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Restaurant review: Yak and Yeti, Magdalen Street, Colchester: “Festooned with flavour and all from natural sources”

PUBLISHED: 17:15 28 January 2018 | UPDATED: 17:15 28 January 2018

The vegetarian thali.

The vegetarian thali.

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Mark Edwards tries some authentic Nepalese street food at new south Asian and Indian fusion restaurant in Colchester

The Momo dumplings with pomegranate sauce, flaked rice, pickled radish and tomato dipping sauce. The Momo dumplings with pomegranate sauce, flaked rice, pickled radish and tomato dipping sauce.

Yak and Yeti is a burgeoning franchise offering a fusion of Nepalese, Tibetan and Indian food. It built its renown in London and the Colchester branch, which opened in Magdalen Street four months ago, is just its second venture outside the capital – the other is in Southend.

I had heard reports from friends that the food here was excellent with a creative twist that distinguished it from many restaurants of its kind. I took along my partner Melissa, a pescatarian, who was keen to explore Yak and Yeti’s vegan and vegetarian options, which we had also heard good things about.

We arrived on a chilly Thursday evening, which came after long days at work for the pair of us, so we were both in the mood for some tasty comfort food. What we got was far more than that – a real dining experience, festooned with flavour and all from natural sources.

I have had plenty of Indian curries in my years, so I wanted to try the Nepalese dishes on offer and Yak and Yeti had some fascinating examples I was keen to try.

Chief among them were the Momo dishes – apparently a very popular form of street food in Nepal. I was advised by manager Sam Dahar, head of the unfailingly polite and attentive waiting staff here, to try the lamb version – chicken is also available – and Melissa opted for the vegetarian version.

Ironically, this Nepalese fast food necessitates a waiting time of 20 minutes for it to be prepared, but the wait is worth it and indicative of how freshly prepared the food is here and the care taken over it.

We happily filled the waiting gap by ordering a dish of fried okra, which was heavenly – cut lengthways in strips and given just a dusting of batter. It was served with pickled radish, chutney and something new to me, and which Sam described as “flake rice” – dehusked rice flattened into flakes and fried. It is not unlike eating the contents of a packet of crisps you have accidentally sat on, but it is quite delicious and soaked up just enough of the pomegranate sauce to stick to the fork. Those pomegranates gave the sauce a garnet-like richness and so much of the food this evening dazzled with its vivid shades, yet Sam assured us no artificial colourings are used in the cooking and there is very little oil used so the sauces never felt greasy or heavy.

When the Momo arrived I was surprised to find six dumplings, like Chinese dim sums, which had been steamed to plump perfection by the talented team of Nepalese chefs at the Yak and Yeti. They looked fantastic, but the magic happens when you bite into them. They are so juicy they seem to explode in your mouth with the herbs in the lamb packing it with flavour. Melissa also loved her vegetarian version, which had a satisfying crunch to it – I know because I stole one – and we both loved the tomato dipping sauce. Momo proved to be a wonderful discovery for me. I can’t wait to try it again.

The mains then had a tough act to follow. Melissa was the most adventurous, ordering a vegetarian thali, a selection of vegetarian dishes arranged in copper bowls. These included a wholesome black lentil daal, a punchy curry with tomato chillies and Paneer cheese, an okra curry, more piquant radish chutney and a bowl of raiti, a cooling yoghurt accompaniment with pomegranate seeds and digestive salts. All delicious and every bowl was wiped clean.

I went for the Gurkhali chicken, which was cooked in Nepalese herbs, fresh coriander, mint and tomatoes. I accompanied it with a bowl of saag aloo and some saffron rice. It was not too creamy, allowing the delicacy of the flavourings to come through. On a bitter winter evening, it was a warm hug of a meal.

Melissa had a dessert among her thali’s tray of delights – a sweet and sticky traditional Nepalese pudding that paired very well with the raiti.

I didn’t think I had room for a dessert so opted for a Masala tea, which was comfortingly sweet and infused with cardamom, cloves and ginger. A drink to sip and savour and a lovely end to the meal.

With so much more on the menu we would have liked to try and dishes like the momo which we want to try again, we will be back, and soon.

Drinks

With an early start the next day we both stuck to water – mine cold, Melissa’s hot – but there is a well-stocked bar with bottles of Nepalese Gurkha beer available.

Ambiance

As I’ve mentioned the natural colourings that make the meals a day-glo delight are really something, but the bright colours also extend to the décor, with the walls a striking combination of raspberry and pistachio. The front seating area has a cosy, almost pub-like feel with its nooks and cosy bay window seating – not surprising as it was until 1990 the Prince of Wales, a public house that dates back to the 1770s.

The rear of the restaurant is more open and lighter with large tables to accommodate 15-plus people. It needs the space as the restaurant gets very busy on Friday and Saturday evenings.

When we visited there were enough people to create a nice hum of combining conversations and the twinkling tea lights at each table added to the cosy, friendly mood.

Parking

The restaurant has the multi-storey Osborne Street car park on the other side of the South Way so plenty of space.

Price

A three-course – well, four if you count the extra okra starter – meal for two came in at just under £50 without drinks.

To book, browse the menu or see the latest takeawy of eat-in discounts, visit here

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