I had my reservations about visiting Mint Leaf once I had read on their homepage, it’s a popular celebrity haunt for the likes of Justin Bieber and Daniel Radcliffe. This kind of statements generally put off more serious diners who are more keen on the food rather than a place to see and be seen. However, a recent visit to Mint Leaf Haymarket helped to allay my fears of celebrity haunts.
Walking down the darkened staircase, it reminded me of similar high-end venues like Hakkasan, where mood lighting and intimate, partitioned-off areas reigned supreme. Although, I did notice some fraying on the edges of their designer chairs, as this branch has been opened since 2003, unlike their newer city branch.
It’s always a relaxing affair taking a vegetarian guest to an Indian restaurant as there are so many options to choose from and Mint Leaf is no exception. My guest opted for a well-spiced potato and mint Tikki which was flavoured with roast cumin, chilli, and ginger. I went for a less healthy option in the shape of crispy fried soft shell crab which came with roast garlic pepper chutney and papaya salad. Their version tasted suitably exotic compared to preparations from other cuisines, although they seemed to have served only the legs in batter and not the exoskeleton part which is traditionally one of the best parts of a soft-shelled crab.
For the main course, my vegetarian guest opted for the garlic chilli paneer, which was packed with strong aromatic flavours. The crumbly, dense texture of the paneer meant it soaked up the strong Indian flavours perfectly, which included the likes of garlic, capsicum, chilli and spring onion.
Bland dishes just do not exist on the Mint Leaf menu, my main course of lamb chops was not only succulent and juicy but tasted fantastically well as it was marinated with ginger and red chilli and served with mint chutney.
Portions were neither stingy or generous here so there was enough room in our stomachs for a shared dessert. We opted for a less calorific grilled pineapple which was excitingly fennel and saffron-scented giving the fruit an added fragrant touch. The dish was also served with tempting chilli coconut ice cream which was just too appetising to not fight over.
Dining at Mint Leaf does feel like a special treat whether or not you come across the likes of Justin or Daniel and it’s great to see a restaurant still championing the art of fine dining. Although they do offer a street-food lunchtime menu for those not capable of having a 3-hour business lunch.