Mowgli Street Food: Eating Out With Your Dog

Mowgli Street Food offered a warm welcome when we entered on a dull December evening, a welcome that extended to my dog.

I love curry and I love my dog. Sometimes I find it hard to eat the former when accompanied by the latter. In the summer, it is possible to sit outside Indian Tiffin Room on Park Row. Bundobust is also an option, although my dog is happier when it isn’t busy. Dining inside an Indian restaurant with my pooch in mid-December seemed just a dream, until I discovered that Mowgli Street Food is dog-friendly.

The Mowgli story started back in 2014 in Liverpool, when former barrister Nisha Katona launched her first restaurant. Since then, another thirteen branches have opened. Katona has been awarded an MBE and often appears on TV and radio food programmes. Two further restaurants are planned for Knutsford and Newcastle in 2024.

Each restaurant raises money for a local charity. The Leeds branch supports Candlelighters, the charity that supports Yorkshire families facing the challenges of childhood cancer. Since its formation, Mowgli has raised over £1.5 million for a range of charities that matter to people in the cities they are based. It has also set up the Mowgli Trust, which sponsors a child in need every time the company recruits a full-time employee.

The twinkling fairy lights suited the season, although they sparkle all year long. Lights meander between wooden furniture and trees. The lights seem bright from outside but once inside I was reminded of sitting in garden restaurants in India. The garden theme extends to wooden swing seats which line the window section.

We were seated at a table towards the rear of the restaurant. There was plenty of space for us and for Charlie, our dog. A water bowl was quickly brought for Charlie and we were given table water in an attractively designed bottle. There was a full drinks menu but there was no pressure to buy drinks, which are relatively expensive. My partner had a small bottle of Cobra which cost £4.95.

The menu works on a small plates model. You can either order a tiffin box, where four dishes have been combined to make a complete meal, useful if you are dining alone, or order a variety of plates to share. We took the latter route. Our server suggested ordering four or five dishes plus rice or bread. The dishes arrive as they are ready.

The first dish to arrive was the yoghurt chat bombs. We were advised to eat each of the six parcels in one bite to avoid mess. I know this is the traditional method but they were generously sized so I adopted a two bite approach. This was possible as the casing was crispy but strong, the filling chunky and the yoghurt sauce thick. Textures and flavours were delicious; coriander and tamarind giving a delightful tang.

The rest of our meal came together while we were still eating the chat. We had ordered one dish from the Hindu Kitchen vegetarian section of the menu, green ginger and rhubarb dahl and two meat curries plus rice and roti. The dahl had a good consistency – chunky but wet – and good flavouring. In India, green mangoes would add tartness to this dish. The adoption of rhubarb was an inventive use of local produce and something that probably would not have happened if the restaurant chain had emerged in the south of Britain.

The house chicken curry and house lamb curry were very different from each other. In some restaurants, a house curry means a house sauce. Here, it means the way the chefs have developed the dish to make the most of each meat. The chicken was in a light, creamy sauce, flavoured with coconut, almond and spices. The lamb, a richer meat, came with a richer sauce. The dark colour was matched by deep flavours, including star anise and plum. This was the stand out dish for us. The meat had been cooked slowly, taking onboard multiple spices and achieving a soft tender texture.

The accompanying basmati rice was moist and lightly spiced. We had a portion of two small roti. I prefer a fluffy Bengali naan or a stack of Pakistani chapatis with my curry. However, that is not the Indian way, and the rotis were exactly as you might find them in a home or café in Delhi. Mowgli is on a mission to educate people about real Indian street food and home cooking, so I cannot complain about the authenticity of dishes.

We had brought a cushion for Charlie to sit on. She happily watched the staff going about their business. They interacted with her but did not stroke her. No one wants dog hairs in their curry, however cute a dog may be. Another diner did come across to make a fuss. He was visiting Leeds and said he would take his own dog out to dinner at the Sheffield branch now that he had seen how welcome dogs were at Mowgli.

The bill came to £47, which included a 10% tip and £1 charitable donation. In some restaurants, the inclusion of a donation can seem like a gimmick. Here, it is part of the purpose of Mowgli and I was happy to pay it. We had ordered exactly the right amount and the total seemed very reasonable for food of this calibre.

Mowgli Street Food

32 Boar Ln, Leeds LS1 5DA

Do you have a story to tell?
We want to hear your stories and help you share them.