Bringing an exotic new cuisine to any town or city is no mean feat and to do this with your first ever restaurant could be deemed an impossible task but one Chef Patron Ben Popplwell and partner, Burmese-born Myinzu Thein have undertaken non the less. Having found the perfect location slap bang in Huddersfield’s city centre, it was then on to enlist the help of friends and family to give the restaurant a light, contemporary feel to their 38-seater venue.
With Café Mandalay being possibly the very first restaurant in the north specialising in contemporary Burmese cuisine we can completely understand you wondering what the food is actually like? As Myanmar borders a few countries around Asia there’s influences from and elements similar to much loved Asian cuisines. Any Chinese, Thai or Indian food lovers will be in their element with their flavoursome menu. There’s also an impressive selection of teas, coffees, cocktails and internationally sourced beers and spirits.
Split into street food small plates, salads, main courses and desserts, there’s plenty of choice depending on how hungry you may be. Choosing starters was our first tough decision as the dishes all sounded so delicious. Thankfully the Mandalay Street Food Taster (£8.99) meant the two of us could sample a range of dishes to share.
Utilising some of the best of Yorkshire produce together with the flavours and influences of Myanmar was like a match made in heaven. Firstly, our sharing starter featured locally sourced crispy fried quail in a lightly spiced batter, served with sweet chilli dipping sauce. The crispy chickpea tofu and quail egg pancakes both tasted great and a hit with vegans and vegetarians alike. My personal favourite had to be the minced prawn and split pea balls, perfectly paired with the fruity hit of the sweet and sour tamarind dipping sauce. All the street food dishes come with the most amazing Burmese slaw, dressed with lime juice, fish sauce, birds eye chilli and sesame oil for a big kick of flavour!
We couldn’t resist sampling one of their salads to go with our starters and glad we did too. Again, utilising some of the best local and seasonal produce in the heritage tomato salad together with shallots, micro herbs, crunchy peanuts and a lively Asian dressing. Super light and refreshing, perfect for a summers day.
The mains also left us with a few tough choices with plenty of selections for vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers, but a real emphasise on great ingredients and healthy portions. After seeing the next table tucking into a big bowl of coconut chicken soup I was completely sold. Huge chucks of braised chicken thigh in a rich, creamy coconut broth together with thick wheat noodles and chopped spring onion, then finished with soft boiled house stained egg and crisp chicken skin. Real comfort food together with a great depth of flavour.
On the other side of the table another bowl of great taste with the Chickpea Masala. Curried chickpeas served with rainbow chard and fragrant jasmine rice. Just the right amount of heat and spice you’d come to expect with a masala sauce and another great healthy vegan and vegetarian option.
There’s a great selection of homemade cakes and pastries for anyone with a sweet tooth together with super interesting homemade ice-cream flavours, but it’s the weekly special that caught our eye the most. The Mandalay Mess was the perfect end to such a flavoursome meal. Light, fresh, and beautifully presented. Sour mango salsa, Palm sugar meringue, tasted coconut mango puree and edible viola flowers all combined to show off not only more exotic ingredients but also Ben’s great techniques in the kitchen.
The restaurant has a relaxed and welcoming feel, perfect for families, students and those looking for a quick lunch or casual date night. Their contemporary take on Burmese food is so interesting in terms of taste but still very much accessible to all, even the less daring among us as their menu has many familiar ingredients. With dishes that have so much flavour, attention to detail and vegetarian and vegan friendly, all served up with a very reasonable price tag to match, we can see Café Mandalay being an absolute hit. A great addition to Huddersfield’s growing foodie scene.
Cafe Mandalay, 53 King St, Huddersfield HD1 2PZ – 01484 766623