawn, watercress and sweet potato. Look how pretty it is!
The only thing wrong with it was the size. I admit to wanting more. But actually given the fact I had to be practically rolled home at the end of the evening, maybe Maiyango do know what they’re talking about when it comes to portion control.
Now my favourite thing about any kind of tasting menu are the free things. I know how that makes me sound. I don’t care. I just love the little bits and bobs the chef sends out to show off. This is the stuff I live for. It’s the stuff they dare not put on the menu. At Maiyango we were not disappointed. Behold mutton and mint croquettes (and their cheesy sisters):
I’d be a happy little customer if I were served a tasting menu just of deep-fried croquettes. My dining pal preferred the lamb. I preferred the cheese variety, though snaffled them both with aplomb. I heard a rumour from a waiter that the cheese croquettes also had onion in it. I did not detect this. I adored the crunchy cheese outer layer and soft gooey cheese interior. Heaven.
A picnic terrine was up next. This was spiced ham, quail egg, cheddar mousse, apple sausage, bacon jam and a rustic loaf.
I must confess that these roughly chopped terrine things are not something I would ever order. I am a bit phobic of jelly (which is shameful as a woman from Leicestershire, home of the pork pie). Anyway, in the name of reviewing I got it down me. And I rather liked it. The quail’s egg was crispy shelled, warm and perfectly soft yolked. And the cheddar mousse I’d have liked more of. Perhaps to spread on toast, like a posh Dairylea. And bacon jam? If you haven’t tried the stuff yet, get yourself down to Waitrose and invest. It’s the food of the Gods.
Next were the scallops – seared king scallops, sambal, samphire, coconut and lime leaf.
This had quite a kick, in a good way. The samphire was salty, the sauce creamy and soft and coconutty. My dining pal is allergic to scallops so had the watermelon dish from the veggie menu.
Being selfless I tried some of this little dish of poached spiced watermelon, goat’s curd, kalamata olive, scorched tomato, lemon and basil. It reminded me of a dish I had once at Grain Store in London. The olive ‘rubble’ was very earthy and salty which worked well with the calming soft curd. The watermelon is a Marmite moment. I didn’t mind it, my dining pal less so. All in all though it was imaginative and tasty which is exactly what you want from a veggie course. And exactly what you often don’t get.
Next up was the seabass course.
This had it all – steamed sea bass, spiced coconut laska, bok choi, chilli, coriander and mint relish. You know a dish is good when you don’t speak and simply inhale. We ate at break neck speed, eager for the duck.
Five spiced duck came with celeriac (two ways), duck rillette, purple potato crisps and honeycomb. My pal and I were divided on this one. I tried the honeycomb with it and decided it was not for me, so left the rest on the side of the plate. (Admittedly I am not into overly sweet things), but my pal liked it so much he decided to relieve me of my scraps.
Lastly there was “rhubarb crumble”. I use inverted commas as this is how the menu described the dish. Let me show you why:
Now. This pudding was delicious. It really was. It had poached rhubarb, caramelised puff pastry crumble, dehydrated yogurt and custard foam. All of these things are lovely alone and also together. But please, please, no more of these descriptions of puddings as the reconstructed version of their deconstructed selves. This is not a rhubarb crumble.
What would I change cometh the refurb? (Yeah I know, but come on, we all like to ask ourselves this when we eat out. “If I owned this place I’d serve only gin cocktails in teapots and allow people to bring their cats” etc). I would serve proper puddings, maybe something chocolately. I’d probably let the chef serve lots of small plates of all his delicious creations. I’d do ridiculously retro bar snacks of Scotch eggs, sausage rolls, croquettes and home made pork scratchings. I’d stop the waiters wearing such a strict uniform. I’d pull down the distressed wood. I’d probably serve a lot more gin. But then I like gin.
Having said all this, I would keep the booths and the dark lighting and the romance and the cocktails. Maiyango is a little gem. I am sad to see her go, but very excited to see what takes her place.
Thanks to Maiyango for inviting me to review their Tasting Menu in return for an honest review.
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