Tag Archive for: Delhi

Monsoon season in Old Delhi. The day before we arrived the city had come to a standstill as storms vented their fury. And you think the UK is cursed with potholes. Our taxi, destination the spectacular Jama Masjid Mosque, had clattered and bounced. After which, we splashed our way on foot to the equally iconic Karim’s restaurant in the labyrinth of Chandni Chowk. The original North Indian food benchmark.

Monsoon season in Manchester’s ‘Medieval Quarter’. Well, almost. Haven’t the last 18 months been the wettest period in the UK since records began? Rain abated as we crossed the threshold of the decidedly dry and welcoming Corn Exchange atrium. I can’t remember the last time I visited; there are so few places in there whose food attracts me. Mostly bland brands. With the exception of local Italian standard bearers Salvi’s and Mowgli which, though now part of a 20-strong chain, still reflects the ‘Indian home cooking’ ethos of founder/driving force Nisha Katona. Now an addition to that short list as I belatedly discover a family-run outpost of Delhi cuisine (with concessions to our own casual dining culture). 

The Delhi House Cafe is quite a different beast to the aforementioned Karim’s. Can it  match it in ‘authenticity’, whatever that means? After all, that mecca for Mughal-centred foodies has been in existence for a century, the formica tables only slightly less. And guess what, it has spawned 15 further Karims around Delhi.

The DHC project is much more modest, open just a couple of years. Its founders, the Lamba family, hail from a Delhi textile dynasty and their venue reflects their swish style sense. It’s the kind of restaurant/bar you might find in New Delhi’s ultra modern, hi-tech satellite city Gurgaon, which I have also visited, cannabis plants growing wild on the roadside in the shadow of start-up company high rises.  A far cry from the view across Cathedral Gardens to venerable Chethams.

I was there to sample chef/patron Sherry Lamba’s new menu. It ticks boxes I have been exploring on how UK Asian cuisine, notably second generation, evolves. Check out this link. In truth, here it is just tweaks on an established formula, but tasty ones. The receptacle for a spicy mutton keema taco is a paratha, while brioche buns host ghee roasted chicken sliders with mint chutney. More leftfield/fusion is their Monster Chicken Lollipop, a fried chicken leg with Indo-Chinese flavoured sweet and sour sauce and house salad, their take on a sub-continent street favourite. The Delhi imprimatur is not unbending. Witness the menu presence of Alleppey fish curry and Goan prawn curry from the South.

And while Mom’s Buttered Chicken, Tikka Masala style, deservedly remains their most popular dish it also reappears as a topping on a cheese naan base with pizza toppings for the same price, £13.95.

I’d already veered from the Indian restaurant taste template by not ordering a pint of Cobra, opting instead for a bottle of IPA from White Rhino, the country’s first craft brewers, based in the Chambal region, once known as bandit country. It’s surprisingly impressive.

As I ordered a second I discussed my penchant for pooris with Varendra, Sherry’s dad, who works front of house in this close-knit family enterprise. Were their dahi pooris better than Mowgli’s across the court? You know the style – whole wheat puffs with a potato and chickpea/tamarind and mint chutney filling. Let them pop whole in your mouth or risk dousing your chin. I passed the test after Varendra supplied. His further extra was simply sublime. Palak patta chaat consists of battered spinach leaves with mint, tamarind & yoghurt. It called for a third rush of Rhino. A series of dishes like this is my favourite way to eat Indian. OK, I wouldn’t a helping of butter chicken with a basket of breads. Delhi House’s naans are exemplary. Better than Karim’s? The jury’s out.

Delhi House Cafe, Unit 10, Corn Exchange, Manchester, M4 3TR. 0161 834 3333