Amma’s Canteen, 285 Barlow Moor Rd, Manchester, M21 7GH – Visit Now
Review by Charlie Spargo
Kerala is India’s the “land of spices”. It’s the place of birth of Saju Ravindran, who moved to England with little more than kitchen experience and ambition not long ago. He’s the owner of Amma’s Canteen, an unassuming Indian street food restaurant on Barlow Moor Road.
Amma’s Canteen, named for mothers everywhere – ‘amma’ translating as ‘mum’ – isn’t in Didsbury’s leafy lanes, or the bustling, trendy streets of Chorlton. It’s halfway between them, directly on the edge of the Southern Cemetery.
A comfortable, welcoming neighbourhood restaurant with a traditional feel
It’s a comfortable, welcoming neighbourhood restaurant with a traditional feel and a menu that takes inspiration from Saju’s Keralan heritage, dashes of other parts of the country as well as his own innovations. It seems many local residents have come to know and love this place as their go-to – even after only 14 months of being established.
The menu is fairly huge – covering street cart fare, dosas and one-pot dishes. The street food selection is their most popular and well-known, and we are recommended to pick the bulk of our choices from there.
The first dishes we got our hands on are the Porucha Vendaka stuffed okra, and Karuveppilai Eral crusted king prawns. The okra came bursting at their seams with nuts, lentils and spices – crunchy and delicious. The prawns too were fresh and juicy, nestled in a thick batter and paired with curry mayonnaise.
Cauliflower Bezule, a West Indian street food dish, blends exciting textures and flavours, paired with okra yoghurt
Next, Cauliflower Bezule, a West Indian street food dish, which blended exciting textures and flavours, paired with okra yoghurt. The florets were fried and drenched in a spicy, creamy sauce – the exterior a little crunchy and the interior soft without being sloppy.
East Asia collides with South in the Stuffed Kozhukattai with ‘poor man’s dip’, a dish of real inspiration – modelled on the breakfasts served to manual workers by the families hiring them. These dim sum-style vegetable dumplings popping with vegetables were wrapped in a thin, stretchy skin but it was the exceptional relish – a pungent blend of coconut, shallot and smoked chilli – that made it sing.
Perhaps it was only in comparison to the wonderful dish before, next to which many paled, but the Madras Masala Mussels were a slightly lower point. The flavour of mussel meat is too distinct, and the zesty sauce lacked as much depth as some of Amma’s other offerings.
As well as the street food, we chose one from the dosa griddle, and one “from the pot” too. The masala dosa, which came with coconut salsa and lentil and vegetable sambar, wasn’t to my taste – a little heavy on the sweetness. Each component, however, was made well, especially the crisp and light dosa pancake.
Amma’s Canteen has all the heart and tradition you’d expect from a top neighbourhood restaurant
But the Kari Kulambu Poratha absolutely stood out. This deeply spiced lamb curry was cooked for six hours and had a wonderful depth of flavour, served in a clay dish alongside flaky, crusty parathas to sweep up all the sauce with. To close off the meal, it was utterly perfect.
Amma’s Canteen has all the heart and tradition you’d expect from a top neighbourhood restaurant rapidly becoming an established name on Manchester’s restaurant scene. Take a short trip out of the city to the edge of the Southern Cemetery to get an authentic Keralan experience you won’t forget in a hurry.