Indian buffets used to be everywhere in Cambridgeshire. There was a point in time where every other Indian restaurant would offer some sort of buffet in one form or another.
Those times have long passed now and you will be hard pressed to find one close by, unless you are lucky enough to live near the Teversham Tandoori or Royal Spiceland in Sawtry.
I was delighted to hear of a new place called Mamas Indian, located in Huntingdon, which claims to offer an unlimited buffet for £20pp (£22 on weekends). Most buffets are much less than this, with historic places ranging from £6.99 to £15.99. Granted, we have had some significant inflation since then but it will still be interesting to see what that extra cost gets you today.
Mamas works differently from other Indian buffets, which are usually set up with an open buffet table in the restaurant. Usually customers are free to serve themselves as they see fit but at Mamas Indian restaurant you are given free unlimited access to the menu and they bring out whatever dish you wish, upon request.
This has several advantages, with one being that the food is being made fresh to order and not kept under a hot lamp all evening. It is also likely to be more hygienic too, as people aren’t all serving from the same plate of food. I like the concept and it was something I had never tried before, so I was looking forward to seeing how well it worked in action.
The menu was a decent size with lots of choice. This really makes a difference when compared to other buffets as most are very limited in their options, with places like Cafe Naz historically only offering 6 main options.
Unfortunately, they do not serve beer on tap at Mamas. The only options were beer bottles of Cobra and Bangla. I was pleased to see that they serve 660ml bottles but they came to a whopping £6 each 😱
We ordered papdums, which was included in the buffet price of £22. This came with Mango chutney, onion salad, and yogurt. The mango chutney was very thick and full of sweet flavour. It won’t win any awards but it served us well. The onion salad was bleak with the entirety of it being onion and nothing else. The yogurt was very nice with a good texture. All the portion sizes were fantastic.
The best thing about having a large menu which you are free to order from for a fixed price is that you can really explore and try new things. My son has been a seasoned Indian/Bangladeshi enthusiast for years but due to his age has not had a good chance to branch out. This provided him with a real opportunity to go wild and open him up to an entire world of cuisine without having to worry about spending a fortune or wasting food.
We decided to order a few things from the specials, including the Mamas Goat. This is described as a spicy goat in a rich yogurt and onion sauce. We also ordered the Mughal E Azam which is chicken cooked in an onion, nut, and chilli sauce.
We ordered a starter plate before the mains arrived to give us a varied idea of what Mamas has to offer. It came with meat samosas, sheek kebab, tandoori chicken, and onion bhaji’s.
The meat samosas were filled with a bland mince covered in a rather plain outer shell. The portion sizes were quite good and it held together well while eating but this was not enough to save it. I ordered a side of yogurt to try and make them work but failed to change my feelings.
The sheek kebabs were a little better and a great size. Very juicy and succulent. Overall a fairly average example of what a sheek kebab can be but were cooked well.
The tandoori chicken was absolutely superb. They were incredibly juicy and was one of the stars of the mixed starter. If you are looking at their starter menu and unsure what to order from Mamas then this would be my recommendation.
The onion Bhajis were also excellent, especially considering it was a buffet. So many onion bhaji’s from buffets are left under a hot lamp or in a tray which leaves them to dry out or go soggy. Score another point for having an ‘order as you eat’ buffet menu!
Once the starter plate was finished we ordered a few sides to go with our two mains. This consisted of Bombay Aloo, Saag Aloo, Saag Paneer, and Daal. We also ordered a peshwari naan and rice to accompany them. The food took a while to come out, which was quite reassuring in my opinion. This, for me, implies that the food was made fresh to order. Portions were small, no doubt from a history of customers ordering huge amounts of food and being unable to eat it and wasting food. This also made it easier to fit more dishes on the table at once which gave an almost tapas feel to the experience.
The Bombay Aloo was quite ordinary and lacked any real flavour. I haven’t had this dish in a while but I remember it being prepared in a more dry and crispy style in the past. This was presented with a small amount of masala sauce which is a little different from what a lot of regular Bombay Aloo diners may be used to. Some may enjoy this but I preferred the crispy style.
The Saag Paneer was a decent addition to our meal. It was very smooth and creamy which also mixed well with other dishes. My son had his first Saag Paneer experience this evening and thoroughly devoured it. This is always a solid vegetarian option for any Indian meal.
The Daal Tarka worked great with the peshwari naan and was a worthy side to go with our mains. On its own, it didn’t particularly stand out but was good enough to justify being part of a buffet.
The peshwari naan was absolutely excellent and one of the best examples I have had in a while. It was packed full of delicious and incredibly sweet peshwari and the texture of the naan was perfect. I highly recommend!
The Saag Aloo was another great example. The potatoes were nice and crispy and the spinach was a generous portion. The spices and herbs really came through on this dish which made it one of my favourite of the starters.
The Mughal E Azam was a superb dish with beautifully succulent chicken. All the chicken at Mamas has been excellent tonight and this dish was no exception. The Mughal E Azam was surprisingly spicy (which was no bad thing) and made the dish more exciting. The nut paste gave the dish a delightful flavour which is not often seen on a lot of local menus. This was a very welcome twist and one of the highlights of the evening.
All the portion sizes were quite small tonight. I hope when ordering the Mughal E Azam outside the buffet promotion that the sizes are a little larger, as it costs £12 separately. Delicious or not, I would be quite miffed at paying that kind of money.
The Mamas Goat was also fantastic. The meat was very tender and the rich onion and yogurt sauce was incredibly flavourful. I would almost certainly eat this again.
Overall, we enjoyed our meal at Mamas. The service was very good and the menu had a great selection. It was a liberating experience being able to explore the menu without having to worry about the cost and the meat quality tonight was better than anything I have had from a buffet before. This would be a very good place to bring someone who is looking to explore Indian cuisine without wanting to break the bank.
With that said, £22 for a buffet is more than I have ever paid. Prices have no doubt inflated over the past few years but this still feels higher than it could be. I put this down to the unique style of the buffet which gives you more choice, freshly prepared food, and a system which is more hygienic. Historically, places like Cafe Naz have been about £6.99 and other venues like Moza used to charge around £12-15. You were significantly limited on your choices of food with these restaurants and the food was not always made fresh, so it depends on what you value more from a buffet. I know a lot of people would rather pay a bit more for this.
The beer was very steep. With drinks, the total meal came to over £60 for two people. Granted, we did eat a lot but we did not leave feeling any fuller than a visit from any other Indian restaurant which could have satisfied us both for £20 less. This is likely due to the small portions at Mamas, which might give the illusion of better value than it actually is.
If you decide to visit Mamas then I would highly recommend the tandoori chicken, both the Mughal E Azam and Mamas Goat from the specials, and the Saag Aloo. The naan was also a stand out favourite. There are some great things on this menu though there does appear to be some inconsistency with other dishes. Luckily, you don’t have to worry about it as you can order what you like at a fixed price.
Have you visited Mamas before? What did you think? Let us know in the Cambridge Curry Community Facebook group!
Thanks for reading!