But make no mistake, Ziya is a standout in a crowded field.
The Curry Mile in Manchester comes with a reputation like no other.
Originating in the late 50s and 60s, cafes and restaurants down the Wilmslow road became places to meet and eat for the large number of people who came from across the world to work in Manchester’s textile mills and factories.
As diverse communities proliferated, so did the amazing selection of restaurants on the road, branching out into Turkish, South Asian, East Asian and just about anything you could dream up of on your wildest munchie hunt.
And so the curry mile was born, the home of Mancunian curry.
It retains it’s amazing cosmopolitan, diverse atmosphere with an amazing selection of food and drink.
What struck me about Ziya, was the buzzing atmosphere and the mix of clientele. My table was bookmarked by a family, a business meeting and then students behind me discussing deadlines and what time of naan they were going to select.
The delightful manager Mazhar led me to my table, and the feast could begin.
Right off the bat, there is an amazing selection of food here. Looking at the mains, you can pick from nearly fourty dishes.
The phrase ‘something for everyone’ is overused, and I’ve been guilty of this in the past but really – there is.
Mazhar explained the menu spanned the whole of India, from Bombay butter chicken from Mumbai, chicken chettinad from the south in Pandya Nadu to chicken kolhapuri from Kolhapur in Maharashtra.
So, where to start?
Well it goes without saying.. poppadoms.
From Madras, via Rusholme, arrived a beautiful pile of poppadoms with the obligatory mango chutney, chilli lime and mint yoghurt sauce. The perfect kick off.
Unfortunately, I was driving when I went down to this review otherwise I would have tucked into the incredible selection of cocktails: Kerala Kolada (twist on the original pina with coconut rum, mango and cream), The Sassi Lassi (the original with raspberry and peach liquors) and Bollywood Stars (white rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, passionfruit syrup and dark rum float) the standouts on the menu. Also, a snip at £7.95 compared to city centre restaurants.
But all was not lost, as they also have a great selection of mocktails, too.
Mazhar recommended the Delhi berry, with muddled berries, shaken with lychee, apple and cardamon. I’m a sucker for Lychee, so gladly obliged. It was knocked up at their beautiful marble bar and was sweet without being over powering, with cardamon cutting through the sweetness for a nice blend of flavours.
Crunching through the mountain of poppadoms and delectable sauces, I noticed how busy the restaurant was. It was packed to the rafters at 6.30pm on a Tuesday, which is never a bad sign.
To follow them up, I had a vegetarian platter which included: Paneer Tikka, Punjabi Samosa, Veg Manchurian and sabudana wada.
Sabudana Vada is a fried snack made with tapioca pearls, roasted peanuts, boiled potatoes, corn and herbs, and it’s absolutely delicious. My highlight of this dish however was the beautiful paneer tikka, the creaminess of the paneer cutting through the intense blend of spices in the Tikka.
For carnivores they also offer a meat version with pistachio chicken tikka, chicken balls, seekh kebab and lamb tikka. If fish is more your thing, fish manchurian, salmon tikka and fish Amritsari is an option too.
Next up, I had to try the Pistachio chicken tikka. It was recommended by the manager and for good reason. It came coated in a beautiful green pistachio blend of spices and tasted divine. It came as part of a trio, with Malai chicken tikka and tandoori chicken tikka pieces too.
Another dish that I would have loved to have tried (although I fear my belt buckle wouldn’t have survived), would be the the lamb shank rogan josh. It’s a Kashmiri dish, braised in Indian spices, onion, ginger and garlic. The lamb shank is served whole, and I was informed it’s a unique dish to Rusholme.
I am very much of the school of thought that no self respecting (or self proclaimed) foodie should order a Korma, or a Chicken Tikka – It’s time to live a little. They are on the menu though if that’s your thing.
As I sat back and poured over the menu, I watched the chefs beavering away in the open kitchen, skewing meat for the tandoor oven and whipping up naan breads and other culinary delights.
The restaurant has a nice relaxed atmosphere, a gentle hubbub emanating from upstairs which you can hire for events too.
I chose the Chicken Chettinad, intrigued by its billing as “one of the spiciest and most aromatic in India, a distinctive culinary style with a judicious blent of spices known at Chettinad cooking.
From the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in India, the cooking centres around a variety of spices, with the dishes made with fresh ground masalas.
Turns out it was a great choice, the deep and rich flavours of the curry bringing joy to every mouthful. Coupled with mushroom pilau rice and a Keema Naan,
It is said there is more than 70 different eateries populating the curry mile.
But in an overcrowded field, Ziya stands out. Friendly, knowledgable staff, an incredible menu and just pure, rich flavour in every mouthful makes this an intensely pleasurable restaurant that is not to be missed.