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Yadgar Café Review

Alaka Prodhan visits a Northern Quarter stalwart in search of cheap, authentic curry

Written by . Published on November 1st 2012.


Yadgar Café Review

ONE thing I’ve learned about Asian cuisine over the years is that often, the most mouth-wateringly authentic and satisfying food can be found in the most unassuming of places: simple, sometimes dingy hole in the walls, tucked away down a back alley, with dog-eared menus (if any), cheap furniture and plastic tablecloths. Not much to look at it, but packs a punch. Diamonds in the rough.

My Indian feast for one (which probably should have been for two) cost me £9.50. I left with a doggy bag, a slightly runny nose, and a satisfied smile. 

Places like this, though they may seem unappealing initially, draw huge crowds of locals who appreciate good-value, simple, honest cooking.

Yadgar Café is a little curry house on Thomas Street and must be one of the Northern Quarter’s oldest establishments. Its bright yellow and pink signage with chunky, bubble letters – cheerily unfashionable – seems almost gaudy and out of place amongst the more slick, sophisticated eateries that surround it; the newer, trendier Thomas’, Tusks, and Teacups.

Yagdar Cafe, ManchesterYadgar Cafe, Manchester

But this is one of the reasons why you have to love the Northern Quarter. Solid, reliable old handers such as Yadgar brush shoulders with well-presented, ambitious newcomers looking to make their mark with nary a sign of suspicion or antagonism. It just all adds to the mix.

Upon entering Yadgar Café, one of the first things that immediately stood out was the diversity of clientele. In one corner, a grizzly middle-aged fellow in a black leather jacket attacked his curry with gusto; a few tables down, two young men in hoodies – students, probably – chatting over their chappatis; next to them a woman in her mid-twenties. And then there was me, a fellow south Asian looking to satisfy her curry fix.

Yagdar Cafe interiorYadgar Cafe interior“Which are your best three?” I asked.

“They’re all good,” the gentleman said, with a wry smile and noncommittal shrug. He lifted the lids of the silver containers, revealing a decent range of curries spanning meat and veg: chicken karahi; lamb karahi; lamb and saag (spinach - a special, I was told); lamb keema (minced lamb); mixed veg (potatoes, carrots and peas from the looks of it); kofta (meatballs) and egg; chana (chickpeas); dahl (lentils).

I decided on the chicken karahi, lamb saag and mixed veg plus the fried pilau rice to go with it. I also wanted to some lamb chops on the side, but to my dismay, I was told that they no longer serve them due to low demand. Instead, I ordered a portion of chicken tikka (£3) and one seekh kebab (50p).

Chicken KarahiChicken Karahi

Next mini-dilemma: where to begin? I decided to go anti-clockwise, starting with the chicken karahi first. Although not usually a big fan of chicken breast, preferring the more tender thigh, my fork sliced easily through it.

It was a taste explosion. A burst of intense flavour, and then an immediate kick from the red and green chillies provided a rush of heat. Controlled, though, and not too overpowering.

The pilau rice, meanwhile, was okay but a little overloaded with spice, as if someone had gone a bit crazy with the old garam masala. Plain rice might have been a better match to offset the strong flavours of the curry.

Time to turn the wheel o’ curry and try curry number two. Lamb saag is not a particularly appetising-looking dish. It looks alarmingly like dark green pond scum, but don’t be perturbed by this.

Lamb SaagLamb Saag

A quick prod of the lamb, and it flaked under my fork, falling neatly away from the bone – amazing. The smooth spinach was melt in the mouth too. The potatoes, carrots and peas, were naturally a little underwhelming compared to the last two but nicely spiced all the same.

Mixed VegMixed VegThe chicken tikka and seekh kebab finally arrived, with a cursory portion of side salad and mint yoghurt and chutney. It certainly looked promising, but was disappointingly dry. Something in the marinade threw off the balance of the flavours but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Clove, perhaps, or star anise.

The seekh kebab, though, was excellent. Very tender, without having to recourse to mouth-burning chillies. I could easily have eaten another.

By this point I was really slowing up, but given more space in my stomach, I would have gone for a chappati to go with the kebabs. That might have helped counter the dryness of the chicken tikka too. Next time.

All in all, my Indian feast for one (which probably should have been for two) cost me £9.50. I left with a doggy bag, a slightly runny nose, and a satisfied smile. For those on the go looking for relatively cheap, filling, homemade, you’d do well to try this long-standing hole in the wall.

Chicken Tikka And Seekh KebabChicken Tikka And Seekh Kebab

Follow Alaka on Twitter @EchoingBronze

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. 

Yadgar Café, 71 Thomas Street, City, M4 1ES.

Rating: 13.5/20

Food: 7/10
Service: 3.5/5 
Ambience: 3/5

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've got carried away.

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

AnonymousOctober 31st 2012.

Legendary

Pill CollinsOctober 31st 2012.

Beautiful scenes

MorpheusOctober 31st 2012.

More like 1/5 for ambience... It's a toilet, good food though.

Alaka ProdhanOctober 31st 2012.

Hehe, Morpheus, I personally find that adds to its appeal! There's a good ambience at lunchtime just because it's so busy with all different kinds of people coming in and out. Unpretentious and inclusive. The man on the counter was friendly too.

AnonymousNovember 1st 2012.

Alternative review: dodgy grotty Northern Quarter curry Cafe full of students, beardies, tight bastards. All wanting cheap crappy food . No doubt spending £5 then wondering why their arse is on fire for the next 3 days! . Still at least it's better than some of the pretentious cafes that have opened selling beef burgers and pretending they are American, who wants to be American?

4 Responses: Reply To This...
paulsouthernNovember 1st 2012.

Well done, very constructive!

Alaka ProdhanNovember 1st 2012.

You know, I forgot to mention the "Johnny Cash" meter - but thankfully my stomach was fine after! Unlike Akbars. Every time... :/

TanyaNovember 2nd 2012.

Hahaha... with indian foods, price doesnt always buy you quality...infact usually it does th opposite, unlike Nawaabs in Longsight....yeah- and who the f*** wants to be American?!!

AnonymousAugust 16th 2014.

good trolling , but sorry big fail the cafe is amazing , better than your dead mom even

AnonymousNovember 1st 2012.

Paul Southern, American? Student? Beardie? Tight bastard? All of these? I'm just sick of Mancon continued bigging up of the Northern Quarter it's as if nowhere else exists . I don't want to eat in dingy cafes with rickety chairs its not quaint it's grotty.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 1st 2012.

But the cheap rents alow for more creative openings which leads to more interesting things to write about...

paulsouthernNovember 1st 2012.

Hehe, None, poor though. Just love the good curry in this place. With you up to a point re Northern Quarter but it does have most of the good curry cafes in town. Long may they remain and fend off the fashionistas.

AnonymousAugust 16th 2014.

This comment has been removed in line with Confidential's rant policy: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

AlNovember 1st 2012.

arrhhhh Anon. Something tells me you have no friends and you are not cool enough to frequent this area.... Are you scared of the NQ? Kabana would own you!!

RobNovember 1st 2012.

Does Anon have a weak stomach...boo hoo. Kabana would not just own you, it would destroy you. You wouldn't be able to handle that taste sensation!

AnonymousNovember 1st 2012.

Best curry in Manchester. If people have a chip on their shoulder because its not 5 star dining then great - less of a queue for me.

AVONovember 1st 2012.

£6 for three curries and rice then? That's pretty steep compared to the other curry cafes isn't it?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 16th 2014.

This comment has been removed in line with Confidential's rant policy: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

GordoNovember 1st 2012.

Avo, Avo, Avo.... the price of everything and the value of nothing...

Frazer MunroNovember 1st 2012.

Brilliant place to go for a quick, cheap and tasty lunch. Definitely the best curry house in the NQ. Don't stress about the decor, you are essentially in a caff that serves curry. End Of.

Mr PNovember 2nd 2012.

Been eating here for years. Excellent authentic food and for a sensible price. Even took my 79 year old Dad in once. He loved it! What more can you ask for?

Mr PNovember 2nd 2012.

dssdgsdgsdg

AnonymousNovember 2nd 2012.

Delhi2go is only £4:30 for three curry and rice. It's also arguably slightly better

2 Responses: Reply To This...
StephNovember 4th 2012.

Deli2Go is terrible and doesn't compare to Yadgar or any of the other curry cafes in NQ. My tip is Cafe Marhaba if just for their freshly made breads.

AnonymousAugust 16th 2014.

This comment has been removed in line with Confidential's rant policy: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

Alaka ProdhanNovember 2nd 2012.

Ooh, how intriguing! Where is that?

Thomas HammondNovember 2nd 2012.

You should count ourselves lucky in Manchester. I moved to Brighton last year and when ever I mention rice and three and then even explains what it consist of to peeps outside manchester they don't have a clue what I'm talking about. The bast curries always come from these places. AND THEY ARE CHEAP. Its more authentic than the stuff you get from most indian restaurants .

WNovember 3rd 2012.

This comment has been deemed inappropriate by editorial staff, and has been removed.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Alaka ProdhanNovember 3rd 2012.

Ooh, brilliant! My sis and brother-in-law swear by This & That (http://www.thisandthatcafe.co.uk/)

NorthernGeezerNovember 3rd 2012.

I can remember an indian cafe in Withington back in the early 70s that served you either 'meat' or 'chicken' of dubious origin with a curry of a strength 1, 2, or 3.
Rice or chappati optional, oh yeah, and you only got a spoon to eat it with and tap water to drink.
The cost........................10 shillings, or 50p to the rest of you philly steins.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 16th 2014.

This comment has been removed in line with Confidential's rant policy: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

moragNovember 6th 2012.

after extensive research, my personal conclusion is yadgars do the best (ie my favourite) dahl in manchester, and always a really good veggie choice.

Nickster123November 12th 2012.

This and That Cafe is by far the best curry cafe, or canteen as it is set out. Amazing food, very reasonably priced with no airs and graces just bl00dy good food served by a very friendly bunch!

David WilliamsNovember 1st 2013.

Popped in to manchester on weds with my kids and mrs and landed on this place. Yep its no oil painting and yeh 20 quid for a tin and lick of emulsion might worh work wonders on its image. But the food wont change its great and at 20 quid for the four of us to eat great value. Being out of work meant we couldnt go mad eating in fancy places and why would i again if i am in manchester again i know where i will be going.. just wish we had this sort of place in chester.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2014.

I've been eating at Yadgar for nearly two decades (and I'm only 30), since they were situated round the corner and have never been let down! You could easily pay three times as much for something half as good. Sam

AnonymousOctober 10th 2014.

Yadgar? That reminds me. There's been some great documentaries about cats on the BBC this week.

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