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Sai Spice Reviewed

Ruth Allan thinks the food is good but the rooms need work

Written by . Published on February 5th 2014.

Sai Spice Reviewed

SAI Spice is the latest incarnation of the Southern Hotel, the famous pub in the depths of Chorlton’s bikini line. It’s where gigs were poorly attended during a stint as a live venue and The Buzz comedy club ran for what felt like hundreds of years. Later still it became an Irish theme bar.

The green dosa is served with ginger chutney and I was actually moved by this dish. 

Needless to say, hopes of a gourmet experience were not high. However, there is more to this average-looking curry house than meets the eye. 

It’s not obvious, but behind the bubble tanks and pumped up sofas is a second, vegetarian kitchen, boasting a chef flown over from Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu. He’s been here since they opened last year and the result is a sun-kissed vegetarian menu of South Indian snacks and meals including 17 – count em –dosas.  

Nice smile


Nice smile

There are thick, filled pancakes (uttapam), green moong dal dosas and rice savouries galore, not to mention main courses like okra sambar, tomato daal and avial – a mixed vegetable and coconut curry - for less than a fiver a go. 

You could probably order the whole lot for the price of a Rusholme curry. Plus they have a house thali too with chapatti, rice, sambar, a traditional tamarind based vegetable curry (kozhambhu), assorted other curries, plus raita, pappadums and pickles (£9.95) making for a nigh on heavenly meal, if our dosa and curry samples were anything to go by.  

Completely dippy


Completely dippy

The thail was unavailable, but almost everything else was promising. Rava dosai (£3.50) was a hot, hole-pocked pancake made of course-ground semolina and rice, with mixed vegetable (sambar) sauce - and, a sexy first for me, daal chutney, on the side.  Plus we had another seaweed green moong dal dosa with finely chopped onions (£4.95) and a portion of aubergine curry (brinjal curry, £4.95). 

The green dosa is served with ginger chutney and I was actually moved by this dish. The chutney looked like a simple brownish paste, but in the mouth it soared. This dosa equivalent of Demerara rum and ginger has the kind of flavour that will have you coming back for more. Holding chef’s hand. Crying. All of the above.  

The dosa that moved me


The dosa that moved me

Aubergine curry with boiled rice was less of a ride, but well composed and we got a few bits from the ‘main’ Indian menu to complement our veggie feast too, including methi chicken (pictured) (£8.95) and Peshwari lamb chops (£6.95) which were both average curry house fare. 

I don’t know if authentic food exists outside of people’s homes, but Indian veggie food is particularly great when you get the feeling that the chefs are cooking for the diaspora of the subcontinent. And that seems to be what’s happening at Sai Spice.

Lamb chops that were ok


Lamb chops that were ok

The owners have another restaurant in Bolton, a small, 56 cover spot, that does okay for itself. Co-owner, Satish Kumar, whose family comes from South India, hence the veggie bent, also organises Asian weddings and events. So in some ways, it makes sense as what they’ve done to the former Southern Hotel is a bit like a cross between a curry house and function venue, with two restaurants, two kitchens (veg and meat) and a bar.

The catch is that the veggie menu is supposed to be served in an austere ‘veg only’ room off the main restaurant (see image of empty room – it was actually totally empty, while the ‘main’ restaurant was packed).

Sai Spice

Aubergine curry...or three turtles in a pan

Fortunately, we persuaded them to let us have both veggie and non-veggie food in the main restaurant – but this is not par for the course. Refreshingly, there’s was also an excellent wine selection – two choice bottles would be the Australian unoaked Chardonnay and a nice Riesling which goes well with curry for under £20. Plus your usual suspects like Cobra on draught. 

 Sai Spice

Sai Spice

I put it to Kumar that having two restaurants doesn’t make sense from a customer point of view. However, he insisted that it’s for the best as the dosas would cool down too much moving from veggie kitchen to main restaurant, rather to the slightly closer veggie restaurant.  

“People would think we served cold food,” he said, with a look of horror on his face. Obviously, no one wants a chilly dosa - but the layout doesn’t really work despite what he says. 

Follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthAllan


Sai Spice Indian Restaurant, Mauldeth Road West, M21 7SP. Tel: 0161 8620123

Rating: 13.5/20

Food: 7.5/10 (rava dosai 9, moong dal dosai 10,  aubergine curry 7, methi chicken 5, chops 7)
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 2/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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 get carried away

A naan modelling the surface of MarsA naan modelling the surface of Mars

A customer, some lager and an alcoholic pianoA customer, some lager and an alcoholic piano

The cold space of the barThe cold space of the bar

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

jrsteeveFebruary 6th 2014.

I had a takeaway from here shortly after they opened, live near it in Chorlton. Sadly it really wasn't great, just very bland and watery and not much meat. The interior is a bit soulless, not particularly welcoming. I doubt i'll be returning unfortunately.

AnonymousFebruary 6th 2014.

"The catch is that the veggie menu is supposed to be served in an austere ‘veg only’ room off the main restaurant"...it's almost like some restaurants actually want to fail.

AnonymousFebruary 6th 2014.

Anyone tried the Vegetarian Indian in Ladybarn yet?

AnonymousFebruary 6th 2014.

Which restaurant in Bolton do they own?

Maria SaleFebruary 6th 2014.

Sai Spice, Moses Gate. I have been a few times: the food is very good.

AnonymousFebruary 7th 2014.

Nice review, I went to this Sai Spice last week and I was impressed with the food, The Moilee King Prawns especially were outstanding. The layout is different with there being a "veg only" Restaurant attached with own kitchen. I am told by my vegetarian friends that there is an apparent demand for this around the North West! I guess we will have to see how well it does... Doesn't bother me though as I'm strictly a carnivore :)

Peter DantMarch 30th 2014.

Went early evening on Mother's Day and the veggie restaurant was almost full at 7. The Pepper Rasam, Masala Dosa with Sambar and chutneys were delicious - a real reminder of my visit to Chennai.

Michelle KeiferApril 28th 2014.

Michelle Keifer. Michelle Keifer, My friend took me to this restaurant as a treat to say thank you for baby sitting, she thought it would be good because it was very local and was vegetarian. However when I asked to be seated in the vegetarian part we was told everyone is eating in the main part that day. I didn't want to sit next to meat eaters and as a wheelchair user the tables where useless and they had no trays? I used a menu to balance my food on. There was no vegetarian menu just a few things on the main menu. So the review above seems like a totally different place. To add insult to this poor experience. The car park renovation has left a high dip to cross over on Nell Lane leaving me with difficulty in crossing in my wheelchair. Having just called them on the phone there was no answer and no way to leave a message. I won't be going back, I wonder what it will be next time. The Lib-dems prevented it from being flats many years ago, I wish they would stop interfering.

AnonymousMay 23rd 2014.

The food is delicious, but found a new lady waitress being too pushy and nosey, giving her choice of what she would choose, without being asked for. Guess lack of professional training and raw to this industry, only told by the owners to try and be friendly, which has mistakenly been interpreted as being over the top n pushy....Hope this changes next time I go, or will have to change my opinion about this restaurant

ThebartenderDecember 17th 2014.

The : " emirates culinary guild gold medal • The Middle East chef of the year 2001 trophy winner • FHA 2002 culinary challenge gold medal in Singapore • The emirates salon culinary 2001-2004 gold, 1 bronze and 2 merits • The Middle East chef of the year 2002 second trophy winner." chef behind the menu should have been given more thought. the food was trully good.

1 Response: Reply To This...
ThebartenderDecember 17th 2014.

The actual chef's name is chef Kishan Shah, also owner of "Sai Spice restaurant in Farnworth"

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