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Impress, Chorlton, review

Ruth Allan, brings her own, but finds the experience dull

Published on November 12th 2010.

Impress, Chorlton, review

Chorlton in South Manchester has several curry houses. Asian Fusion and Coriander are the two that spring to mind, and while they’ve got their fans, the arrival of somewhere offering something a bit special - something along the sublime lines of Ramsbottom’s Sanminis, even London’s Rasa or Chutney Mary – would be a major bonus for this part of town. On the basis of my visit, though, there’s little Impress-ive about this addition to the city’s curry scene.

At the end, Lindsay said that she’s enjoyed her meal at Impress “because they didn’t use tinned potatoes”. Mulling it over afterwards, I don’t think they used canned veg either but that wasn’t recommendation enough to warrant a return visit.

Kicking off with poppadoms and condiments, the mango chutney was little more than orange-coloured syrup while the raita bore more resemblance to milk than yoghurt. Chopped onions were just that: snippy little bits of onion in a tinny tub. As a spice fan, I was hoping that this new restaurant was going to do something that showed a bit of love and affection for the cooking tradition that is the British curry – some bonkers pickles, perhaps - but early signs were not good.

Parties around us included couples and big gangs of girls and I got chatting to Impress owner, Mr Khan, over the hubbub of Saturday night out. He explained that he’d taken the former church building which houses Impress from a storage business. He used to run Khan Balti in Urmston, “for years” he said, and he's just returned to the food industry with Impress.

The restaurant opened earlier this year and Khan has done a reasonable job of the refit. The stripy-to-the-point-of-strobing carpet doesn’t quite fit with the ecclesiastical vibe, which is one of the more interesting things about the new restaurant, and the furniture resembles the kit sold outside those knock-off office furniture stores on Chorlton Road.

Overall, the look is similar to that found in every other mid-price curry house. Cream walls, black seats, some quite cute dangling light, so far so familiar. The building’s heritage could have been emphasised, but it’s not totally awful.

The menu follows the Curry Mile blue print to the letter too. Kormas, dhansaks, bhunas and vindaloos are available to try with beef, chicken, lamb, prawn, kofta, vegetable or king prawns. If numbers of dishes are anything to go by, house specials include tandooris and baltis. We tried both, as well as a dish which our waiter kind of recommended. “Balti South Indian Garlic Chicken Tikka. You have to try it.” he said. It sounded like four dishes in one to me, but why not, eh? There wasn’t much else that stood out.

More convincing was Impress’ BYO policy. With no corkage fee attached, customers can booze and tuck in at slightly more than takeaway prices. A meal for four cost around £49, while drinks for four (Red Stripe, Efes and a bottle of Italian red I’d picked up in Sainsbury’s) set me back around a tenner. Supping in the liberal fashion that one usually reserves for drinking at home, we agreed that the BYO policy was a bonus.

Relaxed by the ale, my friend Lindsay admitted that she’d never tried a vindaloo before. “I just thought they put them on the menu for really pissed people,” she said.

Fair point. The post-pub classic is a dish which sober people steer clear of, but even the most sensitive soul could’ve handled the vindaloo at Impress. Crafted with little love from tomatoes and luke-warm prawns, both chillis and actual heat were notably absent. Cool seafood is frightening to anyone who has ever been food poisoned and this dish was as scary as a tarantula on the loose.

Balti South Indian Chicken Tikka was better. Hunky chunks of chicken sat in a thick onion-based sauce with chopped slices of fresh, fried garlic resting on top. There was little ‘South Indian’, ‘Balti’ or ‘Tikka’ about it, but it worked as a whole, bringing together a solid array of onion and garlic flavours and lacking that grim orange oil that dishes in Rusholme tend to ooze. I know that doesn’t sounds like a wild recommendation, but, for the price, it wasn’t bad.

Two of our party were vegetarian. If I’d remembered this before booking, we would’ve come to Impress on the first Wednesday of the month when the restaurant offers a ‘chef’s special’ veggie selection for £11.95 a head.

As it was, I ordered off the normal menu, with so-so results. Vegetable Balti Madras was like the Balti South Indian Chicken Tikka minus the chicken. Thick, tomatoey and oniony, stoked with cabbage, peas, potatoes, and uh, a couple of soggy sprouts. Average as it was, it was the best of the veggie bunch, while the watery daal was worst. I don’t import dry goods for a living, but there are more expensive ingredients than lentils to scrimp on, aren’t there?

At the end, Lindsay said that she’d enjoyed her meal at Impress “because they didn’t use tinned potatoes”. Mulling it over afterwards, I don’t think they used canned veg either but that wasn’t recommendation enough to warrant a return visit.

Aspects of the experience (quick service, warm atmosphere, the Balti South Indian Chicken Tikka) were reasonable, but that’s about as far as this recommendation goes. Average curries, average prices. Just don’t go for the seafood.

Rating: 10/20
Breakdown: 4/10 food
3/5 ambience
3/5 service
Address: Impress
Old Chapel
133 Beech Road
M21 9EQ
0161 637 2995

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: Gordo gets carried away

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

AgricolaNovember 10th 2010.

Best review lines ever. 'Relaxed by the ale, my friend Lindsay admitted that she´d never tried a vindaloo before. “I just thought they put them on the menu for really pissed people,” she said.'

AgricolaNovember 10th 2010.

Actually this is even better: 'At the end, Lindsay said that she´d enjoyed her meal at Impress “because they didn´t use tinned potatoes”.'

SindyNovember 10th 2010.

Curse the weird styling you have. That's ruined Agricola's quoting.

AnonymousNovember 10th 2010.

Love Ruth's reviews, I'll be giving this one a miss though

AnonymousNovember 10th 2010.

A proper vindaloo is not supposed to be full of chillies, or heat

NortherngeezerNovember 10th 2010.

I see Mancon has outdone itself on the piccys yet again.

GJHNovember 11th 2010.

'chopped onions were...'.....Lame review, get over yourself. It's not the fat duck, it's a curry house & not pretending to be anything else.

brookieNovember 11th 2010.

Went with a group of friends on a recent saturday night and unimpressed. Decor like sitting in a village hall, no charm or character to the place. Having read reviews on other foodie websites which also suggested lack of spice in the food I ventured the vindaloo - I wish I'd been pissed, it was so hot it was inedible. Chorlton really does need a decent indian...have none of our Asian resterauteurs been to places like Mother India's Cafe in Glasgow, absolutely fantastic, authentic food in a bustling bistro style caff. The USP though is that menu is limited to a small number of freshly cooked dishes served in 'tapas' portions (with small prices) so that you can enjoy them all.

70''s SitcomNovember 11th 2010.

Ruth, assuming that the above picture isn't you; does your friend know that you are posting a picture of him doing a Derek Nimmo impression; if the picture is of you, oh dear.

FoodographicNovember 11th 2010.

You know what Northerngeezer, I've got a sneaking suspicion that even the best food stylist and the most talented food photographer using the ultimate camera with the best lens couldn't make those curries look any good.

AnonymousDecember 9th 2010.

My experience at Impress was completely different to what is described here! Upon entering I was very impressed by the interior decor; in fact the atmosphere was perfect with dimmed lights and a warm cosy feel accompanied by modern striped carpet which provides a great contrast for the eyes.
The staff were very friendly which always helps to make your evening a delight, they even asked if we were warm enough, its not often that service includes the balance of homeostasis!
As a big fan of daal I had high expectations, and yes they were fulfilled! The daal had a distinct taste without being too overpowering and wet my taste buds for the main meal which was ready for us. Another nice gesture by the staff was to be asked whether we would like a break after our starters. When ordering we could also specify how hot we would like our dishes or if we wanted a mix of styles, a valid question as everyone has different tastes, it's these small gestures that count for me.
Our main meal was presented beautifully and tasted exquisite. The lamb karahi was a melt in the mouth dish with the perfect balance of flavour. The balti south Indian dish really showed the talent of the chef who was able to combine many flavours into a dish packed with taste!
I will definitely be returning and from the looks and comments of all around me on Saturday night I think Impress will be a Chorlton favourite!

patrickJanuary 17th 2011.

I went to impress last night with friends and had a delicious meal. As soon as we arrived, our table was ready with fresh poppadoms and drinks on the way. The second to none furthest continued through out the night. Our main meal was top quality and really hit the spot! the balti akbari chom chom was unique and one of our favorite. We would recommend to all!

JMarch 17th 2011.

Impress in chorlton is a real Indian restaurant. I always seem to find the best flavours in their currys. Fresh, authentic ingredients cooked to give a real quality in the dish. The service is the best I've had in manchester too. Would definitely reccommend to all!

Adam RichmondMarch 17th 2011.

They do taste good but there is an awful lot of salt in the food.

HBiffMarch 17th 2011.

Well that's 2 entirely different people, Patrick and Alex, who both 'would recommend to all!' so I'm convinced.

J JonesApril 24th 2011.

I adore this restaurant, what a boost it is to the Chorlton scene. My partner was the first to visit, back in the autumn and enjoyed it so much that she planned to return with me at the first possible opportunity. This didn't arise until early January, when 7 of us had an absolutely lovely evening there. We were given a very warm welcome and the food for meat eaters and vegetarians alike was delicious, great quality ingredients, obviously extremely fresh, no excess oil, so whilst tasting divine,it was still possible to choose dishes that fitted comfortably into a "healthy eating" bracket. It was quite simply the best Indian food we'd had. The BYO policy meant we had a lavish meal at a very good price. Having enjoyed it so much, my partner and I were not able to resist a return visit the following week and were equally delighted with the whole experience. The visit after that, we put ourselves in the owner, Khan's hands and he chose dishes we'd not tried before, but would most definitely choose again. When the need arose to find a venue to hold a family celebration for 50 people, this May(2011)we knew that The Impress would be perfect. Now, having sorted out our own alcohol - what a fantastically reasonable party this makes it - all we have to do is look forward to the day itself when we know that Khan and his staff at The Impress will do us proud.

Footy not FoodyApril 25th 2011.

Want a Sportscity experience but can't afford either Eastland's prices or Vermillion?

Go watch onscreen footie at the Trevor followed by a classy ghee gunk meal next door. Chorlton, we love you!

AnonymousMay 7th 2011.

This review really doesn’t reflect how much quality Impress has. I've been to many Indian restaurants all across Manchester, I don’t think there's a place on the curry mile that I haven’t tried! Impress is exactly what Chorlton needs. The food is amazing every time. Theres a great mix of dishes and you can always ask for any dish to your taste requirements. Fantastic if like me you want a bhuna/tikka massala or biryani but a little on the spicier side! And the staff really know how to look after all their guests, not just the regulars. The interior is also just right without being too dark and dingey or too dramatic. Its a place where you can relax and enjoy yourself in a great location on Beech road. They also have a private room for parties or for those who prefer a quieter space to escape the buzz of a busy Saturday night. Perfect for a family meal. BYO too! Got to be the best in Chorlton!

Roger HutchingsMay 9th 2011.

WE have been to Impress three times and enjoyed each visit very much. The food is great ( having eaten Indian food in various parts of the UK) well prepared tasty and hot. The satff are friendly without being obstrusive . The reataurant is in an old church and yes can given the impression of eating in a big hall but the food and service more than compensate. We live in Southport and would appreciate a restaurant of this calibre

J JonesMay 12th 2011.

Update - well, we had our family party on Sunday, 52 of us ranging from 5 years old to 79 years old, and as we always knew they would, Khan and his team did us proud. We were so pleased with the food, a mixture of vegetarian and meat, each course delivered swiftly and as hot as it would have been to a table of just 4, not a mean feat when serving 52 at the same time. Khan and his waiters created an atmosphere in which we felt so at home, relaxed and welcome. We were able to gain access, before the party began, to arrange the seating to suit our particular needs ( 5 long tables ) and to create a drinks table and alongside it, another table for the celebration cake. It was an ideal space for a party, and we were really pleased with the way it all looked. Trying to think up another reason to have a party at The Impress now ! Thanks so much Khan, for everything.

AnonymousMay 12th 2011.

J Jones, you work at Impress and I claim my £5.

Jonathan Schofield - editorMay 16th 2011.

This was a genuine response from the ranter above you Anonymous - because she just rang me up and told me so. Ms J Jones loves Impress and she assures me she only eats there, not works there. For work she's a violinist. So you see, there really are no strings attached.

David WoodMay 16th 2011.

Went to this spot last weekend and found it perfectly acceptable. The welocome was very friendly and the range of food was good and very reasonably priced. I don't know what some people expect, but can't imagine they can be too disappointed by the Impress. Lovley building as well

Dorothy JonesMay 17th 2011.

What a ridiculous review was written by Ruth Allan about the Impress . It sounded like a wannabe writer and food critic trying to sound clever.
What does "They don't use tinned potatoes" tell us about the delicious food actually served here? A pathetically unclever observation which for some reason someone saw fit to highlight in pink. Mulling it over she "didn't think they use tinned veg." Another brilliant comment! What does that tell us about the lovely fresh vegetarian dishes which I experienced here? The Saag Paneer is delicious.
Her remarks on the ambience and decoration were dammed by faint praise. The Impress is actually spacious, elegant, comfortable and beautifully lit. The church windows are very lovely and the owner has made what could have been rather a chilly atmosphere of an old church into an excellent warm, welcoming setting for a fine meal.
The critic says, the menu" follows the Curry Mile blue print" - Was she expecting fish and chips or Shepherds pie or had she not noticed it was an INDIAN Restaurant and those she listed were actually INDIAN dishes, beloved by many? The sarcastic comment on the "Balti South Indian Garlic Chicken Tikka" is presumably though not from the "Curry Mile blueprint" referred to by the so called food critic. Did she actually comment on the food here or tell us anything about this "House special"? No, she did not but I can tell you it was absolutely delicious.
I could go on and on but will just say about the Impress that the service here is second to none. Staff are very friendly, caring and polite without being intrusive. I ate there last Thursday and I can't wait to go back for a third time. At the moment times are hard for many people with the economic climate and a completely useless review such as Ruth Allen's could make or break a new business like this one.
Try Impress for yourselves, take your own wine or beers and have a really lovely inexpensive evening out in this fine new place in Chorlton.

IronzOctober 4th 2011.

Original review is a bit harsh. I took my Dad here having just moved to Chorlton and was very happy with my food. Found it all to be properly spiced ... not harsh, but subtle building slowly flavour. We hadn't spotted the BYO policy, so we were short of a pint. But if it works for most, fair enough. I think the only real downside is the venue which feels a bit too open and lacks intimacy for small groups. Food is honestly good enough to overcome this, and the service was genuine and friendly. Well worth a try.

Paula GrayAugust 6th 2013.

Went to impress on Saturday nite.. Food excellent staff carnt do enough for u with out being intrusive. Defo go again.

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