Restaurant Review: Akbar’s

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.

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Akbar’s from the Streets 

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.

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Chutneys

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.

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Mango Lassi 

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.

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Chicken Tikka 

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.

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Prawn Curry 

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.

Additional Information:

Address: 73-83 Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4NQ

Opening Times: Mon – Sat: 17:00 – 00:00
                                            Sun: 16:00 – 00:00

Website: www.akbars.co.uk / www.akbars.co.uk/Manchester

Rates (for 2): £40-60

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Tit- Bits To Try Out For This Festive Season

With Christmas on the doorstep, everyone is gearing up their taste buds to try the flavours of this season. Here are some of my top picks for this season, which are easy to make and are delicious to eat.

CHICKEN AND WAFFLE BITES

Fry readily available frozen potato waffles (you may use normal waffles if you do not get potato waffles). Sprinkle cheddar cheese on the fried waffles. (If you want to use any other cheese you may).Fry ready to eat chicken pops. Take cocktail sticks and attach a waffle and a fried chicken on each of them. Serve with any dip/ sauce of your liking.

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ROSE WATER RICE PUDDING

Heat two cups rice and half a litre whole milk. Add sugar when you see that rice has started absorbing the milk. Heat more 20-30 minutes more. Add rosewater as per your taste. Throw in the cardamom pods and stir. Serve in bowls when cooled. For garnishing you can add some crushed or whole pistachios and a dash of rose water.

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SPAGHETTI

Heat oil in a pan. Add chopped garlic and onion. Add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Put in some basil leaves and stir. In another pan cook the pasta in salted boiling water. After the pasta is cooked, drain the excess water and toss it with the seasoning that you just prepared. Garnish it with fresh parmesan cheese and serve.

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FRIED SPROUTS WITH TOASTED NUTS

Cook Brussels sprouts in salted boiling water for about 3-4 minutes. Drain the boiled sprouts and place them in cold water. Toast some pine nuts in another pan and keep it aside (Alternatively you can also toast peanuts/ cashew nuts or any nuts of your choice). Melt butter in frying pan. Put the Brussels sprout and cook for 2-3 minutes. Serve with toasted pine nuts and lemon juice.

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BERRY CHEESECAKE

Mix 150 Gms Biscuit Crumbs and 50 Gms melted butter. Press the base on a cake tin. Proceed to refrigerate it. In another bowl whisk Cheddar cheese (or any cheese of your choice), condensed milk, cream and lemon zest (optional).  Smoothen the mixture over the biscuit crumb base and set it to rest (min 4 hours to preferably overnight). For decoration you can use strawberries soaked in sugar syrup and blueberries.

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Four Cannot-Miss QuickMeals

Life in Manchester is very fast paced. In this tempo sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves and thus our daily balanced diet is disturbed. Of course, there are also those who want to diet and remain in shape. But that is no excuse for missing daily meals. That is why I bring to you four Quick Meals which can be prepared without much hassle and are tasty and long lasting. These meals are very healthy and contain a balanced diet which an adult human being would require. The ingredients are easy to find and always available in the kitchen.

KIMCHI SLAW

Requires you to only toss and mix red cabbage / green cabbage, vinegar and sugar. For those who want to include other vegetables like juliennes of carrots, potatoes, turnips, radish or even chopped potatoes are most welcome to experiment with it. It is recommended to garnish with some coriander/mint/parsley leaves.

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GREEN SALAD

Use toasted sesame seeds or toast the seeds instantly during your cooking time. Keep it aside in a plate until needed.  In a pan heat groundnut oil (or olive oil according to your choice) and garlic. Add the pak-choi and spinach with a little water. You can also put in more greens like broccoli, lettuce, cabbage and the like. Stir till the spinach has wilted and the pak choi is properly cooked. Garnish with the toasted sesame seeds.

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MINI PIZZAS

Heat olive oil (or groundnut oil) in a pan. Add Kale, red chilli (roundly sliced), green chilli (roundly sliced) and fry for 1-2 minutes. Take pizza breads and layer it with sliced cheese or grated cheese. Put the kale fry on top of it. (Add more cheese if you want to) Put it in a pre-heated oven and bake for 5 min. Voila your mini pizzas are ready to eat!

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SPICED CHICKPEAS SALAD

Soak chickpeas overnight in a bowl of water. Take a bowl and add in olive oil. Put some paprika sauce, horseradish sauce, soya sauce to make it spicier (depends on your palette). Add in the chickpeas and give it a nice toss. Sprinkle sugar or add in a little honey if you think the chickpeas are too spicy. Now enjoy a nice chickpea salad by adding in cucumber, onions, tomatoes and lettuce. You can serve it in a bowl or even in little paper cones.

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These four recipes are very quickly made and does not need the knowledge of state of art cooking. Anyone who does not cook regularly can cook these meals. Moreover those who love cooking can experiment with these as and when they get time. If you are bored of seeing the same food in your canteen then you can try to get some of these cooked from home. Recipes like the MINI PIZZA and SPICED CHICKPEAS SALAD can even work well in a cocktail party or in a lazy evening when you boycott work and want to chill out with friends. These can also be made in bulk and carried as picnic foods.

If you have more such QuickMeals in your mind, do share them with us.

Signing off until next time!