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Imli Indian Restaurant Reviewed

Rakhi Sinha isn't amazed by 'fine Indian cuisine'

Published on December 7th 2011.

Imli Indian Restaurant Reviewed

IF you’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant before, and the chances of that are pretty high, then Imli won't conjure up any surprises. It calls itself ‘fine Indian cuisine’ but it never excels, it’s just a bit normal.

Nothing wowed me and I wouldn't go out of my way to go to there specifically. I've had better meals, and I've had worse.

The large curry house on Deansgate is owned by the same people as Lal Qila in Rusholme. In fact Imli was also called Lal Qila up until a few months ago when they opened up under this new guise. The menu is the same as before, but gone is the chintzy Indian restaurant look shared by its sister on Wilmslow Road.

Imli - Copy
Instead they’re attempting an upmarket, contemporary feel, which in this case is a bucket load of white paint and wooden flooring. Aside from a few red lights here and there, it’s minimal and uninspiring - maybe that's why they had Hindi tunes blasting through the speakers at top-notch to compensate. Thankfully they did manage to sort out their audio levels so we could eventually hear each other across the table.

Imli, the sweet date-like tamarind after which the restaurant is named, was served up with the poppadums we had while we waited for our starters, which wasn’t too long. In fact we didn’t have to wait long for any of the food, suggesting that, like most Indian’s, everything was pre-cooked and reheated on ordering. 

First up was a vegetable mix (£5.90) with a samosa, pakora, onion bhaji and aloo tikka (spicy potato cake). With exception to the bhaji, which was lightly spiced and packed full of flavour, the rest was no different to something you can get out of an Asda Indian selection pack.

VegstarterVeg Starter

It's a shame the seafood mix starter (£8.50) wasn't a little larger - main picture at the top of this page. Served up on a sizzling plate, the fish tikka and fish pakora were still soft and flaky and the crab claws were subtle and sweet.

Mains were malai kofta, bhindi massala and a chicken handi. The food went down tremendously with my fellow diners who devoured it all up to satisfying sounds of yum and mmm.

Having arrived starving we’d ordered a mountain of food and declared that we wouldn't leave until we'd scoffed it all. It turned out that wasn't necessary because it was polished off in no time.

It’s easy for curries in Indian restaurants to taste exactly the same - they often have very little to distinguish them apart, despite their menu descriptions suggesting otherwise.

Take onion, garlic, ginger a mountain of masalas (spices), tomato, and cubes of meat of your choice- et voilà. It’s a formula that conforms to the flavours of the Punjab area of northwestern India and eastern Pakistan.

It’s not however, all-encompassing of 'Indian' food, which varies massively from region to region. But it’s Punjabi food that’s become familiar and what we think of when we go for an 'Indian'.

Two of the three dishes we ordered did taste different however, because one of them was super-sweet and the other was okra fried with spices and onions. The chicken handi (£8.50) came in the sauce described above, so imagine my lack of surprise when it tasted completely as expected. Not that that it was bad, just not very interesting, and oily with ghee. If you’ve had a meaty curry at an Indian before, this doesn’t require further description. 


Kofta is a vegetarian alternative to meatballs. The malai kofta (£7.80) we had were made from paneer (Indian cheese) and served in a thick sauce made from almonds, cream, coconut, spices and came with ‘exotic fruit’- read raisins. It really wasn’t to my liking but my friends enjoyed it. The vegetable balls were cut in two to stretch them out, and served smothered in so much sauce it was more like eating a parsnip soup with a few dumplings hidden underneath. Lactose overload.


The bhindi masala (£6.50 - lady fingers or okra) were good and had they been seasoned, would have been perfect. It was nice to see them on the menu, but they weren’t as good as my mum’s.


The service was attentive and the drinks list at Imli is decent.

They have a large selction of whites, reds, roses, champagnes, whiskies, aperitifs, spirits, liqueurs, lassis (yoghurt shakes) and more. From an Italian Pinot Grigio (£13.90) to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (£24.50) and Louis Roederer Cristal champagne (£250). Much better than your average Indian. There was also a range of bottled beers like Cobra and Tiger, though nothing on draft (£2.90-3.10).

We passed on dessert, tempting though the ice cream in a penguin or cow were. It’s safe to say these, and the other more adult ice creams (vanilla and caramel, chocolate fudge) are bought in (from (£2.80). They also have traditional Indian sweets like gulab jaman (think syrupy, warm doughnuts for £3.20) and rasmalai (a creamy, milky dessert made from paneer at £3.20).

Overall, I found Imli another typical British 'Indian' dining experience. Nothing wowed me and I wouldn't go out of my way to go to there specifically. I've had better meals, and I've had worse.

If you’re out in town with a group of people and fancy a curry, it’s all right. At least you know what you’re going to get. It's just that with the tag 'fine Indian cuisine' it'd be nice if it wasn't a menu-by-numbers.

A meal for three cost £61.35.

You can follow Rakhi Sinha on Twitter here @Rakhi_Sinha

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

310 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4HE, 0161 839 6730

Rating: 11/20
Food: 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 gets carried away.

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

EvoDecember 7th 2011.

bad maths

Simon BinnsDecember 7th 2011.

Lord knows what happened there. Changed.

AnonymousDecember 7th 2011.

And bad English: "devoured it all up"

Picky foolsDecember 7th 2011.

And what did we think of the restaurant?

Paul MarsdenDecember 7th 2011.

With a consistenly excellent Akbar's breathing down an ordinary Lal Quila's neck I was hoping that Imli would be uping it's game to emulate Akbar's appeal. Went to Imli a few weeks ago, but it's very similar to Lal Quila, and although no huge issues the queue at Akbar's is worth it.

MaggieDecember 8th 2011.

Having been to Akbar's recently I don't think that is up to much either.......

Mark BoardmanDecember 8th 2011.

horrid little place this. very much like the rusholme rubbish these days. compared to the likes of the new big boys like aki's or east is east or the old stalwarts like this and that or the old school curry experiance like Bilash Balti in swinton this place was an overpriced joke.

Ralph JamesDecember 9th 2011.

Good writing this. Nice review, Rakhi clearly knows what she's talking about with Indian food. More please.

Alix JacksonDecember 9th 2011.

the best bar none in manchester is Kabana,zouk is not bad and another great one in didsbury is great katmandu

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