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Harters

Dilli. Altrincham

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Probably South Manchester’s best Indian restaurant. And, for once, it is Indian not Bangladeshi or Pakistani owned. They say they cook to Ayurvedic principles and, no doubt, you’d need to know what they are to get the full health benefits of the cuisine. No, me neither. But I do know the menu is a world away from your high street curry house and that the kitchen has a skill and lightness of touch with the spicing.

Aloo tikki were two potato cakes encasing a mix of peas and ginger. Pleasant enough and enhanced by a little yoghurt and tamarind sauces which had been “squiggled” together on the plate quite cheffily.

The other starter was the better pick. Jhaal moori was a new one on us – a mix of puffed rice, chopped peanuts, chickpeas and a spicy chutney. It was very similar to the more common bhel puri – but without the yoghurt and tamarind which normally gets drizzled. An altogether drier dish but one which worked, particularly with the range of textures as well as flavours.

We both wanted lamb as a main. Like the more familiar rogan josh, rogan-e-nissat is a long cooked lamb dish from Kashmir. But unlike the familiar, this is a thin gravy, with no tomato, which relies heavily on matchsticks of ginger to give it a real zing.

From the other end of India came Chugar Gosht, apparently one of Hyderabad’s specialities. Again you could taste the lamb as it wasn’t masked by an overuse of chilli. It looked like the familiar sag lamb but here the spinach was described as “bitter”. And so it was, but only a hint of bitterness which contrasted well with the other flavours. Google tells me that the chugar leaves are the leaves from the tamarind.

As well as sharing these two, we also ordered a Hyderabadi yellow dahl which was quite poky with chilli but softened with the inclusion of mango. Nice, if a little thin in texture.

For carbs, some plain basmati rice and a pudhina (mint) paratha. The latter was a standard paratha sprinkled with dried mint (for which a heavier hand would have benefitted).

Food came to a very reasonable £34, to which a 10% service charge is added.


John Hartley

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Dilli looks well worthy of a good "seeing to" right now.

There's a new menu - which ditches the curry house "any protein with any sauce" concept completely replacing it with what are claimed to be traditional regional dishes. A quick Google seems to support the "authenticity" claim - at least in naming dishes.

Having recently eaten at Moti Mahal in London and liked their "mix & match" menu style, I hope Dilli and others will take this up and get away from the westernised concept of starters and mains.

Certainly some of the most exciting cooking seems to be coming from the east right now.


John Hartley

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It’s been a while since we were last at Dilli – certainly not since its inclusion in this year’s edition of the Good Food Guide. I hope we caught them on a bad night as there were a number of gaps in service. Like it being an age before they took our order. Like only one of the three advertised beers being available. Like bottles of sparkling water not being available. Like a starter being “off” the menu. Like the credit card machine not working – necessitating a schlep down the road to find an ATM. No, I really hope this was just a bad night and not a sign that it has gone dramatically downhill (the fact that the place was busy perhaps confirms this was a glitch)

That said, the food was generally OK. The “new” menu is now a couple of years old and there’s clearly been no issue with customers about ditching the bog standard “any protein with any sauce” curry house menu. There’s lots of stuff that, when you read it, you want to eat it.

Like a “samosa ki chaat”. A well spiced vegetable samosa topped with chickpeas, yoghurt, zingy tamarind and mint. Really good. Or the interestingly named “Chicken 65”. Yep, I had to look that one up when I got home and, yep, it’s a genuine dish coming from the state of Andhra, as do a number of the menu items. The chicken is mainly cooked by deep frying but is then finished in the pan with a thick coating of yoghurt, ginger, chilli and garlic.

We both went with lamb for mains and this proved to be a game of two halves. Bhuna gosht, another Hyderabadi speciality, had an excellent flavour. Real chilli heat, certainly, but tempered with mint and methi leaves. But the meat was not well cooked with some pieces being perfect, while others remained unpleasantly chewy. The other plate was pretty much perfect – gosht banjra was a generous portion that would have fed two not very hungry people. Or just me. I liked the way the spices had been coarsely ground giving a little texture to the sauce, which just clung to the meat.

We also saw off a small portion of dhal makhani which was a good thickish consistency and excellent flavour. It was the sort of dhal that, as an omnivore, you wouldn’t mind too much if someone said that was all you were getting to eat. Of course, you’d also want some carb. And Dilli does very good rice and a none too shabby crispy roti.

Up to now, I would have regarded Dilli as the best Indian in the metro area. Much as we enjoyed our evening, I’m not at all sure it still wears that crown.


John Hartley

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