I was expecting something new and exciting, however, some research seems to suggest a sleight of hand in that the website appears to be “Imli by Lal Qila” and, to add more confusion, the original (there was one before somewhere else in Manchester) Lal Qila website shows a menu for Deansgate.
But that’s by the by. I hadn’t entered the premises for a couple of years, even though my main memory of my last visit was a maitre’d that would go around the tables doing magic tricks; primarily because the competition for cuisine derived from and around the Indian sub-continent in the local vicinity (Akbar’s, Khan Ba Ba and Bollywood) are all excellent.
I always try and enter a place with an open mind, however, in this case I was skeptical due to a brace of recent bad reviews on TripAdvisor. When dealing with curries, that always needs some deeper analysis. It’s subjective – there’s no real definition of anglicised Indian food; often people’s personal tastes interfere with rational judgement. In any event, into Lal Qila I went.
So, decor, is standard curry house fayre, though omitting table cloths as seems to be the norm for a curry in the North along with prompt, attentive service and the usual Bangla beats in the background. An order for poppadums and drinks was swifty taken and they arrived expediently. All good so far? Well, actually, the poppadums arrived very quickly. This is an indicator of prefabricated ones as opposed to made to order (which takes mere seconds) and is usually forgiveable if the premade ones had been kept warm; they hadn’t. It goes down hill when examining the chutney tray. They felt a little watered down – this could be personal taste creeping in – but one of them was cabbage or onion (I have to admit I couldn’t tell) in a thin mayonnaise with sweetcorn. Yes. You read that right. Sweetcorn. On a chutney tray. In an Indian. Suffice to say that corn is North American and has never been native to the Indian sub-continent as far as I am aware. Any semblance of authenticity had started to vanish.
The menu is broad with a fair spectrum of mild to spicy and the usual suspects. I went with a shami kebab followed by a chicken laveeza, pilau rice, tarka dhal and a chapatti. The shami kebab was interesting; clearly bound in an egg batter and fried on site which is a plus. It was well spiced and very tasty, so it was a shame that the mince itself was a wet and sludgy consistency – kind of like the inside of a cheap bakery pastry slice. Oh, and there was an olive in the garnish, just to complete the fusion theme of the evening.
In terms of mains, the chicken laveeza (chicken with minced lamb) was equally well spiced and tasty. The chicken chunks, though small, did have skewer holes which is always a promising sign. However, the ratio of chicken to lamb felt far too biased to the lamb and there was too much ghee remaining in the bowl. The pilau rice was very well done and the chapatti was one of the best I’ve had in a long time (though I have it rarely). That leaves the tarka dhal, which was thick and full of chunks of chickpeas which I love, it’s just a shame they held back on the garlic. Many Indian restaurants do this for fear of having it sent back – I wish the British public would learn to enjoy this dish as the chefs would have at home!
All in all, it’s a shame. Lal Qila has a prime location on Deansgate, but on this performance, whilst there are positives that can be easily built upon (and noting it is a little cheaper than its nearby competition), it will be very overshadowed, very quickly.
|Restaurant Name||Lal Qila|
|Price Range||£30 a head (Dinner)|
|Phone||0161 839 6730|
|Address||310 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4HE|