Enjoy valet parking and celeb spotting at this award-winning Indian restaurant
You pull up outside eastZeast, Riverside – Manchester's premier Indian restaurant. It's chilly outside, and the walk from the car to the restaurant isn't exactly appealing. Plus you're with all your girls – hair blown and coiffed, make-up preened to perfection and the most reflective gloss on your carefully lined mouth.
And walking in that weather won't do your look any favours.
But it's cool, because here to greet you is your personal valet parking concierge. What a sight for sore eyes he is, as you hand the keys to him and dash inside, away from the elements. Your car is taken around the back, and parked safely for you while you make a start on your first drink.
A mocktail for you, obviously, and a round of spicy Bloody Mary's for the girls.
The décor here is slick, contemporary – and a little bit moody. There's a clever use of cool neon lighting and comfortable seating in intimate, tucked away booths. And all this is to become a little bolder, and a little more impressive, as the Riverside venue undergoes some smart refurbishment work.
You're shown to your table – a private corner of the expansive room, with silver upholstered sofas and glossy marble flooring. Sipping on your cocktails, you take a glance over the menu.
Everything looks incredible.
Alongside all the traditional curries you would expect to find, there's street food, kebabs, grilled specials – as well as an extensive vegetarian menu and lots of choice for the seafood lover.
As is always the way in a group, you're met with a variation of appetites, likes and dislikes. So you order a couple of mains to share, and plump for rice and nan bread between the group. Some of the more hungry amongst you encourage a few sides to nibble on too – some being well into their veggie sides, and others preferring a more aromatic meat platter.
Having ordered more food than you're likely to eat, you sit back and soak in the atmosphere, while nibbling on a poppadum and sweet mango dip.
eastZeast Riverside is a bit of a celeb-hangout, which brings out your inner-paparazzi. You crane your neck around the corner (subtly) whilst wiping a drop of mint yoghurt from your lip. One of the girls insists if you tilt your head to one side and squint a little, the guy on the next table could easily be Billy Connelly.
You're not entirely sure on that one.
Anyway, here come the mains. Your waiter fights for space on the table, and you juggle cocktails and wine glasses around to make room. Finally, you're able to dig in, and grab a hunk of garlic nan to dip into your first dish.
Lamb Sokha Bhuna
A real show-stopper - this curry goes down a treat with everyone on the table. The Lamb Sokha Bhuna is tender and rich with a light, played-down heat. It's aromatic, spicy and irresistibly moresish. A fragrant steam billows from the silver platter, as you each take a loaded spoonful and dollop onto your own plates.
One of the girls goes back for seconds, and you nick an onion bhaji in protest.
Karahi Chicken Masala Desi
Similar to the Chicken Makhani, but chosen to satisfy the palette of the more spice-adventerous. This is a traditional Punjabi dish, with onions, garlic, ginger and tomatoes – with a special blend of eastZeast spices, which leaves your taste buds guessing. It's packed with heat and flavour, a lovely complement to your fragrant pilau rice.
You sneak an extra spoonful and hope that no one notices.
A warm, wholesome dish for those in the group with milder tastes, the Chicken Makhani has a silky smooth and deliciously creamy texture with just a hint of sweetness. Goes well with your garlic nan and mixed tandoori starter.
You catch the 'less hungry' of the group mopping up the remains with a slither of naan, and decide you'll definitely be splitting the bill.
Drawing the evening to a close, it's time for desserts and palette-cleansers. There's a selection of sweet and creamy lassi's on the menu, and you decide to try an eastZeast Special, for that truly authentic experience. It's rasmalai's all-round for the others, and a closing bellini before bed.
You treat yourself to just the one, and head outside to meet your waiting valet.
eastZeast have two City Centre locations plus Whitefield too. Full details here.