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Chennai Dosa Restaurant Reviewed

Ruth Allan loves the buzz and the food in the zombie location

Written by . Published on March 27th 2014.


Chennai Dosa Restaurant Reviewed
 

CHENNAI Dosa is Manchester’s word-of-mouth success story in the unlikely surrounds of Streford Mall. It’s named after Chennai, the capital city of Tamil Nadu, where the Indian pancake comes from and dosas are the house special, alongside bitter-sweet oothappam breads, rice dishes, tiffin or Indian snacks and simple curries.

Somewhat rough and ready, I think makes a nice change from the ‘fine-dining-isation’ of Asian street and snack food. 

I have to say, the location is mental – this is an almost abandoned shopping mall, the kind of place you expect zombies to crawl out of after dark – but Chennai Dosa is buzzing from 10.30am in the morning until 10.30pm at night. 

Mad location

 

Mad location

People queue out the door for the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet (£3.99), fresh coriander and chilli donuts and mango lassis. Dry, spicy cauliflower (Gobi 65, £3.75), mutton curry and old favourites like daal and chilli paneer are a few dishes we tried – and there’s a five foot family dosa for that special occasion too. 

In the car on the way, my son informs me that the dosas better be good. “I had one with my friend in Wembley” he says, “and it was disappointing.”

I had no idea he’d been to Wembley, but it turns out we’re in luck. There’s a kid’s dosa (£3.25) with traditional coconut chutney, sambar (a soupy, savoury vegetable curry) and a mixed coriander and tomato dip. 

I find the dosa a little greasy – although my son loves it –  so I tackle his dad’s chilli and coriander topped oothappam with gusto. Exotically vinegary in flavour, it’s got a Scotch Pancake texture a bit like spongy Ethiopian injera bread and the kick of a mule. I pile the mustard seed-pocked sauce, heaps of coconut chutney and oothappam into my mouth.

Dosa attack

Dosa attack

The Chettinadu mutton curry (£4.75) sees star-anise-stoked meat wrapped around heart-shaped rings of bone. A love letter to simplicity, its flavours are suited to those who like game, and the kind of thing that would take ages to cook at home. Humble daal (£2.50) is another test of a chef’s mettle, and Chennai’s soars with garlicky umami. But stars of the show are two savoury, coriander-packed ring donut things (Methu Vadai, 50p each), fresh and airy as a day on Kinder Scout. A pint of Cobra lager, meanwhile, is sparkling company. 

 Chennai Dosa

 

Chennai Dosa

While I’m no expert, Chennai’s sweets are delightful. A Sri Lankan ‘hot dog’ shaped thing called Chom Chom (90p) stands out for its ways with condensed milk, sugar, the soft heat of cardamom, perhaps and buttercream puff, while a honeycomb-style Mysore Pak (90p) is extremely moreish.

Chennai Dosa

Chennai Dosa

In fact, the only thing that doesn’t chime for me is the sweet and overly cheesy chilli paneer (£3.99). It’s the kind of thing you might find at a cheap, all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. 

Driving around the back of the concrete mall, the air seems to shudder with unfulfilled potential, or maybe a realisation that the end is nigh.

But appearances can be deceptive and Chennai Dosa is actually one of the world’s growing international restaurant chains serving up quality, authentic Indian food to the diaspora - and back home - as well as hordes of people from other countries who are hooked on proper fast food.  

Chennai Dosa

 

Chennai Dosa

Décor riffs on a canteen theme. Trays holding metal jugs and beakers dominate the wipe-clean surfaces, while dosas and other pancakes are served in compartmentalised steel trays. Staff are incredibly helpful, popping back and forth at the raise of an eyebrow, while signs on the wall encourage you to eat with your hands.

“Feel the difference” they say, “use your fingers rather than lifeless spoons and forks.” Somewhat rough and ready, I think makes a nice change from the ‘fine-dining-isation’ of Asian street and snack food. 

In fact, those prepared to take a gamble on their dinner are in for a treat. ‘Chennai’s finest - now in the UK!’, the menu chirps, while offering no explanation next to fabulously named dishes like Paper Roast (£3.25) and Idiyyappam Mutton Kothu (£4.99). But, when nothing costs over £4.99 and the stakes aren’t too high why not go for broke?

Follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthAllan

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. 

Chennai Dosa, Unit 119 Chester Rd, Stretford, Manchester M32 9BH. Tel: 0161 865 7777 

Rating: 13.5/20

Food: 7/10 (Gobi 5, methu vadai 9, chilli paneer 3, dosa 6, oothappam 8, daal 8, mutton 8, sweets 7) 
Ambience
: 2.5/5
Service:
 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing, 14-15 worth a trip, 16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

The Dosas at Sai Spice down the road in Chorlton are better

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

agree

Hero
Ruth AllanMarch 28th 2014.

I also agree: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Sai-Spice-Reviewed…

Emma AthertonMarch 27th 2014.

Love Chennai Dosa and it's really good value. Just to note it doesn't take cards, cash only, but there is an ATM just outside so not really a big issue.

Julie BagnoliMarch 27th 2014.

With epic five foot dosas, Stretfordians soon got over their grief at losing the last tenant, live music venue the Green Windmill.

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

No frills, just good food and good value. Nice to see them doing well here.

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

I'm a regular in this place and I love it. It's cheap and cheerful, cafe style dinning. - the best thing to happen to Stretford in the 10 years' I've been here.

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

Chum Chum is a traditional Bengali sweet and not a Sri Lankan sweet as mentioned in this article.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Hero
Ruth AllanMarch 28th 2014.

I'm sorry about that. I was told they were Sri Lankan.

AnonymousMarch 27th 2014.

The all you can eat breakfast is priced at £4.99 at this Manchester Chennai dosa. In fact this is the only Chennai dosa in the UK that charges an extra pound for their all you can eat buffet (breakfast, lunch and dinner) than what has been recommended. They have even started to charge full price for the kids .This change was recent and without any notice.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
JimMarch 28th 2014.

Do restaurants normally give notice of price rises? I thought they tend to just raise the price without making PR announcements in the local media :-)

AnonymousMarch 28th 2014.

True, they just don't want the loyal customers to come back.

AnonymousMarch 30th 2014.

Or maybe they do, but they need to put the price up to make it pay. And maybe they don't think a fiver is an excessive price for someone to be able to stuff their face with as much food as they want?

AnonymousMarch 30th 2014.

So how is this Chennai Dosa different from the other ones across the UK?

AnonymousMarch 31st 2014.

I don't know. Perhaps you could ask them? In any event, it's of little relevance to me what the other ones charge, seeing as it's very rare that i'm likely to eat in them.

AnonymousMarch 31st 2014.

They said they had two horns and a tail.

Tarah P shared this on Facebook on March 27th 2014.
Hero
GordoMarch 28th 2014.

'as fresh and airy as a day on Kinder Scout' Ruth Allen, marry me...

Hero
GordoMarch 28th 2014.

is everything chennai dosa?

Karey CachartJanuary 18th 2015.

went to Chennai dosa last night for the first time. loved it, the food, atmosphere, staff, all made it a fab authentic evening.

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