Simon Richardson cosies up to some well-priced small plates at Kirkstall’s anticipated Indian
THERE can’t be many independent business people who inspire quite as much warmth as Manjit Kaur. She was one of the people to spearhead the food hall at Kirkgate Market, was behind a successful Kickstarter to help secure premises and also ran a wonderful campaign to raise money for Simon On The Streets after being subjected to a violent and xenophobic attack by a rough sleeper. Manjit - along with her husband Michael - is a true credit to the community.
I can never turn down a cheesecake, and this is the perfect palate-cleanser
It’s no surprise, then, that the long-awaited Manjit's Kitchen restaurant on Kirkstall Road is a touch busy when we arrive on a Wednesday night in January. I’m glad we booked. The venue is immediately familiar, laid out café style, so you can’t help but feel comfortable, and the warm, attentive service helps.
Being opposite The Cardigan Arms, Kirkstall Virtuous is on the drinks menu too. Don’t get me wrong; we all love a Lal Toofan now and again, but, well… this is just better, isn’t it? Anyway, the food is a small-plate, small-menu affair, as intimate and simply presented as the venue itself, and vegetarian.
Parsnip crisps live up to their name, with a beautifully fresh-tasting coriander chutney. As it turns out, this is the first of many exceptional sauces, but I’ve hamstrung myself by using the word ‘fresh’ too early – so take it as read from now on. Anyway, the smashed chickpea dip is the best of the lot. If crack is vegetarian, it’s probably the secret ingredient. I could eat this chickpea concoction on everything.
There are also some smooth potato and pea rolls – spiced croquettes, if you like – and, of course, a knock-out sauce, this time in the form of a homemade ketchup. We also get bhel puri. I’m not much of a salad man, so to me this is a bit confusing, but my wife loves it (they’re not Rice Krispies, I’m told, but puffed rice. Snap, Crackle and Poppadom? I’ll get my coat…).
For the larger plates, the wondrous chilli paneer wrap calls to me, reminding me of the best day ever, when I once ate two in one sitting at the market. “No,” I think to myself, “you’re here to try something new.” No need for food anxiety, though; the thali is excellent. A smooth, earthy daal, dual textures of chickpea and potato, and a creamy, coconutty delight with a superb piece of butternut squash kofta in the middle. Three curries, a portion of rice and a roti for £8.95? Small plates or not, that’s excellent value, especially when it’s as good as this. We share an extra side of daal too, just to further sate our appetites.
I also find room for some massive, crispy onion bhajis. Always better with a bit of crunch and some sauce, and these are spot on in every way. I like to imagine they’re deep-fried spiders, legs all over the place. The tightly rolled, manicured ones just aren’t the same.
It’s surprising how full you can get if you really try, but I can never turn down a cheesecake, and this is the perfect palate-cleanser; zingy lime and pieces of mango bursting with the promise that you’re a really, really healthy person underneath it all. A rice pudding too, pimped up with a hint of spiced pear, reminding us of a particularly excellent dessert at a restaurant on New York’s celebrated Curry Hill many moons ago.
Time to pay up and toddle across the road for a pint at the Cardigan. You know, near Ryan’s Kitchen, Smak!, Poco, Viva Cuba...? It’s no word of a lie, though, to say that Manjit’s Kitchen is at least as good as anything else in the area. There’s also the added bonus that you can have an almighty feed for about £15. Don’t believe me? Pop in – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Manjit’s Kitchen, 333 Kirkstall Road, LS4 2HD
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All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Parsnip crisps 8, chickpea dip 10, potato and pea rolls 8, bhel puri 6, thali 8, daal 8, onion bhajis 8, cheesecake 7, rice pudding 9.
Dealt well with fitting us in around a large table.
Stacked to the rafters (good music too).