As I suspected it's a very no frills type of place, certainly not one for a first date. A couple of other tables were occupied despite the early hour. I ordered a portion of Medhu Vada and the chicken meal special, with a can of 7-up and a bottle of water to wash it down. Yes, a bottle of water. The first thing I do in pretty much any restaurant is ask for a glass or jug of finest corporation pop, fresh from the tap, but I had already spotted a sign on the wall saying 'No tap water for hygiene reasons, bottled water 50p' and couldn't be bothered arguing. Weird. I normally get a bee in my bonnet about the whole refusal to serve tap water thing that some restaurants still do, as it's often an excuse to sell you the bottled stuff at a ridiculous mark-up. At 50p they're hardly going to be raking it in though. Perhaps there really is a 'hygiene reason'. What are they getting from the taps? Is it unusually filthy in this part of Manchester? Are they importing it from Chennai for authenticity? What about the food then? Have they washed the salad in bottled water? I certainly hope so if I can't drink the stuff from the tap for 'hygiene reasons'.
Sorry, rant over. Here's the food:
Vada, chutney's and sambar
Vada are spiced, doughnut shaped fritters made from lentil flour. When freshly fried they can be very nice, and when pre-fried, left to cool then warmed up in a microwave they can be stodgy and horrid. Fortunately these were in the former group, nice crispy edges and a soft centre. They were a bit underspiced (chilli, mustard seeds, curry leaves, black pepper, onions are the usual suspects) but pleasant to eat with the accompanying chutney's (coconut, coriander, not sure about the orange one) and sambar.
Chicken gravy, rice, poppadum, salad
Chicken curry/gravy close-up
The highlight of the meal was the chicken curry (or gravy as it's sometimes known at South Indian places). The other components of the meal special (poppadum, salad, rice) were ok but the curry itself was excellent. It had a real depth of flavour, with cardamom and cloves being particularly prominent, and a slow building background chilli heat that had me shovelling in rice to cool the fire. Really good stuff.
The bill came to £7.26 including a 20% discount on food. I think the discount was because it was before 6pm, this was only mentioned at the till and didn't seem to be advertised anywhere in the restaurant. Service was efficient but dour until I was about to leave when the waitress came over all smiley. Must have been glad to see the back of me.
Overall I liked Dosa Express. The food is good and I'll be going back to try the dosai and the mutton curries. The no tap water thing is a little strange, but they're hardly profiteering on the bottled stuff so I can live with that.
19 Copson Street
They also have another branch in Derby.