When it comes to choosing curry houses in Manchester, I have inadvertently narrowed my options down to three. The one I pick depends on the reason for my visit.
EastZEast, “The home of Punjabi cooking” has two branches in Manchester, and four others across the North West and in Birmingham. On Friday 5 September 2014, I visited EastZEast, Manchester Riverside, for a work night out.
We had been talking about having a curry for ages, and chose EastZEast because you can book online. It is easy to access and, for those driving, they offer the lovely touch of valet parking. Another incentive was the ‘happy hour’ 2 for 1 cocktails (5.00pm to 7.00 pm). On that, we were sold!
The six of us met at the restaurant just before 6.00 pm. I arrived after everyone had ordered their drinks but the bar staff were happy for me to order my two cocktails separately so I didn’t have to make any rushed decisions. I ordered my old faithful, Cosmopolitan and was particularly impressed with the presentation. I have had many a Cosmo, but never one served with a whole lime, decoratively peeled, and perched on the side of the glass.
The drink was just as it should be and put me in the mood for trying something different. For my second cocktail, I ordered an Amaretto Sour. Our knowledgeable bar man recommended an off menu, special fruity version. I opted for Raspberry and my friend, Strawberry.
Again the cocktails were well presented, not too much ice, and not overpowered by alcohol (except for the Long Island Iced Tea – but surely that’s a given). Unfortunately the bar man forgot to bring one of our cocktails, which he more than made up for by producing a surprise, ‘sparkling’, Rainbow cocktail. Each colour was a different flavour which, somehow, stayed separated.
The drinks menu offers a good selection of mocktails for those who don’t, or don’t want to drink, and there is always wine, or beer.
Before things got too rowdy, we were shown downstairs to our table. We had a booth, which made it much easier to talk to everyone. The restaurant was busy but we were well attended to. We had so much to catch up on that it took us a long time to choose our food. Luckily we all agree that a curry is not a curry without poppadoms, so we munched happily on poppadoms and sampled the extensive pickle tray while we perused the menu.
I often find when it comes to curry, that people have their own ‘set menu’ and order the same dishes wherever they go. I am not one of those people. Ok, that’s not quite true, I always order Pilau Rice and naan bread for sharing, but, with so much variety, I like to try something different, preferably with lots of fresh coriander.
Having sent the waiter away several times before we ordered and without having made a decision when everyone else was ready to order, I asked for a recommendation; something with lamb, medium spicy, and with coriander.
Lamb Karahi: According to the menu, a Karahi is “an authentic Punjabi style of cooking. Freshly prepared with onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, a special blend of EastZEast spices and garnished with coriander.” Sometimes garnished with coriander means a single leaf perched in the middle of the dish, yet when it arrived I could see that there was plenty. The curry was delicious – one of the best I have had in a while. Good choice.
I think everyone was pleased with their selection. I sampled some Chicken Tikka Garlic and a Chicken Balti (which was a little hotter than I expected) and both were good.
Since I last visited, EastZEast appear to have taken a leaf out of Akbar’s’ book and now present their oversized naan breads on a skewer. It’s quirky but three vertical naans on the table made it a little hard to see each other.
As always, our eyes were bigger than our appetite so there was lots leftover, which we were able to take away in a doggy bag.
We had to wait a little while to pay after we asked for the bill, which is my only, and only slight, grumble. I don’t understand why restaurants do that. Once you have asked for the bill you aren’t going to order anything else, and the longer you wait the more inclined you are to reduce the tip.
Aside from that, I think this was the best visit I have paid to EastZEast.
Afterwards, we went to The Liquor Store for cocktails, which is pretty much opposite the restaurant as you head towards Deansgate. The bar has an eclectic cocktail selection and plays proper Manchester music. I don’t think many people know about it though; it always seems quiet, which is a real shame, because, in my view, it’s much nicer than the more pretentious Deansgate bars.
So, I shall end by revealing that the other curry houses I frequent are Akbar’s on Liverpool Road, and Lal Qila on Deansgate. All offer different curry selections. Akbar’s is good when you have time to wait – they do have a seating area with access to the bar. I’ve never had to wait long, and it’s always been worth it. My understanding is that you can book if you are a party of 10 or more, so don’t be put off if you want to go with a group. Lal Qila often ends up being my ‘after hours’ curry of choice, for the late night munchies – but it has been just as good on other occasions.
I do wonder, in a city that boasts a mile of curry houses, how it is I came to favour three curry houses in town. It’s probably because they are more accessible than Rusholme, and, being in town, all are close to bars for afters – if you have room.
EastZEast: Blackfriars Street, Manchester, M3 5BQ. Tel: 0161 834 3500
2 for 1 cocktails and mocktails every day 5.00 pm to 7.00 pm
Main Courses start from £9.95
This post was first published on Capture Your Nite. They’ve had a change of format so I’ve reproduced it here!
Love curry? Check out my guide to the best Indian Restaurants in Manchester.