3 Soap Street
Rice and three curries: £4.80
This & That is one of Manchester's many curry cafes, serving large portions of cheap and generally authentic Pakistani food to the city's huddled masses from wipedown-friendly hole-in-the-wall premises. Unlike other curry cafes, though, This & That (tucked halfway down an alley at the Shudehill end of the Northern Quarter) does not serve curries packed with the kind of flavourful spicing and distinctive flavours that are these cafes' hallmark. Instead, I was served watery and uninteresting curries that had little to distinguish one from the next, were cooked to a uniformly mushy texture and were made from ingredients that were neither fresh or fresh-ish.
The saag lamb was mostly saag, which is not a bad thing when it is cooked with plenty of spices and has not been boiled into submission, a la Yadgar. This & That's version leached an unpleasant amount of water onto the plate (as did the other two curries), felt slimy, and tasted of little more than over-cooked spinach way past its use-by date. The two pieces of lamb were dry and tasted more of the saag than of meat. The two meat curries - one chicken and one lamb - looked different but tasted the same. The chicken, spongy and clearly reconstituted, had no flavour, and the curry reminded me of the sort of yellow stodge served in institutional canteens. The lamb in the lamb curry was marginally better than that in the saag, but while the curry was orange-brown it could barely be distinguished from the chicken one. The heat on both curries packed a punch, disguising their flavourlessness. This & That's website (yes, a curry cafe with a website! http://thisandthatcafe.co.uk/) describes their food as "unique." It is unique, because every other nearby curry cafe serves better food.
This & That, once many people's favourite, should be delivering better food. On a Friday lunchtime just after Jumma prayers, it should be packed out with lunchers from the nearby mosques. Instead, it was me and a couple of men talking vividly about their friend who glassed someone. It could be time to call time on this Manchester institution.