[Bramhall, Greater Manchester] Bombay to Mumbai

We went for lunch. They don’t open until midday, although the menu describes it as breakfast. We both opted for the breakfast thali. The dishes are served on a metal compartmentalised tray. They do vary them so you’re not sure what you’re going to be eating or, later, know exactly what you’ve eaten. We did know that all three dishes were lovely. There was a quite spicy chickpea curry. And soft potatoes, almost a mash,that had what I think were curry leaves – the sort of potato that you’d find in a masala dosa. And finally, a daal.

For carbs, there’s rice, two small puffed up flatbreads and a couple of crisp balls of maybe tapioca.

Like B2M’s evening menu, this is food you are not going to find on the menu of your run of the mill curry house. We are fortunate in having an Indian restaurant of this quality fairly near to home

Nice lunch – or late breakfast, if you will.


From what I understand, most of these are actually serve Bengali food, run by Sylhetis from Bangladesh.

Ah. If only that was the case. It’s actually a bit more complex, as I see it.

The first Indian restaurant to open in the UK was in 1809. There was already something of taste for the food from soldiers and civil servants who had served in India and that grew through the 19th and early 20th century. It was not really until the the 1940s and 1950s that the number of restaurants started to grow - initially catering to a growing asian community and later to Anglos. By then, the food was based on North Indian, primarily, Punjabi food but, as the years went on, it became increasingly Anglicised. The main period for immigration from the sub-continent came in the 1960s and 70s and, amongst a mainly Pakistani group, there were also the Sylhetis. And you are right, it was this group that took over many of the existing businesses and opened many new ones. But they continued to base their food on the Anglicised dishes which I often describe as “any protein with any sauce” - you will look at any curry house menu and see it broken down by the sauce which mainly represents the strength of chilli - korma, bhuna, rogan josh, Madras, etc - pick your sauce and then pick the protein you want with it. Look closely and you quickly see that restaurants make a single sauce and pretty much just add more chilli to make up a customer order. And why not - it was all we knew of the food. It is almost like eating in a chain restaurant - you could probably go into any curry house in the country, order a chicken Madras and it will taste exactly like the chicken Madras you ate in the curry house at the other end of the country.

Knowing that they were on to good thing, sticking with what the Anglos knew, the Sylhetis rarely ventured out of this identikit food into serving their own regional food. It is only in very recent years - maybe the last five or so - that restaurants offering a more regional (and possibly more authentic) food have started to appear. But it’s still only a small number. My metro area is home to goodly sized south asian communities (about 12% of the population total) but the number of “better quality” places, like B2M, could be counted on both hands (with fingers to spare).

By the by, I think there will be a decline in the “curry house” in the coming years. Bengalis who opened all those restaurants are fast coming up to the age where they will want to retire. And there is already evidence that the children, with better education and broader horizons, are following different careers and do not want to run the family business.


That “single sauce” thing appeared in my mind (shockingly) when I last had dinner at Camellia Panjabi’s illustrious Veeraswamy on Regent’s Street, London, a few years back. There were 3 of us that evening and I ordered 4 mains to share: a lamb curry, a chicken, a paneer and a vegetable curry. The spread turned out looking like this!

They all tasted about the same, too.

Compare that with this spread at Lakhnavi in Lahore, Pakistan, the same year. The different textures and flavours were so evident in comparison.


Ah, that’s disappointing about Veeraswarmy.

We’ve never been but it was that restaurant that first sparked my interest, as a teenager, in Indian food. My much older late cousin was in business in Manchester but used to travel to London periodically and would always eat there. He’d come back with tales of exotic food and a turbanned doorman. It fascinated a young Harters. That would be in the mid 60s but it would be into the 70s before South Asian restaurants started to open up on Manchester’s “curry mile”. In fact, the first to open, the Tandoori Kitchen, was actually owned by Iranians so i managed to get first tastes of two cultures at the same place - although in those days, you really only went to an asian restaurant after the pubs had closed and you’d had several more pints than you should have.


That’s a pity. I’ve had several excellent (and varied meals) at Veeraswamy, including their “legendary” Sunday lunch.

There is, of course, always the variable of what is ordered, which in the customer’s hands. Some discussion of this on the Indian regional thread as well.

If a table unwittingly ordered a similar preparation across a number of dishes, maybe the staff should mention that. Then again, that may be construed as condescending or interfering. Also, it’s not always the case that people share their dishes family-style as intended.

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Looks delicious and varied! I’m going to mention it to my friends in Manchester.

Hope they enjoy. By the by, this is one of three or four “Indian” restaurants actually owned by Indians in the metro area,

I’m not picky about indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi - all the subcontinental foods are good to me :smile:

I actually like having the variety, because at Bangladeshi-owned restaurants you can order Bengali dishes that wouldn’t be available (or particularly good) at a North Indian restaurant, and at Pakistani restaurants you get a different style of cooking - everything, including vegetable dishes, is “meatier” if that makes sense.

This one is my kind of snacks street food - reading the menu made me hungry :joy:

As an aside, my cousin was in London for work a while back and went to Dishoom almost every day for breakfast, or a snack, or a meal - and this is someone who rarely cooks / eats Indian food at home, or seeks it out :flushed:

Dishoom has recently opened a branch in Manchester. Not been yet but will probably get round to it sometime. Seems to be a bit of thing at present with London restaurants opening here - the steakhouse Gaucho was first, followed by Hawksmoor (another steakhouse) and my partner went to the Ivy last week (thought it was OK but no need to rush back).

See my point above about the lack of availability of specific Bengali food even at the places owned by Bangladeshis (estimated to own about 80% of all “Indian” restaurants in the UK)

The range of dishes in their menu was pretty limited. But the quality and taste were also letdowns - a pity, really, as I truly respected what Camellia Panjabi did for the Taj Group back in India, where I was a fan and a regular diner for over two decades.

But I do think cooking here has been “localised” somewhat to cater to the local palate. I had similar experiences at other well-regarded Indian fine dining restaurants in London, e.g. Benares, Gymkhana, Quilon, et al:

Given a choice of Indian restaurants in London, I’d pick Trishna:

Trishna is the only one of the capital’s “top flight” Indians that we’ve eaten at. Had a super meal there in 2015 - although it didnt beat the 2010 dinner at the now closed Moti Mahal (which may well be the best Indian restaurantr meal we’ve ever eaten).

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Oh my, I didn’t realise that Moti Mahal London has closed. What a loss to the capital’s dining scene.
I remember enjoying my meal there very much, too.

Two or three years back, unfortunately.

Not to be confused with the curry house of the same name in South Kensington

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It’s quite interesting that both places you mention are branches of restaurants in India.

Though Trishna in London set itself up as fine dining, which it’s not in Mumbai (even though it can get expensive depending on what seafood is ordered).

There’s a Moti Mahal in nyc too, but it’s expensive for what it is, and not meaningfully better than its peers.

Over the years, the food at London’s high end places always seemed better / truer to the original than what was available in New York, which made sense given relative population density of indian expats/immigrants. And “modern” indian food wasn’t represented here at all until recently - that was probably created in London too.

But nothing stays constant, sadly. Even my favorite modern indian place here which isn’t much more than a year old has declined already. The chef/owners have been on expansion tear, it seems, and while their social media game is very much on point, the food isn’t always anymore.


Yep. I guess they had to cook what sells, and Bengali food wouldn’t fit the average customer’s bill.

Here in nyc, the places I’m referencing are holes-in-the-wall serving primarily their native community (some are cab driver joints). Places my dad wouldn’t have let us sit and eat at - we’d pick up the food and bring it home. Usually in immigrant clusters (Jackson heights, some more neighborhoods further out in queens) but also on convenient cabbie routes in Manhattan.

By contrast, restaurants catering to the local population have to adapt to customer palate here too - of course, or they wouldn’t survive. Food is more generalized, and there’s tandoori and makhani gravy available irrespective of the regional focus.

And how they’re rated has less to do with whether it’s actually good Indian food, and more to do with how well they marketed themselves to the broader customer base (hence my disappointment with Adda).

I wonder, @Harters, what the equivalent of my “divey” joints would be near you. I bet you’d enjoy the food!

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That’d be Manchester’s “curry cafes”, in the Northern Quarter.

Originally set up as lunchtime “works canteens” for the asian workers in the district’s garment industry. South asians were the “incomers” in the 60s and 70s, taking over from significant Jewish communities working in the area who had arrived mainly in the mid-late 19th century. My father spent all his working life employed by one of the garment wholesalers (they specialised in women’s coats). It was an obvious trade development from Manchester’s cotton industry - not for nothing was the city known as “Cottonopolis” in the late 19th/early 20th century. However, I digress from the food.

So, we have a number of back street eating places which now mainly cater at lunchtime to the current Anglo workers in the area. Very “divey” - more or less clean, if you know what I mean. And the thing to order is the “rice and three” - big plate of rice and your choice of three curries from the seven or eight on offer each day. Priced at around £5, it’s the city’s bargain food.

The “This & That” is probably the best known - https://www.thisandthatcafe.co.uk/ .

That’s “this & that” as in “I’ll have some of this and some of that, please” My favourite is the tiny “Little Aladdin” which has about 3 tables and is entirely vegan - [Manchester, city centre] Little Aladdin

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A bit of googling later, the style of eatery I’m thinking of is along the lines of Apna Lahori Kebabish and Lahori Dera (Pakistani vs Bangladeshi - here they have overlap in kababs, biryanis, and saalans/gravies, then there are more regionally specific foods at each).

Love this line!

There’s any number of what are basically kebab takeaways in the metro area. Some will be takeaway only, others will have a couple of tables allowing you to “eat in”. Both of the places you mention are in suburbs with a highish ethnic make-up. Kebabish seems the more typical. I’m basing that on it’s description of the kebabs as “doner”, mirroring the kebab takeaways that have their roots in Cypriot communities. (both Greek and Turkish). A growing number have their roots in Middle Eastern communities - such as this one that we visit periodically - [Rusholme, Manchester] Jaffa