Having been to the cinema with my mum at Cineworld, Didsbury, what better way to dine than to cross the footbridge over a hugely busy junction of the A34 and visit a long-standing institution of South Manchester, the Khandoker Indian restaurant. I’ve driven past this place on a thousand occasions without ever setting foot inside, but I’m very glad we did.
This is one of two Khandokers, the other being in Bramhall, but there is also a companion takeaway in Didsbury, two doors up, of which more later. The decor is in the modern Indian idiom. Which is to say clean walls, clean floors, funky underlighting, undulating curves and arches, occasional abstracts on display, and placed into context by low volume western music from recent years.
The menu also follows current trends by encompassing both the old favourites for the traditionally minded, but some dishes tend towards the innovative without ever being radical. In short, just sufficient variation to tingle the jaded tastebuds of regular Indian diners. Consequently we chose familiar starters (prawn puri and shami kebab) but slightly unusual mains (Lamb Nomuna and Kakri Chicken). I quote verbatim, and am happy to assure readers that the food is far superior to the English grammar deployed:
Lamb Nomuna, made with small pieces of tikka lamb using all the necessary spices including some green chilli with fresh coriander to give our home style appearance with fantastic taste.
Kakri chicken – diced marinated chicken soaked in tandoori sauce for at least 12 hours, is removed from the sauce as and when it is ordered. Brinjal is added to give it’s distinguished flavour which it is derived from. It is very popular in the Indian sub-continent. Served in the same manner as tandoori and tikka dishes.
However, first came a jug of mango lassi. Salt or sweet lassi, a churned yogurt drink, used to be made fresh to order by restaurants, but nowadays the rise of mango as a favourite fruit of we Brits and the availability of ready made brands means mango lassi can be bought at supermarkets and cash & carries makes it easier to provide but less home-made in the process.
The starters, brought by our waiter, a cheerful chap with a sense of humour, proved a splendid advert for the Khandoker. The prawn puri was unusually generous and sharply spiced. My shami kebab, essentially a spiced lamb burger with an eggy coating, benefitted from an equally skilled hand in the spicing department.
Main courses also impressed – the lamb came with what tasted more of spinach than coriander, plus a subtle rather than mind-blowing chilli flavour. It was of itself a fine example of the tenderness gained through long, slow cooking, its flavourings maturing it the process into happy harmonies. The chicken was accompanied by brinjal, aka aubergine, and proved equally delicious. Tarka dal was, as you would hope, a soupy collation of lentils with garlic and coriander, the perfect side dish, which was just as well since pilau rice was a tad greasy and keema garlic nan marginally anaemic, not quite the charred and puffy bread you expect.
Those are the only points on which I could be critical of the food, but I could only smile at repeated mishaps with the credit card machine. After three failures my waiter led me down the road to the takeaway branch so I could pay. He also shook me by the hand with a broad grin on his face. Irresistable! I just have to go back there another time, warm and friendly service accompanied by food perfect for its genre and price point. Bliss!