Cheetham Hill is an area of Manchester that meant nothing to Hector until last month. On the Yadgar Party Night, Ahmed, Hector’s Islamabad Curryspondent and Occasional Fellow Diner, had informed me that he had been at the Lahori Dera (433 Cheethamhill Rd, Manchester, M8 OPF) a Couple of Nights earlier. He had found it to be an Authentic Punjabi/Pakistani Venue. It looked walk-able from the Northern Quarter, however arriving at Piccadilly Station, I was glad that Dr. Stan had decided to join me and share the cost of a Taxi. We planned to walk back. En Route we passed a Cluster of Curry Houses, for the Future, I noted mentally. This was not a Ten Minute Walk.
We entered what looked like a Converted Hall where Things other than Food may have been previously worshipped. A Young Waiter took us to the far end of the room, a vast room. We were sat at the edge of a Stage. If there’s a Performance of any description, Dr. Stan will be Mortified – I thought.
A Large Broad-Sheet Newspaper-style Menu was provided. The Left was in English, the Right in Urdu presumably. Hector was busy Photographing The Menu, Dr. Stan studied the Contents. Lamb Karahi by The Kilo was on offer. Simples.
We declined the provision of Poppadoms when the reply to my new question was given – Are you Offering or Selling? A Salad and Two Dips came, we started the Bottle of Still Water that was already on the Table. Dr. Stan took the Salad, Hector resisted, He was here to Eat Meat!
A Mature gentleman, who was clearly The Head Waiter, came to take the Order. Lamb Karahi, on-the-bone, with Extra Methi and a Bit more Salt, and Dry. Four Roti (£0.70). This was recorded Electronically on a Pad, No Problem.
There was time to…
Hector went Exploring. The Toilets Upstairs were a Hoot. This Upstairs gave away just how old this Building is. The Downstairs had been totally Revamped to create the Atmosphere required. The Upstairs were in a Time-warp. I passed a Young Chap who had an Air of Importance.
Are you the Owner, Manager? He was the Manager. So, First Contact. There was a Canvas Photo on the wall commemorating Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whose Music has been mentioned in Curry-Heute over the years. I acknowledged this with Mein Host.
The Open Kitchen is at The Entrance to the Right. The Huge Hall must sit Hundreds. The Place was Quiet, maybe Twenty-plus Fellow Diners? Dr. Stan and Hector certainly stood out from the rest of the Diners.
The Karahi, the actual dish, was different from anything Hector has ever been given. A Flat Karahi was first spotted at the start of this month in Huddersfield. The Dark Steel Karahi was covered in a single layer of Lamb on-the-bone. The Waiter had Listened, The Chef had Complied. This was Bradford-Dry. Instinctively I knew that this would be One of the Best Curry Dishes ever set before The Hector. Dr. Stan wired in as I took the Necessary Photos.
He remarked immediately about – The Intensity of Flavour. Many – Mmmms – were to follow. Glasgow’s Khyber Restaurant which is sadly no more, was the First to Introduce Hector to the Curry that is typical of the Northwest Frontier. Red Powders have not been used, this is a Black Pepper Creation. Still, the Flavours were Tremendous. The Garnish of Fresh Coriander and ginger on Top added to the Experience. The Lamb was as Tender as one required, Cooked to Perfection. Only Three of Four Roti were eaten. They did not Crisp, the Volume defeated us. Not the Meat, the Sheer Volume of Bread. The Roti were dipped in the Minimal Oil which collected on the Karahi, More Flavour, More Pleasure. This was Truly One of the Great Curry-Heute Moments. Let me again Thank Ahmed for this Recommendation before I forget.
The Head Waiter came across and asked if we required anything else. What more could you give us? – was the quick reply. A Young Waiter asked if the Food was – N***?
This is much better – I raised my hand, palm down, then raised it again.
The Lahori Dera has set The Benchmark for Manchester Curry.
£26.30. This was a Fair Price for the Food we had consumed, but there were now a Couple of Issues.
I had deliberately not asked for The Bill at The Table as is my Norm when eating at an Establishment such as this for the First Time. The Manager was on The Till. He took The Cash. Whilst I congratulated him on the Outstanding Quality of The Food Served, I could not help but notice the Itemisation. £1.00 for the Salad, £1.50 for the Bottle of Water. Whilst I made it clear we were not unhappy with the Overall Price, I did tell him that this was a Sneaky way of Inflating The Bill.
His answer would diffuse any situation. It was along the lines of – We regard Our Customers as those who have Travelled to Eat. When they arrive they require Immediate Sustenance and a Drink, hence the Salad is Presented and the Water awaiting.
Charming, or what? There was no way I was letting this Spoil The Event. He also stated that They are always willing to take suggestions on board. I was given a £5.00 Discount Voucher valid Monday to Friday.
It was fitting that we ended the evening having our Photo taken in front of the Tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I promised to return as soon as possible. I already knew when that would be…
In true Hollywood tradition, a Taxi was making a strange Manoeuvre outside the Lahori Dera. I hailed him, we were whisked back to the Marble Arch. The Taxi Driver had been taking a Photo of the Exterior of Lahori Dera to wind up his Wife. Look where I am!
Dera – translates as – Campsite – he informed us.
The Lahori Dera will have to be visited again, and again…