When it comes to Indian and Chinese cuisine or Chippies most people swear allegiance to their local restaurant or takeaway – I suppose familiarity can breed ‘contentment’?
I’ve been at friend’s houses when they’ve said things like, “Shall we get a Ruby? The one down the road is the best in the area!” or “You’ve gotta try the noodles from the place on the corner; they’re the best I’ve had.”
This is not something generally I hold by. When it comes to seeking the best fish and chips, for example, I will happily travel a few extra miles to visit Fosters in Didsbury or Alderley Edge (see here). For Chinese food I have all but given up on my local places - and will either make it myself or, on occasions, visit one of the better places in Manchester's Chinatown.
With Indian food though, I’ve always favoured my local - ‘Seven Spices’ on Mellor Road in Cheadle Hulme. (The décor could be better but I can forgive this for top-notch food.)
Imagine my surprise then, when reading The Guardian (way back in 2008) at coming across an article by the respected celebrity chef and cookbook author Anjum Anand entitled ‘A little place I know” that listed the little heard of Seven Spices. Especially considering that her select list also included restaurants such as Kai in Mayfair, which went onto win a Michelin star the following year.
Of course, I’ve always known that Seven Spices is a hidden gem, but it is great to have this view validated by someone who certainly knows her stuff. Anjum has written several successful Indian cookery titles including ‘I Love Curry’ ‘Indian Every Day: Light, Healthy Indian Food’ ‘Anjum's New Indian’ and the one I own, ‘Indian Food Made Easy’
To start my wife and I shared Fish Amritsari and Ajwaini Paneer Tikka.
The chunks of fish, although not the best quality, had been coated in a deliciously aromatic spiced golden crispy coating with hints of caraway and lime.
The homemade paneer, gently barbecued in the tandoor, was tasty and fresh.
For her main, my wife selected the Gosht Pasanda – the quality of the meat was very good: flavoursome, tender and well-marinated seared chunks of lamb, served with a traditional creamy and mildly spiced sauce with almonds.
Due to over the years being served too many curries with poor quality scraggy meat or overcooked prawns I have developed a habit of ordering vegetarian dishes at Indian restaurants. Seven Spices’ Channa Kabuli is one of my favourites (although, see above, they are not included in the scraggy meat category) – a wonderful dish with ginger and green chillies.
Another Seven Spices favourite of mine is their Lemon Rice – a fragrant mix of basmati with mustard seeds, curry leaves and of course, lemon.
A change form my normal Tandoori Roti I selected a Pudina Parantha – ‘pudina’ means mint and this flaky, buttery parantha stuffed with spiced potatoes complemented the lamb amiably. My wife went for her usual Peshawari Naan.
Completing our selection, a Spicy Kachoomer Salad. I always find a salad like this (sometimes called kachumber) can liven up and add freshness to a curry – the Seven Spices is a particularly spicy version; often overlooked but well worth ordering.
One thing I have often overlooked until recently is the joys of Gulab Jamun – the Seven Spices ones are particularly plump and always served drizzled in hot sticky syrup with pistachio.
Seven Spices really is Cheadle Hulme’s best kept secret – part of me thinks that Anjub and myself should not be writing about it and keep it for ourselves. Promise me this, if you go and enjoy it… don’t tell anyone.