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Eastern a la Carte at The Portland

We talk to Biju Rajagopal, the head chef who is bringing authentic curries into an unlikely venue

Published on January 6th 2011.


Eastern a la Carte at The Portland

If someone asked you to recommend a good curry restaurant in Manchester, you'd most likely direct them towards Rusholme or one of the upmarket Indians that are dotted about the city centre.

“This menu has the best of those countries' dishes, and my own favourites. Originally, I chose 45 dishes but the manager asked me to cut it down to 20. Still, it's already popular. We did 40 covers last night.”

You probably wouldn't point them in the direction of Piccadilly Gardens. And definitely not to one of that area's chain hotels.

That could be about to change. The Portland Hotel (which was known as The Thistle in recent years) has just released a new Eastern a la Carte menu.

It sits alongside the fine dining on the a la carte and table d'hôte menus, and has been created by the Portland Restaurant's enthusiastic head chef, Biju Rajagopal. He's well versed in the cuisines of India, Singapore and Thailand – all of which are represented on the Eastern menu.

Says Biju, “I was born and brought up in India. I learned to cook from my mother and learned how to make authentic dishes, and our particular curry paste. Later I worked as a chef in Thailand and Singapore so I learned their way of cooking as well.

“This menu has the best of those countries' dishes, and my own favourites. Originally, I chose 45 dishes but the manager asked me to cut it down to 20. Still, it's already popular. We did 40 covers last night.”

Biju says that the hotel allowed him to create the menu as a way of bringing in business on a Friday and Saturday night when people tend to head out for a curry.

Feedback so far has been good – the menu is delighting hotel guests who don't expect to see a choice of authentic, freshly-prepared curries on the menu, and it's starting to attract the weekend diners as well.

When asked what his own favourites are, Biju says, “I can eat it all,” but picks out the Murgh Pasanda (a mild North Indian chicken and almond curry) and the Laksa Lemak (a traditional Malay/Thai fish soup with noodles, coconut milk and lemon grass) as some of the most popular.

“It's not pre-cooked or frozen. It's all prepared from scratch on the day,” he explains.

For Biju the Eastern a la Carte menu is a chance to indulge his passion and talent for this style of cooking. For diners, it's a new place to get a great curry in the city centre on a Friday and Saturday night.

Confidential readers can get a money-off deal on the Eastern a la Carte menu until the end of December – click here for details.

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