According to the modern idiom, I am a flexitarian or, put more simply, a vegetarian on flexi-time, as I heard someone call it recently.
I choose to follow a mainly meat-free diet but will eat environmentally friendly, ethically sourced meat and fish occasionally, so was excited about the chance to review a vegetarian restaurant this month.
The visit, however, did not go down as well with my carnivorous husband, but he eventually agreed – reluctantly – to give it a go as his suggestion that I take a friend instead had not gone down well with me either.
Mango in Wetherby is tucked away off the main street and is an Indian restaurant. It has been quietly doing its thing since 2008 under the watchful eye of Rekha Sonigra, originally from the west Indian state of Gujarat. She not only owns Mango but is chief cook too and promises to serve what they eat at home, where food centres on family and Hindu values.
She’s also a late comer to the dining scene, having only embarked on a career in business when she was 45 - preferring instead to spend time watching her three children grow up.
But despite putting her family first, she has always cooked - recipes she learned from her mother and grandmother and which she has perfected over the years, testing them out on friends and family.
Gujarati food has evolved and adapted to create dishes revolving around seasonal, local produce and complementary spicing, according to Rekha, and it is this which she offers at Mango.
There are two small, modern dining rooms, and only carefully selected pieces of wall art and a whisper of Indian music signify the cultural heritage here.
One dining room is also home to the open kitchen from where it is possible to watch Rekha cooking.
Busy out front is Alouki, Rekha’s daughter, who single-handedly is dishing out warm welcomes, drinks and taking orders. She also knows the menu back to front, so if Gujarati food is a new one for you, she will take you by the hand and astutely guide you through its many intricacies.
The menu neatly divides into four main areas of starters and appetisers with a couple of recognisable dishes – samosas, spicy rolls and bhaji – and a few new to me.
The second section is chaats, which are small street food dishes, often savoury filled pastries, usually found on sale from makeshift stalls and carts.
There’s a third focusing on southern Indian specialities including a tempting array of dosas (a savoury crepe made of rice and lentil flour) and finally, Gujarati and Mango specials.
The choices are not vast, but they are all so delicious-sounding that it takes an age to choose. The food here is for sharing, so we agreed to order a range of dishes and to try all of them.
Two starters down and the carnivore was already caving in, though I defy anyone not to enjoy the cleanness of this food. Kachori (£3.95) comes as flour-based pastry balls, stuffed with yellow moong daal, a hefty sprinkling of black pepper, ground red chilli and ginger paste.
Yes, it was spicy but not in a searing way, more like several tiny bursts of heat and flavour. Methina gota (£3.95), a Gujarati speciality made of gram flour balls infused with fenugreek leaves, green chilli, whole black pepper and coriander seeds, had us (unusually) discussing the blend of spices and where we might buy the leaves.
We asked for our chaats to be served alongside the starters and should, perhaps, have been advised that it wasn’t a good idea. The puffed light batata dahi puri pastries (£5.50), filled with black chickpeas, gently spiced potatoes and splashed with fresh yoghurt, had softened and lost their crispness as they stood waiting to be eaten. Even that could not spoil the excellent flavours though. Rekha can certainly cook.
Probably our joint favourite though was the Mumbai chaat (£6.50). This exciting mix of spiced potatoes, brown chickpeas, gram vermicelli, puffed rice, peanuts, tomatoes, coriander and sweet and sour chutneys was just delightful, and as we tucked in we both wished that we had ordered two.
Delicate smoked aubergine, onion, spring garlic and ginger came curried together in a tomato sauce (£6.95) which I mopped up with a freshly cooked chapati but couldn’t finish it.
Not, I might add, because I didn’t like it, far from it. Even a heftier appetite across the table started to struggle a tiny bit with a dinner-plate- sized dosa stuffed with mixed roasted vegetables, onion and garlic and topped with vegetable sambar and fresh coconut chutney (£10.95).
He managed it though and a gajar halwa (£4.25) carrot cake, flavoured with saffron and cardamom as well.
I did not say I told you so at the end of this excellent meal; there was no need, as a declaration of “I will certainly come back” was all I needed. And I second the sentiment.
As of next week, Mango will be getting a new menu, which more than warrants a return visit. Owner Rekha is overseeing the refresh in a bid to build on obvious success of the restaurant, which made it onto the shortlist for the top 10 vegetarian restaurants in the UK earlier this year.
It’s not stranger to awards, either, having won gongs in the 2014/5 Good Food Awards. Add to that that since 2009 it has been constantly near the top of online reviews.
In summary, one can only ponder how lucky Wetherby is to have a restaurant of this standard on its doorstep. I wish it were on mine.
Address: 2-14 Bank Street, Wetherby LS22 6NQ
Tel: 01937 585755
Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday, 6-11pm