There was a time in Glasgow city centre where a small section of St Vincent Street, and West Regent Street became known as burger corner.
Big name brands such as Byron, the Handmade Burger Company, Burger Meats Bun, Bread Meats Bread and Gourmet Burger Kitchen all opened up within walking distance of each other.
Clearly the nation’s appetite for a burger was strong, but didn’t last (and with local boy Nick Watkins creating the UK’s best burger over in the west end at El Perro Negro, why would you go anywhere else?)
Now most of these restaurants are long gone, and the latest eatery to open on the site of one (inside the beautiful Phoenix Assurance Building that was once The Handmade Burger Co.) is Mowgli.
Mowgli started life in 2014 in Liverpool, and owner Nisha Katona has since opened in Manchester, London, and now Glasgow, which opened in April - her first Scottish outpost - with Edinburgh soon to follow.
The food offering is a diverse range of unique curries and dishes which ‘Indians eat at home and on their streets’.
Speaking to my colleague Gaby Soutar earlier this year, Katona described the restaurant interiors and their inspiration, plus why she’s so hands-on, saying: “The Mowglis have an atmospheric look that’s based on the broken down temple behind my grandmother’s house in Varanasi.
"It was full of monkeys and vines, like something out of a film. The restaurant has to feel like an ancient temple rather than an Indian restaurant, so I wouldn’t trust anyone else’s hand because it comes from such a personal place”.
It’s definitely this sense of style, plus the cosy vibe of hundreds of fairy lights, which guests will first notice on arrival to the restaurant.
Although the marble floors, ceiling cornicing and pillars speak of another life of this building, the design has been artfully undertaken so the rope adorned swing seats, fairy-lit trees and monkey motifs don’t look out of place or forced.
There’s an elegance here that needs to be seen to be understood. It’s nice to know there’s a backstory to the look, and that it’s not just there for the ‘gram.
Another surprising element is that Mowgli is dog-friendly, so it was on a rainy Monday that we headed along, dog in tow, to try Katona’s food for the first time.
We started with a sweet yet refreshing smoked cardamom old fashioned (£8.50), made with Monkey Shoulder whisky.
This fruity yet subtly spiced drink was an ideal start to the flavourful meal to come.
As with many restaurants just now, the dishes are smaller than you may expect (from a traditional curry house) as they are ‘tapas’ style and can easily be shared.
There’s an extensive vegan menu, which we were keen to try, alongside the range of meat-based dishes.
From the Street Chaat menu, we choose Yoghurt Chat Bombs (£5) and the intriguing Treacle Tamarind Fries (£6.50).
The Chaat bombs are described as the ‘heart of Mowgli’ and were small, round almost pillow like morsels.
Biting into one of these, you truly understand the word flavour bomb, as the cool yoghurt mixes with the rich, spicy chickpeas and sweet tamarind.
While across the table, the treacle fries, which are small chunks of potato rather than traditional shaped fries, arrived glistening like jewels.
This rich and sticky sauce would be right at home on a rack of ribs and is smothered on the potato and topped with fresh morsels of red chilli and red onion.
Sweet, rich and totally moreish, I can see these becoming the must-try dish in the Glasgow restaurant, much like Ka Pao’s caramel fried chicken.
Next up was the Gunpowder Chicken (£7.50) from the Street Meats section of the menu.
These poppers of golden fried chicken had a satisfying kick thanks to the filling of ginger, garlic and garam masala. From the House Kitchen we went for Bunny Chow (£9.50), House Chicken Curry (£8), Mother Butter Chicken (£8.75) and the vegan Picnic Potato Curry (£5).
Firstly you'll probably want to have your phone camera ready for the Bunny Chow, which is essentially a curry in half a loaf of white bread.
A South African Indian railway worker’s favourite, this chicken and potato curry was a good mix of spice and fruit, with a thick sauce that is easily mopped up with the bread loaf. A new meaning to tear and share.
While the butter chicken and house chicken curry are comforting dishes that won’t offend anyone who isn’t keen on spice, but are not lacking in flavour.
The sweet, lightly spiced tomato sauce of the butter chicken feels about as authentic as you can get, and will wow those that love Glasgow’s own tikka masala.
The house chicken curry is a Keralan curry simmered with fragrant curry leaves, coconut milk and ground almonds, and is just rich enough to satisfy without being too much.
While the tangy potato curry had flecks of fenugreek and a depth of flavour from Bengali Five Spice.
Sadly we had no space for dessert, but next time I go to Mowgli I am definitely ordering the decadent sounding Gulab Jamun (£6).
A traditional sweet treat of syrupy brown nutty milk doughballs served warm with ice cream. This is apparently the Indian equivalent of a sticky toffee pudding and it sounds fab.
After paying the bill, of which £1 goes to charity (The Mowgli Trust has raised over £1M for charity) and a decent amount as tip for the extremely helpful staff, we leave feeling full and content, and ready to face the rain again.
It’s great to see an iconic Glasgow building once again full of life after the departure of another chain.
With Mowgli’s breadth of food offering (the only thing I felt was lacking was more seafood or veggie options for those adverse to chicken), and Glasgow’s love of curry, I can see this being a match made in heaven.
See you there soon for more tamarind fries and Gulab Jamun.
78 St Vincent St, Glasgow G2 5UB
0141 345 2564