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Swadesh, Bowdon

Sarah Tierney goes in search of authentic Indian food in Manchester's millionaire's mile

Published on December 24th 2008.


Swadesh, Bowdon

I was once invited to dinner at the Wilmslow home of an English lady who had married an Indian man. He was an outstanding cook and that meal was one of the most memorable I've had. I've been to many Indian restaurants since which proffer to offer 'authentic cuisine', yet I've never happened upon anything that tasted as good as his lamb curry, the meat kept on the bone, and a dessert that he said was made entirely of milk yet had a spongy texture and delicate, coconut flavour I'd love to encounter again.

At Swadesh, a new Indian restaurant in Bowdon, I hoped to find something comparable. It markets itself as an exclusive alternative to Curry Mile and high street Indian eateries, and has the credentials to back it up; Swadesh's chefs were recruited from top hotels in India, including the ill-fated Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai.

Situated amid the villas and prep schools of Bowdon, Swadesh has certainly made an effort to keep up with the neighbours. It is located in a huge Tudor house fronted by a courtyard that was lit by little white lights when I arrived with a friend, Ruth, on a Monday evening. We were seated in a dining room that could have been cribbed from a feature in Ideal Homes: cream walls and cream upholstery offset by dark, expensive-looking wood. The pictures of Indian landmarks on the walls were cautiously tasteful in black and white. A rainbow-lit water feature somehow avoided being naff.

Ruth, who knows about these things, said that the wine list was more exciting than most. She picked out a Lebanese Chateau Musar (£45) and a sparkling red Shiraz as worthy of mention but decided upon a Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Chardonnay (£20.95). I thought my chardonnay years were behind me but this was very different to the over-flavoured, yellowy sap we used to glug in the early noughties. It smelt like chardonnay but tasted as clean as the air of the vineyard it came from, 3,900 ft up in the Argentinian Andes.

Our starters built on the promise created by the wine. Ruth's machli anarkali (£5.95) was deep fried, spiced tilapia fillets; hot, fresh and moist within their gram flour batter. The accompanying salad was brightened with red beads of pomegranate seeds. A dish of mint chutney was on the side.

I preferred my anjeeri gosht kebab (£5.95). Sturdy chunks of lamb; no meat juice, no sauce, yet moist and tender with a perfect texture. It was the kind of dish that quickened the heart-rate and made you feel like you'd done something clever by ordering it. It came with a similar salad to the machli anarkali and the same mint chutney; the pairing with lamb a concession to English tradition rather than Indian, perhaps.

Our mains were enjoyable but showed less flair. Ruth had the chef's special which was a curry of chicken on the bone (£10.95). My punjabi machali masala (£11.95) was a fish curry made from a home-made recipe using turmeric, ground cumin, ground coriander, tamarind, red chilli and fresh coriander. The fish was tender though rather lost amidst all those spices. We also ordered a vegetable dish: baghara baigan (£6.95); baby aubergines, sliced lengthways into a fan shape and cooked almost to a paste in a cooling coconut sauce.

If the high expectations raised by the starters weren't fully met by the mains, the desserts certainly made up for it. I scanned the menu for something that looked like it had been made entirely from milk and settled on rasgulla (£3.95), which if I remember rightly, was described as 'stuffed cottage cheese.'

I couldn't imagine what it might look like, and may not have ordered it if I had. Three white, boiled egg-like pods, a swirl of hundreds and thousands, a scattering of almonds and two thick slices of orange. When gently pressed with a fork, the pods secreted clear, syrupy liquid. Ruth pronounced it 'insane' but I prefer 'intriguing'. The appearance may have been bonkers but the taste made a lot of sense: the pods were light, sweet and delicate enough to take on the taste of the orange. Very good indeed.

Ruth's tandoori ananas (£5.50) was another success. Pineapple marinated with honey and saffron served with coconut ice cream, it also came with a retro sprinkling of hundreds and thousands. The spiced pineapple was perfectly sized and perfectly charred. Coconut ice cream is delicious whatever you do with it.

While we'd been studying our desserts, the restaurant had filled with the type of clientèle you'd expect from one of the most affluent districts in the country: white, mature, well-to-do. On leaving, we found that two Mercedes and an S-type Jaguar had joined Ruth's battered hatchback, marking us out as visitors passing through.

Swadesh, an authentic Indian housed in a Tudor mansion amongst the leafy avenues of Bowdon, could be seen as equally incongruous to the surroundings. But if it consistently serves food of this standard, it will likely be here to stay.

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

BecksDecember 24th 2008.

While you're making corrections - second paragraph - change Hale to Bowdon!!

IntafoodDecember 24th 2008.

It’s crazy how proper authentic food tastes so different to most of what the restaurants offer. Sarah, your search of ‘real’ authentic food is a breath of fresh air. The better flavours of any type of cusine are from authentic ingrediants and unfortuantley alot of restaurants don’t seem to be using them and are trying to offer what apparently the western palate wants!!

Swadesh FanDecember 24th 2008.

Swadesh is all about the Tandoor...The Prawns and lamb are amazing! The Mushrooms with Spring onions are a great accompaniment and for desert the Indian rice Pudding if you like that sort of thing. Whilst all other Indian Restaurants seem to have gone vastly down hill I think Swadesh is a great choice.

ruthDecember 24th 2008.

great review sarah, can't wait to go back. unfortunately my vauxhall isn't speaking to you.

EditorialDecember 24th 2008.

Sorry Smartiemcr, course it is, just like London. Changed. Thanks.

smartiemcrDecember 24th 2008.

It's actually spelled Bowdon, not Bowden!

ChrisDecember 24th 2008.

Went to Swadesh last night, very nice restaurant, lovely food, impeccable service - only complaint would be the price.We had;Poppadums + dipsMix Startersomething similar to karai chicken (on the bone)rack of lambaloo ricenaan bread2x Cobra & 2x Soda water with lime£67!

yogafreakDecember 24th 2008.

Ed - if you're seriously after an authentic Indian restaurant, I would try 'Rusoi' in Stockton Heath. Whilst its entrance is a little unusual (its situated above a post office!) the food and service is incredible. One of the best Indian restaurants in the NW, and thats from an Indian junkie... xx

MoDecember 24th 2008.

Hi Mark & the Gang - Happy New Year!Go back to Swadesh again to have the butterflied king prawn starter, and the duck main course - beautiful. They also do a nan which has coconut inside - very good! Mo

babycakesDecember 24th 2008.

god i love country girls and well spoken lasses if you like sheep come on down

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