Asha’s, 47 Peter Street, Manchester, M2 3NG – Visit Now
The eponymous pet project of Bollywood megastar Asha Bosle, with restaurants as far afield as Dubai, Kuwait and, er, Birmingham, Asha’s isn’t your typical curry house. This city-centre Indian restaurant has ambitions far beyond the bog-standard korma and vindaloo – although traditionalists shouldn’t fret, they’re more than catered for too. Asha’s specialises in food from North-West India, all bold flavours and beautiful presentation, with a smart focus on signature dishes.
This city-centre Indian restaurant has ambitions far beyond the bog-standard korma and vindaloo
The venue is stunning, all low lighting, ornate drapes and plush purple velvet seating. There’s a tangible buzz to the place, with upbeat staff eager to recommend the more unique dishes, boasting that you won’t find these anywhere else. They’re not wrong.
We open with the wickedly delicious mushroom kurkure. These are basically stuffed mushrooms, piled high with cheese, peppers and crushed black peppercorns, battered and deep-fried. They won’t be listed as part of a calorie controlled diet anytime soon, but as every glutton with a reduced lifespan knows, you can’t go far wrong with deep-fried cheese. Addictive and sinful, like all good things.
An inventive concept, that adds a touch of class to the humble samosa
The venison samosas are an altogether more down-to-earth dish. Well-made crispy samosa pastry, packed with crumbly coarse venison meat, peas, raisins and spices, plus a tangy sweet pineapple chutney to dip them into. It’s an inventive concept, that adds a touch of class to the humble samosa. It’s not the most essential item on the menu, but a tasty, interesting diversion nonetheless.
The chingri chaap appetiser isn’t what you’d expect from a prawn dish. Here you get thick silky King prawns, marinated in ginger, garlic and spices, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried til golden brown, with a gentle apple sauce dip. It looks almost cartoonlike, like a kind of flattened fish, due to the jutting prawn tail, but don’t let that put you off, it tastes delicious. Apparently, this was a favourite of Asha’s composer husband, Rahul Dev Burman, who she nicknamed ‘Bubs’. And if it’s good enough for Bubs, it’s good enough for anyone.
As good as these starter dishes are, Asha’s excels when it comes to the mains, specifically the dishes under the ‘Creative Classics’ section. Our waiter gets visibly excited when describing these to us – as well he might, they turn out to be fantastic.
Think tikka masala, touched by the hand of God
The Kodi curry is the star of the show – easily one of the best curries in Manchester – if you like your Indian food rich and creamy, prepare to meet your new favourite meal. The chicken thigh meat is cooked in the ancient Hyderabadi style, soft and steeped in all manner of intoxicating spices, sat in a delightfully comforting sauce made from yoghurt and coconut milk. A demonic-looking dried chili pepper and a few flakes of crispy fried spinach top the whole thing off. Think tikka masala, touched by the hand of God.
The Muscat Gosht is fantastic also, perfect for fans of lamb and darker, spicier curries. The tender chunks of lamb match expertly with a devilish dark red sauce that’s packed with big brazen flavours – tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic and countless others.
The desserts combine classic sweets with inventive ideas. The ginger-infused creme brulee is cooked beautifully, with a hard sugar layer on top, soft and creamy underneath. This comes with a couple of fantastic homemade pistachio biscuits, crumbly and buttery, providing a pleasing contrast from the silky texture of the creme brulee.
The blood orange kulfi is an elaborate plate, featuring a fluffy mound of traditional Indian ice cream coated in a basil seed sauce, plus segments of strawberries, blackberries and pineapple, connected by long orange caramel shards.
Only the most curmudgeonly diner could fail to be impressed by this elaborate and inventive menu. If your tastes lean toward fine dining, rather than curry and chips, you won’t find much better in Manchester.