Food Review – Herb Restaurant – Kerala Herbal Cuisine

Hi all! I’m starting an ongoing series of posts I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. I’m going to be posting about food and restaurants in and around Leicester.

I won’t promise fancy, in-depth reviews of all the textures and tastes and quality. I won’t promise the kind of good photos that true food bloggers take. I will, however, promise you my honest reviews of ALL THIS FOOD, and I hope that when you’re in Leicester you’ll be tempted to try something new!

So I’m going to start with one of the newest places in town, and it’s right around the corner from our flat.

Herb is a new restaurant owned by its parent restaurant, Kayal, which is just on the other side of Granby Street. You could practically long-jump from one to the other, but really you could just walk instead of going to that effort. The success of Kayal inspired them to create this child that serves healthy vegetarian food filled with flavoursome herbs.

I quite liked the place even before going in. Its sign is haloed by artificial foliage, and through the arched doorway you see wonderfully warm copper light.

A restaurant’s atmosphere is always the first thing to seize my attention when I enter for the first time. If it’s terrible, I notice. If it’s wonderful, I notice. I enjoy Kayal’s atmosphere because of its warmth and all its beautiful lanterns that decorate the tables and the ceiling, and Herb is a touch more flamboyant.  Full of feature walls, ornate mirrors, dozens of different lanterns, and copper dripping from every inch of the place, it was a place that I just simply couldn’t stop looking at. There was even a huge Last Supper relief on one wall, a copper-coated motorcycle suspended from the ceiling (the one thing I failed to get a photo of, go figure!), and a wall that featured a waterfall mural and artificial greenery. We were told that most of the decor had been shipped over from Kerala, except for the copper cups on our table which were purchased here in the UK.

Our server was Jins (“You know, like ‘jeans’?” he grinned), who normally works across the street at Kayal and has served us before.  Jon and I pored over our menus and had a lot of trouble deciding what to have. Everything looked so good, and like at Kayal the prices weren’t bad.

We opened up with copper cups of thick lassi – Jon’s sweet and mine mango — and a starter that our server, Jins, offered us for free so we could sample it. It was sev puri, which is described thusly in Herb’s menu:

“Sev puri is a spicy sweet, tangy chaat with so many different textures and tastes mingling in your mouth. Crispy papody topped with onion, mint and tamarind chutney, garnished with coriander and sev.”

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo of the sev puri before we started digging in. Once we started, we couldn’t stop. This cold chaat was fun and flavourful, and HIGHLY addictive. I loved the mix of cool yogurt and warm spicy chutney over the crispness of the potatoes and sev (which are crunchy, deep-fried noodles made out of  chickpea flour paste and spices).

For our separate starters, Jon got the thakkali rasam soup and I had the banana boli. I found the thakkali rasam tastes similar to mulligatawny, yet somehow better. The boli were banana slices dipped in rice flour batter and black sesame seeds and fried until crisp, and they were served with a trio of chutneys. I found that the tangy chutney on the far right was my favourite to dip them in (although the coconut one on the left was also very nice)!

There was a little bit of miscommunication that happened, and Jon wound up with two full dosas to eat and pay for instead of samples of each. Whoops. Oh well, we both have been continuously craving dosas–which are huge, thin rice and lentil pancakes stuffed full of delicious things–ever since we first had them for lunch at Kayal.

One of these two was the sundhari dosa, described as the following:

“Specialty dosa with vibrant colour provided by beetroot filling, stir fried potato palya and brushed inside with spicy red chutney.”

And the other was the pav bhaji dosa, described as:

“Rice and lentil pancake laced with pav bhaji masala, which is a blend of potatoes and a special chef masala, cooked to perfection.”

TASTY! I couldn’t decide which one was my favourite. But to be fair, I couldn’t remember which one was which anyway. *Shuffles away*

Even though we had the two dosas, they were both technically Jon’s and I was really hankering for my main. I ordered the green papaya stew. It was delicate, with a pleasantly smooth taste and texture. I found that the papaya pieces themselves had very little taste, but they took on the rest of the flavours in the stew (mainly coconut). To accompany it I had some appam, which are very soft, spongy pancakes with crisp, paper-thin edges. The mild flavours worked well together but I would recommend a spicy rice dish to go with this stew to give a nice contrast. But what do I know, I’m no food expert! I just like food and contrasts! Gimme a break!

Overall, I found the Herb experience very relaxed, pleasant, and of course DELICIOUS! Jon and I have added it to our favourites list and hope to go back soon.

If you want to give it a gander, it’s at 96 Granby St, Leicester LE1 1DJ.

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