I’ve been tempted a little further afield for this post in order to pay homage to my all-time favourite Leicester restaurant, which is closing later this month. Maiyango, on St Nicholas Place, has been a top destination for Leicester’s discerning diners for over a decade, and is going out with a bang with a series of special events celebrating everything that has made it so popular.
Happily, although the velvet cushions and Moroccan lamps might be heading for the skip, something of the spirit of Maiyango will soon be reborn, with the team behind the restaurant planning a brand new concept, due to launch in August.
Dinner and Cocktails
Last Thursday, I was cock-a-hoop to be invited to indulge in a fairly spectacular Dinner and Cocktail Tasting at Maiyango – four courses of the restaurant’s imaginative signature dishes accompanied by matched cocktails from the bar. Read on for a run-down of the evening, accompanied by a few juicy nuggets of insider info about the new restaurant that I garnered from tipsy interactions with the waiting staff.
Before we started our meal, we took a seat in the bar area for a glass of tequila tea (it tasted nicer than it sounds) and a few delicious pre-dinner morsels. Having spent many cosy evenings cocooned in this dark little bar, sinking into its giant sofa surrounded by squidgy cushions, I did have a pang of sadness that it was all about to change.
Later on, I heard the planned new décor being described as “fresh”, “clean” and “bright”. It also became clear that the famous snugs, tucked away at the back of the restaurant, will soon be things of the past. While Maiyango’s chefs and waiting staff will be part of the new venture, it looks like there’s no room for dark wood and heavy drapes. Excited as I am by what’s to come, I’m going to miss this cosy little place.
Anyway, onto the food, and a first course that’s just so Maiyango. Rich and meaty slow braised pork cheeks served with watercress and sweet potato would have been fabulous enough, but pop a plump and juicy poached king prawn on top and it’s taken to another level. This course was served with a mango and ginger mojito and the spicy fruitiness of this cocktail complimented the food surprisingly well, just as a well-chosen wine would have done.
The next course was my favourite – poached duck egg with polenta chips, organic cheddar and pea velouté. It managed to be simultaneously comforting and refined which, come to think of it, is a good description of Maiyango itself. Oh, and it came with a cheeky watermelon and basil fizz.
The final savoury course was five spiced Gressingham duck, served with celeriac, fig, duck rillette, purple potato crisps and honeycomb. Each ingredient was delicious on its own, especially the honeycomb, which I could have eaten a whole bowl of. Craftily combined though, and accompanied by an apple and pomegranate martini, and they became something really special.
Dessert was rhubarb crumble in a style that a decade ago would have been proudly described as ‘deconstructed’ – a word that self-respecting chefs now avoid as being cringingly old-fashioned. It was set off by my favourite cocktail of the evening – a botanical gin flavoured with violet, rose and edible flowers.
This was a hugely enjoyable meal, with the cocktail element giving the whole experience a sense of fun and playfulness. I must admit that I started to find the unrelenting sweetness a little overwhelming towards the end of the meal, but if you have a sweet tooth, this is absolutely the dining format for you.
It seems likely that Maiyango’s owner, Aatin Anadkat, has one eye on a Michelin star, and that the planned refresh and relaunch is a first step towards achieving this most lauded of culinary plaudits. I hope that the new incarnation will keep some of the unique sprit that has made Maiyango so special. Aatin has described his new concept as “fun, original and quirky”, which suggests that I won’t be disappointed.
If you’re super-speedy, there’s still time to book onto one of Maiyango’s few remaining special farewell events – head over to Maiyango’s website to find out more.
20 August 2017 update: Well, how wrong can you be? The Fish and The Chip opened last week and it’s about as radical a departure from Maiyango as you can imagine. It’s a bright and breezy diner-style restaurant serving British-themed fare including sausage and chips, fish finger sandwiches and ‘pie of the week’. With discounts for students and seniors, plenty of special offers, happy hour cocktails and a takeaway service, it’s clearly got a very different client base in mind. The self-consciously quirky menu sounds like it was written by Jamie Oliver in the 1990s, with the restaurant referred to as “our gaff”, customers advised to “keep calm and order takeaway” and cocktails described as “cheeky”. No doubt a lot of thought and late night number-crunching has gone into what may well turn out to be a sound business decision for the Maiyango team. Meanwhile, diners looking for a fancier option will need to look elsewhere. The fabulous Lilu, serving up fine dining Indian cuisine just around the corner on Highcross Street, is my recommendation.