Saturday, 25 May 2013

This and That, Manchester

While Brum has its famous Balti Triangle and London has it's Brick Lane, Manchester boasts Rusholme's Curry Mile - a stretch of the Wilmslow Road thought to have the highest concentration of South Asian restaurants outside the Indian subcontinent. While I was keen to sample some good Indian/Pakistani food on our trip, we decided to swerve the main drag and try something a bit different at one of Central Manchester's curry cafes.

These, still very popular, cafes are legacy of the local textile trade, where they were originally opened to serve the Asian workers in the 60s and 70s who had recently arrived to work in the city. And as the balti came to define Birmingham, 'rice and three' noon came to be Manchester's dish, consisting, as the name implies, of a choice of curries served atop a bed of fluffy white rice.

Most cafes offer a daily changing selection of simple kharai, meat and vegetable dishes, supplemented by fresh breads and a few other sundries. For those with a taste for the exotic, Hunters BBQ cafe in the Northern Quarter also offer an intriguing range of game curries including partridge, pheasant, duck, quail, rabbit, and venison.

Based on a Twitter/internet tips we chose to have lunch at This and That, a real no frills gaff tucked away down the rather dark and dingy Soap Street. Despite the rather austere surrounding and moulded plastic seating a la Wimpy Northwood Hills High street circa 1985, the moment we walked through the door I knew we were in for a treat.

Greeted by welcoming and patient staff, ladling huge heaps of home cooked curry school dinner style on to mismatched vintage crockery, this place can't help but charm. It was soon abundantly clear many others felt the same as the place remained packed with suits, tourists and hungry locals popping in for takeaways throughout our visit.

Tuesday's choice saw, among other offereings, chana lamb karai chops, lamb & cauliflower, chicken masala, chicken curry, minced kamb keema, cabbage and mixed vegetables. There were also the deicious scent of smoky and fragrant seekh kebabs being grilled for their huge kebab naan sandwiches and a selection of hot breads and fried morsels available.

Between the three of us we managed to sample most the menu. My choice of karai lamb chops, keema and cabbage, finished off with a dusting of freshly chopped green chilli, was exemplary, and surely one of the steals of the century at £4.60. The cabbage was particularly fine, an unusual and delicately spice dish with a decent little kick. 

Stealth and the Ewing rather missed the point of visiting here to sample rice and three, opting for their curries to be served with chapatis instead. The Ewing's chicken curry, lamb and cauliflower, and chana were rich, earthy and fragrant without being too knock-your-socks-off spicy.  While Stealth's chicken masala, despite being a startling nuclear shade of red, was spot on.

Samosas and bajis were good - the samaosa pastry being both perfectly crispy and just oily enough - if totally not superfluous. Soft drinks and cooling lassi are also offered, along with big glass jugs of water if the heat gets to much. 

While the basic seating, fluorescent lighting and slightly dingy back alley setting may not to be to everyone's taste, a meal here is about the best way to legally spend a fiver that I can think of. People Manchester, forgo the curled up sarnies and getting down here for a proper lunchtime feed.

This and That on Urbanspoon


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