This is bad news (but note the updates at the end of the story).
Whenever I go to a gig at Rock City, it is automatically followed by a curry at the Mogal. It’s been that way for the last 30 or more years. But it appears that the Mogal has gone into liquidation and is now boarded up. A sign on the boards says ‘Under New Management’ – though precisely what that means is unclear right now.
It was always a little unclear figuring out who actually owned it. The article refers to Sheikh Assab, and he was certainly managing it prior to the Covid pandemic – I didn’t realise he was an owner. He was a really friendly guy, and the food was top notch most of the time. Things changed a little about five years ago. Sheikh Assab told us they had ‘a new chef’ – it seems the original chef was Sheikh Sujat, and I think he was one of the owners. With the new chef, the Pilau Rice had sweetcorn and peas in it, and tasted more like some sort of chicken-flavoured packet meal (we complained, and it was proper Pilau the next time). And the Chicken Tikka starter used to consist of chunks of Tandoor-cooked chicken on a sizzle plate on a bed of fried onions, and scattered with fresh Coriander. With the new chef, it became bite-sized pieces covered in odds drizzles of sauces – one of which was a green Coriander puree – which tasted nothing like Chicken Tikka (we complained about that, too, but it remained). But the main curries were always pretty good.
After Covid, when we started going again, all the staff were strangers, and not as friendly as before. We asked if ownership had changed, but they said ‘no’. We knew something had happened, because it was so different, but everything was so secretive you just never found out the truth. I am guessing that the tough financial times had brought retirement forward for some members of the family, and the younger ones just weren’t interested anymore. My guess is that Sheikh Sujat had already retired when the ‘new chef’ came in. It’s a shame.
I hope Sheikh Assab is all right (and Sheikh Sujat) – as I say, he was a really nice guy, and sometimes we’d talk to him the whole meal (when the idiotic Brexit result came about being one such example).
Being situated next to Rock City and the Royal Concert Hall, it used to be where many of the performers went if they liked curry. As a result, one of the walls was filled with signed photographs of celebrities who had eaten there, many of them A-listers. We’ve seen several bands in there after we’ve been to a show.
The thing about the Mogal – at least until around 2015 – was that it was old-school. It was what an Indian restaurant should be like. Heavy wooden seats, traditional décor, and proper curries. None of this brightly neon-lit ‘contemporary’ crap so many other restaurants move into, or attempts to produce works of art on the plates. Although the décor didn’t change, the food most certainly did at the Mogal – that Chicken Tikka I mentioned was a prime example, and although the chef no doubt thought it looked good, it didn’t taste as good as the original (and proper) version.
Anyway, the big question is: what happens to the place now? The boards say ‘under new management’, but that doesn’t mean anything in Nottingham. The ‘new management’ could easily be a student letting company, and it would come as no surprise to see the place turned into student flats – Nottingham City Council has done that everywhere else in that area, so a restaurant is a bit of an anomaly there.
Surprisingly, Nottingham City Centre doesn’t have many normal Indian restaurants – they’re all ‘contemporary’, or have some ‘angle’, where the chances of getting a decent Vindaloo or Madras are zero, you can’t get Chicken Tikka (but you can get Ostrich Tikka or Salmon Tikka), and the prices are double what you pay anywhere else. And they are a 20 minute walk away, instead of the sub-1 minute trip to the Mogal.
Even if it remains a restaurant, there’s no guarantee it will be an Indian one, and even less guarantee it won’t try and go contemporary.
Update September 2023: The Mogal-e-Azam website has been stating that it is closed for refurbishment for some months. And news from this week reports that they are currently hiring staff (use an ad-blocker for that link).
Update October 2023: Latest news is that it is now reopened.