Named for the holy city of the Prophet Muhammad, Madina Desi is a true original. The food is truly authentic – Desi means traditional - Indian and Pakistani fare, the décor is bright, the clientele are a mix of Indian and European, and the prices are unbelievable – there is a weekly special curry at €6.95! There is no alcohol for sale, but along with non-alcoholic beers they sell a selection of exotic alcohol free beers, with flavours like peach, pineapple
Run by three brothers, the business started in 2002 with a food shop on Moore Street, where their long suffering Mother made them homemade Punjabi Samosas, and then helped set up the restaurant, making sure the chefs followed authentic recipes. Mrs. Aziz has now hung up her apron and Manan and his brothers now run the restaurant.
Madina is situated on Mary Street, just down from the Church Pub, on the opposite side. It’s hard to miss in fairness, the Dubliner advised patrons to “Beware of the Glare”, and inside it is bright, but it’s kind of cool, especially if you are sick of coffee and cream contemporary colour schemes so beloved of interior designers at present.
The menu is fairly long and list all the usual starters and curries you expect to find in an Indian restaurant. There is an unusually long selection of vegetarian dishes and Madina is a favourite among Dublin herbivores. They are also the only restaurant in the City to offer the dosa, a type of filled pancake served with a choice of filling, an Indian Crepe if you will.
Paolo was the first person in Ireland to offer Crepe’s in Dublin back in the seventies, albeit with the slightly dodgy slogan, "Have you had your daily crepe?" Anyway, myself and Peter put this out of our mind and ordered one to share along with a big selection of their dishes, just in the interests of research of course.
While we waited we drank our peach beer and watched Madina fill up, mostly with gangs of friends out for a bite. We sat downstairs, but there is also a Mezzanine level, which was dealing with the overflow of customers.
Starters of chicken sheesh kebab, onion Bhappi, spicy wings and a lamb chop., with a simple salad with mint chutney were all delicious, and the salad was a perfect foil to the spicy and tangy dishes, it was cool and light and delicious.
Next up was the Masalla Dosa, our filled pancake came with coconut chutney and samber, a spicy sauce. The filing was a vegetable curry and there was plenty in it for the two of us. This would make a really nice lunch on its own.
Main courses brought Saag daal, mild and delicious buttered chicken, spicy chicken chilli masala, a traditional lamb curry, rich chicken tikka masala, and a Chana daal.
Traditional Pilau rice cooked in onion water, and no oils was and excellent accompaniment. ,
One other dish deserves a special mention; An amazing Indian street food snack, samosa Chana chat, which is a flavour explosion of home made samosa with chickpeas, yoghurt, diced tomato, diced red onion and a secret masala by Madina. It was absolutely wonderful, and we got some extra to bring home and share. On its own it would make a fabulous lunchtime snack, and is perfect for eating al desko.
Madina is as far removed from some of Dublin’s Indian restaurants as it is possible to get, but bears an uncanny resemblance to where you could find yourself in Bombay, Delhi or even Colombo. If you haven’t tried this diamond in the rough.