Manoj Kumar talks about what’s special about the Lanterns approach to food
Well, the nice people at Nottingham’s new “all India” restaurant have been awfully busy. Even so, they’ve managed to find some time to answer my questions about their lovely restaurant and delicious food.
While Mahesh Pillai and his team are fully occupied in The Lanterns’ kitchen making sure that everything is going to be perfect for Onam, Manoj Kumar, one of the directors has been kind enough to spare me some of his time answering my questions.
Dave: I believe you’re all pretty busy right now, care to tell us what’s happing at The Lanterns?
Manoj: You could say that! Considering we’ve only been open a few weeks, things are moving at quite a pace. The main focus is the Onam festival, we’re also starting a weekend buffet, and if that’s not enough we’re also getting a take away menu organised!
Dave: I suppose Mahesh is right at the centre of things creating your unique Lanterns style menus?
Manoj: Mahesh has had a passion for food preparation since childhood. I have often seen his enthusiasm and energy when you start discussing various dishes. All the dishes are sourced from authentic traditional recipes and then we and then we give them our own special Lanterns touch.
Dave: There are few restaurants that offer the true taste of India. I don’t see any Chiken Tikka Masala on your menu!
Manoj: You can get that generic sort of food at most high street restaurants – anglicising Indian food had been a common factor in the UK. But why? The British have always shown a love for Indian food. Why not offer the sort of food we love to eat at home? There’s a common misconception that spicy food has to be
fiery, actually what makes people crave for more is flavour. We dare to be different at The Lanterns so you’ll find dishes that you have never been attempted at any restaurant in the UK. We also intend to ring the changes with a new menu every few months. Mahesh will be also be creating special menus for all festivals
Dave: The Lanterns is unique because it offers dishes from all parts of India. Would you explain the differences between the different regions?
Manoj: Indian food types are extremely diverse. It’s difficult to summarise the great wealth of cooking methods and ingredients in a few words – the best way short of visiting India is to try out our menu! However – I’ll give it a try:
North Indian recipes use a lot of dairy products such as milk, paneer, ghee and yogurt. Other common ingredients are goat or lamb, and chillies, saffron, and nuts.
Western Indian food is very diverse: from the spicy Rajasthani food to slightly sweet dishes of Gujarat. Then there’s Maharashtra which is famous for fresh coconut-based hot and sour curries with fish and seafood. Goan food is rich and strongly flavoured by coconut, red chillies and vinegar.
Eastern Indian uses simple preparation and ingredients. Fish and pork are popular ingredients. It’s main claim to fame are its exceptional sweets.
South Indian recipes: these are mostly vegetarian. It is home to Dosas , Sambar, and Briyani.
We have a very talented team of chefs from various parts of India, in order to get the true local taste of our dishes.
Dave: What’s your favorite dish?
Manoj: Being from the south, I would have an inclination to like mutton or beef, appam and Malabar paratha. I love the Kerala dish Beef Ularthiyathu, but it’s really hard to choose…
Dave: What is your favourite dish at home?
Manoj: Ohh – the most difficult question: I always acknowledge that the food my wife cooks is the best food in the world…but my Mom is a fantastic cook. Even a very ordinary meal is soo tasty. I love my Mom’s Sambar the most.