Friday, 4 March 2011

Top Quality

37 Derby Street,

Manchester M8 8HW

Biryani (Fridays only)/Rice and three curries: £4.50

Cheetham's Top Quality curry cafe really lives up to its name.  Down a street filled with fabric and tat wholesalers, it is a tiny shop front in the midst of five-storey warehouses.  Dingy outside and in, it looks like nothing much but delivers up food that they could sell for a lot more than £4.50 for rice-n-three were they not so out of the way.

Fridays, I was reliably informed by the Flavours of Manchester blog, is biryani day.  Lamb or chicken biryani substitutes in for rice in the rice-n-three and at no extra cost.  A heaped plate of biryani and three curries is an incredible deal, and one that I don't think is found elsewhere.  The biryani is spot-on.  The rice is well-cooked, the spicing is flavoursome but not overpowering, and the chicken tastes like chicken.    The chicken tastes better than chicken, in fact, because the pieces are cooked to succulence and  covered in spices.  Apart from the occasional small white pockets, the rice is uniformly spiced and flavoured and there's hardly a hint of oil or grease in the large portion.

In terms of curries, I thought I was being a wimp when I chose to eschew ones with meat in and only eat vegetables.  I was wrong.  Both curries (chickpea and mixed veg) were hotly spicy, burning my mouth slightly, but mitigated by the presence of the biryani.  The sauces are thick and both flavour and are flavoured by their vegetables.  The chickpea curry was a stand-out: soft chickpeas melting into a sauce that definitely had cinnamon in it, along with a handy dose of chillies and garam masala.  I took my time eating it, torn between letting my mouth cool down between bites and wanting to eat every single delicious mouthful.  When it came for me to stand up, I realised just how full I was. I could feel my stomach muscles groaning, and got a stitch from walking anything quicker than a pensioner's stroll.

When I visited, Top Quality was packed with Muslim men just out from Jumma prayers at the mosque and Sikh men leaving the massive gurdwara that is just down the road.  Everyone was eating with the same amount of gusto, albeit much quicker than I was, adding kheer and freshly baked naans to their substantial orders.  Should you want authentic Pakistani food that tastes better than that served in most restaurants and cafes in Manchester (and for a much lower price), Top Quality is worth the 1.7 mile trek from Piccadilly station.  It's even less from Victoria.  Just give it a go.

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