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Great Kathmandu: West Didsbury

Jonathan Schofield goes to West Didsbury in search of a great Nepalese restaurant and loses his grip

Written by . Published on January 6th 2011.

Great Kathmandu: West Didsbury

It’s like a parallel universe this food writing lark.

Your mates recommend places and you go along all starry eyed and expectant and find a wasteland of low aspiration running into a dead sea of disappointment.

You think, maybe I’ve just been phenomenally unlucky, and the chef has just died; or - and nobody could have expected this - the staff have all been replaced by replicants programmed to be couldn’t-be-bothered automata.

So you report back to your mates and they say, “actually I’ve never been myself, only heard it was good”, or, “well it was ok five years ago when I last went”. Or worse they say, “I don’t think I meant that place”.

Then you scream.

There are two places on Burton Road, in the la-di-dah land of West Didsbury, which have been recommended by my friends so many times I’ve lost count. I’ve never been to either.

They are the Gurkha Grill and the Great Kathmandu, separated by 100 metres of Burton Road. Both are Nepalese which seems a little unreal. Is there an ex-pat colony of Nepalese in West Didsbury, or maybe lots of sixties and seventies hippies who did the drop-out, tune-in Himalayan thing?

Still a test of all those recommendations was way overdue. So we decided on the Great Kathmandu – through the scientific method of walking past it first.

The decor was typical, that comforting mess of colour with views of the snowy Himalayas, heavy wallpaper and flounces of this and that. It all felt fine, the Great Kathmandu as a cosy, lived in, neighbourhood place, with walls festooned with awards.

When the popadums arrived it seemed like all the glowing tributes were spot on. These were a revelation of loveliness, so light they seemed attached to the plate by silken threads. They were accompanied by some cracking chutneys and sauces. The chilli sauce was as good as the popadums , hot and gentle and subtle.

With the starters – the others just wanted mains - I went solo with a tandoori fish. This was a gently spiced mackerel charred black on the outside. It was ok but not brilliant, the timing slightly out and the fish too dry. Some limp salad from a 1974 Berni Inn idea of green collation came with the fish. I left it to wither.

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The mains took ages. They took so long that Mount Everest eroded, the Himalayas wore down, and Nepal became famous for its flat topography like Holland.

We asked four times where the mains might be (the restaurant wasn’t full by this time, although a lot of take-away orders were being processed). “Soon,” came the answer, with a knowing smile and no indication of how long. Neither was there any explanation as to why we were slowly starving. Very poor, very annoying.

When the mains did arrive more than forty five minutes after the starter there was no apology.

And they weren’t very good.

My son, Oliver, had ordered the shahi (lamb) pasanda (£6.40). This dish should have a strong flavour of coconut, but here there was a whole desert island full of the thing and it shattered any other flavours. My son is still calling himself Man Friday.

A lamb pillau (£8.75) was overly dry, as well as being limp and boring and needing more lamb. The basmati was clunky and the whole a stodge. The bhuna ghosht (£6.10), lamb, tomatoes, mushrooms and so forth, was, in contrast, a slop.

The only decent main was the lamb chaat phat (£6.95) cooked in pickle and mustard oil with green chillies. This was good. There was a nice proportion about it with regard to the meat and the rest. It was all right.

A side of aloo dum (£.50), spiced potatoes and a ‘Nepalese speciality’ was a disintegrating mess. Another side, the dal tarka (£4.50), lentils, with apparently fresh ginger and garlic, was almost as good as the popadums. All very confusing.

It seems the kitchen is capable enough in fits and starts and then lazy and clumsy by equal measure. Maybe the Great Kathmandu has got complacent after being open for almost 22 years.

To get the timings so wrong wouldn’t have been so bad if the food had been as outstanding as all the recommendations and awards indicated. But to get both the timing and the dishes wrong hints at bigger problems.

Last year a new Maoist government of Nepal voted out the King. To my mind the Great Kathmandu needs a bit of a freshening up too. Maybe in not so dramatic a manner as armed revolution but enough to make the dining experience more consistent and sympathetic. Of course when I told my informants about the review visit most admitted they hadn’t been in years. Typical.

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

jimboJanuary 5th 2009.

i'm actually gutted having read this review. since moving to manchester a couple of years ago we absolutely love the kathmandu and have been recommending it to everyone - feel a bit of a fool now!and it's even wierder that i'm not a massive fan of the gurkha grill, been a couple of times but just not keen. may say something about my pallet though!i would agree with a poster above though, that recently it has become very popular as a take out spot, there never used to be a queue, but there is always a group of people waiting when we go to sit down.best dish at kathmandu though is the tandoori lamb makhanwala (sp?). makes my belly rumble just thinking about it!

emma graceJanuary 5th 2009.

I am GUTTED about Akbars...completely Gutted. Probably lost a bit of weight since it closed considering the amount of time I spent in there, but gutted nonetheless :(

steveJanuary 5th 2009.

second on namaste, fantastic restaurant. lived in didsbury for a few years and kathmandu went downhill service wise as they never seemed to be able to keep up with the balance between sit down meals and takeaway. surely you serve those sitting first? I heard they were run by the same people? the menu is almost identical though namaste's mixed kebab was always a killer

1 Response: Reply To This...
JanusxxxNovember 9th 2013.

Namaste is brill x

EqsuiloJanuary 5th 2009.

Akbars is still going but the EastZEast on Blackfriars Street looked distinctly shutdown last time I passed.

Hale&Bowdon MagazineJanuary 5th 2009.

Packed restaurant, v successful, saag aloo very nice! Buda can u deliver I'm at home!

JanieBJanuary 5th 2009.

There are 3 Nepalese in West Didsbury, the Ghurka Grill being by far the best. It's just having, or may have finished a big re-furb. They do a wonderful dish called Ghurkali Chicken and a really hot Chilli Chicken if you're brave enough. Namaste Nepal is big and cold, too much A/C, but the food is alright. I don't bother with this or the Great Kathmandu any more. Ghurka Grill every time for me.

sarahJanuary 5th 2009.

You also have Nemaste Nepal, which is between both Gurkha Grill and Great Kathmandu, which is far better. Great Kathmandu and nemaste are owned by same family, not sure about the Gurkha grill. It is the Dangol family, lovely nepalese family, lived in West didsbury for years. The father used to own great Kathmandu but now I think his son does since his retirement, his daughter runs nemaste nepal (old curry cottage), this is far better

emma graceJanuary 5th 2009.

Really?!?! Good, I was told by a few people it was closed. Maybe they just closed for a bit while they found new staff...

dave ashJanuary 5th 2009.

Very hit and miss this place, though increasingly erring towards missThe only dish I would recommend is either the chicken or lamb bhottowan(?) with chapati and raitiGurkha Grill is better though the best Nepalese in the area is The Third Eye in Didsbury Village

SiJanuary 5th 2009.

Jonathan, You should've gone to the Gurkha Grill instead - far better food and service. I've not been to the Kathmandu for over 5 years now - incidentally is there still that lingering damp smell about the place?

BudaJanuary 5th 2009.

Thanks for the review. I am glad that you have highlighted the issues you have experienced and I for one would like to say that all of your points have been noted.We are currently undergoing a major revamp and I feel that with the constructive criticism of our patrons we can only improve the level of service and cuisine that we have become renowned for. The problems stem from the expansion of the restaurant to incorporate a second floor. We are aware of this and we are looking at ways of improving the situation. Please feel free to provide feedback to any of our members of staff. Many customers are unwilling to let us know what they really think no matter how small it might be. This can lead to complacency - how can you address an issue if you don't even know it's there?Once again thank you for highlighting the key points in your review.P.S. Davey B, I don't like it but we will learn from it......

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2009.

we went here not too long before christmas, we experienced the same - some dishes were great, others disapointing. also service not fantastic

AdamJanuary 5th 2009.

I've had exactly the same experience as this. My mates always go here and say its great. Whenever I go its just a second rate curry house. Rubbish!

SiJanuary 5th 2009.

Jonathan, You should've gone to the Gurkha Grill instead - far better food and service. I've not been to the Kathmandu for over 5 years now - incidentally is there still that lingering damp smell about the place?

1 Response: Reply To This...
JanusxxxNovember 9th 2013.

Mamochas here have no flavour, I mean none !

Trevor DahlJanuary 5th 2009.

Are there any Tibetan restaurants in Manchester?

vicJanuary 5th 2009.

A group of six of us went on new years day. The food was brilliant, as usual, service was really slow though.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2009.

get a grip - my son is still calling himself man friday??? where did that analagy come from...not a good place.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2009.

Why arent there any decent Indian,Nepalese or other ethnic restaurants in Middleton? there are 3 in Prestwich/Whitefield,including the revamped Forts Of India, now that is a good place,smart, clean, good choice and reasonably priced. But Middleton, its a deadhole for decent food, there are no upmarket clean places , just a few of the old style curry houses of the eighties ie go there after the pub, insult the staf,roll out late.. Maybe thats all Middleton can manage.Mr Alis in Heaton Park used to be half decent but now its filthy,cold and empty.

redroosterJanuary 5th 2009.

Jon , get yourself off to the Forts of Bengal in Sale , not Nepalese , but a fine curry.

MorganJanuary 5th 2009.

Wow... staggered at the negative comments here (Si work at the Gurkha by chance?!). Visited the Kathmandu a few times recently and everyone loved it. Even had frieds up from London who demanded we go there based on their experience same time last year. Okay, the decor is 80's style but the staff are lovely and the food is brilliant... can only think that Jonathan landed on an off night. Still on my A-list!!

James DaviesJanuary 5th 2009.

Right back to Great Kathmandu. The review is right it needs a revolution. Back in the day it was probably the bees knees but now it's best for take out. It's old style and I have no idea why apart from the pictures on the wall it's Nepalese either. And yes there is still a smell of damp.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2009.

Jai Kathmandu, Northenden - now *that* is good food!

Paul MJanuary 5th 2009.

I agree.Went there just before Xmas. I had the Tandoori Fish; nice enough but quite dry, and a worryingly crap salad. Main took ages and was okay. One waiter was amusing and friendly, the other was just rude. Timings were wrong.It's a funny one, the Great Kat. I've been going there irregularly since I first discovered it about 5 years ago. If we order Indianish these days, it's the untouchable Spicy Hut (ignore the name, it's brilliant). Have ordered a few times from the GK (Saag aloo used to be a fav), but it pales in comparison.So yeah, in summary; it appears to be resting on its laurels and is now showing cracks. 3/5

SausagesJanuary 5th 2009.

The Fists of Bengal ain't great - the sauces are too sweet. But the takeaway opposite, Satans, is top notch. Yum. They also run a sit down place further up towards the town hall, but I cant think of a tiresome misspelling of it's name, so I won't mention it.

RobJanuary 5th 2009.

We went there about a year ago (taking a trip out of town) of the back of its previously great reputation. To be honest we couldn't believe how bad it was - slow service, drinks forgotten twice, 30min gap between pops and starters and food I would have called mediocre 5+years ago - let alone since the gradual arrival of the likes of Shimla Pinks, Akbars and EastzEast.

Impartial indeedJanuary 5th 2009.

Do you think the Didsbury mag is after some advertising?

Billy HarrisJanuary 5th 2009.

But at least with this restaurant the owner Buda, has shown he cares. Well done to him

emma graceJanuary 5th 2009.

Apparently so...

Northern FleurJanuary 5th 2009.

The Kathmandu has always been good food; not always good service to match. It used to feel as though they wanted to oust you ASAP; this was prior to the expansion so they probably did as it was generally bursting at the seams. That doesn't seem to be so much of a problem now but I have to say that I have only eaten there in a group twice; between 5-8 of us and both times the service has been poor. Very long waiting times with no explanation; the food fine when it arrived but having waited so long the hunger has passed and the excitement long since waned. When the place has been going for so long and a lot of the dishes have slight differences and use a lot of the same ingredients you are left pondering about what on earth is taking so long. We did question it the last time and just given a perfunctory smile with no apology. I've always thought this place great for reliable food but not somewhere I would take anyone I particularly wanted to impress.

Greg BakerJanuary 5th 2009.

Service is slow but the food is good.

emma graceJanuary 5th 2009.

Oops...sorry! Thanks though, you've made my day with that news :)

is it just me who wondered about the spelling?January 5th 2009.

papadam, papaddam, papadom, papadum, papodam, papodum, popadam, popadom, poppadam, poppadom, poppadum, poppodam, puppadum, puppodam, puppodum. However, there is nothing to say that you cannot use the unlisted spellings papodom, popadum, poppodom, poppodum, puppadam, puppadom, and puppodom. Take your pick!

Didsbury MagazineJanuary 5th 2009.

Everytime I go the food is great the service is superb and The Observer seem to rave about it. 2 pops, chicken chilli, saag aloo, one rice and a naan. 1 pint cobra and a glass of white wine £17.55 chips on the house. Can they deliver?

mJanuary 5th 2009.

You should have gone to the Ghurka Grill, it's much better.

budaJanuary 5th 2009.

Thanks Morgan, consistency is something that everyone strives for. I know that you have never had a bad meal in our establishment and for every customer that has a complaint there are 100 more who visit us day in day out. My only guess is the majority of them don't know how to use a computer and post a reply on this site.

Fuzzy DunlopJanuary 5th 2009.

I agree totally with Rob, Red Rocket and the others who prefer the Jai Kathmandu in Northenden over the Great Kathmandu. The food is always fantastic and the staff are always happy to have a chat (while not neglecting their service duties, either). It's one of the best curry houses in the whole of Manchester in my opinion and deserves more recognition than it currently gets.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2009.

Myself and 5 members of my family ranging young to mid 50's went her for a family meal on new years day. The restaurant was absolutely packed and we were shown upstairs straight away and i remeber that there was three people working the floor upstairs and one man in the bar area. On arrival we were asked if we would like popadoms and were given two each. There was a 15 minute wait then for the starters which were placed at the same time the popadoms arrived ( they were delicious ) we ordered the mixed tandori starter lamb chops and two seek kebabs all of which were too good standard. I reccomend trying the lamb was very tasty. Two younger members of the family did not enjoy the dupiaza which is usually medium heat with an onion and tomato base, it was creamy and did not resemble the normal dupiaza apart from that it was all lovely, even let us take home the chop bones for the dog. Couldn't of done enough to please our waiter was very attentive and the wait was not that long either. 18/20

TomTJanuary 5th 2009.

We are regulars at Nemaste Nepal just further down Burton Rd. Fantastic food, great service, never fails to deliver. Run by the same family as Great Kathmandu as far as I'm aware.

viva chris ronald.......January 5th 2009.

11/20?? very harsh!!! i went here on boxing day as its just round the corner and Sangam was a walk i wasnt willing to do in the cold and i thought it was alright. Everything looks like its from a wendy house as the place is that small but its a value for money ruby and nothing more. On the waiters etc, 2/5 is probably a bit generous but they did make the effort to bring me a fork the 3rd time i asked.

Roberto BonningtonJanuary 5th 2009.

Doesn't the Man Friday refer to Robinson Crusoe and desert islands and therefore coconuts and thus pasanda? I thought it was funny. What's on your mind Anonymous person?

cping500January 5th 2009.

But when was it different. Service has always been slow and the eating experience mixed since I lived in WR ten years ago..... but in those days it was pehaps the only local place. Any anyway what is nepalese food.... and is any of it on the menu?

GezzabelleJanuary 5th 2009.

Has Akbar's shut down???

lavinia lancasterJanuary 5th 2009.

if you are in West Didsbury again you should try the thai place with the singing elvis impersonator/drag artist. Very funny and the vegetarian food was remarkably ok!

1 Response: Reply To This...
JanusxxxNovember 9th 2013.

Crazy Wendy's !

YoshimiJanuary 5th 2009.

The service at Great Kathmandu is a running joke in our household, everytime we've been there's some new chaos. Gurkha Grill gets a lot more of our business - vegetarian menu there is fantastic.

jamesJanuary 5th 2009.

been going to katmandu for 8 years and never had a bad meal ,chicken baktapur,c/w pilau &well done peswari naan!!can any one get thier hands on the recipe for this as well as makan chara ?

NorthernGeezerJanuary 5th 2009.

Everytime i've gone to the Jai Cat Man Doo the foods been great, but the service has been shyte.

JeffJanuary 5th 2009.

When did Akbars close? It was open the day before NYE.

Edith CJanuary 5th 2009.

Have none of you tried the Namaste? In between the Kathmandu and the Gurka - its fantastic and the service is top notch. It is another Nepalese though - three on one stretch of road! Bit like buses.

Davey BJanuary 5th 2009.

Poor old Buda's not going to like this review one bit

bahjiJanuary 5th 2009.

Adam-You say “mates”.? Am I right in assuming this means more than one turn up at this place possibly pi**ed and therefore a curried doggie doo would be equally as appealing? Possibly not the best measure of a food place? Just a thought.

Red RocketJanuary 5th 2009.

Are you sure you didn't mishear the recommendation? You should have gone to the JAI Kathmandu, the criminally underrated Nepalese restaurant in Northenden. One of the best curry houses anywhere and knocks the bewilderingly popular Great Kathmandu into a cocked hat. The Great Kathmandu is average at best. It'd be nice to see Manchester Confidential do a review of the Jai and prove that South Manchester doesn't end at Didsbury...

Hale&Bowdon MagazineJanuary 5th 2009.

Packed restaurant, v successful, saag aloo very nice! Buda can u deliver I'm at home!

PeterJanuary 5th 2009.

We're with Edith: Namaste Nepal every time. For friendly & effective service and great food it's a safe 15+/20 bet every time. Try the Makan Chara (or however it's spelled) yummmmmmmm.

sarahJanuary 5th 2009.

incidentally, J'ai kathmandu in northenden is owned by cousins of the dangols, and this is also a good restaurant

EditorialJanuary 5th 2009.

Akbar's is still open. Naughty Emma G spreading rumours. Funny that the point of this article about the GREAT KATHMANDU is things your friends tell you.

DanJanuary 5th 2009.

I have lived round the corner for 12 years and agree that it has gone downhill. I went on New years days and had to send 3 dished back for arriving cold. I only went as the Ghurka is shut on New years day. I visit the Ghurka at least once a week and it is 10x better. Should have walked the extra 100m.....

CathyJanuary 5th 2009.

I am really shocked by this review. I've been going to the great Kathmandu for about 5 years and love it. Admittedly I haven't been since before Christmas so haven't been able to note any decline but I have never ever left disappointed and never had bad service.. Love the Tandoori fish, Tandoori Chops, Chops Makhanwhala, Lamb Swadilo, Lamb Handi and Onion Culcha (Is that how you spell it?) and Aloo Gobi.. mmmmm

1 Response: Reply To This...
JanusxxxNovember 9th 2013.

Possibly depends on time you dine ? However I love the Nepalese rest's in didsbury, the great k is slightly dearer, slightly smaller portions but good. And namaste now has great k,s chef of 30 plus years experience ..

Dai LalamaJanuary 5th 2009.

There used to be but they've all been taken over by Chinese restaurants.

ancoats girlJanuary 5th 2009.

I stopped going to the Kathmandu when we discovered the Gurkha Grill many years ago. Sadly I can't get to Didsbury very as I now live in north manc and I have no car, so I'm heartened to hear it's still good. I used to love the pepper chicken (slightly sweet tomato sauce with tons of cracked black pepper) with one of their gorgeous garlic naans.

Eric JacksonJanuary 5th 2009.

Don't fret, poor Jonny - you can still find a genuine and rewarding Nepalese experience in Greater Manchester. Just head down the A6 to the Kantipur in Heaviley, Stockport where service, food and ambience make it the best ethnic restaurant for miles.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2009.

The past couple of times I've been here the food has been great but the service was well below average... drinks were forgotton once ordered, had to ask for menus, had to ask twice for popadums and never any apologies.

RobJanuary 5th 2009.

I've not been to this one for years but i would 200% recommend its counterpart Jai Kathmandu in Northenden. Excellent Service and amazing food that is out of this world. Personally my favorite restaunrant in Manchester and has been for many years. I would recommend any of their chilli dishes (chicken,cheese, prawns etc) They're not very hot unless u eat the chilli's but the sauce is to die for.

AnonymousJanuary 5th 2009.

I've just come back from Nepal and to be fair if you got your main course in 45 minutes you are doing well - Nepalese time. Plus there is not really very many traditional Nepalese dishes so how you get a full menu from them never mind three restaurants in the same street I don't know.

GoodfoodfolkApril 26th 2012.

Why isn't there a review of the New Himalayas in Levenshulme? Never had a bad experience there in 5 years, consistently authentic, tasty food and great family style service. Good menu with fresh ingredients, especially if you're vegetarian or vegan. Go to the New Himalayas - you won't be disappointed...or over charged!

Marcus LavelleApril 9th 2013.

This review was from 2009 and it says published 2011. Regurgitating reviews are we?

JanusxxxNovember 9th 2013.

Reviews like this need better research before publicising. There are three Nepalese on Burton road. Gurkha grill, namaste Nepal and great Kathmandu and they have been there for quite a few years. Great k , namaste and third eye in Central didsbury are all run by the same family. I've been dining at namaste for over seven years now and love it. The staff at Nepalese I've been too all seem really chilled out and efficient. The head guy at namaste is currently Chandra that was the chef at Great K for 30 plus years.

1 Response: Reply To This...
PauleoDecember 10th 2013.

The Kathmandu has only been there for 28 years.... your research needs to be done as well. The head chef was Chandra for a short while then Ramesh, for several years, then came Dhurba (who was taught by Ramesh) and again now it's Ramesh. When this review was done the head chef was Dhurba who is now the head chef of Namaste Nepal...... lol

JanusxxxMarch 23rd 2014.

Yep I got the years wrong, but it is Chandra that runs namaste now or at least he says he does along with literature in the restaurant saying the same., I don't know who the 'head chef' is. I think it was on something I read in the restaurant that boasted about Chandra having been head chef at great k for many years.. Not sure where I got 30 from ! We had a very good buffet there today in aid of Nepalese charities. It was noted that Chandra did the cooking in place of the usual chef who's in Nepal.

sherlockApril 5th 2014.

the last time i went to the Kathmandu i had a chicken dish now the chicken was very dry as if it hadn't been cooked in the curry i would say old chicken won't go back again

AnonymousApril 5th 2014.

It's probably a good job the old chicken won't go back again. Would you revisit the Kathmandu though Sherlock?

RebekahApril 24th 2014.

I've always loved the Kathmandu! Does anyone know if it's open on Christmas day??

DianeAugust 21st 2014.

the very best Nepalese on Burton Road is The Namaste Nepal, go for the Korsani it is as good as the ITR chicken at the Indian Tiffin Room. The Great Kathmandu is very hit and miss; the last time we went was some years ago. We had one good meal followed by two disappointing meals and have never gone back.

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