Sarah Cotterill enjoys a taste of North Africa inside Burley’s very own Souk
Sunday lunchtimes are steady at Man vs Roast. The windows are steaming as assorted cuts are carved on the lit countertop. A pig mascot in a bikini is dancing by the chalkboard outside. However, animals aren’t on the menu for us today, as we venture further up Cardigan Road, bound for the vegan and Halal-friendly Mogador.
I'm even happier to see a whole menu concertina of Veganuary approved dishes which don’t skip out any of the good stuff
Two lemon trees battle the wind framing an ornate Moorish archway, with colourful lanterns hanging underneath. Inside, a great carpet canopy billows over kaleidoscopic light boards and bejewelled trinkets; Burley’s very own Souk. And despite the menu capturing a panoramic view over the night-markets of Marrakech, the waiter informs us that it’s in fact an Algerian family business. His brother, the chef, thought Lebanese/Moroccan might be a little more relatable for Leeds.
I’d happily dig into Middle Eastern or North African food, and am even happier to see a whole menu concertina of Veganuary approved dishes which don’t skip out any of the good stuff.
It’s a weird afternoon, in-between time to eat, but Mogador is open until 11pm, seven days a week. We might well be the only diners, but are made to feel super welcome, if a little awkward next to the family member eating a very flat looking pizza in the corner.
Orange blossom permeates my rumanat (£1.95), one of their homemade drinks, (not actually inclusive of any rum, but a vivid pomegranate cordial). Mogador has no licence, but a cursory glance over TripAdvisor suggests you’re welcome to BYOB.
We also try the highly recommended panache (£2.50), which is blended up behind a market-cart bar, decked out with dried chills and Fez hats. Even the cutlery is gilded in Arabic swirls. But the real tableware goals come with the mezze platters, one vegan falafel (£7.50) and one pastilla (£8.90).
I’m all giddy as giant decorative palms are assembled in front of us, made up of little individual dishes of tabbouleh, salads and hummus. It’s a handful of joy. A hamsa, our waiter describes, is a symbol to ward off the jealous eyes of onlookers.
We could have shared a mezze. I was certainly protective over mine, but a little jealous to not be reliving my pastilla memories of Morocco - flaky parcels of almonds and pigeon, dusted in icing sugar. Mogador’s is chicken, and I’m told, light on the sweetness. My falafel is rich with cinnamon spice and sesame seeds. The pitta soldiers comfortingly warm and doughy.
Slowly, families and groups of students start to trickle in. The heating kicks up a gear. I’m already so full I don’t know where to put a vegetarian tagine (£7.90). As the conical ceramic lid is lifted, I feel I’ll just about manage. Chunks of squash, aubergine and potato hold their bite, just enough to melt into a harissa flecked stew. There’s more pitta to dunk. Not to mention more earthy soft hummus slathered next to the almighty mhadjeb - folded layers of paratha-like flat bread encasing a velvety tomato and red onion centre. The texture is like nothing I’ve ever really eaten. It’s warm and slimy, yet divine (£2.95). I’m shovelling and in pain, now glad of the sweet cleansing juices.
I was so stuffed I couldn’t even have the Veganuary-honey-baklava debate with myself, as intended. Luckily this is the home of the digestive Moroccan mint tea, here served in the traditional weighty silver pot with mini red and green glasses. As a Just-Eat driver collects his order, I imagine you’d be missing out on the authenticity a bit at home. Either way, this is my kind of Sunday dinner.
Mogador, 142 Cardigan Rd, Leeds LS6 1LU
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
vegan falafel mezze platter 8, pastilla mezze platter 7, vegetarian tagine 7, mhadjeb 9
I’d happily join this family
The food, the decor - all very Moorish