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Karims, Spring Gardens

Gordo visits the former Establishment, manages to get through lunch without a drink and ponders conversion

Written by . Published on January 29th 2008.

Karims, Spring Gardens

Manchester city centre has been attracting the quality Indian and Pakistani restaurateurs in recent years, with EastzEast leading the charge and the cyclone that is Akbars following a close second. Both are now well established, with EzE opening a second restaurant across the bridge into Salford, nestling up to River Irwell as part of the Edge development.

There is a fella on the door in the evening dressed up as someone that Rudyard Kipling may recognise along with, during the day at least, an angel straight out of a Sufi poem. Sabrina is her name. If Gordo was twenty years younger he would be off to the Mosque to convert.

That one is a bit flash for Gordo’s liking but the three restaurants all have one thing in common other than the naan breads spread out in a fashion that will remind the diner of Buffalo Bill’s dainty methods of drying skins out in The Silence of the Lambs: the food is magnificent and the kitchens immaculate.These restaurants are keeping us away from the ‘Curry Mile’, not visited by Gordo since being felled for three days by a five am Kebab a couple of New Year Eves’ ago. He can’t remember where he made the purchase, so isn’t keen on going back there and playing Russian roulette whilst dodging the health inspectors (who at long last have put PC behind them and grown some cojones, actually inspecting the premises).

Back in Manchester centre, another newcomer has arrived, Karims. It’s at the top of King Street in the old Establishment premises, which, while it lasted, made a good stab at gaining a Michelin star through a Modern British menu. It didn’t make it but it appears that Karims has been able to profit from their demise. The old banking hall has retained features that some people loved, whilst dumping those that appeared to be universally disliked, the purple temples. There is a fella on the door in the evening dressed up as someone that Rudyard Kipling may recognise along with, during the day at least, an angel straight out of a Sufi poem. Sabrina is her name. If Gordo was twenty years younger he would be off to the Mosque to convert.

The place smells absolutely fabulous and has a great looking evening a la carte menu, which serves, in addition to the classics, Chinese cuisine as well. A brave step considering that Chinatown is a few hundred yards away and every potential diner within five hundred yards is an expert on the subject. Gordo has yet to taste the evening menu, which also includes ‘Asian Fusion Specials’ created by Mr Karim himself by all accounts. Whilst we are on the subject of Mr Karim it should be noted that he operates the restaurant on a no alcohol basis. It is clear that he takes his rulebook, The Quran, seriously. It has, dear reader, done him no harm. This man looks ten years younger than Gordo whilst being six years older. The policy encourages the drunken fools to pass on by, presumably.

So to the food. Obviously this is a halal restaurant for those interested in such matters.

To start with, at lunch, it’s a buffet. Gordo despises Chinese buffets, loves Thai. What is it with these guys? Why do the Chinese take the mickey with theirs, yet Gordo has never had a bad Thai buffet? Pacific is particularly good. Weird. So, what of the Indian sub continent? Well, in Karims we have three or four starters, including very good samosas, both vegetarian and meat. Crispy, thin pastry, great flavour inside. Chicken tikka was great, the usual, well made in this case, chutneys and fresh salad on the side.

Mains were a really excellent lamb tarka saag, chicken bhuna, mild chillies purring through nicely along with a lamb keema that was only short of a bit more zing. The chicken biryani was the only disappointment, very dry meat for that time of day.

The great thing is that here we have dishes, served buffet style, that show passion about them. The Karim family know what they are doing – they’ve been rehearsing in Middleton for years of course. You can eat as much as you want. For eight quid, ladies and gentlemen. In splendour with superb service. The food stands up-the-scale from places such as This’n’That (click review here), much loved by us all. If you are a Northern Quarter stalwart, take a hike over here, you will not be disappointed. But instead of chip board, plaster and bus station chairs you get marble, mahogany and stained glass. Gordo had a glass of non alcoholic Rose (I’ve fainted. Ed). It was surprisingly good. And something like six quid a bottle. Bargain.

There are lots of reasons why you should give Karims a go. It’s great value, wonderfully friendly, dead comfy. It knocks the spots off All Bar One across the road. But most of all because the Karim family have taken the Thai view to doing buffets. That is, well.

Look out for Gordo’s more in depth look at the a la carte evening menu in February, when he will be scoring the restaurant overall. Any comments anyone?

You can find the full menu by clicking here

Rating: 15/20
Breakdown: 7/10 Food
5/5 Service
3/5 Ambience
Address: Karims
43, Spring Gardens Manchester
M2 2BG
0161 832 1400

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

Ben KJanuary 29th 2008.

Ive been there a couple of times since it opened and I can honestly say it's my new favourite Indian restaurant in the city centre (closely followed by Akbars). The food is top notch and has a real authentic Indian taste to it - -the Lamb Balti at lunch time is a winner! The alcohol debate seems to be divided but it doesn't bother me at all. If you want a really tasty Indian meal then I'd recommend this to all of you. I agree with Gordo, the lady who runs the place makes the meal even more enjoyable!

Miss MJanuary 29th 2008.

Gordo, don't suppose you know if Mr Karin will allow diners to "bring their own" wine/alcoholic beverages?

PaulJanuary 29th 2008.

No he wont let alcohol on the premises as with the one in Middleton and that is why I have never been in and never will. Food without ale and a bottle of red no way THAT’S MY RELIGION AND IM STICKING TO IT.

scoteeeJanuary 29th 2008.

Right this has really annoyed me this one!!! before the placed changed hands from the "Establishment" who knew how to present the wonderful interior my expectations of the place were high.I went for lunch a couple of months ago for the buffet and was greeted by the pretty girl at the reception(yes she is lovely),but he whole aura of the place immediately dissapointed.For example they dress a nice man at the front entrance in traditional clothing to give a high standard of expectation (looking good so far i thought) then i sit at my table and the girl barely able to communicate says she will be here in a minute takes fiftenn to get to us.Whilst we were waiting i noticed a pack of cd's some dusters dirty cloths and a pack of fags on the shelf amongst some other clutter behingd my business partner.From that point in I thought the well dressed man at the front appears to have had his impact removed!!! the buffet food was not great lets be honest,nothing new or special and the man behind the bar(who was clearly not over run with drinks orders) was Polish and did'nt understand a bloody word I said when I was asking him about some cutlery and the location of my drinks.To be honest he was a big bruiser with his shirt sleeves rolled up and a look of confusion on his face.No... i'm sorry, but if the place had not been so attractive looking at the beginning and had popped up somewhere else in a more mediocre part of town looking like all the other asian/indian type of places, then Gordo (who clearly hasnt been bribed with this one)!!! would have not been so complimentary, I'm sure.....If you want a fantastic experience of similar surroundings high quality service incredibly well preapared food then you will be well recommended to travel all the way to (Derby) look up a place called ONOKI, probably the best in the UK for presenation and atmosphere.An old converted cinema with a beautiful atmosphere they throw a bollywood film and comfortable music(sounds odd) the place is truely authentic, the food is out of this world and the all the waiters are dressed like Karims doorman,but they dont lean with one hand above their on the wall waiting for the next passer by before being caught out again, imagine that outside Claridges!"This place has more gob than a cow's got C*nt"!

ToadintheholeJanuary 29th 2008.

The menu's a bit dreary and well over done, samosas and chicken tikka hardly take your breath away and as for the balti (bucket) really!, the only difference between this place and other curry houses is the interior. i kind of expected more dishes like raan pathani or lal maas, but that was wishful thinking, even a bowl of shrikhand and a couple of puri's wouldn't have gone a miss. If the owners insist on having a north Indian style door stooj, then at least get him a pair of mojaris instead of those trainers.

GordoJanuary 29th 2008.

Miss M, it has been answered, do give it a go, drink a bottle of the non alcoholic wine. i guarantee you won't miss the booze. KT Fairy, do the streetsmart thing, call the Lowry and ask for Marc, the River Room manager, tell him you are a ManCon reader and he will knoock off the £300 room hire charge. The Lowry love us, it appears that we are the highest spenders per head on booze, so they are happy to give a bit back.

charlieJanuary 29th 2008.

Superb food and service. This place sets the gold standard for dhal. Relatively limited veggie selection on offer at the Buffet, but on asking whether the saag had meat in it, they immediately offered to rustle up a couple of vegetarian dishes specially. Distinctive and fresh, this place deserves to be full every lunchtime. The only thing leaving a nasty taste in the mouth was being scalped at £4 for a bottle of water. Stick to tapwater and you'll leave with singing tastebuds and a skip in your step.

mr FJanuary 29th 2008.

Wow, whats Pauls problem?! he is getting all upset and using capital letters. Like Winner says 'its only a commercial'. Anyway the food was outstanding, the decor extravagant. I would recommend the chicken off the specials section. The lamb bhuna is also very nice . The lunch time buffet is like a carnival of taste! Fantastic place all round.

GooseJanuary 29th 2008.

Sorry G - just noticed about 20 people already answered that - it goes down not up like the BBC/MEN/Guardian comment boards. Doh.

John ThomsonJanuary 29th 2008.

I need booze

GooseJanuary 29th 2008.

Ooh - ello you - unless there's another Miss M. Fraid he doesn't, no!

RioJanuary 29th 2008.

I could eat the girl on the front desk! She is absolutely GORGE! Loved the food, and have to recommend the Prawn Puri starter.....! different league. 10/10 xxxxxxxxxxx

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2008.

Visited Karims during their MC 50% off special for Sunday evening dinner. Absolutely delicious choices. I recommend the lamb starter. Another bonus is a young tall handsome manager that works there. Who needs alcohol with him around? :)

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2008.

It's closed, where is the next best value Indian restaurant for a Thursday lunch in Manchester?

SGJanuary 29th 2008.

My partner and I visited the restaurant on a Sunday evening, and chose two of mr karims specials. The delicacies were served on huge white plates and arranged as beautifully as you would find in many a fine country house hotel. The portions were dwarfed by the plates, but tasted fabulous, and were in fact ample. So, compared to most of the brown or oily red muck currently passing for Asian food in Manchester, it's 10 out of 10 for Karims.

Jonathan Schofield - editorJanuary 29th 2008.

Just to confirm folks - it's NO ALCOHOL. None. So not even Bring Your Own bottle.

IzzyJanuary 29th 2008.

I have to say, it's one of the best Indians Ive been to for a long time. There are only a few Indian Restaurants in Manchester that really stand out to me, such as East Z East and Akbars..Karims is definately in the same league as these. In response to Paul above re booze...Don't be so narrow-minded, are you not open to variety and standing apart from the crowd? I think it's pretty sad that you wont eat somewhere just because it doesn't serve alcohol...you must have one hell of a belly on you!

Lee GJanuary 29th 2008.

Benji.........they dont sell vindaloo! You must be getting your curries mixed up!! Something that Karims definitely dont do. 9/10

Miss MJanuary 29th 2008.

There could be a method in Mr Karims so called madness. If you don't offer booze (or the option to bring it) you'll have fewer LARGER LOUTS to deal with late into the evenings. I was always under the impression that booze (and or corkage) was an excellent money spinner for a restaurant. Surely his rent cannot be cheap in that location. I do hope the place is packed everynight because of the food quality :o)

ktfairyJanuary 29th 2008.

I'm after the link to the article on Lowry private dining - your links are messed up!

scoteeeJanuary 29th 2008.

spelling again scoteee!!!!If you love food ANOKI for a largely better experience...yes i know it in (Derby)!http://www.anoki.co.uk/

ninaJanuary 29th 2008.

they do weddings as well, one of my friends got married at the other branch, her make up artist sarah recommended it her, she does great bridal make up her tel no is 07870 630097 she is amazing

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2008.

is there much in the way of vegetarian options?

benjiJanuary 29th 2008.

who mentioned tarka saag? now I had that ages ago its just like the vindaloo...........sorry

JezzabellJanuary 29th 2008.

top food in a top place..who needs booze.

Man ConJanuary 29th 2008.

ktfairy. We'll look into. In the meantime, try http://www.thelowryhotel.com for further details

Samantha ThompsonJanuary 29th 2008.

Behave yourself John,or you'll get a clip round the ear

lobster69January 29th 2008.

Interested that you say the food "stands up-the-scale from places such as This’n’That". Do Karim do slow cooked mutton and chicken dishes on the bone? You'd have to answer yes in order to make a claim that the food is better than the T&T. Not enough to serve the same old stuff that gets dished out in most Indian restaurants on a fancy big plate.

BrazJanuary 29th 2008.

I'm not sure everyone has been to the same place as me - I thought it was absolutely uninspiring. Probably about the same standard as an Indian buffet in Glasgow 10 years ago. Food has moved on so much and I think these guys are doing nothing new. For a place that doesn't sell alcohol I was surprised to see they have flyers for the den of iniquity that is the circle club at the reception as well.

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