Friday, 20 July 2012

Chennai Dosa, Stretford, Manchester

Chennai Dosa, a small chain of cheap and cheerful South Indian restaurants has opened a branch in the Stretford Mall in Manchester.

I’ve eaten at Chennai Dosa before a few times, most memorably in the Wembley branch before a match up the road. It’s a funny sort of place Wembley, the stadium itself situated in a sort of no-mans land of retail parks, roads and other detritus, apart from the rest of the area.

Most people heading to the stadium arrive at Wembley Park station to the East, and walk straight up the pedestrian precinct of Wembley Way and into the ground without any interaction with the surrounding suburb, but a few fans always end up at Wembley Central on the High Road in the middle of town. 

It’s a fairly typical London high street, bustling with commerce, most of the businesses independent and apparently thriving, and in Wembley’s case, mostly run by British Indians.

You can usually spot those who are stadium-bound but travelled there by mistake. There are often a few small groups of them, first time visitors down from the shires, wandering around in replica shirts, looking a little confused and unsure of themselves. The real Wembley; - scruffy, lively, independent, Indian, is somehow at odds with the corporate bastion of flag-waving Englishness up the road, and has come as a shock to the system.

It’s here that you’ll find a Chennai Dosa outlet, and I love it. The food doesn’t amaze, but it’s assertively spiced, tasty, filling and ridiculously cheap. There’s also the added fun to be had in watching Gladys from Mansfield, who just wants some food before the England game, perusing the menu and wondering what the hell idiyappams and kottu parotta and rasam vadai are.

So Chennai Dosa are expanding northwards, which is a very good thing. More people should know what the hell idiyappams and kottu parotta and rasam vadai are.

There’s still a dearth of Indian food in the North that doesn’t fit the typical British curry house Pakistani/Punjabi mould, particularly at the cheap and cheerful end of the market. There are posher places in West Yorkshire (Prashad, Hansa’s) and a few more mid-range restaurants scattered about (in Sheffield, Liverpool and Ashton-under-Lyne that I’m aware of, there are probably more) but only Dosa Express in Manchester is really a budget caff.

In terms of service, Chennai Dosa is a restaurant, but everything else is canteen style. Stainless steel jugs of water, beakers and school dinner plates; no frills wipe clean surfaces; and the fact that nothing on the menu costs more than five quid, or £4.99 to be precise.


The food at the Stretford branch is exactly the same as in Wembley; spicy, cheap and filling. Rasam vadai (£2.10), lentil doughnuts in a soupy lentil curry weren’t too heavy (sometimes eating vadai can be like ploughing through dark matter mixed with clay) and turned to a pleasing mush in the hot, sour tamarind laced rasam.

Sticking with the lentils (there are a lot of lentils involved at Chennai Dosa) I had a paneer masala dosa (£3.50) next. That’s a rice and lentil flour pancake stuffed with curried potatoes and cheese, served with sambar and chutney’s. 


Crispy pancake scooped up in hot, fresh chutney with the added bonus of cheese. What more could a vegetarian wish for? The potatoes were a bit bland though. Non-vegetarian options are also available by the way, anything with mutton in it will be worth a try.

I drank the tap water that was already on my table, so the bill was just £5.60 plus tip for a two course lunch in a restaurant with actual table service. They’re licensed too, and beer costs £2.99 a pint. Hopefully the expansion plans include Yorkshire.

7/10

Unit 119 Chester Road
Stretford Mall
Stretford
Manchester
M32 9BH

www.chennaidosa.com 


Chennai Dosa on Urbanspoon

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