The first thing you’ll notice when you step into The Purple Lounge is the purple. There’s purple in the lighting, in the handsome tile work, in the upholstery and the blooms of fresh flowers scattered expressively about the space.
It’s all quite striking but it’s not gaudy and serves as a confident announcement that you’ve arrived to a place built with love and attention, a place where presentation matters. You’ll find that ethos next in the smiles and friendly conversation from the staff, and you’ll continue to find it in all the dishes that hit your table.
Fresh off a celebrity-studded grand opening just four months ago, The Purple Lounge is bright and spacious and a little bit glitzy. Built around a mirrored-bar and without skimping on the crystal-encrusted chandeliers, the restaurant feels like it should be off the lobby of a trendy new hotel — where the superbly solicitous, pressed-and-dressed waitstaff would also feel right at home, no doubt.
Manager and co-owner Azid told me that following the busy few first months, the menu has recently been pared down to focus on the most popular dishes but the current offerings still run for pages and include an exciting array of specialities alongside a full range of Indian classics.
My companion and I started with papadom, crispy ultra-thin circles of unleavened bread, like large baked crisps. Served with a quartet of sauces and chutney, the fun is in the cracking sounds and dipping motions and experimenting with flavour combinations; Sweet mango sauce? Lovely! Maybe the mango with a bit of onion chutney? Even better! What would it be like with a touch of deep-red chilli sauce? There’s no reason to not find out! When the papadoms are done you’ll want to stop the server from taking the sauces away, mostly so you can try the powerfully fresh-tasting mint yoghurt on everything that comes next.
From the starter menu we selected a pair of fried classics: Chicken Pakora and Masala Fish. The Pakora are lovely, with crispy breading offering a good chew without doughiness and a faintly oily mouth-feel calling to mind nothing so much as a super-premium McNugget.
The Masala Fish was a real stand-out for me, the shallowly-fried slips of pangash perfectly panko-breaded for a nice crunch without grease and leaving behind a lingering medium heat. And of course both appetisers were perfect test beds for continued dipping experiments.
The Purple Lounge began to fill up with a supper-time crowd of families and young couples as we dined, and the bustle began to build. Steaming bowls and sizzling platters swerving between tables on gleaming carts, patrons gingerly licking spicy sauces from fingertips and rubbing tears from their eyes using just their knuckles, that way you do during a spicy meal when you know the alternative is a moronic self-macing.
With sharing in mind, my companion and I ordered a handful of main dishes and sides. As the table’s surface began to disappear beneath silver chafing dishes and fresh plates my glasses fogged and my sinuses loosened in the steamy, aromatic cloud that enveloped our booth. If you’re experienced with Indian food you know that it’s not a cuisine built around decadent ingredients or show-stopping technique, but rather hearty, homely meals prepared slowly and without pretension from traditional fare.
That means that sometimes you can look out over a table of dishes and see a certain sameness in the iterated bowls of indistinct cubes draped in thick, reddish-brown sauces – but it also means that you’ve just been served a meal of particular cohesion, wherein it doesn’t matter if you’ve scooped up a cube of lamb, potato or cheese, and it doesn’t matter that your hunk of naan is stained with 3 finely-variegated shades of sauce, because it’s that situation with the papadom writ large in the main course: The joys of dipping and scooping with abandon are simple but endless and the most exciting moments are the successful experiments of mixing and matching, like when I discovered that the mint sauce tastes amazing with peas and paneer! One Nobel Prize in Having a Curry, please, and I’ll keep my acceptance speech short.
I devoured the lion’s share of the generously garlicky and thickly-diced Chicken Rogan Josh while my companion seized upon my distraction to steal away the Rack of Lamb with Keema, coveting for herself the tender, fatty lamb and the irresistible coriander of the soft, thick sauce. There was some terrific crunch in the spiced okra of the Bhindi Bhaji, and chewy perfection in the texture of the Motar Paneer. The aforementioned peas snap and burst alongside cubes of the paneer cheese that are neither too rubbery or too grainy and taste so powerfully fresh that you can practically taste the grass the goats ate.
As Azid bid us farewell, he let us in on a secret regret: He’s been eyeing the Rack of Lamb for months as dishes pass through the kitchen, but he’s been too busy to try it for himself! I’m afraid that might just be his cross to bear; Purple Lounge is a worthy spot for a proper feast and keeping Azid busy should top your to-do list effective immediately.
Purple Lounge, Ellesmere Retail Park, Worsley, Walkden, M28 3UD
0161 790 1584