Bundobust Manchester, 61 Piccadilly, Manchester, M1 2AG – Visit Now
Since opening their restaurant on the edge of Piccadilly, the team behind Bundobust have built one hell of a buzz around Manchester. For the unaware, this underground restaurant serves up tapas-style small plates of vegetarian and vegan Indian food, along with an exhaustive – and somewhat exhausting – list of beers and craft ales.
Leave those preconceptions at the door, nay-sayers, this place is something special
There’s little in the way of airs and graces. Apart from a few booths for bigger groups, most diners are sat next to each other, school dinner style, on benches. The food arrives in bio-degradable polystyrene trays and disposable paper pots, and the cutlery is eco-friendly vegware. On paper it shouldn’t work, but leave those preconceptions at the door, nay-sayers, this place is something special.
It’s packed out tonight, on a wet and windy Thursday evening, with a wide mix of diners ranging from boisterous students to family groups and first dates. Big beards and tattoos are the uniform of choice but there’s no elitism here, the atmosphere couldn’t be more welcoming.
The food pushes boundaries all over the place. Take new dish, Raghda Pethis. This little pot contains that hoary old Northern staple, mushy peas, and breathes new life into it with a touch of spice, covers it with tiny moreish turmeric noodles, chunks of chopped fresh tomato and red onion, and adds a blob of tamarind chutney on the side for good measure. The whole thing sounds bizarre, but tastes like a long-lost classic Indian dish, a perfect belly-warmer for the winter months.
Even better is the Gobi Mushroom Manchurian. This Indo-Chinese fusion features soft but thick pakoras made from mushroom and cauliflower, coated with a fiercely addictive sticky sweet sauce. This sauce makes it more Chinese than Indian, similar to a toned-down, less calorific take on sweet and sour chicken. If you’re looking for the junk food option, this is it and, to paraphrase Teri Hatcher in Seinfeld, it’s spectacular.
Chole Saag is a fine dish for fans of chickpeas and spinach. It’s a dark green curry sauce, with a liberal sprinkling of softened chickpeas and a delicious puri, a paper thin deep-fried bread. The sauce delivers a kick but it’s a deep, comforting heat rather than spice for the sake of spice.
Despite being billed as a new dish, Paneer Kadai is billed as a staff favourite. And for good reason. Mid-sized cubes of paneer cheese drowning in a red curry sauce made from red pepper, tomato, cinnamon and fenugreek. This is another must-try dish, rich in flavour, but unsurprisingly not one of the healthier options.
It should be noted that each dish averages out at a pocket-friendly £5, and you’re looking at two or three each for a full meal out, depending on how hungry you are. Unlike the average Indian restaurant, the portions aren’t huge but you’re never left wanting.
The Bhel Puri is probably the most unique dish on the menu, and you owe it to yourself to try it. Billed as a kind of deconstructed samosa, it’s a little tub packed with crisped samosa pastry, puffed rice, peas, red onion and tomato, splashed with tamarind chutney and topped with pomegranate seeds. The overall effect is like a Bombay Mix on steroids, with a huge variety of tastes and textures. But be sure to eat this one immediately – it loses some of its lustre once the chutney softens the crispy bits of pastry and rice.
The Paneer and Mushroom Tikka is a long-standing classic, and can’t be praised enough. A kebab skewer holding thick chunks of barbecued paneer, pepper and mushroom, marinated in a fresh clean yoghurt, with a snazzy drizzle of Bundobust’s very own red pepper ketchup across the top. The jury’s out on whether this is healthy or not, and in truth it doesn’t matter. It’s certainly better for you than a standard kebab, and far tastier than it has any right to be.
The only misstep is the Idli Sambhar, a soup made from lentil, aubergine and bottle gourd. This soup is tasty enough, particularly with the mustard seed and curry leaf chutney, but its dominated by four stodgy rice dumplings that add nothing to the taste of the dish. It’s a minor complaint, and easily ignored considering the high quality of the rest of the other dishes.
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, or a group meal out, Bundobust can’t be beat. In fact, they offer every item on the menu for a mere £80, enough to feed six to eight people. Do your friends a favour, drag them out for this, weather be damned.