At long last Indian food is getting to have its 'moment' with a generation of diners who grew up eating more chicken tikka masala than roast beef dinners. A new wave of dynamic restaurants have arrived that don't offer thirty pages of food that all tastes unerringly similar, but do promise authentic dishes that pop with just as much fresh spice and flavour than any trendy Mexican or Vietnamese street food.
Over in Urmston, husband and wife team Raj and Trishna have been creating a bit of a buzz with their cool new curry cafe, complete with craft booze and regional Indian grub. Theru Kadai keeps things simple; a small set of considered dishes and a similarly well curated collection of beers and wines selected by punters on the restaurant’s regular taster evenings. With a revamped interior and redesigned menu under the belt in March, it was high time to head over for dinner.
We swerved the poppadoms to save space to try more dishes and it proved a wise decision as our hosts were intent on giving us a proper feed. Greedily, I ordered four starters to share between the two of us and Trishna nodded at each before turning to my companion to ask what he would be having, this was clearly going to go very well.
The light crisp street snack bhel puri was our first port of call. Puffed rice, deep fried noodles and chickpeas are enlivened with the sweet and sour tang of tamarind and a flowery shake of coriander leaves.
Next, another classic roadside bite to enjoy, a hot pair of masala vadai. Fennel and cardamom seeds fizzed with fiery flavour in the gram flour doughnuts, which were our first taste of the intense fresh, whole-spice punch in many of Theru Kadai’s creations.
The Madras fish cake also surpassed expectation, they can often be a bit bland and disappointing in my experience, everything clearly possesed that made-fresh taste though. Generous chunks of white fish and mashed potato gently spiced and surrounded with the lightest breadcrumb coating made for a snack that reminded me more of delicious Portuguese bacalhau fritters than your average fish cake.
For our final starter we chose the chicken 65, a famous dish originating from the restaurants of Chennai not too disimilar to chicken pakoras. Moist meat in a light crunchy batter and the sort of sharer that doesn’t hang around for long.
A recent refurb has given Theru Kadai a lovely fresh new look, complete with a Ganesh mural and modern wood panelling. Any observations about the decor not living up to the food certainly no longer hold here. Drinks were impressive too with the latest ales providing a perfect foil for all that spice, I particularly enjoyed the slightly sweet hum of Ticketybrew’s Marmalade Pale.
The hottest curries I tried when visiting India all came from Tamil Nadu in the south, and apparently the lamb Chettinad from that region was the spiciest thing on the menu, so we obviously had to order one. It was pretty warm, however there wasn’t just the blunt punch of chilli, but more of that fragrant fennel and cumin from toasted seeds which characterised the whole meal.
Next we tried the fresher and perkier kodi veppudu, a drier, thicker, fried affair. Pan fried chicken breast, toasted cashew nuts and a topping of sliced boiled egg combined to create another dish with layers of aromatic flavour. Finally to accompany all of that we tucked in to a vibrant vegetable biryani and crisp, pastry like slices of buttery paratha.
Semolina pudding may be something that conjures up memories of stodgy school dinners but this Halwa dessert was anything but. The steaming, tempting little pud proved irresistible coupled with sweetly perfumed pistachio kulfi.
218 Church Rd, Urmston, Manchester M41 9DX
0161 637 6478