VEGAN & VEGETARIAN DINING INSPIRED BY KERALA AT HERB
Just before Easter, the much loved Leicester based restaurant Kayal, bought to us its Vegan and vegetarian counterpart, Herb. I recently had the chance to dine at the restaurant which is inspired by the traditional healthy cooking and use of herbs in Kerala.
Herb was inspired by its now Head Chef, Ramdas Krishna who had a desire to cook and provide good quality, healthy vegetarian and vegan food inspired by his roots from Kerala, India. He initially wanted to cook at Kayal, but seven years later he is living his dream and is cooking Vegetarian Keralan food at Herb. At Herb, Health promoting benefits are combined with the principles of healthy cooking, incorporating the healing properties of herbs and spices to each dish at Herb.
Herbal cooking from Kerala springs from its cultural diversity and abundance of fresh ingredients which are grown and available locally. Kerala still exports spices such as nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and black pepper to Europe, Ingredients which feature quite heavily at Herb but it’s also worth noting that tempering of curry leaves and mustard are done in the traditional way in coconut oil. This is a base for a lot of Keralan dishes.
The staff at Herb believe in the Sanskrit concept of ‘Athithi Devo Bhavo’ which in Sanskrit means Guest is God. With this iin mind the staff, service and ambience at Herb is welcoming and laid back from the outset and a true culinary myriad of spice and herb flavours awaiting to awaken your senses.
If you’ve been to Kayal, you will not be surprised to learn that Herb has been designed to resemble a traditional village house in Kerala, Think thatched bar area, copper lantern lights and crockery. There are occasional intricate crafted wall arts and there’s even a large wall sculpture of The last Supper as you enter on the right wall.
The interiors were all sourced and made in India and bought over, hence why the refit took a whopping 20 months to complete, including an extension to the property. Opposite bar there’s the soothing trickling effect of a water feature and yes you guessed it, the motorbike, which is suspended from the ceiling serving almost like a partition to the back portion of the restaurant.
Being a Kayal regular, Dr C and I are pretty familiar with the menu so decisions were not to difficult ut if you’re a Keralan food virgin, the staff are very good at suggesting dishes which would suit all types of palettes so worry not, they will help you find something. Additionally they are very well versed in the dishes and can explain in depth about what items are vegan, vegetarian and even gluten free.
To start we picked out favourite beverages of salted lassi for Dr C and a Ganga Jamuna, a fresh strawberry and lime juice for myself. I also previously tried the Triveni, which consists of fresh strawberry, lime and mango juice.
Whilst we patiently waited for our starters, fried plain poppadom’s and a selection of three chutneys made of tomato and lemon were placed bought to the table to accompany our drinks.
Our waiter recommended that we try The Herb mixed vegetable platter to share. This was a dish of marinated baby corn, asparagus, aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, deep fried chickpea fritters and mint and tomato chutneys scattered on the platter. The vegetables were coated in a divine marinade of spinach, coriander, olive oil, and lemon juice. The striking thing about this dish was that the taste of the vegetables was not over powering so as not to mask the freshness of the vegetables. A light, yet flavour filled taste explosion that is the perfect introduction to the Herb Keralan style of cooking.
For our main course, as most readers know, I am a huge fan of Dosa so went for the Pau Bhaji Dosa. A rice and lentil pancake is covered in Pau Bhaji masala and then filled with a spicy mix of potatoes, onions, green beans and carrots and presented as a neat package. The dosa is served with a sambhar, or lentil soup and accompanied by coconut chutneys.
Dr C chose a dish named Pavakka Pachadi. This dish was mildly spiced and is a blend of bitter gourd with coconut and yoghurt gravy, tempered with mustard seeds, whole red chillies and curry leaves. He opted to eat the curry with chappatis. In my opinion, bitter gourd is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it! Dr C loved Marmite and he loves bitter gourd. It’s an acquired taste and I’m not a fan but Dr C gave it the thumbs up!
As they say, there is always room for dessert and so we made room! Dr C picked the carrot Halwa which basically can be described as a warm carrot fudge infused with cardamom and decorated with raisins and nuts. It’s served with the scoop of vanilla ice-cream. This is definitely a dessert for the sweet toothed and is pretty rich in flavour and texture.
I was presented with the Ada Pradhaman which I had never tasted or heard of before. Payasum or vermicelli is made with rice flakes is made in almost all households during celebrations I Kerala. It is used to offer to the gods and goddesses to temples. Its made from rice ada, jaggery, cardamom, milk, ghee, cashew nuts, coconut slices and raisins. Think of it as a almost like brown rice pudding but with a lot more milk and nuts sprinkled on top. An interesting flavour combination but I was just that little it too full to enjoy it fully. It’s definitely one to try if you’re having a lighter meal.
To finish, it was traditional masala chai to cap off a lovely introduction to Herb and its concept of healthy plant based vegan and vegetarian cooking.
Would thoroughly recommend Herb due to its twist on serving traditional South Indian cuisine. The stance is more from a Keralan perspective and the dishes seem to be made to a more traditional palette if compared to Kayal. It is a great addition to Leicester’s vegan and vegetarian scene, although I’m pretty sure carnivores will not miss meat on their visit!
Many thanks to Chef Ramdas, the staff, the service, the quality and the food were absolutely outstanding. Your hospitality was outstanding and all that’s left for me decide is, when to return!
Discosure: Our dinner was hosted by Herb for the purpose of this review. As always all opinions, views and photography are my own and remain a copyrights of be-lavie.
96 Granby Street
Tel 0116 233 2715