Why it’s good to play with your food – Restaurant review: Moksh – Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay

It’s been just over two years since I first visited Moksh, an award-winning Indian fine dining restaurant situated in the idyllic surroundings of Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay.

Moksh is my all-time favourite restaurant, so you can just imagine my excitement when I was welcomed there again recently to sample the new 5-course tasting menu with my friend, Sarah.

Chef Stephen Gomes and his team have continued to accumulate an array of awards since my last visit, including the AA Rosette Award for Culinary Excellence (2014/15), The Best Indian Restaurant in Wales in The Food Award Wales (2015) the Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence award (2011-2015), to name just a few.

Moksh isn’t your typical curry house. As soon as you step inside and see the psychedelic patterns painted onto the walls and ceiling, you get the feeling the food’s going to be a little bit out of the ordinary, too.

Indeed, Stephen is well known for using molecular gastronomy to experiment with cooking, using scientific equipment and food hand-in-hand to develop new and exciting options for diners. Read more about this here.

Arriving at Moksh, my friend Sarah and I were greeted at the door by the head waiter and his team and promptly escorted to a table reserved for us in the centre of the restaurant.

Our waiter kindly offered us some drinks, explaining that the five-course tasting menu can be ordered with a glass of wine to complement each course. This was a very tempting option indeed and if it wasn’t a school night, both Sarah and I would’ve jumped at the opportunity. As it were though, we thought we’d better stick to coke – five glasses of wine the night before work and I dread to think what I’d look like sat at my desk the following morning!

Moksh’s 5-course tasting menu

At £38 per head (or £58 per head with wine pairing), Moksh’s five-course tasting menu doesn’t come cheap and the whole table is required to participate. A vegetarian option is also available, at the lower price of £30 per head (£38 with wine).

1 – Amuse Bouche

The first course in Moksh’s new 5-course tasting menu consisted of three different parts, each of which resembled a small starter dish.

First up, we were each given a basket of mixed plain and masala poppadoms broken into pieces, served with mint chutney air and tamarind chutney.

Made using fresh cream, the mint chutney air had a light, fluffy texture and a rich, creamy taste, with a subtle hint of mint. This contrasted well with the sweet, yet tangy taste of the tamarind chutney.

The poppadoms were followed by a pasanda macaroon, mysteriously served in a round box embellished with jewels.

A light olive green in colour with a smooth, glazed surface, the miniature macaroons had a nutty, coconut flavour like that of pasanda, with a smooth, creamy center.

The final dish in the Amuse Bouche course was a lentil and spinach soup served with ginger ice cream sitting on top of a vol-au-vent and garnished with an edible flower, bread pakoras, mango jelly and lemon caviar.
The soup is poured at the table, and the dish itself is beautifully garnished with homemade sauces that you can only see prior to the soup being served (I didn’t manage to take a photo of this unfortunately!) It was like a cross between a soup and a curry – warm and comforting, yet spicy and aromatic. 
As our waiter pointed out, it’s a good idea to eat the ice cream first so that it doesn’t melt! Made fresh using liquid nitrogen, this had a mild, ginger taste and a creamy texture, although it was fairly difficult to eat without it falling off the vol-au-vent and melting into the soup.  
Filled with spiced vegetables, the bread pakora had a thick batter coating and the soup tasted delicious soaked into it. 
Meanwhile, the mango jelly had a delicious, fruity taste and made for a refreshing alternative to a chutney.  
However, I wasn’t so keen on the texture of the lemon caviar. It wasn’t actually caviar, but a lemon ‘spherification’, whereby a liquid is formed into spheres which closely resemble the texture and appearance of roe. Spherification is pretty popular at Moksh, as you will discover throughout the course of this review. 


2 – Starters

The first dish in our starter course was prawn 2 ways with cinnamon CO2 essence. This consisted of two wine glasses, each filled with a different prawn-based dish, centered by a small bucket containing dry ice (the solid form of carbon dioxide).

When the waiter brought this dish to our table, he poured water over the dry ice, sparking an impressive chemical reaction that caused harmless white smoke to billow out from the bucket and over the dish.

The wine glass on the left was filled with prawn balchão, or Goan pickled prawns, topped with a lemon coriander foam. The prawns were large and succulent, while the sauce was mild and fragrant – like an Indian version of a traditional prawn cocktail.

The second wine glass contained prawn Bloody Mary with jalapeno spheres, served cold with a thick trail of salt and pepper around the rim of the glass. Bloody Mary is my favourite kind of cocktail, and this one had a good spicy kick to it, even though it didn’t contain any vodka. The jalapeno spheres didn’t bring too much added heat to the dish, either – even Sarah liked them, and she really doesn’t get on with spicy food!

The only thing I wasn’t so keen on was that the prawns in the Bloody Mary had been torn into smaller pieces, presumably to make them easier to consume by drinking. However, they ended up falling to the bottom of my glass and I didn’t notice they were there, so by the time I’d finished drinking the Bloody Mary, I was left with a pile of prawn pieces sitting in the bottom of my wine glass, which I had to fish out with a fork.

The second dish in the starter course was shami lamb kebabs stuffed with mint jelly, served with rose candy floss and chilli mango caviar.

The kebabs were incredible. Tender and soft, the lamb was well-flavoured with herbs and spices, a subtle mint jelly hidden at the centre.

You can just about see the chilli mango caviar on top of the kebab in the below picture, just underneath the cress. This had an interesting taste – citrus-y, yet spicy.

The plastic bottle was filled with a sweet chilli sauce, which helped to moisten the dish.

Meanwhile the candyfloss was light, fluffy and fairly sweet, delicately flavoured with rose. There was a reasonable amount of it, and I didn’t get clumps of sugar stuck to my teeth after eating it like I do with traditional candyfloss at the seaside.

The next dish we had isn’t actually part of Moksh’s new tasting menu, but Stephen wanted us to try it because it’s one of the new starters on his menu – Vegetable Tapas from the Lab.

It was a very interesting dish to look at; a round pastry parcel known as a Delhi chaat, filled with spiced vegetables and coriander mint air, served with a syringeful of yoghurt and a tiny basket holding a small bag of Bombay mix. After carefully injecting the yoghurt from the syringe into the chaat, you are meant to eat the whole thing all in one.

I managed to get the yoghurt into the chaat, but eating the whole thing in one proved to be more of a challenge. I opened my mouth as wide as I could and I could just about fit the whole thing in. I felt like a hamster with my big, bulging cheeks but it was so delicious, it was worth sacrificing my vanity for.

After polishing off the chaat, we moved on to the Bombay mix. Although the bag it was in looked as though it was made from plastic, it was actually edible and it simply dissolved in our mouths, giving way to an authentic Bombay mix.

3 – From the Clay Oven

Our third course consisted of Moksh jerk chicken tikka, Aatish king prawn tikka, strawberry-infused chicken tikka and lamb seekh kebab (from right to left in the below picture), skewered and served in a sealed glass jar infused with hickory smoke, alongside a fresh side salad and mint raita.

After spending almost two months in Jamaica last year, I was a little apprehensive about trying jerk chicken in an Indian restaurant. I have to admit, I didn’t think it was going to taste anything like the real thing. I was in for a shock though, as Moksh have managed to perfect the authentic, fiery taste of jerk chicken, and it was incredibly tender as it was cooked in a Tandoori oven.

I was very excited about trying the strawberry-infused chicken tikka. The idea of infusing meat or poultry with fruit might seem strange to some, but I tried chocolate orange chicken tikka the last time I was at Moksh and I loved it, so I was really looking forward to trying out something new again.
The strawberry-infused chicken tikka certainly didn’t me down. Its sweet, yet sharp taste was complemented by the smoky flavours of the hickory smoke-infused glass jar it was served in. 
The Aatish king prawn tikka was big and juicy, flavoured with saffron and garlic, while the lamb seekh kebab was much meatier than your average.
After we’d finished eating our kebabs, we were served a tiny bowl of homemade pink grapefruit sorbet. No, it wasn’t time for dessert yet, and no, Moksh weren’t being stingy with their portions. Zesty and refreshing, this dish was intended as a palate cleanser before the main course, so you don’t need much of it (and believe me, you don’t want to eat more than you have to when you have five courses to get through!)

4 – Main Courses

For our main courses, we could choose two curries each from a choice of chicken, lamb or fish, served with star anise pilau rice and assorted naan breads.

The chef then asked us whether we would like our curry to be mild, medium or hot in terms of spice level, and he selected the curries for us from the menu.

I opted for chicken and fish, medium-spiced. Pictured below left, the chicken curry was Punjabi butter chicken, a popular Indian curry consisting of chicken tikka in a rich tomato, cream and butter sauce finished with fenugreek. I’ve tasted butter chicken curry a few times and it’s always a tasty dish, but this one really had that added kick to it; the flavours were just so fresh and aromatic, the sauce had a sinfully creamy texture and the chicken was soft and succulent.

Meanwhile, the Goan fish curry (on the right of the below picture) was flavoured with tamarind and coconut and topped with tamarind spherification – a popular dish in Goa. The sauce was fairly spicy but I quite like my curry to have a bit of heat, so this was fine by me. The fish was fresh and flavoursome, and I didn’t find a single bone in it.

The pilau rice was light, fluffy and full of aromatic flavours – the star anise really made a difference. The portion size was too large for one person to eat as part of a five-course meal, but I suppose it’s better to have too much rather than too little.

Having ordered lamb and chicken curry, mildly-spiced, Sarah was served 5000 Miles from Andhra. This is a rich dish of lamb cooked with curry leaves, coconut milk and fresh herbs and spices, finished with freshly ground black pepper. originating from the Andhra Pradesh region of India. I sampled some of this and the lamb was soft and tender, while the sauce was literally bursting with different flavour.

Sarah’s chicken curry took the form of a traditional Pasanda, with coconut and nuts in a mild, fresh cream sauce. This looked delicious and Sarah really enjoyed it.

Our curries were served with an assortment of freshly baked naan breads, including plain, garlic and coriander butter and keema minced lamb. Soft and well-flavoured, these naan breads tasted delicious dipped into our curry, although we didn’t eat too much because we were starting to feel pretty full by this stage!

5 – Dessert

For dessert, Stephen treated us to something a little unusual that isn’t actually part of the 5-course tasting menu at Moksh.

Death by Chocolate is an award-winning chocolate sharing dessert for two, prepared by the chef at the dining table on a plastic tray.

As we watched, the chef covered the tray in lashings of chocolate, fruity mango sauce, chocolate ‘soil’ (finely ground chocolate that simply melts in your mouth), chocolate-covered popping candy and caramel sauce.

Then he walked away, telling us to tuck in and leaving us wondering whether he was actually serious.

Suddenly, without warning, he re-emerged from the kitchen carrying a round chocolate ball. As he reached the table, he raised the chocolate ball above the table and told us, “Here you have it – death by chocolate!” He let go of the ball, sending it hurtling down through the air and onto the tray, where it cracked into several pieces, revealing a filling of chocolate and plain sponge cake, mini marshmallows and chocolate pieces.

Despite feeling quite full up, we managed to make our way through most of this dessert. It tasted too good to resist and  I was really impressed by the way it was presented and served, although it did get just a little bit sickly after a while.

After polishing off all five courses of the new tasting menu at Moksh, we indulged in a coffee to wake us up for the journey home. This was served with petit fours, consisting of edible chocolate soil in a small glass, accompanied by a cranberry and almond biscotti.

Overall, both Sarah and I were incredibly impressed by the creativity and the quality of the food served up by Stephen and his team of chefs at Moksh, not to mention the doting service of the waiting team.

The menu advises you to allow at least two hours to sample the entire tasting menu, but I’d make this at least three hours to be on the safe side – we were actually there for almost four hours, although we did have an extra course and we had a few short breaks in between courses.

If you’re going to try the tasting menu, take my advice and starve yourself for at least a few hours (if not all day!) before taking on the 5-course tasting menu at Moksh. There really is a lot of food to get through! Eventually, I made the difficult decision to eat only around three-quarters of each course, in order to save some room for what was yet to follow.

Don’t think you could handle a five-course meal? Not to worry – Moksh has a full a la carte menu that you can take your pick from instead!

Final words of advice: make sure you book a table. We dined at Moksh on a Tuesday evening and almost every single table in the restaurant was full. Believe me, you do not want to be disappointed!

Enjoyed this post? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box below – I love to read your messages! 🙂

Ocean Building
Bute Crescent
CF10 5AY
(02920) 498 120

I was invited to Moksh as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.

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