Friday, 31 August 2012
Shahenshah, Wilmslow Rd, Manchester
Bank Holiday Monday. Manchester city centre was packed to the gills with Pride-goers and weekend tourists. Sick of visiting yet another overpriced sandwich bar with rude service or a brat-infested 'family' pub, the Carnivore and I decided to make a pilgrimage to an old favourite, the Mecca of all Vindaloo Queens- the Curry Mile!
Still fed up of falafel and tabbouleh after my Dubai adventures, I eschewed the new Mediterranean eateries in favour of an old traditional curry house, the Shahenshah.
I can hear you gasping already. Yes, I know what you're thinking, what is Vindaloo Queen going to this infamous hellhole that was fined by environmental health for? To be honest, I don't know. Maybe out of curiosity, in the name of research? Maybe because I just wanted to be objective? Maybe because I was yearning for a traditional curry house experience that was a bit rough round the edges from the time before the Health and Safety jobsworths took over our country? Who cares what I was thinking, I was just hungry and wanted a big fat curry.
We were greeted warmly by a gentleman outside, desperate for business, reminiscent of a Turkish holiday resort. At one point, I thought he was going to call me 'lovely lady' and invite me on his brother's boat. He promised us 10% off and free popadoms (this didn't materialise, but I was tired and hungry, my old fighting spirit was having a snooze and didn't bother challenging it.)
The restaurant seemed clean enough to me and the furnishings new, despite contrary reports and the atmosphere was cosy, bubbly and brimming with life, exactly what an Indian should be like. The staff were courteous, asking what our preferences were spice wise and prompt with our order. A basket heaving with popadoms was plonked down and a bountiful array of chutneys including a chili hot green one I've never seen before, which seemed to be in place of the lime pickle, Bizarrely enough, one of the dips was coleslaw. In all my years of eating at curry houses, this is the first time I've ever seen coleslaw and would love it if someone could enlighten me to its Indian origins.
For the main, I ordered a vegetable Sambar and the Carnivore a Chicken Dhansak, along with a peshwari naan and pilau rice. The Sambar contained fresh veg, not a tinned or a frozen carrot in sight and was vindaloo hot. The only thing that let this curry down was its oiliness. I nearly had to sponge the cauliflower down with a napkin as it had soaked up all the oil, it was like eating a sponge dripping in fat. The curry began to take on the appearance of a lava lamp. The Dhansak fared slightly better, but it was no match for Liverpool's UNI or Salford's The Naz. The Peshwari was extremely tasty and sweet and even contained glace cherries. It was definitely freshly made and not bought in but nevertheless, this also contained a layer of greasy butter. The rice was the only non-greasy item. I was dreading to think how much cholesterol I had just consumed.
The bill came to £30 for 3 popadoms, 2 curries, one rice, one peshwari, two pints and a coke, which seemed rather steep for the so-called free lunch. Considering the popadoms were meant to be free and they were supposed to be giving us a discount, this cheap lunch suddenly got rather pricey. Shahenshah is okay for non-discerning curry fans, it'll do for a stag night or if you're getting it paid for by someone else, but I definitely wouldn't make it my first choice on the Mile.