New Menu: Asha’s, Manchester

Last time Mr GFB and I headed to Asha’s for a review, we stuck with the bar. Cocktails and nibbles – small plates including their popula keema fries. Well we’re northern. We like stuff on top of fries, whether it’s gravy, or in this case a very elegant cheese and curry – not quite the same thing you’d get at the chippy.

This time around, we were sampling their summer menu, lighter flavours, still with a kick of spice and, as I was pleased to see, a good amount of seafood on offer.

Asha’s on Peter Street is one of a chain of restaurants from superstar Asha Bhosle. More known perhaps for her music (she has a back catalogue of some 12000 recordings and 950 films), she’s also a keen foodie and her international chain of restaurants. Manchester’s is one of two in the UK, the other is in Birmingham.

The venue is plush. Elegant. Purple and gold offer a little glitz and glamour, against the backdrop of bare brick and long lines. 

For it’s glamour though, don’t worry. You’ve still got favourites like crisp poppadums and chutney to nibble on, though these chutneys offer more variety than some venues on the Curry Mile – including options like tomato and prune, pineapple, or the classic coriander chutney for dunking. 

Though it’s still just as much of a challenge not to fill up on those first. 

For starters, we both opted for seafood selections from the menu. I couldn’t resist the sound of the seared scallops with curry leaves, garlic, star anise, tomato and onion. It would be easy to overwhelm the soft sweet scallops with too much flavour, but the dish was well balanced, with the seafood offering a contrast in both texture and flavour to the savoury heat of the masala. 

Mr GFB went for my second choice, the monkfish tikka. Monkfish seems to have fallen a little out of fashion, but it’s meaty texture holds up well to curry dishes, and in this case to being cooked in a tandoor oven. 

 

When it came to mains, I wanted a little more heat, so the lal maas – spring lamb with yoghurt and red chilli – was my choice. a softly astringent heat, with lots of flavour. It’s no wonder I couldn’t manage pudding, especially when we opted for both rice, and the Lancashire cheese kulcha. I mean look at it.

Crisp but doughy, lots of butter and the light acidity of Lancashire cheese. Again. Again. Again.

Mr GFB selected murg kushnuma – pieces of chicken cooked with yoghurt and fresh fenugreek, ginger, garlic and spices. I admit, I was a bit jealous. Less heat, but still lots of spice and flavour, and the chicken was deliciously tender. 

Then came pudding.

I sadly was utterly stuffed. I had gorged on bread and poppadums. One day I will learn, but in nearly 40 years I haven’t yet. I’ll put it on my bucket list maybe – learn not to eat all the carbs at the beginning of a meal so I don’t miss out on them at the end. 

However, Mr GFB made up for my lack of self restraint and went for the cheesecake. Simple, straightforward satisfying. I could only watch and sulk as he happily demolished it. 

Asha’s has once again shown off it’s creative streak, it’s pretty plating and it’s good food. And I do love to see seafood being used with spice – I mean I love a prawn curry, but there are other fish in the sea and other flavours to play with. And Asha’s isn’t afraid to get a bit creative. 

Save me some kulcha. 

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This meal and accompanying drinks were supplied for free by Asha’s. As ever, this doesn’t guarantee a positive review (if anything, I tend to be a harsher critic).

We knew it was going to be good, having sampled the smaller plates previously, but we were one over by the bigger dishes too. And I’ll go to bed again dreaming of that bread. 

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