Chef/manager Leigh Needham
Leigh Needham has resided in Philadelphia for 10 years, with Point Breeze as “the friendliest neighborhood” that he has called home, and has honed a lifelong love for Indian cuisine, so when an opportunity to join the joy at Madira Bar & Grill, 1252 S. 21st St., shortly after its 2014 opening arose, the grateful chef could not resist the amalgamation of his geographic and gastronomic loves.
“It’s definitely a perfect combination,” the 29-year-old said from the location, which is a stone’s throw from his abode on the 2200 block of Titan Street. “I’ve had a lot of fun in my culinary career, and Madira has been another terrific stop for making memories and well-received food.”
The New England product has devoted his two-year tenure at the space to giving guests exquisite dishes akin to the ones that he particularly enjoyed when living outside Boston with his family. Then, Indian meals were rewards for great school endeavors or components of birthday celebrations, and he has used memories of their magnificence to give the sports bar, which also delights patrons with bingo, comedy nights, and Quizzo, a compelling identity.
“We’ve done really well thanks to word of mouth buzz,” Needham, whose other creative ventures have included time in East Passyunk Crossing and Queen Village, said. “I’d wanted to cook Indian food professionally, so everything about this experience is enriching.”
He especially takes pride in his hand in constructing the menu, a practice that he pronounced “a fascination,” and in the attention that he and the bartenders give toward pairing craft beer selections, with 18 taps as their allies, with the plates. He recommended Bells Two-Hearted and Boulevard Tank №7 as complements to Madira’s Vegetarian Curry, the recipe for which he chose to share.
“It’s such a blend of a multitude of flavors,” Needham said of the very popular item, which figures to become extra endearing now that we are racing toward winter. “It can go well with so many other options, especially Thanksgiving Day elements.”
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
2 onions, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, diced
2 tablespoons of fennel seed
2 tablespoons of coriander seed
1 quart of heavy cream
1 can of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
2 tablespoons of minced ginger
2 tablespoons of fenugreek powder
2 tablespoons of cumin
1 tablespoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of chili powder (1 teaspoon for milder heat)
1/2 cup of ketchup
Sweat the onions, tomato, bell pepper, garlic, coriander seed, and fennel seed in the butter. Slowly stir in the cream and coconut milk. Add in the remaining ingredients, and simmer for 45 minutes, making sure to stir every four to five minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and blend until smooth. Garnish with mint oil. To make the oil, blend one bunch of mint, cleaned and chopped, one cup of vegetable oil, and salt to season until smooth. SPR
Madira Bar & Grill
Opened: 2014 • Owner: Gary Patel
1252 S. 21st St.
Co-owner/general manager Holly Ricciardi
Photos by Tina Garceau