Arriving later than arranged, Joseph still meets me with a beaming smile and an enthusiastic wave as I walk into the glass-fronted Madha restaurant. It’s one of those Fridays where blue skies beckon office workers to finish up early and congregate outside bars and restaurants in the Merchant City. There’s a busy night ahead but, for the moment, the mood is one of quiet preparation.
Madha is bigger than I thought. I’d peered in through whitewash windows when they were still preparing to open – several of our most trusted food-spotters had tipped us off that this was one to watch. Now that I’m here, I realise I only noticed the bar and dining space at the front, where you might pop in for a quick lunch, have a coffee or a Tiger beer. Move down a short corridor and the dining room opens up to a long, neat room with a collection of tables in the middle that I imagine are often arranged to accommodate large groups. There are booths for two along the left wall for date night and other booths for four on the right hand side.
This is Joseph’s place. He’s worked in the restaurant industry from thirty years and he wants to give Glasgow people an authentic Indian experience. We talk about this at length as he warms to the subject.
“I want to give people the best thing, what you would be cooked if you were in a family home in India. What your grandparents would cook for you. I don’t just want to pour the same sauces, what everybody makes. For me, that doesn’t make sense”.
Joseph worked in other nearby restaurants in the Merchant City and then went to Livingston – “a very, very busy restaurant, I had about 15 staff under me and we would do, like, 1000 covers a day”. He wanted to return to Glasgow, though, and set out a different experience.
“The main thing that motivated me was… because I was in the city for ten years or so, I noticed, the people really appreciate if you do some very good Indian food. Also, the people are very friendly and genuine. I like to meet people, greet people, talk to them. So, I wanted a restaurant that had integrity, where I could be confident in the cooking. We make everything from scratch, and the ingredients, mostly I go myself and pick them up. We just want to be the best genuine Indian restaurant in Glasgow”.
To that end, Joseph recruited two chefs, one from the south of India and the other from the North. Between them they cherry-pick the best dishes from their different regions. It’s almost like there is an in-built element of competition in the menu between north and south cuisine.
Joseph is from Kerala in the southwest of India where they are blessed with an abundance of spices – cardamom, black pepper – and an enviable supply of fresh water fish and sea water fish. The north of India brings in recipes with nuts, cream, roti naans, vegetarian dishes and paneer cheese.
There’s an expansive range of cuisine available but the menu tightly plays to the strengths of the kitchen. The best way to order is to have a chat with your server about what type of food you like and then let them make some recommendations. Take a chance to explore more authentic and satisfying options than you will find in your average Glasgow curry house.
On The Menu: Madha North & South India Kitchen
A selection of the signature dishes on the a la carte menu.
AJWAINI JHEENGA £5
King prawns marinated in carom seeds, ginger, garlic and spices dipped in batter and fried.
Pan fried baby squid with aromatic spices served with tapioca.
PANEER AMRITSARI £4.50
Chunks of cottage cheese deep fried in gram four batter.
MEEN POLLICHATHU £15
A Keralian delicacy of seabream using fresh spices, herbs, coconut, lemon and wrapped up in banana leaf and roasted.
BOTI KEBAB BADAMI £12
Tender loin of lamb marinated with almond and fenugreek paste and cooked in the clay oven.
NAWAABIDUMMURG BIRYANI £13
Succulent chicken dum-cooked and layered in basmati rice with dry fruits, safron and coriander. Served with Raita and Pickle
NADEN MEEN CURRY £15
Spicy Scottish salmon curry with kokum, fenugreek, ginger, garlic and green chilli cooked in an earthen pot.
BHUNA GOSHT £11
Lamb cooked in a typical Punjabi style with onions, tomatoes, green pepper and garam masala
You can find the full menu here.
42 Albion Street