By Tim Alderson | Last updated May 20th '16
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Of course it goes without saying that Britain loves Indian food. In fact it's often cited that chicken tikka masala is the nation's favourite dish, but the truth is it's not even our favourite curry anymore, these days apparently the drier, spicier jalfrezi gets the nod. Either way it can't be denied that our tastes have become rather more cultivated over the years and restaurants have had to diversify; whether that's by offering cuisine from a specific part of India, street food or by making things that bit more high end. Manchester is lucky enough to boast places doing all these things, and last week I was invited to one that's looking to make your dining experience that bit more refined. Asha's opened the doors to their new venue on Peter Street back in September of last year, and it has to be said the place feels a bit different from your usual curry house. With beautiful gold fittings, opulent booths and the Bolli bar downstairs it all feels rather special. That said, it's not too posh for poppadums so that's where we started. These came with a selection of home-made chutneys, my favourite was the pineapple and onion seed dip which also made a welcome appearance on the side of couple of our starters. Our first dish proper was the guinea fowl hariyali tikka which came in a vibrant green colour owing to a marinade of fresh coriander, cashew, cheese & spices. One of my memories of eating food in India was the green tint of the kebabs as it's not something you often see in England. The flavouring was more subtle than your usual tikka as well allowing the beautiful locally raised guinea fowl to shine. I've never had the bird done in this way but it was magnificent, perhaps my highlight of the meal. If not that then it would probably be the venison samosas, another classic given a twist with a different meat. The rich gamey flavour worked perfectly alongside green peas, raisins and fragrant spices. We also sampled a bit of the duck seekh kebab, I had expected it to be quite fatty but it's actually a very delicate dish, grilled only lightly it almost melts away in the mouth. For our main course we wanted to sample a good spread of different things so chose the boatman prawn curry, a creamy cocunut number, spicy tomato based lamb vindaloo and dal makhani, a rich slow cooked traditional dish of black lentils. To be fair my fellow dinner and I both know our way up the scoville scale so were most impressed with the vindaloo, it wasn't all just heat though, vinegar adding a piquant layer. On the side we enjoyed pilau rice and the artisan bread basket, a selection of naans perked up with truffle oil, cream cheese and garlic. I'm often told to be sure to save a bit space for dessert, sometimes I'll admit to being a little skeptical, but I was promised proper hand made puddings and they didn't let me down. The chilli chocolate tart is definitely by some margin the best sweet thing I've ever had in a curry house. A warm gooey-centered pud is topped with a beautiful dome of hardened caramel and then the homemade chilli ripple ice cream on the side left me wondering why on earth I'd never eaten chilli flavoured ice cream before. That's something I never thought I'd hear myself saying. We also tried the rasmalai which was equally pretty but for me not quite as tasty. It's not hard to have a good time in a curry house, and there were a fair few people doing just that when we were in Asha's, but Manchester is blessed with an abundance of great places to enjoy Indian and Pakistani food so restaurants need to bring something a little bit different to do well. If you like the sound of enjoying dishes using some quality local meats you might not be used to, tasty cocktails and home made chutneys and desserts all in ornately decorative setting, Asha's might just be the one for you.