After making a bit of a pig's ear of booking myself in to Sanskruti last week my luck was in, there was one spare table in the corner of Ladybarn's popular little curry house.
It was properly bustling inside, and the vibrant atmosphere was a reminder that – whilst the focus is often on the city centre – Manchester’s neighbourhood restaurants are often its real treasures.
On the recommendation of our waitress, we dove in the Dhokla first, they’re a speciality of the Gujarat region that much of Sanskruti’s dishes hail from, so seem a sensible place to start. The steamed cubes of chickpea flour cake are not too dissimilar to corn bread with their savoury earthy flavour – and they’re tailor made for mopping. The accompanying coriander dip has bags of flowery, herby zest that – coupled with sweetness and crunch of coconut and pomegranate – make for a deliciously fun plate of food.
Samosa Chaat is a real favourite of mine, a good old mess and mash of textures against both sweet and sour tang. It’s the tart tamarind and citrusy yogurt notes that make this street snack such a pleasure and they’re in full attendance here, cutting sharply through the softness of flaky samosa pastry and potato.
You could quite easily just stay with the snacks, as many diners at Sanskuti do, but we wanted to try some curries too. The Kadai Paneer jumped out as a good way to raise the temperature a bit and also try some fresh succulent Indian cheese. Kadai or Karahi is always a pretty solid choice I find and also a good measure of a curry house. Here, the dish’s oiliness was balanced perfectly by the fiery heat of Kasmiri chillies and fragrant whole spices, those delicious cubes of paneer also proved an able replacement for meat.
Our other main was at the opposite end of the spicy spectrum. The Malai Kofta, with its cashew nut based sauce, was closer to korma than I would’ve liked but the richness of those spinach and potato koftas made for a clever dish nonetheless – an excellent demonstration of the inventiveness of vegetarian Indian cuisine.
If you’ve got room for dessert the Gulab Jamun are definitely worth a go. Those plump little syrupy balls remind me of simple spongy desserts from my childhood. They also bring back the memory of clumsily eating my way through a pure vegetarian meal in the Keralan city of Kochi, when I accidentally poured my dessert on top of the main course thinking it was more of the same. Aside from the sickly sweetness, it was the look of horror on the faces of an Indian couple sat opposite, as I tucked in to the odd sweet and savoury combination. Anyway, none such disasters here, and the accompanying dried fruit of creamy fig and date ice cream proved a much more palatable bedfellow for our balls.
As it happens this was my first visit to a place that’s already cemented itself, not just as a quality vegetarian choice, but a brilliant restaurant in it’s own right. The rise of vegetarianism and veganism in the UK over the past decade has been astounding really but it’s surely good news for all us – at the very least it seems unsustainable for people to continue to eat meat at the rate we do in most of the western world. And if cutting down consumption is the aim we could all learn a lot from India, where vegetarianism is widespread not just for religious reasons but economic ones too, and the subcontinent is undoubtedly still home to some of the most exciting food on the planet. As luck would have it we have some really fantastic Indian restaurants in Manchester right now we could use for inspiration, and Sanskruti is certainly one of them.
95 Mauldeth Rd, Manchester M14 6SR
0161 224 4700