My first introduction to Indian food was via a Vesta curry, a packet of dried food you added water to and cooked in a pan. I thought it was the most exciting food I had ever tasted.
Fast forward a few decades and thankfully my consumption of Indian food has become a little more sophisticated. I am fortunate enough to have travelled to India a few times and eaten in cafes as well as being a culinary guest of renowned chefs, and of course, everything in between.
So when the opportunity came up to visit the Delhi House Café in Manchester to try out contemporary Delhi cuisine, I couldn’t wait. Although we didn’t know it at the time, we managed to get under the wire of the second lockdown and eat out two days before the shutters came down. This is the Lamba Family’s first venture in the UK and we are very grateful for it.
Watchers of The Million Pound Menu fronted by Fred Sirieix, will recognise the front of the restaurant, but the interior is now beautifully decorated, and look out for the celebration of Indian food creators on a wall on the upper floor. Whilst husband and wife, Sherry and Preen Lamba may be in charge of the restaurant, Mother Kaur’s presence is very much felt in the menus.
“Our mother, Kaur, has helped us to pull together a menu that encompasses not only the correct harmony of flavours but also enables our brilliant team of experienced Indian chefs to showcase what makes our cuisine really special”
The menu has an interesting mix of traditional and contemporary dishes with not a poppadom in sight. But don’t be fooled, even the traditional dishes are not what you might be expecting, and I mean that in a positive way.
My preference is always multiple dishes to share, that way I get to taste more of the menu, but these are COVID times, so we opted for the straightforward starter/main/dessert combo. Our waitress, Evelyn, was a delight and incredibly knowledgeable about the menu. The only trouble was by the time we got through the description of every dish, I had changed my mind several times.
We started with AAC (£5.50), a vegan dish of fried avocado, potato and mint chutney and the Lamb Keema Samosa Chaat (£5.95), a blend of chickpea curry, masala yogurt and mint and tamarind chutney. Whist the AAC was really good, oh my gosh that samosa! I could have happily tucked into several forsaking all else on the menu. The spice was just right and the pastry, perfect. The bar was set well and truly high for the rest of the meal.
For mains we chose from the house specials: Changezi Chicken (£12.50) and Lamb Keema Pepper Fry (£12.50). The Chicken, cooked in a generous amount of ghee with tomatoes, brown onions and a buttermilk spiced curry was extremely rich and served with a butter naan and an onion laccha salad. The peppery coconut lamb keema with a crispy potato straw was served on kulcha bread. Both were good dishes, with a balance of spices and textures.
Normally I would forgo dessert, but the menu so far had revealed some gems so I was curious as to what afters would yield. I was tempted by the Mirchi Halwa (a green chilli dessert with a dare to try it) but thought better of it and we settled for the Motichoor Ladoo cheesecake (£5.95) off the specials menu and the Gajjar Halwa, Rabri and Nutella Tart (£4.95).
Indian desserts are typically sweet in the truest sense and there were some flourishes in both desserts to cut through that sweetness. Whilst the cheesecake was good, for me the Gajjar Halwa, Rabri and Nutella Tart stole the dessert show. An Indian carrot pudding topped with a layer of Nutella and Rabri, sitting in a pool of the nearest you will get to Ras Malai on this menu – rich, indulgent and worth the calories.
The drinks menu is extensive, but with a short wine list. More interesting perhaps, are the Indian inspired cocktails. We shared a bottle of Cullnan View Chenin Blanc (£18.75) which stood up surprisingly well to the assault of flavours. The £64.55 bill was great value for both the food and experience, but if your budget is smaller the express lunches for one (served from 12.00-17.00) come in at £13.95 for the Vivacious Veggie option and £15.95 for the Mighty Meaty.
As soon as Lockdown is fully lifted, we are heading back to try more dishes and of course those samosas.
Delhi House Cafe, Unit 10, Corn Exchange, Manchester, M4 3TR. 0161 834 3333.