Wednesday, 29 June 2011


Claremont Rd, at Claremont Primary School
Moss Side,

Keye Watt: £4

Firstly, my thanks to TomG, who commented on my Dubay Caffe post with a recommendation for an Ethiopian place near Claremont Primary School.  I was in Rushholme buying cheap spices, so I schlepped up Claremont Road to find it.

The place that I presume he was talking about is a small Ethiopian and Somali restaurant.  The owner is lovely and kept coming over to chat and give me extra injera (a sour pancake-like bread).  On the walls are various posters and leaflets pertaining to Manchester's Somali and Ethiopian communities - a poster of Manchester City's Somalia-born Abdisalam Ibrahim figures prominently.

The food itself is cheap and plentiful.  I chose the keye watt - a dish of diced beef and onions in a spicy sauce with shredded lettuce and a dish of sauteed carrots and cabbage as accoutrements.  All dishes are served on a big disc of injera, which both soaks up the sauces and is used to transfer the food from the plate to your mouth.  No cutlery here (well, there might be, but I couldn't see any).

All of the elements of the meal were spot-on.  The keye watt's beef and onion pieces were tender and tasted like they had stewed in the sauce for just the right amount of time.  The spicing lent heat but did not overwhelm, and the double-whammy of sauce (first on the beef, then soaked into the injera) suited me fine due to how delicious it was.  The vegetables were sauteed in a light, yellow and mildly sweet sauce and retained their crunch and flavours.  The dressing on the lettuce was citrus-y and provided a nice contrast to the bolder flavours of the keye watt.  The injera appeared fresh - hot with crispy edges, but soft and spongy throughout.

I have no idea what Ethiopian cuisine was like prior to Italian colonisation, but I definitely detected Italian influences in my food.  Apart from there being small jars of olive oil on every table, the lettuce came with a dressing of olive oil and herbs, and the keye watt sauce tasted of a tomato base, not unlike a much spicier and thinner pasta sauce.

For £4, I was able to eat enough to last me for two meals (I didn't need dinner).  The quality of the food and the attentive attitude of the owner means that this place deserves more custom than it currently gets.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Dosa Xpress

19 Copson St.
Manchester M20 3HE

Dosa Meal Deal (masala dosa, idli, medhu vada): £4.99
Salt lassi: £1.49
10% student discount available.
DosaXpress on Urbanspoon

Dosa Xpress is, by my count, Manchester's fourth specifically South Indian restaurant (the other three being Sindhoor in Burnage, Lily's Vegetarian in Ashton-under-Lyne and Lotus in Northenden).  I'm crossing my fingers that is the the beginning of a food trend.

Dosa Xpress has a sister restaurant in Derby, which, if its Withington location is anything to go by, is well worth the visit.  My friend Al and I both went for the very reasonably priced Dosa Meal Deal, which included a masala dosa (thin pancake containing spicy mashed potatoes), idli (a steamed thick rice cake), medhu vada (a ring of fried lentil dough and spices with a doughnut-like consistency) and five chutneys.  Both of us have student cards, and so all of that cost a very reasonable £4.50, and gave us the energy to power our four-mile walk into Manchester.

The chutneys were a real highlight.  Dosas usually come with three - sweetish coconut, green (probably coriander) and red (probably tomato-based), with varying degrees of spiciness.  A curry-like sambar (thin lentil stew) is also included .  Dosa Xpress' stand-out chutney was moreish red and vinegary with a good kick of heat.  Using the idli, the medhu vada and the huge expanse of dosa pancake, Al and I made short work of the chutneys and sambar, leaving nary a hint that they had ever existed.

The dosa pancake was good - thin, light and crispy on the outside but soft on the inside where it counts (you need the spongy side to soak up the sambar).  The filling needed a hint more flavour, but the potatoes were a good consistency (unlike at Chennai Dosa in London) and tasted of the spices that had been used.

Throughout, we'd been supping on salt lassis (nice and tart), and were tempted by the wide range of items available on the menu.  The Dosa Xpress menu is heavy on the dosas (no surprise there), and doesn't really veer off into North Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi food, which is a good thing.  Before our food arrived, we could hear it being cooked (very noisily) in the kitchen, attesting to its freshness. Well-situated for lunch and dinner crowds, and priced to appeal even during the recession, it's a good restaurant offering solid, freshly made and flavoursome food in an area that is a bit of a culinary deadzone (until you hit Burton Rd).  

Monday, 13 June 2011


360 Barlow Moor Road,
Manchester M21 8AZ

Bento Box Meals: £8.95-9.95

Yakisoba is emblematic of Chorlton.  A fusion of good ideas, some of which work and some of which don't, priced slightly higher than it should be.

At Yakisoba, bento boxes (fancy compartmentalised lunch boxes) rule.  The idea is that you get a bento box of salad, some sweetly salty cashews, miso soup (if you aren't having a soup-based main dish) or a vegetable croquette (if you are), slices of melon and orange, and deluxe prawn crackers.  Along with the bento, you order a main dish - the menu is extensive and covers noodle soups, dry noodle dishes, stir-fries, rice dishes, vegetarian; you name it, they've probably got it. The bento not only provides you with something to nibble while you wait (not long at all) for your food, but also provides respite in the midst of the over-large main dish portions.  The vegetable croquette is crunchy and faintly oriental, the nuts are moreish, the prawn crackers really prawn-y.

I ordered the Cha Sui and Roasted Duck Noodle Soup and my friend Claire ordered the Vermicelli Singapore Style.  A massive bowl (I could have used it as a helmet) overfilled with thin ramen noodles, vegetables, and two long stacks of duck pieces covered in an almost-spicy sauce and sweet and smoky char sui pork slices.  The broth tasted of stock and there was a slight film of oily grease on it, possibly from the meat. The meats were good, although after eating my way through the stacks I had little room left for the noodles, broth and greens.  The veggies, which included crisp slices of taro, crunchy green beans and pak choi were clearly fresh and tasted as though they had been cooked in the soup broth; definitely a good thing.  By the time I had gotten down to the noodles, they were soft and disintegrated readily, which was unfortunate considering the super-sized stack of them sitting in the soup.

The Vermicelli Singapore Style was also enormous, and Claire took home half of it.  The bowl of noodles was stir-fried, yellow, and chock-full of coriander, vegetables and prawns with well-aimed spicing that provided a good tingle but allowed room for the other flavours.

Yakisoba should give the option of cutting the portions and prices in half and offer its customers a "small" option.  I hate wasting food, and yet, barely halfway through my meal, I couldn't eat any more noodle soup.  In the recession with prices rising across the board, people don't want to pay for food they can't eat, and few tables were occupied on a Saturday lunchtime.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Orangery

Sandwiches: £6-9

It's been a bit London-centric, recently, probably because I've been spending a lot of time down south.  Well, I'm back now, and forging onwards and outwards (in terms of my waistline) with the food available in Manchester.

First stop, The Orangery in Heaton Moor.

As previously mentioned, Heaton Moor's lunch scene is booming.  The Orangery is one of the stalwarts, having been feeding Heaton Moorians for almost a decade.  With the sun (in theory) streaming in through the stained glass roof, it is a pleasant place to sip coffee or cocktails.

The sandwiches, while bordering on the expensive (especially when considering the prices a few shops along at Back's), are large and served on fresh ciabatta rolls or slices of bread.  My sandwich, the harissa chicken with coriander mayo, had a nice kick of chilli in the harissa although the coriander was barely detectable.  My cousin's spinach and goats cheese sandwich came with two sizable roulettes of goats cheese, while my aunt's club sandwich was three towering layers that she found difficult to tackle even with a knife and fork.  All of the ingredients taste fresh and, while the selection is not unusual, the combinations are well-thought-out.  Similarly large portions of apple pie and a very chocolatey chocolate cake followed, both of which are served with an espresso cup filled with cream.

The Orangery sits in the middle of the area's price scale, not as expensive as Damson or Town but more expensive than Back's or Kro.

London - Master's Superfish

191 Waterloo Road,
London,SE1 8UX
Masters Super Fish on Urbanspoon

I wanted an American friend (we'll call him Jacob because that's his name) to experience the most English of English things while he was visiting England. We went to the British Museum (mostly full of non-English things pillaged by English men), to an old pub where we drank cider, we walked around the City's confusing labyrinth of streets (no grid system here, hah!).  And, of course, we also went for fish and chips.

I had done some research beforehand (thanks, unemployment) and it was a toss-up between new venture Poppies or old venture Master's Superfish.  We were closer to Waterloo, so Master's it was, and it turned out to be an excellent choice.

Unprepossessing, Master's Superfish has a definite air of granny about it, from the black and white photos of long-faded stars on the walls to the lack of pretension in presentation.  Upon ordering, free baguette and three bright pink prawns are brought to your table, and there's always a wandering waiter laden with gherkins and pickled onions should you be so inclined.  The food appears in no-nonsense portions, too.  You get a forearm's-worth of battered cod sitting atop a hill of fat, non-greasy, skins-still-on-in-places chips for £7.25.  While I wouldn't pay that sort of money back home, I would pay if for a hearty meal of fresh food in London.

The cod is perfect - white, firm, still moist, breaking easily with each prod of your fork, it comes away in nice chunks encased in a light yet sturdy batter.  Getting the fish right is the hard part, and I would say that this fish is on par with that of my local chippy.  The chips are spot-on, too, although there are no crispy bits hiding amongst the great big fat ones.

Master's Superfish is worth a visit even when you aren't toting an American tourist.  Good fish and chips are hard to find and places like this should be treasured as cultural artefacts.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

London - Mooli's

50 Frith St

London W1 DSQ

Mooli's on Urbanspoon

Mooli's, a roti-wrap take-out in the heart of Soho, markets itself as hip and fresh, serving "zingy and delicious" food to central London's huddled masses.  For around a fiver for a wrap, they do well to provide you with unusual ingredients and combinations, although the flavouring lacks punch.  The paneer wrap was a lot of salad and not much paneer, although the sauce covering the paneer worked well with both components.  The roti was nothing special, although perfectly passable, and retained its stretch despite contending with a not-inconsiderable amount of sauce.  Considering the lip-smacking heard from the man next to me, the goat roti is the way forward.

For interesting and well-priced food in central London, Mooli's does a good job.  It could do with knocking about 50p off its prices in order to maintain its cheap-and-cheerful-and-quality image, but it won't break your bank, especially because it will keep you filled until your next meal.