David Adamson takes the well-trodden path from a few afternoon pints to a nearby Indian restaurant
Few things are as ingrained in English life as meeting friends in a beer garden under overcast skies and giving in to the collective urge for a curry. It may start as an off-hand remark, a throwaway note of some vague desire, but sure enough you will suddenly find yourself transported to a nearby Indian restaurant, greedily shovelling poppadoms into your mouth and inhaling a cold Cobra, in giddy anticipation of what’s to come.
I found myself in Cheadle on Saturday afternoon, and after a visit with friends to the Royal Oak we fell prey to that particular pang, so we sipped up and walked over to Aamchi Mumbai.
For starters we opted for three dishes of differing character, and found each of them to be a subtle pleasure.
Its orange, beacon-bright sign beckons you inside, and once in there the heady hum of spices let you know you were right to follow your gut. We took a seat in the terrace, a surprisingly cosy attachment to the main restaurant, and ordered a helping of masala poppadoms (£2.90) - almost closer in size to canapes with onions, tomatoes and coriander piled on top - along with three King Cobras (£4.95) , appropriately known as “the champagne of Indian beers”. Well lah-di- dah.
Often enough isn’t made of the starters at Indian restaurants, such is the magnetic pull of curries and specialist dishes, but Aamchi Mumbai makes a virtue of starting slowly rather than racing towards the mains in a hurry. We opted for three dishes of differing character, and found each of them a subtle pleasure.
The chicken seekh kebab (£7.95) had no business being as succulent as it was, and was a real surprise of punchy, garlicky goodness. I’m usually wary of filling up on kebabs ahead of a main course, but these were the perfect thing to fire up my appetite and I could have eaten them infinitely.
I sometimes find prawns don’t quite absorb surrounding flavours as much as you’d like but the prawn koliwada (£10.95) were clearly well-marinated and seeped in spice, their fresh, meaty flesh unleashing the taste of cumin and turmeric with every bite.
The third starter was the vegetable manchurian (£6.95), an indo-chinese dish of fried cauliflower slathered in a sweet, tangy sauce that I predictably joked was a ‘candidate’ for best starter. Cue groans from my long-suffering friends.
Butter chicken (£12.95) is always a good litmus test of a restaurant’s menu, along the logic that if this dish is flavourful and distinct then the others will follow suit, and it didn’t disappoint. The balance between the tang of tomato and the velvety creamy undercurrent was struck just right.
The lamb keema (£13.95) was, to put it simply, delicious. Addictively spicy and putting the fattier nature of minced lamb to wonderful use, it made for an extremely moreish dish that kept you coming back even as the chilli gently and repeatedly slapped you across the face.
There was no dip in quality when it came to the accompaniments either, the pilau rice (£3.75) was a colourful carrier of the different flavours and the garlic naan (£3.25) was of the slimmer and less filling variety, but with a delicious lacquer of butter. We also opted for onion kulcha (£3.75) over peshwari and now I have another naan variation to torment myself with in future meals.
The dessert platter (£10.50) was comprised of four traditional Indian sweet dishes. The mango and pistachio kulfi was a delicious and subtlely balanced alternative to ice-cream, and the rasmalai - cheese cooked in sugar syrup and submerged in sweetened milk - was a creamy delight. The gulab jamun was a joy, the deep fried doughballs steeped in syrup and leant a fragrant cardamom aftertaste. However the prize must go to the gajjar halwa, a deliciously pulpy and surprising dish made from carrots sweetened in syrup and evaporated milk, with pistachio giving it a nutty and moreish nature.
When you pine for an Indian meal there will always be the danger of hyping it up too much in your head beforehand, only to be given a serviceable, slightly anonymous range of dishes. There was no such vagueness or disappointment with Aamchi Mumbai, only a delicious kick of spicy satisfaction.
Masala poppadoms 8, Veg manchurian 8, Chicken seekh kebab 9, Prawn koliwada 8, Butter chicken 8, Lamb keema 9, Pilau rice 8, Garlic naan 8, Onion kulcha 9, Gajjar Halwa 9, Rasmalai 8, Gulab jamun 9, Kulfi 9
Attentive and friendly staff were never too far from the table.
Inside the main restaurant busy tables of families and friends ensured a buzz about the place, but I would opt for the more cosy and calm terrace to have the best of both worlds.