At the fringes of Spinningfields on the Left Bank waits one of Manchester’s most satisfying lunches for less than a tenner: Thali at Scene Indian Street Kitchen.
I’d never heard of Thali before this week, but I’m going to cut myself some slack – after all, it’s only been a thing for 4,500 years. Thali is a word that means ‘plate’, adopted to refer to a multi-dish meal served on a round platter. What originated in the Indus Valley in time immemorial has migrated and morphed over the centuries to become a mainstay of South Asian dining and the traditional ‘boxed lunch’ for millions. Who knew?
Scene bills itself as a Street Kitchen but you’ll feel well off the pavement in its bright, high-ceilinged interior, embraced by warm wood, gold accents and plenty of Indian touches. But the street-cart vibe is indeed there to be felt, in the vibrant murals and up-tempo modern Indian music and in the bursts of steam carrying mouth-watering aromas out from the kitchen.
A modern-day Thali lunch is a stainless steel thali (of course), onto which a half-dozen small bowls called ‘katori’ have been assembled, their contents chosen to create a balanced and robust meal that hits all the important notes of flavour and texture.
From a list that also included lamb and vegetarian options, I opted for the Chicken Thali and within minutes I was presented with my platter: Chicken curry, vegetable curry, pilau rice, onion bhaji, poppadom, yogurt and salad. My fork darted from bowl to bowl, spearing bites and dolloping curry onto rice for my other hand to scoop up with shards of poppadom. The vegetable curry was hearty with potato & generously-diced carrot and boldly spiced to match, while the chicken curry in a makhani sauce is soft, buttery and mild with toasted maple hints of fenugreek.
The salad infused with coriander is a warm and crunchy reset for the palate and the yogurt sauce presents a green freshness and understated mint, adding a cooling dimension to any mouthful.
I was especially taken with the onion bhaji, which was fried with light batter to a perfect crumbly crunch and married a terrific, potent heat to the slight sweetness of the onions… if an onion ring was a Pokémon, the bhaji at Scene would be its final evolution.
I made short work of the platter and, walking back to my office with a comfortable warm fullness in my belly, had no problem imagining millions of others around the world sustained and invigorated by a lunchtime Thali as well.
With speedy service and just-right portion size, embracing the tradition at Scene Indian Street Kitchen couldn’t be easier for office-dwelling lunch-goers in the city centre — skip the chippy and hit up Scene today!
Scene Indian Food Kitchen, 4 Left Bank, Manchester M3 3AN
0161 839 3929