The dreams of one man led to the establishment of the first Akbar’s restaurant in Bradford. But dreams and aspirations are not easily satisfied. Thus, started an array of Akbar’s restaurants being opened in various parts of the United Kingdom. From Birmingham to Manchester; from Newcastle to Leeds all have been blended in the subtle flavours of authentic Indian cuisine through the various branches of this restaurant.
Akbar’s is situated in the Liverpool Street, just off the Deansgate Road in Manchester. Surrounded by the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry on one side and the Roman Mamucium and Castlefield on the other, Akbar’s is a regular hotspot for tourists and travellers and those who like to soak in the flavours of India in this multi-cultural neighbourhood.
The restaurant functions from supper times and is opened only from 5 pm to midnight Mondays to Saturdays and from 4 pm to midnight on Sundays. The rich cultural heritage of India and the diversity in its cuisines can be experienced the moment you step inside. The huge statue of Lord Buddha welcoming the guests with folded hands at the reception coupled with a smiling assistant to guide you to your seats form a pleasant ambience. The interiors are beautifully decorated with gold and black patterns which are interrupted by classy glass designs.
If you are to enter around 5 pm, you would probably find it deserted but by half past five, the whole restaurant is buzzing with activities. The managers and assistants are running about ushering in the guests; the waiters are busy taking orders and serving the guests; the bar is filled with bartenders making various hand gestures while preparing some of the best cocktails and mocktails on the floor. The activity and the adrenaline levels in the kitchen rise up too, as they have to keep up with the pressure of serving quality food to their customers. At times, when the kitchen door opens one can catch a glimpse of the head chef shouting for more spices , the sous- chef quickly scanning the food that is to be put on the table, the waiters colliding with each other or cutleries and pots banging against one another. But even amidst the chaos inside, the output on the plates outside smell of a rich aroma of mixed spices and butter.
Being an Indian myself, I was elated to see an Indian restaurant but also wondered about the authenticity of the flavour. I ordered for a jar of Mango Lassi, Butter Family Naan, Chicken Tikka and Prawn Curry.
After a while, the waiter came in bringing a large tray of papads with four types of chutneys. The Papads were crisp and the subtle aroma of coconut oil in which they were fried came drifting up my nostrils as I sat eating them waiting for my main course to arrive. The chutneys however, were a delight. It seemed as if the wide range of flavours which complement a traditional Roti or bread was put in front of me in only four small bowls. There was the traditional sweet mango chutney, which is made using sweet mango pulp and spices. It was spicy yet sweet. A raita which is a mixture of cucumber, onions, nuts and at times tomatoes in curd. A bowl of sour onions dipped in vinegar as well as a bowl of a paste made of green chillies and mint leaves. These chutneys satisfied ones palette and left them with a taste of sweet, sour, spicy and chilly.
As I was sitting, munching my papads, the Mango Lassi made its appearance. It was a huge jug, big enough to feed six people. The Lassi, at the first sip tasted what I had expected it to taste like. The sweet mango flavour mixed with the thickness of the curd and milk gave it the much-needed refreshing taste. The drink however was too sweet given that most of its ingredients were naturally sweet and would only add up to its sweetness.
I looked around and saw that all the tables were full. In fact, the little I could see of the reception area from my seat, I saw was full of guests waiting to be seated. The murmurs around me grew louder and louder with the entire restaurant filled with people and staff. Soon after, arrived my main course-a huge steel stand holding about a 2 ft long Butter Family Naan with butter dripping from all its edges followed by my Chicken Tikka and Prawn Curry. By now the waiter realised that I was Asian and after politely asking me about my native language started talking to me in Hindi, our native language. He explained that the Family Naans were a speciality in Manchester and UK and was not available in India. I agreed with him on that as such huge Naans were indeed not available in Indian cuisine.
It was now time for me to taste each of the items I had ordered. The moment I put the Naan inside my mouth, the overpowering taste of melting butter took me instantly. The Naan itself was just the way it should have been – crispy at the sides, a little burnt even, due to the process of making it. It had a smooth tear and smelt of burnt charcoal and butter.
The Chicken Tikka came next on my list. It was served in the traditional copper bowl with two handles on either ends. The dish was sprinkled with coriander and garnished with lemon slices. The gravy was thick and oil-rich. The chicken itself was cooked to perfection spicier on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. The gravy was spicy but not hot. The Prawn Curry came as a pleasant surprise. Small round prawns cooked beautifully in red chillies and turmeric was the dish of the day for me. Served again in the traditional manner, the prawn curry was the first of its kind that I had tasted.
After finishing my food, I awaited the cheque. I was recollecting all the flavours and dishes that I had. Interestingly, though Akbar’s served Indian cuisines, its values had blended tradition with modernity much like the city itself. The plates were a mixture of tradition in modern style and flavours. The beauty of such a combination is that it gives a chance to rediscover the potential of traditional Indian Cuisines in modern times. Thus, the restaurant had delivered its promise of authentic cuisines and had also added to it a modern twist.
Akbar’s is a highly recommended restaurant due to its quality, quantity and flavour. It delivers what it promises. The chain is a recipient of various awards and honours and is currently running the nominations for the English Curry Awards 2016.
Address: 73-83 Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4NQ
Opening Times: Mon – Sat: 17:00 – 00:00
Sun: 16:00 – 00:00
Rates (for 2): £40-60