Until it closed at the beginning of last year, the Punjab Tandoori was a stalwart of Manchester’s “Curry Mile”. It always had a sizeable vegetarian menu. And, in spite of its name, it always had leanings towards South Indian food. Indeed, back in the day, it was the only place I knew that did dosas. I’d assumed that it had gone forever so it was with some surprise that I spotted it had reopened in a new spot in the leafy suburbs.
The menu is much as I remember it although, six weeks since reopening, they haven’t started doing dosas yet. Which was something of a disappointment as we’d both planned them as substantial starters. So, instead, there was bhel puri for one of us. We didn’t think it a particularly good version with little of the crunch that you expect from the bhel, crisp samosa and the sev. They were there of course but not in the quantity you want, so it seemed that this was not much more than a soft potato and chickpea dish. It was also a bit underwhelming in flavour with little of the vibrancy of sweet/sharp/hot. Samosa chaat was a bit better – chopped samosa, unusually served warm, with cold potato and chickpeas in yoghurt. It lacked the contasting “sharp” you usually get from tamarind chutney but a decent chilli kick.
Main courses were much better. Aloo gobi was a decent affair. Perhaps a little overly dry but a good texture from the potatoes and cauliflower and nice spicing. Hara lamb was a new one on us (Google later confirming it originates from the Punjab, where it’s known as “hariyali”). Very tender meat in a well rounded masala sauce that seemed to rely on herbs like mint and coriander as much as it did on spices. It gave it a freshness that’s often missing. Carbs were really good – nice fluffy rice and roti that were soft in parts and crisp in others just as you hope they will be.
We wish the restaurant well but it’s entered a crowded market. On the one hand, Gatley already has three well established restaurants serving the Anglicised “any protein with any sauce” dishes that everyone is familiar with. On the other hand, only a few minutes away are the more authentically flavoured “street food” places of Aamchi Mumbai and Indian Tiffin Room. And more authentic places only a few minutes drive away. As things stand, I’m sorry to say I’m not sure what would bring me back to the Punjab Tandoori. But, if like those last two places, they decided to specialise in something – authentic Punjabi or South Indian dishes, for example, then they could be on to a winner.