As our ‘Chef’s Table’ series continues – catch up with Salvi’s & Hawksmoor if you missed them – MCRhookup had the luxury of sitting down next with the very talented and very modest Head Chef at Asha’s, Ashwani Rangta. Read on to discover, as we did, the wide range of tastes and textures that Asha’s has to offer. From big sharers, perfect for parties and celebrations, to their fresh, fast, lunch offering and their recently introduced first seasonal Summer Menu – we indulged and interviewed, just for you.
A brief Bollywood background; Asha’s is the first and only Michelin Guide curry in Manchester. With international, celebrity credentials and critical acclaim, we went back to visit one of our favourite Indian spots in the city centre. Asha’s was founded by legendary singer Asha Bhosle; with locations in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar as well as slightly closer to home in Birmingham they have become serious a culinary destination.
Before we kick off the curry, and it’s not just curry, we hit their BolliBar Menu for a local delicacy in cocktail form the – Manchester Tart. A signature cocktail unique to Asha’s Manchester it’s a combo of vanilla vodka, Chambord, shaken coconut and pineapple topped with prosecco and passion fruit foam. We also explore Warm Sands – apricot infused rum, fresh lime and egg white, blended with honey, walnut and a ‘suggestion of absinthe’. Bit naughty!
Ashwani likes to challenge the norm and chooses to incorporate special combinations and explore ingredients whilst still working within the framework of traditional Indian cuisine. Monkfish Tikka – sourced from Scotland and cooked in the tandoor with pink peppercorns and chestnuts. Served with locally grown rainbow chard. Unusual but super successful.
Most of the dishes we began with were brand new and only became available as part of Asha’s new approach to offering seasonal specialities. The Chicken Charred With Chilli And Caraway was a highlight – chicken cooked in the tandoor served on British fava beans. These two amazing, flavoursome, summery dishes can be enjoyed as a starter or a main course with rice and breads.
The Emperor’s Platter is a feast for the eyes as well as the whole family. The spectrum of flavours are just as bright and broad as the colour palette. Asha’s Menu isn’t the biggest as curry houses go however that doesn’t mean you wont be spoilt for choice, we were. The Emperor’s Platter is definitely the most decadent way to try a bit of everything, all their most popular dishes and kebabs are present and correct. Enjoy whole Tandoori Lobster in its shell, Chilli Garlic King Prawns, Barrah, Seafood Seekh, Murg Malai, Tandoori Murg Tikka Kebabs – all sublime and all bringing something unique to the party.
Everything you will find on the platter in ‘miniature’ (not really, there’s loads) is also found as its own dish on the main Menu – for example the Murg Malai Kebab which is made up of a boneless chicken breast, marinated in a creamy cheese and cashew nut paste with a touch of cardamom served with homemade green apple chutney.
If you like your Indian food rich and creamy, prepare to meet your new favourite meal. Kodi Curry – chicken thigh meat is cooked in the ancient Hyderabadi style, soft Kodi curry, Hyderbadi chicken curry, yoghurt and coconut milk, crispy fried spinach.
Muscat Gosht aka boneless lamb in spicy sauce is a real Asha’s favourite. The lamb is cooked till tender with whole spices in a rich gravy. Palak Paneer is a veggie dish made with cottage cheese and cooked in a fresh spinach gravy tempered with cumin. Spinach is an integral part of Indian food and is seen in local dishes right across the country, none more so than in this lovely little number.
Without stating the obvious may we mention all of the above were enjoyed with tasty naan. Baked on-site in a clay oven, rather than over a flame like chapatis, this gives a crisp exterior and fluffy core with that delicious, distinctive, charred flavour.
As always, the flow of food was phenomenal and we still had dessert to tackle. Full up from variety as much as anything we had to be brave an plough into some pudds, purely for professional purposes. Time for a gear change, engage ‘S’ for sweet!
First up Blood Orange & Caramel Kulfi, more than just a palate cleanser, here we have cinnamon flavoured blood orange, caramel milk reduction, basil seeds – fresh and fruity – the true taste of summer.
As with the rest of the Menu dessert presents bold flavours and beautiful presentation – Chilli Chocolate Tart delivers a delicate blend of rich chocolate and Indian heritage with a subtle kick of chilli – classic but contemporary.
Overall the restaurant truly represents the multiple regional cuisines of India and her full array of flavours. Definitely aim for Asha’s for an elaborate occasion, that celebration or treat you’ve been promising yourself, roll out the red carpet and get a brimful of Asha’s. Recently crowded ‘Northern Restaurant of the Year’ at the Asian Food & Restaurant Awards all these prestigious accolades are testament to Ashwani, Head Chef, the reason we went. With eyes on a Michelin Star for Manchester, Asha’s are certainly well on their way to making history, focusing on the best quality produce and cooking they can. We certainly wish them luck and will be first to congratulate them when it happens!
Ashwani Rangta grew up in Shimla, in the Himalayan region of India. After spending many years training to an extremely high level he now prides himself on creating Menus that showcase the finest culinary techniques found right across the Asia and beyond.
“As a chef, I am constantly seeking fresh and innovative ways to enhance the dining experience, with new recipes, modern trends, cutting edge techniques and regional specialities.” Ashwani Rangta
He has worked with top Chefs and cooked for heads of state, movie stars and sport personalities alike – his personal favourite guests being childhood hero Sachin Tendulkar and of course Asha Bhosle herself – more recently Ed Sheeran popped in after a gig and the likes of Jason Manford and Guy Garvey count themselves amongst his regulars.
Asha’s – 47 Peter St, Manchester M2 3NG