A new Delhi-style cafe is opening up in Manchester’s Corn Exchange, bringing an authentic taste of Northern India to the city centre.

Plans for the restaurant have been three years in the making. Somewhat frustrated by the unexpected hurdle of a global pandemic and national UK lockdown, they’ve risen to every challenge and are due to open their doors to the public next Monday (17th). 

We headed down for a sneak preview to check it out ahead of next week’s soft launch.

The dishes on Delhi House Cafe’s menu have been created in homage to the city’s thriving cafe culture, inspired by modest matriarch Rajinder Lamba – who, we are told warmly by her family, is the most wonderful cook.

“Everything on the menu, each and every thing, it has been practically done by her,” managing director Varendra Lamba tells us, giving his wife a look of pure adoration.

This brand new Delhi-style cafe is redefining modern Indian food in Manchester I Love Manchester
The Lamba family. Left to right: Sherry Lamba (Head of Operations), Dilpreen Lamba (Research and Development Chef), Rajinder Lamba (Inspirational Chef and Chief Taster), Varendra Lamba (Managing Director).

Having had a chance to try some of their food, we’re very much inclined to agree.

From dal fritters and deep-fried chillies to a traditional halwa dessert (also made with chilli), we were pleasantly challenged and surprised by some of the things they’ve been working on in the kitchen.

Succulent tandoori lamb chops, served with a dollop of beetroot chutney and granny smith slaw, are so much softer and juicier than the chargrilled variety you find in most city centre Indians. Knives and forks are discarded as we get stuck into removing every last morsel from the bone.

Whilst a delicately spiced lamb keema samosa, combined with chickpea curry, masala yoghurt, mint and tamarind chutney, offers up a fresh interpretation of a traditional chaat.

This brand new Delhi-style cafe is redefining modern Indian food in Manchester I Love Manchester
Tandoori lamb chops with gunpowder, beetroot chutney and granny smith slaw

Delhi, we’re told by the Lamba’s, is a completely different place to what it was twenty, thirty years ago – now populated with hundreds of cafes, their menus packed with burgers, pasta and all sorts of what we might think of as typical ‘western’ dishes cooked in Indian form.

Their own menu at Delhi House Cafe reflects this more modern Indian way of eating with a quirky 5-course tasting menu and main dishes like ‘not my burger’, an open burger of homemade beef kebabs served on a hand-made tandoori naan with salad and chips.

This brand new Delhi-style cafe is redefining modern Indian food in Manchester I Love Manchester
Mirchi Halwa, a traditional dessert made with chilli

Working with a lovely head chef they pinched from the five-star Dorchester hotel in London, the family’s new cafe-meets-restaurant is bringing something completely new to Manchester.

Let us be clear: this is not your bog-standard curry house.

The Lambas have worked tirelessly to make sure what you enjoy in the restaurant matches the true flavours of Delhi itself, but tell us it hasn’t been easy working with ingredients designed for a Western palate.

“When we came to the UK everyone was saying ‘you can’t get the same taste here, you can’t get the same taste that you get in India’,” confides research and development chef Dilpreen Lamba.

“So what we did was, we used to cook every day at home and used to try each and every masala that you’ve got here.”

This brand new Delhi-style cafe is redefining modern Indian food in Manchester I Love Manchester
An Indian chef wall of fame pays homage to those who’ve inspired the restaurant’s menu – from street food sellers to masterchef finalists

“We tried all the companies […] and then we tasted every sauce, the tomatoes, the onions, the vegetables, the yoghurt. Everything is different from India here. So we tried, as much as possible, to create the authenticity and we’re proud that we’ve done it.”

On the booze side, they’ve collaborated with White Rhino, who we’re told are the first craft brewery to be based in India.

We try a range of light and easy-drinking beers typical to the north of India, a mix of tasty lagers, pale ales and an IPA – the latter of which pairs most satisfactorily with our roast chicken ghee dinner.

This brand new Delhi-style cafe is redefining modern Indian food in Manchester I Love Manchester
The Chicken Ghee Roast, served with dal, rice, salad and freshly cooked naan bread from the Tandoor

There’s also an extensive range of light, sweet cocktails and wines, many of which have been sourced from India to perfectly pair with the warm Indian spices that run through Deli House Cafe’s dishes.

Inside it’s huge, with a beautiful orangery facing out onto Cathedral Gardens and an indoor terrace that overlooks the striking interior of the Corn Exchange. Connecting these two striking spaces is a small warren of cosy intersecting dining rooms.

Deep booths have been upholstered in rich Indian fabrics whilst quirky features, like a working gramophone, old-style telephone and typewriter, add extra character throughout.

A concept style cafe-meets-restaurant, Delhi House Cafe is a real family-run business offering Mancs a taste of modern Delhi for a very reasonable price.

Starters begin from just £4, chaats and breakfast dishes from £9, and mains from £10 with complimentary rice or naan included.

Opening on 17th August, Delhi House Cafe is taking reservations online now here.

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