AUTHENTICITY. It’s a powerful yet dubious quality.
Sindhoor provided again another engaging, lively and very pleasant experience. I have no reservations whatsoever in highly recommending this unpretentious and great value suburban gem
Rock world wisdom decrees we should value, say, the lifeless indie churnings of the toilet-circuit toiled Vaccines over and above the manufactured confection of, say, Girls Aloud’s sublime Love Machine. This, as my example demonstrates beyond all reason, is nonsense.
And yet the power of the A word cannot be denied.
It explains, for example, why, on returning once more to Whitefield’s Sindhoor, an eaterie I much admire, I ordered the chicken brown stew.
That title didn’t sound too appealing but it was, the menu assured me, an authentic South Indian dish. It was also easily the worst of the four mains we ordered on the review visit. This continued a long and irritating tradition of mine, that of not choosing as well as my fine dining companion. On the plus side the dish was far from a disaster as Sindhoor is far from your average Indian. Oh and I decreed that we were sharing.
But let’s start at the beginning. We first visited this friendly little restaurant, which sits opposite Slattery’s on the otherwise unappealing Bury New Road, when it opened around a year ago. It immediately charmed with its South Indian cuisine both different from and of a higher calibre than your average ‘Indian.’
The staff were helpful to the point of lunacy on that first occasion. When I tried to pay by card they apologised because they hadn’t yet installed the machine. “You can pay us next time,” said the obliging if foolhardy waiter.
His confidence we would return was well placed. We have been back on several occasions.
On our last visit we’d watched as a couple from Delhi advised the rest of their table what to order and glanced enviously as a succession of intriguing dishes emerged from the kitchen. I consoled myself that I had at least been mildly more adventurous than in the past and been rewarded by a momentous dosa, a light-as-a-feather rice and lentil pancake which enveloped a gently spiced and tender chicken masala. At £6.95 it was also an absolute steal.
This time we kicked off with a couple of trusted staples. The devilled chicken (£4.75), a dish of equal fire and tang, is fantastic. The chicken, offering both appropriate texture and tenderness, is accompanied by crunchy capiscum and onions, with curry leaves dominant in peppery spicing that offers more kick than a Scholes’ tackle.
Three small, succulent char-grilled Mysore lamb chops (£5.75) are not just decently charred but brilliantly flavoured courtesy of a marinade strong on cumin, garam masala, ginger and what seems to be five spice although that’s surely geographically misplaced. Who cares? It’s so good I find myself cleaning the plate with my finger. I’m not alone. You don’t do that sort of thing at Sanmini’s, the borough of Bury’s other South Indian eatery, a fine but somewhat serious institution.
My partner’s main of grilled pomfret pollichathu (£8.50) arrives to much gnashing of teeth - well mine anyway – and impromptu salivation. It’s immediately apparent this is the dish of the night. It comes wrapped in banana leaves, enabling some on table theatricality as She Who Orders Best unpacks a gloriously white, flaky fish which has been marinated in ginger, chilli, curry leaves and other spices, before hitting the skillet. The fish falls easily from sturdy bones and, as the lady eagerly points out, tastes of the sea.
I mutter darkly to myself as I tackle the brown stew (£6.95), a coconutty broth not a million miles away from a korma. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just not as good or as interesting as other dishes we’ve previously encountered in this small and simply furnished dining space.
Our dining colleagues ensure a return to form as the female of the pair chooses chicken chettinadu (£6.95), a Tamil dish which marries tender fowl with a thick, creamy sauce, well spiced with hints of fennel, coriander and a good hit of curry leaves.
Another generous bowl for the male of the two was filled with a similarly rich Malabar lamb masala (£7.25) that also works well. The lamb – so often a jaw challenging let down in Indian restaurants – while not quite fitting the melt-in-the-mouth cliché is nonetheless pleasingly giving.
To accompany we opted for chappathies (£3 for two), appam (£3 for two) – a pancake-like aerated bread made from fermented rice flour – and mildly zesty lemon rice (£4.25). We washed the whole down with the frankly unexceptional and somewhat tart house red (£12.95).
Wine and stew aside, Sindhoor provided again another engaging, lively and very pleasant experience. I have no reservations whatsoever in highly recommending this unpretentious and great value suburban gem.
We’ll be back and back soon because we’ve still got a good bit of unexplored culinary territory to chart. With these fine people currently offering a three course lunch for just £6.99 there's little excuse for not giving Sindhoor a whirl.
You can follow Andy Loynes on Twitter here @Andyloynes
ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.
Sindhoor, 178a Bury New Road, Whitefield, M45 6QF. 0161 796 7963. Also at 198-200 Mauldeth Road, Burnage, M19 1AJ.
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