Heatwave? Spicy food is better than an omelette, says Lucy Tomlinson
Until it went crazy on the football memes, two topics have been clogging up my social media this week; many warnings and admonishments about letting a dog sit in a hot car, exercise in hot weather or even walk on a hot pavement in case they spontaneously combust, and tips on how to cool down a house with nifty tricks involving tin foil, a fan and an industrial sack of frozen peas.
Here are my hints for the heatwave – find a restaurant with air conditioning and/or eat some spicy food. It might seem counterintuitive, but experts reckon that by bringing your internal temperature up (and encouraging you to sweat), a bit of spice will actually make you feel cooler. The air conditioning part should be self-explanatory.
Safire, located near the hospitals and University on Upper Brook Street, provides a welcome oasis of temperature-controlled shade in the searing Manchester heat and, if that doesn’t sort you out, it serves food that is both spicy and sizzling.
Open since late last year, its USP is traditional curries alongside an extensive menu of steaks, burgers and chicken from the grill. It used to be that Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants offered a token omelette with chips for those spice-o-phobes who got dragged out on family or work nights out. This is completely different. The grill is no mere afterthought, but a veritable meatopia of charred, flamed and seared flesh. Regulars love it. This is very definitely an omelette-free zone.
I was especially impressed that they serve jugs of Tango...
I ordered baba ganoush (£2.95) for my starter. This aubergine dip is meant to be smoky but I found the taste a little fake. It was accompanied with some lovely bread though, straight out of the oven and puffed-up with blisters of freshly baked goodness.
Sticky lamb ribs (£4.95) come in a spicy-sweet glaze, which is very moreish, but the meat itself was a bit overdone and that side salad wasn’t adding much to its allure. The accompanying poppadoms (70p each) and pickle tray (£1.95) were perfectly ok, but as heaped plates of grilled chicken and sizzling seafood platters sailed past our table I couldn’t help feeling we had hardly optimised our starter experience.
We did a bit better on the mains. Lamb nihari (£10.95) is a traditional dish from Pakistan that is also known as a cure for colds and fevers, much like chicken soup. In some places it is customary for each day’s leftover nihari (known as taar) to be added to the next day’s pot and some chefs boast of an unbroken taar going back more than a century. I presume Safire doesn’t follow tradition this closely (it also skips the brains and bone marrow that have been known to go in this dish) but the slow-cooked lamb shank is a tender delight, even if it does look like meat soup on the photos thanks to the generous amounts of sauce. The flavour derives from a secret combination of mace, nutmeg and dried ginger as well as the usual turmeric etc. and was delicious with both roti (95p) and pilau rice (£2.75).
I couldn’t get too excited about the surf and turf (£16.95). It was cooked as asked and tender, the vegetables were surprisingly good and we’d asked for the chunky chips to be replaced by fries and had this request fulfilled with a smile, so there was certainly nothing to complain about. The prawns looked like they’d been through a nuclear Armageddon which didn’t seem to affect them too badly, nevertheless the overall effect was a bit flat.
A note: Safire doesn’t serve alcohol but we slaked our thirst with a selection of very sweet mocktails: a strawberry daiquiri and a mojito (£3.95 each), which were fine, though I was especially impressed that they serve jugs of Tango as well. There is also an notable selection of puddings, cheesecakes, ice-cream and Pakistani desserts, though we didn’t indulge this time.
I’d recommend Safire for family gatherings where you have a lot of varying tastes and needs (there is a small but very reasonable kids’ menu for £2.95). Safire is generally well-priced with plenty of space and friendly staff and you will find there is something for everyone. Except omelettes.
Safire Restaurant and Grill, 275A Upper Brook St, M13 0HR Tel: 0161 248 4848sa
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.
Baba ganoush (5) Sticky ribs (6) Lamb nihari (7) Surf and turf (5)
Cool and calm
Friendly, accommodating and offered to pack up leftovers which always gets a big tick from me