When I started writing this blog 6 months ago, my wish was that my ‘foodie ramblings’ would give a bit of a shout out to the independents of the restaurant industry. As I always say, I am a big fan of businesses that are run with passion and an insatiable desire to offer people a different dining experience, value for money and just great food. And while this is pretty much the norm in most indie establishments, there are a few restaurants which exceed these expectations, simply because they go over and above in one or more of these aspects.
Located opposite Victoria Park on Cowbridge Road East in Cardiff, (which I have to say is rapidly becoming a foodie heaven hub – try saying that after a few!); Mangla’s Spice of Life is an example of one of these establishments.
Originally from the State of Gujarat in Western India, it had always been the dream of Mangla Dodiya to open her own restaurant. With the dream very clearly now a reality, Mangla’s Spice of Life offers authentic home-style vegetarian and vegan Gujarati dishes.
A cosy and relaxed dining atmosphere awaits you on entering the open plan restaurant. Large windows let the light flood in, while house plants, bright flowers and candles add a ‘homely’ touch. Put simply, if it wasn’t for the slightly more industrial style kitchen in the corner, you could imagine that you had been welcomed into someone’s own dining room. All it really needed was a few bar stools at the pass, and I would have quite happily grabbed my glass of wine, and sat there watching and chatting to Mangla while she busied herself around the kitchen!
With a large group of us dining, we had pre-ordered to ensure that preparation for the dishes could start prior to us arriving. Now I’m not sure about anyone else, but one of two things always happens when I do this 1) I either fancy the dish on the day I order, however really wish I had gone for an alternative on arrival, or 2) spend the time between ordering and arrival, suppressing a yearning for the dish that I have chosen. Needless to say with ‘curry cravings’ in full swing, the 10 day lead in time had certainly not induced the former.
Taking our seats, it wasn’t long before two small ‘towers’ of complimentary papadums arrived. Served with sambhara – a Gujerati-style cabbage with carrots, it made for a welcome change to the usual chutneys, pickles and yoghurt dips.
The menu offers a good choice of starters, priced at £4 each, choices included mixed vegetable samosa, sukhi bhajee and potato patri.
Potato Vada | £4.00
However being a big fan of Vada Pav (a spiced potato patty served in a bread roll, more commonly found in Mumbai), I was keen to experience the Potato Vada on the menu. Certainly not scrimping on portion size (in fact I ended up taking two home for lunch the next day!) – 4 beautifully fried vada of potato with green chillies, coriander, ginger and turmeric were delicious and delicately spiced with the heat pleasantly building in the mouth.
With many in our group opting for a variety of the main course dishes, which ranged from £6-£8 and included Pea and Spinach Paneer (never been a massive fan of paneer, but I am assured this was delicious), Moong Dal and Dhokra…naturally I went for the slightly different option!
Tucked away down at the base of the menu you can order The Thali Dish. Priced at £20, this is a sharing dish for two people and includes:
Onion bhajis and mixed vegetable pakoras
A choice of two saak dishes from:
Gujurati mixed vegetable saak
Chori (black eye beans) potato saak
A portion of plain basmati rice
Yoghurt dip and tomato chutney
Onion Bhajis and Mixed Vegetable Pakoras
All beautifully fried and crispy, the bhajis and pakoras were well spiced with a good (not-overpowering) hit of green chili. The vegetable pakoras were particularly good with their mix of broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, carrot and potato. These combined with the yoghurt dip and what I can only describe as a stunning tomato chutney with a hint of mango, made for a delicious starter.
Yoghurt dip with cumin and coriander
Heading onto the main course, we had opted for the channa saak and Gujurati mixed vegetable saak, which were served with basmati rice and roti. Delicately spiced, I have to say both delivered on flavour with all the ingredients well cooked.
Channa Saak | Chickpeas and potatoes
Gujarati Mixed Vegetable Saak | Gavar Beans, Tindora, Cauliflower, Potato, Peas and Spinach
However, the standout dish was the Gujurati mixed vegetable saak – and while my personal preference would have been to have a touch more green chili thrown in, it was simply delicious. The vegetables and spices were perfectly cooked and combined with the basmati rice, it was a big bowl of comforting curry that you could happily fold your roti around.
- Fresh ingredients and vegetables all ‘home-cooked’ to order, excellent portion sizes and fantastic value for money…what more could you want!
- There are a good selection of Indian beers on offer including Cobra, Kingfisher and Tiger. Wine is reasonably priced at £12 for a bottle – but note that a per glass option is not available (damn shame that I had to drink the whole bottle really – ha ha!)
- Mangla also offers a chilled take-away lunch menu. Available from 12pm-3pm (Tues-Sat) – you can pick up a range of delicious dishes starting from £5.50 to warm up at home.
- I love that Mangla’s Spice of Life is the realisation of a dream to set up a restaurant in the heart of her community.
Would I go again?
I’ll definitely be back – I have a bit of a soft spot for Indian cuisine, so my curry cravings need satisfying on a regular basis.
Would I recommend Mangla’s Spice of Life?
100% yes – whether you are a vegetarian or not, if you enjoy authentic Indian cuisine, Mangla’s Spice of Life is most definitely a contender for the top spot in Cardiff for this type of restaurant. Mangla is so welcoming and passionate about the restaurant; it was lovely to be able to speak to her after our meal.
Address | 587 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF5 1BE
Telephone | 02921 32 41 83