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Lynda Moyo takes a trip down the Curry Mile without drinking five pints of Stella first

Written by . Published on August 28th 2008.


If you enjoy Indian food and also keep up-to-date with what the health inspectors have to say, I’m sure you’ll agree that the once seductively spicy Curry Mile has lost its appeal in recent times. Apart from being a drunken munchie stop-off if you live anywhere beyond Wilmslow Road, it is no longer a first choice dining destination for many spice seekers. This could be because food standards have dropped, the novelty has worn off, or simply because for some, eating out in Rusholme has become a game of cockroach roulette.

My guest, Melissa, admitted she wasn’t expecting the dish to be cold and was a little disappointed by that. She likened it to eating spicy cereal. I looked on as it curdled into one big sloppy brown mess, not too dissimilar to when you leave a bowl of Coco Pops to turn the milk brown.

But is it really all bad? We ventured into Punjab, a small Tandoori Indian restaurant opposite the Job Centre on the famous road. According to the sign outside it is ‘The Taste of India’. Inside the place looks like ‘The taste of a 90-year-old dear’ – old fashioned, cluttered and stale. Still, they make the most of the Indian decorations they do have – the sequin-covered Hindu goddess wall-hanging thankfully took my eye away from the dusty pink walls and hideous table cloths.

There’s nothing else good to say about the décor but thankfully it isn’t dirty so you may as well get over it and concentrate on the food if you do decide to eat there. Punjab is small and perhaps over-shadowed by the size, beaming signs and bartering road waiters of restaurants such as Lal Qila. But they do say it’s the small, quiet ones you have to watch.

For starter we ordered bhel puri (£3.50) which is a mix of pooris, puffed rice, onions, potatoes, chickpeas, green chilli, garlic and sweet and sour sauce, as well as papri chaat (£3.80) – flat pooris, potatoes and chickpeas topped with yoghurt, sweet chutney and masala. From the spiel, you’d expect these two starters to be similar, but they couldn’t be more different. The first, bhel puri, came out looking like a blended knickerbocker glory in a bowl. Only the coriander sprinkled on top clarified that it wasn’t. My guest, Melissa, admitted she wasn’t expecting the dish to be cold and was a little disappointed by that. She likened it to eating spicy cereal. I looked on as it curdled into one big sloppy brown mess, not too dissimilar to when you leave a bowl of Coco Pops to turn the milk brown. Not a good start.

The papri chaat wasn’t a darn sight better either. It looked like deep fried hash browns, and yes it tasted like deep fried hash browns. Smart Price ones at that. And please, if you’re going to garnish with a bit of salad, make sure it’s fresh. Never have I seen such a manically depressed bit of salad trying to commit suicide off the edge of my plate.

We were keen to forget the starters and move on to mains which were the palak kofta (£6.20) – vegetarian balls cooked with spinach and garam masala and the chicken mughlai (£7.50) – boneless chicken in yoghurt with seasoned spices, onions, cashews, eggs and almond slices. We ate these with nan bread (£1.60) and pilau rice (£1.90). Both dishes tasted home-cooked and extremely flavoursome. This was certainly no microwave job and redeemed Punjab from the terrible starters. The nan bread even tasted like it had just been baked and the rice was colourful and cooked to perfection. The only problem with the mains was that they didn’t come out together and didn’t look half as exciting as they tasted.

The staff in Punjab were helpful and attentive throughout and by the time we were finished, the place had filled up with what seemed like regular loyal customers rather than larger louts looking for a vindaloo after a night out – a regular sighting on the Curry Mile. They should be pest controlled along with the ‘roaches in my opinion.

All in all the meal was satisfying but the place perhaps needs a bit of a kick up the backside because it has the right idea with the dishes, just lacks charm, appeal and the all-important attention to detail. In fact the same could be said for the whole road. The once exciting stretch has become bland and predictable. Even Curry Mile classics such as being emotionally blackmailed into buying a genetically cloned rose from a bucket is wearing a bit thin these days. Forget the tourism gimmicks, clear out the cockroaches and bring back the good food and service, Rusholme.

Rating: 11/20
Breakdown: 6/10 Food
3/5 Service
2/5 Ambience
Address: Punjab
177 Wilmslow Rd
M14 5AP
0161 225 2960

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

ZoeAugust 28th 2008.

I can't believe you went to the Punjab and didn't try the dosa!!

ChrisAugust 28th 2008.

I think Punjab is one of the better places on the Curry Mile- though the decor may leave a lot to be desired. For starters you should try the dosa- huge (actually huge) filled pancake stylee things. I always have a good meal here, but personally I never choose to go back to the Curry Mile when we have Akbars and Eastzeast in the city centre which are both much, much better.

JeffAugust 28th 2008.

I live right near the Curry Mile although I don't eat there much - as I am unsure which are good. I'd be most grateful if anyone could let me know which the good restaurants are - and which to definately avoid. Many thanks

KatAugust 28th 2008.

For a small one to watch, go to the Spicy Hut, I've lived in Manc for 30 years but it is the only place I will go on the Mile since 1999 and the menu is always evolving. Everything is so fresh and the Cobra kicks ass.

Dennis The LawAugust 28th 2008.

I love going to Rusholme. Its one of the few parts of manchester not ruined by the yuppies. Its got street life, interesting shops and great food. the Punjabi is one of the best food places down there- it's the only place in manchester that does Masala Dosa and has a cult following because of that. The masala Dosas they do are wonderful- better than many I've had in India! Confidential, Please don't send a snob who goes on about wallpaper next time! you are losing your credibility!

HartersAugust 28th 2008.

Punjab is just about the only place on the CM I'll go these days (apart from the excellent Jaffa which is obviously not "Indian"). Bhel puri is good. Massala dosa is excellent. Worth a trip just for those. And, also, a better than average offering of veggie dishes.Generally though, I prefer the places with a "proper menu" offering individual dishes, rather than the "any protein with any sauce" sort of place. Akbars & Eastzeast in the centre fits the bill as do Dilli in Alti and Seven Spices in Cheadle Hulme (well worth a trip out south for either of them)

gastromanAugust 28th 2008.

very good place in kings court altrincham. cheap and fresh

MelissaAugust 28th 2008.

Its not somewhere where I'd normally go for a bit of lunch but I'd say the food was okay. Now I know what to order and what not to order! As a vegetarian I found that there was a good selection of food to choose from!

martynshillAugust 28th 2008.


Punjabi girlAugust 28th 2008.

Summer_breeze: A desi is a term used by Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi's abroad to identify fellow Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshi's. So their desi menu does not try to amalgamate cuisine from the 3 different regions but caters for the difference in taste of a novice to curries and those that are experts.

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

Don't forget the Rajdoot on Albert Square, the food is of a pretty high standard and its a more chilled atmosphere than Akbars.

FellmeisterAugust 28th 2008.

Asian Fusion in Chorlton gets my vote, lovely bit of curry in there. In fact, a restaurant in the curry mile tried to rip us off as part of what we think was quite obviously a scam. I guess we weren't as drunkard as they thought we were.

HellersdadAugust 28th 2008.

I have long been of the opinion that all the curry mile is served by a central underground kitchen under Platt Fields Park, with curries piped through to taps in each restaurant kitchen marked "Madras" Vindaloo" and Mild. Sadly there are many better curry houses in the suburbs, and Rusholme will be become Manchester's version of the Golden Mile which is also down on it's uppers.

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

Completely agree, the Curry mile is looking tired and outclassed by Akbars and Eastzeast for surroundings, and proximity of good pubs for pre and post curry drinks. If you live nearby it, then the New Himalaya in Levenshulme is well worth going to. The dishes are freshly and indivdually prepared and nothing like the mass produced over oiled Garbage that you can expect from most establishments in Rusholme. Curry mile is a victim of it's own success, people go there no matter what... so why should they try harder!

idratherstarveAugust 28th 2008.

I cant imagine why anyone would want to eat the rancid slop in the first place.

GJHAugust 28th 2008.

And ye shall here.The greatest curry restaurant in Mancunica is most certainly not in West Didsbury. Tell yourself that is what you pay the extra rent for...but it ain't true. The Himalaya on Stockport road. Seek and ye shall find the greatest curry to be found in Mancunica.

BecksAugust 28th 2008.

Spice Lounge in Hale.Best curry in South Manchester plus lovely staff.

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

Curry...mmmmm! Asian Fusion in Chorlton for me every time!

crazyjohnAugust 28th 2008.

Falafel leaves no falaffing, easy and tasty, like my missus.

simonAugust 28th 2008.

we used to go down the mile a lot not anymore tend to use the Indian Express takeaway on the A6 in Stockport better than most restaurants in Manchester and plenty of it

CharAugust 28th 2008.

I recently went to Rusholme, The spicy hut infact. Was very quiet for a Saturday night and my friend was very put off by the amount of kitchen staff watching us eat! Curry was ok, but wouldnt go out of my way for a curry in Rushome, been to think better Curry Houses than down here.

BenAugust 28th 2008.

The lights of India on South king street is always nice!! Its initmate and the quality of the food is awesome!

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

definately the new himalaya in levenshulme and great kathmandu are the best non city centre curry houses in g'manchester

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

Hanaan curry house in Rusholme was actually raided by police when we were there recently for not having an alcohol licence! We had to nip to the offy half way through our meal, which was distinctly average...says it all about Rusholme these days, oh and they still charged us for the beer they had served us before being raided- cheeky blighters!!!

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

Punjab actually do one of my favourite dishes- ginger chicken masala, perfect for anyone who loves ginger. Also, if you don't like the wine they offer, Punjab allows you to take along your own alcohol.

ancoats girlAugust 28th 2008.

Akbars is a little too insane for me - but I can see why people like it. Gurkha Grill is wonderful and I would go there more often if only I had an easier way to get to West Didsbury from north Manchester. (no car, and I can't face two bus rides)

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

Completely agree. The Punjab is totally overrated and is living on its former glory. But I think our problem is that in Britain our standards are too low. If we voted with our feet and stayed away from poor restaurants, they would soon have to get their act together or they'd go under! As it is, the restuaranteurs of Rusholme have learned it doesn't pay for them to offer good quality food, so they might as well save their money and increase their profit margins. And forget the Great Kathmandu and the Gurkha Grill, which are only marginally better. Check out the relatively unknown gem in my local neighbourhood Levenshulme, The New Himalayas, for fresh, unoily, mouthwatering Indian and Nepalese food. A lot of my friends from outside Levy make a special trip there as it's so good. It's on the A6 right opposite the Nawaab - another one to avoid!

Caroline, Whalley RangeAugust 28th 2008.

Like Sue P Chorlton, I tried the New Himalaya in Levenshulme on Saturday night having read the glowing rants. I too left disappointed, not only with the service but also the food. The chicken tikka rogan josh was bland, we were given the wrong rice and we had to remind the waiting staff to bring our naan bread. There was a party in the corner threatening to leave because they had been waiting over an hour for their food. Won't be going back or recommending this restaurant. And yes, I probably am being overly grumpy because it's Monday morning.

JillyAugust 28th 2008.

Everyone keeps raving on about Akhbars and EastzEast but has everyone forgotten the mighty Shimla Pinks which i still think is awesome? But yes, I agree it's worth paying more for these restaurants as Rusholme is on the decline.

EmmaAugust 28th 2008.

Masala Lounge in Sale is the best curry house in Manchester. Fantastic food with loads of fresh herbs, really friendly & helpful staff & although it is slightly more expensive than eating in Rusholme, it is definitely worth paying a bit more for the quality. I recommend the fish curries.

sue p chorltonAugust 28th 2008.

Went to the Gurkha Grill last night based on the comments in this thread and was disappointed...service was atrocious - really slow and haphazard. We had to ask 3 times for poppadums (after ordering them.!), my orange juice & lemonade tasted fermented and the bill was very slow in coming too. They weren't full when we arrived and had loads of waiters, so no excuses really. Having said that, I had the lamb saag Karahi and it was really delicious - tasted of real homestyle cooking, good quality lamb and fresh spices. However, my other half was sorely disappointed with the "Asda quality" of the chicken in his Piro Piro chicken dish (also the heat of the curry wasn't balanced out with any real depth of flavour - just "very bland" in his words. Looks like we're still on the hunt for the perfect curryhouse - probably try Coriander next time - heard very good things about it...

jedsterAugust 28th 2008.

Summer_Breeze - is that the same Shahenshah that was recently closed down and fined heavily by the authorities? Wake up!

Punjabi girlAugust 28th 2008.

As a true punjabi (from Ludhiana district, Punjab), I would avoid the Curry Mile. There is nothing authentic about the dishes they serve! My mum certainly doesn't cook oily dishes that all taste the same...awful. Akbars is much closer to authentic punjabi cuisine and they offer an alternative menu for "desi's" (folk from india / pakistan)...which is very good:)

SharanAugust 28th 2008.

I have to agree that The Curry Mile is the last place I would go for a decent Indian meal! Whenever my (Indian) parents come to visit me, I steer them well away and stick to Shimla Pinks in the city centre where the food, its presentation and service are still excellent. Also Akbars or EastzEast definitely. If I am forced to visit the Curry mile then the Punjab I agree is the best of the lot. Their main meals are genuinely good and the nan bread/roti always fresh. The Curry Mile needs a complete facelift; it is a poor representation of the true taste and spice of Indian food and is letting the side down!!

lobster69August 28th 2008.

The reviewer is just showing her ignorance about indian food complaining that the bhel puri was cold. They are supposed to be like that and this is one of the few restaurants in Manchester that does these authentic spicy snacks. I do agree with the spicy cereal description but they are well tasty. It's the tamarind based tangy sauce (called imli i think) that turns it brown but so what. The dosas are very good here as well. The trouble with Rusholme nowadays is that you really need to know which are still the good restaurants to go in and what's good to order in the few that you would. I'd include those great cold spicy cereal starters in that list.

YoungAugust 28th 2008.

I always think that Spicy Hut is the best place on the curry mile. But you're probably just as well staying on the bus for another mile or so and going to either the Gurkha Grill or the Great Kathmandu in West Didsbury which are, for my money anyway) the two best curryhouses in Mcr.

CuriousAugust 28th 2008.

Hey , what happeneeing to the Chop House rant ? Best Indian is The Raj in deepest Salford . Its been giving my mother in law upset tummys for years

Summer_BreezeAugust 28th 2008.

To address but a few points here. I too do not go to the Curry Mile anymore and it is really good that our G.Manchester cyber community is pointing this out, so others reading this may benefit! It really is time for Rusholme eateries to do something drastic about their quality of food and their cleanliness (bins, rats!). I think the inspectors should visit them under guise to really see what they get up to. Also, there was one restaurant I used to go to a while ago called Shainshah (phonetically spelt) and it did decent food, so long as you stuck to the same dishes, we particularly liked their Lamb Karahi dish. I have visited EastzEast behind the BBC a few times now and had nothing but praises for it. However, earlier this week when we went there again, I didn’t feel so good the next day and was surprised and annoyed as I had to take half a day off work! I always expect the best food from there. Their starters were great. For the main course we ordered the Chicken Methi (lush as always!) and a Lamb Jalfrezi (which might account for the dodgy stomach as it didn’t feel as fresh). So I’m wondering if its standards are beginning to deteriorate as a result of its popularity? Especially, as their rice is now officially rubbish…I love my rice and cook it well, so I know the difference – we had to send ours back, dry and tasteless! Also, just a polite note to ‘Punjabi girl’…I was lucky to have lived and worked in Mumbai for two years and dined in the best restaurants, may I just point out that Pakistani food is very different from Indian food in general, so why would this restaurant you mentioned amalgamate the two country’s food and pass it off as ‘desi’s’?

XhrisAugust 28th 2008.

Here's my opinion... uk.blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-IhrovM8ybacJz_ZZ8wno… agree with zoe, the dosa is a must at the Punjab...

hectorAugust 28th 2008.

what sort of review is this?bhel puri is meant to be cold!And you didn't even try the Masala Dosa, which is what the Punjabi is famous for. Too busy complaining about the wallpaper not being 'fashionable' to notice these small details?I love the curry mile, it's one of the few parts of manchester that's not been overrun by yuppies and turned into steel and chrome boredom.

secret squirrelAugust 28th 2008.

Curry Mile and Chinatown are both suffering from the same malaise, namely keeping the prices down to compete with the Buffets. Only one way to do that which is to use cheaper ingredients, and it's showing. Perhaps Mancon could investigate the suspicion that many of the buffets are owned by cash'n carry wholesalers?

AvoAugust 28th 2008.

Don't you think its a bit harsh labelling all curries as rancid slop?

GuyAugust 28th 2008.

Don't be such a snob!Pissed off because you couldn't swank around one of those vile posh city centre VIP places?Punjabi is a great place!

marvAugust 28th 2008.

Rusholme is completely out done these days by Akbars and Eastzeast, about 6 years ago Punjabs was by far the best in Rusholme, but due to dodgy general Rusholme kitchen reports (and dodgy types of meats found in the bins!), you could pay me and i still wouldn't dine there these days!

SarahAugust 28th 2008.

If you're going to review an Indian restaurant on its starters, surely you should at least know what a bhel puri is? I grant that they can be a bit of an acquired taste, but the Punjab's aren't bad (the best are to be found in Tooting...). But I prefer my restaurant reviews written by people who know about the food they're talking about and can properly compare it with other destinations.

tipsterAugust 28th 2008.

get your selves down to al medina can't beat it, proper food!!!

Summer_BreezeAugust 28th 2008.

JEDSTER, you need to read properly before you comment! I said used to go to Shahenshah 'a while ago', so that means a while back and not recently. I also mentioned that the Curry Mile has deteriorated and that I don't go there anymore, so pardon me, if Shahenshah is closed and fined - seeing that I haven't been there nor the curry mile for nearly four years, I wouldn't know! I was talking about my past experience there and my current experience in Manchester’s EastzEast. So why don't you wake up and read properly?!

AnonymousAugust 28th 2008.

I used to love Rusholme, but over the last few years it has lost its appeal and I wouldn't go anymore. The Great Katmandu and the Gurkha Grill in West Didsbury are the best curry places in manchester and have much better pubs nearby.

curry loverAugust 28th 2008.

i love curries!

ShibbyAugust 28th 2008.

Not done CM in ages, am luvin the Mango Lounge out Stockport way...do fab food.. the only downside are their prawn dishes... Did go to Al Bilal b4 their probs, never had dodgy meal & enjoyed the comedy waiter!!!

PeeeelowAugust 28th 2008.

Very good ranting by all, and very educational for a big fan of eastern cooking, I will be visiting the massala Lounge, I love good fish curries. However the big theme is the cleanliness and qaulity of the CM ( and China Town ) I hope they take notice, otherwise it will become a self fullfilling prophecy. The stories you here from the laundry companies and refuse collectors, alot of whom will not supply anymore, are disgustingly terrible and even cause problems for the good operators. The councils should clamp down and do everyone a favour including the operator. My recommends are Naffes sweet centre on longsight for sweets and curries too and the Heaton Tandoori on Shaw road clean and qaulity both of them.

AlexAugust 28th 2008.

I agree that Punjab is one of the better places on the Curry Mile. Certainly there are a lot worse. However, with the great eateries now available in the centre, the CM is looking more and more tired.

AvoAugust 28th 2008.

I'm going for a curry shortly and fancied a change from Akbars and EastZEast. I was thinking of goingto Shimla Pinks. I've not been there since they first opened years ago so does anyone know whether it is still any good?

mattyAugust 28th 2008.

If you can wind your way through the anti-Tesco protesters in Chorlton, then Coriander on Barlow Moor Road is well worth a go. Fresh (not tinned) ingredients and food that is not swimming in luminous oil make a refreshing change. Try the Grandmother's Beef & Lentils. Also the Onion Rice is best in town!

SarahAugust 28th 2008.

Go round to my dads for the night - he makes a cracking curry and its not swimming in fat, the rice isnt cold and the wine isnt made from vinegar!

lobgoblinAugust 28th 2008.

Well, Melissa admitted she wasn’t expecting the dish to be cold and was a little disappointed by that. So why on earth take someone who knows f all about food to a restaurant and base your review on it ? If she'd stopped gawping at it and just ate it whilt the rice was nice and crisp she just may have appreciated the true merits of this delectable starter. The Punjab servers some of the best veggie dishes in the whole of Manchester. But for the best food in Rusholme, go to King Cobra which serves fantastic Sri Lankan food - one of the few places in the UK outside London to do so. Awesome fish dishes !

KarlAugust 28th 2008.

Yeah I used to go down the curry mile quite a bit, but the main reason I avoid it now is because i've found much better curry houses, such as the original third eye in east didsbury, gurka grill in west didsbury and eastzeast just behind the BBC. All of which are far superior to anywhere on the curry mile in my opinion

knowallOctober 12th 2011.

Looks like the reviewer had a bit of a 'mare' when reporting back from the Punjab,its all been said they didnt know what they were ordering,now that doesnt allow you to trust the reviews ,which sort of makes the whole system useless,dont you think?

Anyway the Punjab,sssheeesh where do I start? I agree it aint as good as it used to be,I think they lost a chef.The decor is of no consequence,if the food and service are o'k then its an irrelevance,unless you intend on proposing!!! and the food is o.k

We think it is still the best for food on the CM ,but the whole area has lost its appeal,no longer do you see hoards of visitors/diners,its lost its novelty value.

Unfortunately we will continue eating Indian in town and occasionally at the Punjab,but spruce the place up you wallys ,because you have lost it !!

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