REVIEW | Indian Tiffin Room – Out-of-this-World Bhel Puri

Manchester’s newest cultural melting pot, First Street, just got a whole lot tastier thanks to the opening of the new Indian Tiffin Room. Yes, the wait is finally over. Can it build on the success of its much lauded Cheadle eatery and become Manchester’s most popular Indian restaurant? We sent Kevin Benson along to investigate

When the Indian Tiffin Room first opened in Cheadle in 2013, it quickly won praise from far and wide for its completely left field approach to Indian cuisine, serving up delicious street food at a reasonable price, devoid of any pretense and trickery. It’s simple, cosy and downright difficult to get a booking still to this day. In addition, it did the impossible and drew people away from the city and into the suburbs, riding on the back of the recent a la TripAdvisor trend.  

So when word first surfaced that a new city centre restaurant was set to open, slap bang in the middle of First Street, Manchester’s hottest new quarter, its launch was eagerly anticipated. So much so that they made everyone wait just that little bit longer for them to finally open their doors. 

I can see why. They have certainly shown a lot of attention to detail and taken note of the feedback from their loyal customer base. There’s an entirely unique aesthetic to the place. It’s subtly spacious for a start, with high ceilings and pseudo-industrial meets contemporary meets traditional decor that allows diners to enjoy the multitude of dishes without having to listen to someone else’s conversation. There is no risk here of brushing elbows with your neighbour.  

And, for a Tuesday night, the place is packed. So much so that there’s a fifteen minute wait for the table to be ready. It’s hardly an inconvenience though, not when there’s an enticing range of cocktails to sample from the vibrant bar. 

When it came to choosing the food, I was pleased to feel no pressure whatsoever from the service. They were busy enough as it is. It’s the kind of menu where you want to try everything, and you even feel slightly guilty for not doing so. Should you become unsure of what it is you might want, the waiters are only too happy to guide you through. 

What sets the Tiffin Room apart is that you don’t really take a starter-main-dessert route. It’s really not how you’re meant to eat here. The curries are merely a sideshow in my opinion. Great if you love starters. Not so great if you’re a traditionalist. But if that’s the case, Rusholme is that-a-way!

Indian Tiffin Room Interior And Dishes

It feels almost like tapas when the food starts to arrive. The Bhel Puri is sublime and like a rare vintage vinyl record, it’s hard to find anywhere else. It is a must-have dish. The crunchy puffed rice served in a date chutney makes for a mouthwatering treat that has me salivating and wanting more, which is perfect because it’s only a matter of seconds before the next dishes arrive.  

The samosa, perhaps the only thing I truly recognise, is stuffed full of flavour, with the pastry not too delicate, not too stodgy. The chilli paneer delivers a fiery punch but is surpassed immensely by the Gobi Manchurian, a gorgeous wok-fried cauliflower dish that makes me question why I still eat meat. It’s simply awesome and unlike anything I’ve tried before. The chicken lollipop, a stripped back, fancy chicken wing fails to impress as there just isn’t enough to it for the price.

Any disappointment however, was short lived when another vegetarian dish arrived. The Paani Puri, a hollow, eggshell-like pastry round, or the ‘poppadom-grenade’ as it affectionately came to be known. It’s like a volcanic eruption of flavour. The chilled mint flavoured water gushes in your mouth once you bite into one leaving you aching for more.  

The curries are full of flavour and mixed with authentic spices, yet as tasty as they are, the Lamb and the Chicken Vishaka are a little over-salty and don’t deliver the knockout blow. I still manage to see off the vast majority. There’s also enough to take home, perhaps the few things on the menu that you can bag up and take away. Apparently, the Bhel Puri doesn’t travel well, so it’s best eaten there and then. Well I think that’s very good advice if you ask me.  

It’s difficult to fault the Indian Tiffin Room, really. I truly think that they have done everything right here. The spacious feel to the place; the open kitchen in a shipping container; the food is undeniably good value for money; the service is always with a smile; and, of course, the Bhel Puri is out of this world. 

I firmly believe that the Indian Tiffin Room will become a staple for dining out in Manchester. It’s set a high benchmark for others to aspire to and will prove very popular in years to come. 

2 Isabella Banks Street, First Street, Manchester M15 4RL


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