The new permanent gaff hasn’t lost any of the popular street food stall’s charm
The first generation of Manchester street food purveyors has grown up. Joe and Fiona from Levanter finally got tired of lugging their huge paella pan round markets and festivals and set up a permanent bricks and mortar place in their native Ramsbottom. It went well; quickly gathering positive reviews, accolades, national guide listings and a loyal following. So well, they’ve since opened a second venue, Baratxuri, around the corner and they’ve recently extended that due to popular demand.
The same thing has happened to some of their peers; James and Nina, aka ‘The Moocher’ went on to open the renowned Three Hares Café in Sedbergh and Bobby’s Bangers have morphed from selling sausages, via offering hot food worthy of a place in the British Street Food finals, to owning Beastro, their Spinningfield’s restaurant.
Elsewhere, Manchester street food stalwarts Hip Hop Chip Shop have announced the opening of their debut restaurant in Ancoats next year, whilst Neapolitan pizza maestros Rudy's - former street food wanderers themselves - continue to pack people into the neighbourhood's Cutting Room Square.
Chaat Cart is the latest street food vendor to make a permanent step, by softly and cautiously opening a new venue in Marple. It’s been a labour of love for the current holder of Manchester Food and Drink festival’s 'best street food of the year' award. Owner Aarti Pandey has overseen every detail, with help from designer Soo Wilkinson, but it’s likely she developed her clear vision during the year spent battling it out during The Kitchens competition for a permanent premises. In the end, she was beaten by Beastro, but life works in mysterious ways and the Marple site likely suits her better.
In short, the new place is a gem. It spans a double-fronted unit on a pedestrianised street with an adjacent car park. One half is taken up by the bar, well stocked with several types of gin and craft beer, so if you fall fowl of their no bookings policy and there are no tables immediately available, you shouldn’t feel too aggrieved sitting in there for a bit enjoying one of ten G&T variations – we had a Plymouth Gin with grapefruit (£9).
Inside it’s as bright and colourful as Aarti’s street food stall, with dark turquoise walls, red garlands draping from the ceiling, ceramic monkeys holding up the wall lights and quirky Indian pop art. It’s not ‘overdone’ though and contemporary chairs and tables help to give it more of a grown up neighbourhood bistro feel. There is room for about 25 covers with more in an atmospheric ‘secret’ gin garden out the back for fair weather visits.
The flavours were intense, the level of detail in the food and the garnishes was monumental
The menu is made up of the kind of well-practiced dishes that Chaat Cart feels confident serving from their first permanent base. Favourites from the street cart such as bhel puri (£4.50) puri chaat (£5) chicken kati roll (£7.5) and chargrilled corn on the cob, brushed with lime and chilli (£4) all migrated from the stall to the restaurant.
This is by no means a starter and mains sort of place; the idea is to order a wide range of dishes, which arrive when they’re ready, and just dig in. Although flavours are full and multi-layered, portions are small and this is reflected in the prices.
High street Indian restaurants, catering to what they think customers want, often overlook game dishes, although hunting is a significant part of the culture in meat eating areas. At Chaat Cart, you’ll find venison croquettes (3 for £6.50). These are mostly all meat, like solid balls of keema, served with homemade coconut chutney and sweet chilli relish. They’re delicious, but the meat is tricky to distinguish from beef or lamb. If you didn’t know they were venison, you’d never guess.
Tandoori wings (£6 for 4) are from chickens and arrive hot from the grill. The marinade is home style, so there’s none of that familiar lurid red colouring you find in more slap-dash places. My son could have happily Hoovered up a couple of dozen of these and in the end played pick-up sticks with his pile of thin, spent bones.
Our favourite by far was khozi kuttan (£7) a south Indian chicken curry as comforting as it sounds, which in a Bolton accent is pretty much ‘cozy curtain’. Thanks to great flavours and multi-layered aromatic warmth, I’m putting it forward as the best chicken curry in Manchester. We also ordered Chicken 65 (£6.50) Chaat Cart’s version of KFC’s ‘dipped in a secret blend of herbs and spices and deep fried’ chicken which, in game season, Aarti has made very successfully using quail. This one had the added bonus of homemade sweet chilli jam and pickled red cabbage.
To balance all the bird, we picked some pulses. Chole, or cinnamon spiced chickpeas (£6) worked well as a veggie side but were a tad lukewarm for my taste. Autumn is coming and the evenings are getting chillier, so my demand for more steam rising from my bowls of comfort food is rising.
We loved Chaat Cart and I’m trying to put my finger on why it stands out above the increasing number of places now offering authentic Indian street food on their menu. The flavours were intense, the level of detail in the food and the garnishes was monumental and felt pretty much like visiting a talented Indian auntie who loves to cook and loves to feed. Marple is lucky to have it.
Chaat Cart, 13-15 Derby Way, Marple, SK6 7AH 0161 427 8234
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.
Puri chat 8, venison croquettes 7, tandoori wings 8, chole 7, chicken curry 9, cinnamon rice 7, chicken 65 8
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