When we think of Indian food we tend to think of the Curry Mile. It’s always nice going back to a place where the waiters know your order off by heart and they dish out free poppadoms to your table on the sly.
It’s also nice to sit down to a plush quality meal and a little bit of what you fancy. If you want to push the boat out and indulge in a Bollywood symphony of flavours and cooking styles, we may have found just the place.
Asha’s Manchester has all the muted glamour of the orient along with the decadent opulence of the Middle East.
This global restaurant group has branches in various locations across the world that read like a Middle Eastern supermodel’s bucket list: Dubai, Bahrain, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi. They’re also in Manchester, just across from The Great Northern. How about that, eh? Our smoky-faced cottonopolis kicking it with the Emirati big boys.
Think lacquered velvet booths and deep wooden tables. There are golden drapes which cascades into the venue as diners munch. As soon as you step inside you’ll notice the subtle aroma of incense wafting its way down to the Bolli Bar, which is where we ate our meal.
A bowl of poppadom shards was placed on the table as we settled in and scanned the menu. We were presented with a gorgeously technicolour collection of dips, which varied in spice, from the mild homemade pineapple chutney to the smokey coriander and mint yoghurt. Don’t be fooled by the yoghurt- it packed quite a punch.
It’s all too easy to play it safe and order the onion bhaji followed by chicken tikka masala, extra mild, every time you go out for an Indian. But, the Bolli Bar menu eases you out of your comfort zone with a deliciously diverse repertoire of dishes.
We started with the venison samosas, which came out piping hot. The delicately spiced deer meat was encased in crisp filo pastry which crumple in a satisfying crunch as you bite down. The flavours combined perfectly. Mince for depth, peas for salt, raisins for sweetness and cashews for crunch. In a word, sublime.
Next out was the bar menu’s paneer tikka which came to the table at the same time as the chicken malai. It was a spicy yet slightly sweet soft cheese, grilled until caramel crisp on its outer layer. The chicken was tender and cardamon scented, cooked and marinated to perfection before being grilled on the tandoor.
The keema fries came out last, served in a clay pot dish and topped with cheese. The moment the first crispy potato topped with a magical combination of keema spiced lamb, onion, chilli, coriander and turmeric hit my taste buds was one of culinary perfection. East meets west in the best possible way.
We didn’t have room to try anything more from the menu but opted for a firm foodie favourite. A proper posh Rogan Josh. I’m talking sinus-teasing and delicious.
It may look no different from your average lamb curry but a quick peep under its skirt revealed slow cooked tender pieces of lamb in a multi-layered, glorious sauce made from a combination of freshly ground spices.
None of those generic pre-made base sauces here. The warm, buttery tandoor garlic naan served the duel purpose of mopping up the tangy sauce and making me very happy at the same time.
What’s clear is that the kitchen takes no shortcuts. They cook everything slowly and carefully and don’t cut corners. Spices were toasted and ground. Your food comes out fresh, fried, simmered, sizzled, kneaded, roasted and flipped to perfection.
When we popped down on a Friday night, the venue was absolutely packed. Clearly the word is out that this place doesn’t sacrifice a lick to the taste gods.
So if you fancy visiting sometime before Christmas, our advice is book now and you might just get in.
47 Peter St, Manchester M2 3NG
To book email: [email protected]