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Dhoop Shack Reviewed

Ruth Allan appreciates less ghee with glee

Published on October 22nd 2012.


Dhoop Shack Reviewed

NEW to West Didsbury, Dhoop Shack is one of a number of curry houses that have finally left the 1980s behind. My Lahore, Mughli, the forthcoming posh curry palace, Malai, and established alternatives like Zouk, offer a turn from stuffy décor and ghee-slicked curries to something fresher. Think citrusy flavours, just-seared meat and dry, bright spices. 

Hunks of onion and capsicum pepper cut through the thick, sweet, soy-based chilli chicken sauce. Packing a chilli-powder punch, the veg brought light and character to the soft hunks of meat.

Dhoop Shack, in particular, is offering dishes that you won’t have seen in an Indian or Pakistani restaurant before. Chilli and lime seared scallops, chapatti fresh from the griddle, duck chat with fresh orange and Mumbai-style king prawns to mention but a few. 

West Didsbury is a natural home for this kind of experimentation. It’s where TV chef Simon Rimmer founded his ground-breaking vegetarian restaurant, Greens, where modern British restaurants like Rhubarb flourished before their cooking style became the status quo.

Alongside old favourites like Gurkha Grill and Great Kathmandu (radical enough in their day), this is where you’d expect the freshest North Indian cooking in town. 

We got off to a promising start with a recommendation for chilli chicken (£8.50). There’s an unusual Chinese influence on the menu, evident both in this Indo-Chinese fusion dish (inspired, our waiter told us, by Delhi street food) and Szechuan prawns, typified by the use of more fresh chilli than most people will have eaten in their lifetime plus gum-numbing Szechuan pepper. A spice lover’s aphrodisiac. 

We went for the chicken, the house special thali (mixed plate of curries), with the scallops to start. Vegetarian dishes like tea-flavoured chickpeas, broadbean and yoghurt curry with fenugreek leaves and pilaf rice (£8.50), paneer baigan (scrambled paneer tempered with mustard, £9.95) or green tawa kebab (asparagus, spinach, coriander and tamarind dip, £8.95) got me pretty hot under the V-neck.

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In fact all I could think about afterwards was how much I’d like to come back with a massive group and try everything. This is the week that Bradford’s famous veggie curry house, Prashad, has brought out it’s first cookbook, so imaginative curries like these are bang on trend. Presentation was cute too with curries served in breakfast cereal-type bowls and little terrines. 

Hunks of onion and capsicum pepper cut through the thick, sweet, soy-based chilli chicken sauce. Packing a chilli-powder punch, the veg brought light and character to the soft hunks of meat. It was more reminiscent of Red Chilli’s Szechuan stir-fries than anything Indian I’ve tried before. The scallops were standard (£6.95). Cummin aside, they wouldn’t have tasted out of place on the menu at modern British Choice, or at the Rose Garden next door. 

We shared a delicious chapatti (£1.25), fresh off the griddle, although the poppadoms had that bend that speaks of too many hours on the sideboard. Fresh chutneys included tamarind, limey onion, mango and I got our guy to talk me through the thali (£13.95).

A classic Gujarati dish, although not exclusive to the north of India, this one contained yellow lentil samhbar (veg and lentil, pocked with mustard seeds), Punjabi chicken curry (orangey-bright citrus flavours, thick, reduced onion sauce, tender chicken) and a fresh raita of just yoghurt and cucumber. 

The only ‘oily’ aspect was aloo baingan (soft potato and aubergine), slow-cooked in a softly spiced, dry style, the flavours held tight by the oil. A pop-in-the-mouth cauliflower pakora on the side was a crisp-shelled hit. With my sinuses protesting, saffron rice pudding (£3.50) was a suitable salve for dessert. It was that or the sublime-sounding chocolate and basil chocolate pudding. 

The only real disappointment was the interior of the restaurants. It’s a bit like a conservatory, with some cheesy flowers in vases wrapped in sack cloth and Indian power ballards on the stereo. True to curry house form, the wine list is average including Cobra on draught. The outside is better, taking a leaf from the bistros nearby using chalk to note up specials and offers. 

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I got pretty excited when I read ‘Thali meal - £13.95!’ on the door as the only other place I’ve found a good thali in Greater Manchester is at that Good Food Guide favourite, San Minis in Ramsbottom.

Dhoop Shack isn’t as impressive as the food served there, where each dish is meticulously crafted to order. It is fresh, friendly and imaginative though. My only regret is not having ordered more. 

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. 

Dhoop Shack, 198 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 1LH. 0161 434 5559       

Rating: 13.5/20
Food: 7.5/10
Service: 4/5 
Ambience: 2/5

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've got carried away.

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

Poster BoyOctober 22nd 2012.

Is it as good as the original Curry Cottage though...?

AnonymousOctober 26th 2012.

"A classic Gujarati dish, although not exclusive to the north of India"

Gujarat is in the south west, apologies for pedantry.

AnonymousOctober 31st 2012.

terrible meat we thought, full of gristle

AnonymousNovember 2nd 2012.

*Cummin aside? Cumin surely......?

AdamNovember 7th 2012.

Oh god , what u mean by gristle , Its natural in chicken and almost best part of chicken do have gristle , I loved That Place and would say best do far i ever gone out to have indian meal.

AdamNovember 7th 2012.

And mr anonmymous , You can get thali in any parts of india.. not only in gujrat or south.

MNovember 8th 2012.

Really nice people running this place. I spoke to the chef who seems keen on receiving feedback. He said the menu originally consisted of just his best dishes but he had to extend it to include more familiar ones as unimaginative punters (my words not his) kept asking for them. We suggested 'starring' his faves on the menu. Not sure if it's happened but if you go try something less familiar to get the best of the place or ask for a chef's recommendation.

We commented on the need to give the place a bit of character. He said the minimal decor was just due to costs as they are new. They are working on it. The look is super important on a street with so much competition. They could look to Cachumba down the road as a good way to refurb.

Can't remember what I ordered (it was a couple of months ago) but the sauce was great. The use of chicken leg for meat was a bit contentious though. Maybe it's authentic Indian but I'm sure many will perceive the use of that part of the chicken as cost cutting. If they want to stick with using it they should really hammer home the reasoning for it.

Emma RichardsNovember 12th 2012.

I was very pleased with my visit to this restaurant. I had the shack platter which was to share. This was lovely so I was expecting my main to be even better which it was. I then had the sagwaala chicken curry. It was really nice the chicken was delicious and the sauce was of a lovely spice. My partner had the thali menu where he had various different curries all into one meal. He chose the vegetarian option where as I loved the meat from this restaurant.

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