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Nawaab review

Colette Bernasconi visits the biggest restaurant in the West and gets full but no fun

Published on March 30th 2009.

Nawaab review

Walking into what could have been a Las Vegas hotel with its pastel-coloured water fountains, you're already gawking at the sheer size of this Pakistani restaurant. And then you walk into the dining room, and it's an agoraphobe's nightmare of endless tables and impossibly far walls, all abuzz with the conversations and nosh noises of what seems like 100 Asian families, and, bafflingly, a group of American tourists.

You can't help but admire the sheer scale of the place, the sheer chutzpah and ambition of the thing. It's as extravagant and well co-ordinated as a Disneyland for adults whose childhood fantasies have been replaced by a glutton’s dream of eating themselves sick for a little over a tenner.

Nawaab has three floors, 13,000 sq ft and is famous for hosting weddings and other large gatherings. It’s also famous as the place where a choice of ten curries is just not enough, so you get 30 of them, with endless dessert too. This comes in the form of an all-you-can-eat buffet (‘can’ being the operative word) for £11 a head.

Of course the price doesn’t have to be a passport to a food-addict’s paradise. Some customers may well choose a modest and conservative sampling, just enough, in other words, to assuage their hunger. I'd like to say that Bartolomé (that’s my man) and I were just such examples of temperance and moderation but I wouldn’t be able to look you in the eye afterwards if I did.

There are just so many dishes to try, so many temptations, so many opportunities to hunt out the stars. Sadly there were too many joyless cloying kormas and greasy massalas getting in the way. The food, while containing some good dishes, suffered all the abuses of mass-production for mass consumption. The main one of these is a lack of individuality. Mass production means a watering down of points of difference for the common good. A compromise the consumer makes to take advantage of the price and the consistency. But the problem is that the level of consistency is pitched low, like the price.

Still there were some dishes that stood out. A rakhti of minced kidney, heart and other bits of lamb offal mixed with peppers and suave onions cooked on a big round stone, had a tangy spice that complemented the nuttiness of offal very well. The fish curry was also a success with thick full chunks of meat and a tamarind sauce which didn’t completely overpower the flesh.

These dishes show that either through a sixth sense in making your choice or good luck on the night you can find food which makes the outlay of a tenner plus one more than worthwhile. Get your choice wrong though and it’s hit and miss. You might get perfect rice or wrong rice, a proper floaty naan or a heavy grumpy thing.

In this, despite its reputation, the Nawaab, except in scale, is much like any other bargain basement buffet restaurant. That's a little disappointing: like a palace serving works canteen food.

Nawaab doesn't serve alcohol. The alternatives are perhaps where they make a little extra: over a pound for a bottle of water, a mini ginger ale is £1.50. Quite a few people were drinking pitchers of lassi (mango, salty or sweet) for £6.

It’s definitely not for couples. Never mind a first-date, it’s not even a second-date place. I suggest you should only go there with someone who knows you completely, without artifice, someone who has already caught you in the middle of the night eating ice-cream out of the fridge in your pants. They say familiarity breeds contempt, but it also breeds the ability to go to a place like Nawaab. This is for people who want food which is quick, easy and cheap. It’s not a night out but might be a place to fill up before one.

After several dishes, some dessert and a few episodes of getting lost and not being able to find our table, the original euphoria we'd felt at being in such a spectacular venue had been replaced by the ennui of the overly sated. As we waddled out past the two-story, candy-coloured laurels we told each other that what happens in Nawaab, stays in Nawaab. Like Las Vegas, it is an experience in grandeur and decadence to go, but won't be to everybody's taste. And, like Vegas, it just might ruin your relationship.

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

JoMarch 30th 2009.

Levenshulmes greatest eatery has got to be 'That Cafe', wish it was in the citycentre though..

thrushpuppyMarch 30th 2009.

It is what it is.. try asking the grill man for the lamb chops though, they are stunning. We enjoy going for those alone - plus all the lovely veggie curries and they dont seem to mind the kids running about getting 3 portions of blue ice cream!! I swear that stuff looks like fabric conditioner when its melted!

Karen HMarch 30th 2009.

Come off it James it's just a barn, it's just a buffet. No skill no care. Functional is all

RichardMarch 30th 2009.

I've been to both and the food over the road at the New Himalaya leaves the Nawaab for dead. Full of taste and quality ingredients. If you want a nice quiet meal with good food go over the road to the New Himalaya.If you're plastered and need to eat something quickly to quell the munchies, Nawaab is the place.If you really want to leave Levenshulme disappointed, try the Miramar - by far Britain's worst Chinese restaurant.

AnonymousMarch 30th 2009.

always wanted to go, but i won't bother now. thanks for review

sarahwMarch 30th 2009.

the plastic trees on the roof say it all.....

EditorialMarch 30th 2009.

We're going to review Sanmini's this week. It'll be up next week as a review.

JoMarch 30th 2009.

Haven't been here but have been to a place called Saffron on Cheetham Hill Road, quite like it, similar deal (slightly cheaper when I visited) but not quite so big, by the sounds of it the food is probably better at Saffron.

davethegourmetMarch 30th 2009.

Bring back the Manzil, now that was a proper Indian food place,my first experience of Indian food, plush surroundings,good waiters,fabulous food,what happened to the place?

ckvMarch 30th 2009.

when facing this place and about to walk through the front door - don't. turn 180 degrees and cross the road to the new himalaya. if it's consistency and good curry you are after go there instead.

JamesMarch 30th 2009.

Nawaab is great. Don't know what this writer is on about.

Chris HMarch 30th 2009.

This is a dreadful place, for anybody but large groups who are there for a laugh, not for food quality.The curries are low to average quality, containing mainly bones and no meal since they are 'traditional', and no matter how hungry I feel, Im simply not prepared to queue up for an average curry, when most of the time Im being pushed and shoved about, as if somebody is fightin for the last onion bhaji during a famine. Sure, you expect to queue a bit at any buffet, but the sheer scale of this place takes the queueing and lack of manners to mickey taking levels. In short, its too big for its own good, with tons of rough customers.And really, £11 is a 'cheap' meal when youre at a buffet? You can eat at Akbars for about £15 per head, so Im sorry, £11 to eat here isnt cheap at all really, unless your intention is to eat 3 meals for your money..... ie, youre a cheap ba****d. Thats usually the plan at a buffet, and I dont mind admitting to being cheap from time to time, but come on, this place is like a free for all.Nawaab is only enjoyable if you dont mind eating in poverty, which really, despite the glam decor and Mercs parked outside for weddings, is what this place is. Low class area, low class customers. £4 a head overpriced.

tofuprincesssaraMarch 30th 2009.

I disagree completely with this review. I think the Nawaab offers an amazing choice of dishes. Obviosuly buffet food is going to suffer a bit compared with food cooked to order, but when it's busy, which is most of the time, the quick turnover of dishes helps keep things fresh. Nawaab is absolutely brilliant for vegetarians. Love the salad buffet bit with spicy chickpeas and the like. Love the endless choice of greasy deep fried pakora-type things. Great veggie curries, including much more variety than kormas and masalas. The puddings (neon ice creams and jellies galore) are not for me, but whatever floats your boat. The no alcohol policy keeps things calm and family friendly, even in the evenings.

trevor sMarch 30th 2009.

Can't we turn it into a cinema again, Levenshulme needs one of those.

Pedro1874March 30th 2009.

When is Mancon going to review the best Curry Restaurant in the North West? Sanmini's (South Indian - totally unique cuisine) in Ramsbottom. The best tasting, freshest tasting and best quality food of any that has passed my lips in ten years.

NeilMarch 30th 2009.

All the curry buffets that dot the suburbs are OK. Nothing more, nothing less. This one's bigger than others so has a bit more more choice but other than than there's little to recommend it. Generally, Indian food lends itself well to sitting around all evening. The Chinese buffets that have sprung up recently are - however - rank. I can't think of one that I've been dragged to that's even average.

DaveMarch 30th 2009.

I have to say I'm always happy enough with this place for the price, it's consistent from one visit to the next. OK east is east it isn't but there's a big varied selection of salads through to deserts, decent kebabs. A veggie friend rates it. Getting a good main course is a question of timing. People pick at the best bits of meat etc., so if a dish you want to try has got depleted, take a little of something else and wait for them to refill the other one. Go there with an empty stomach and take your time.

UPeNDeRMarch 30th 2009.

Nawaab does what it says on the tin; it is an 'honest' cafe experience, at a decent price, compare that to the ovehyped over here inconsistant tripe served by the bafoons at East is East ( a reference to their Yorks roots no doubht!) and NAWAAB wins hands down., as a buffet and to expreience a cross section of food you cannot beat it. In the City centre if you eat on the worng day / time the food is reheated / re-hashed and drenched in sauce to hode the fact it is crap! . . . ..maybe not for your first date . . .but good-to-go as you start!

knowallOctober 12th 2011.

not for us

William MorrisNovember 8th 2012.

When are you going to review Qila Khyber over at Strangeways? The only curry cafe with a whole sheep stuffed with rice at £199 on its takeaway menu? And yes, they do have customers for it...

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