Finally getting a degree feels like the prize at the end of many years of study. At least it did for me. It deserves an appropriate celebration.
Asha’s is one of Manchester’s most elegant restaurants, with chic gold interiors and beautiful booths adorned with plush purple cushioning. It never feels overcrowded, offering parties the privacy needed for group dining.
The restaurant has won numerous awards, so expectations were high. As a graduation party, we were greeted with complimentary prosecco on arrival. You get the impression Asha’s know how to treat diners right.
The Manchester venue is one of a number of internationally acclaimed restaurants established by Bollywood legend Asha Bhosle. Ed Sheeran chose the restaurant on his recent visit to Manchester.
But the real star on our visit was the food. We began with a generous selection of poppadums, perfectly crisp and flecked with seeds. These were accompanied by homemade chutneys, packed with flavour yet never overpowering, the pineapple a particular highlight.
Rather than being stuck with a set menu, diners celebrating graduation are welcome to pick from the extensive a la carte and summer menus.
Most of the table selected a starter from the Indian summer menu, designed to showcase chef Ashwani’s zingy and light dishes. Much appreciated considering we were dining on the hottest day of the year.
We enjoyed a dainty trio of seared masala scallops to start, beautifully tender, served with curry leaves, garlic and star anise cooked down with tomato and onion. Other members of the party enjoyed organic Scottish salmon tikka salad cooked in a tandoor oven and served with fresh leaves, coriander and olive oil dressing.
The salmon tikka is an ideal gluten-free choice – and the Asha’s menu is clearly labelled with gluten-free and vegetarian options. Vegan choices are also available. Just ask your server.
That doesn’t mean they downplay their meat and fish dishes, however. We loved chingri chap – marinated king prawns rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden and tender.
As a table of curry-lovers, we decided to share two curries and sides, plus a combination of smaller dishes and salads between us.
Classic curry murg jalfrezi consists of strips of chicken tikka with peppers and onion in a tomato gravy, given depth by a flavourful burst of garam masala. The creative kodi curry, based on Hyderbadi cooking, was a great milder choice made with yoghurt and coconut milk and topped with crispy fried spinach. Good enough to convert a korma fan.
A basket of artisan bread offered a choice of three freshly made naans – some of the best I have tried in the city. Sun blushed tomato and garlic naans were warm and moreish, but a personal favourite was the delectable truffle naan. What a wonderful combination. It surprises me I haven’t seen it elsewhere.
We accompanied this with a roasted potato salad which combined tandoor flavours with one of many peoples favourite things – roasties. Topped with creamy yoghurt and studded with pomegranate seeds, this was a well presented dish which provided a pleasant mildness alongside the bolder flavours of the curry.
Desserts include rasamalai, a Bengali delicacy consisting of flattened balls of chenna – like cheese curds – cooked first in sugar syrup and then a creamy sauce, coated with pecan praline and summer berries. Or there’s white chocolate cheesecake, chilli chocolate tart and blood orange, or caramel kulfi.
Asha’s also offers a private dining room that can accommodate groups up to 20, available to reserve with no upfront charge – so you can enjoy a big group feast in fitting style. The Bollibar downstairs offers an intimate and alluringly-decorated space and a stylish bar.
Fantastic flavours, well-balanced textures and still plenty of creativity highlights Asha’s as a dining destination that’s sure to impress. Factor in the thoughtful, well co-ordinated menus and confident cooking and you can see why Asha’s is award-winning.
Perfect for celebrating in style, whether it’s a birthday bash, office party or just a well-deserved meal out.