Restaurant reviews - Dilli Restaurant, Altrincham and La Casa Vecchia, Sandbach
PUBLISHED: 16:47 17 November 2011 | UPDATED: 20:19 20 February 2013
We rvisit Dilli Restaurant, Altrincham and a mini review of La Casa Vecchia, Sandbach
It was the late former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook that, in 2001, hailed chicken tikka massala as a true British national dish. The remarks caused a furore at the time but Cook got it right: CTM was invented in Britain. There are any number of curry house claimants to the recipe from Birmingham to Glasgow but one thing is for sure: its got little to do with India.
Its curious then that the national passion for going for an Indian more often than not doesnt remotely involve an Indian meal or, come to that, an Indian restaurant. Around 85 per cent of so-called Indian restaurants in the UK are, in fact Bangladeshi owned: along Manchesters famous Curry Mile, Pakistani restaurants are dominant. Thats not to say they dont do a good job, after all they are enduringly popular...but authentic sub-continental cuisine? Mmmm.
Thats why when Dilli opened in the centre of Altrincham a little under a decade ago, it caused such a stir and won national critical acclaim by serving authentic dishes from all over the sub-continent. There is no such thing as national Indian cuisine. Like the French, whose regional dishes vary according to local ingredients (Normandy cooks with butter; Provence with oil), India offers incredible variety. After all its 2,000 miles north to south.
Mohammed Naeems menu reflects this. As the chef director, he began at Dilli by introducing dishes from his home area around Lucknow, the capital city of Uttapradesh. Since then he has expanded the range to less well-known states like Chettinad, Mangalore and Pondicherry and added street food from places like Kolkata, Andhra, Konkan, Tamil Nadu, Nizam and Maharashtra area of Mumbai. Vegetarians are royally catered for. It makes for an exciting culinary journey.
The welcome is warm and informative as soon as one crosses the restaurant threshold and its evident that the staff are long-time friends of many loyal customers. Earthy shades of red and brown dominate the decor with filigree carved wooden panels and unclad wooden tables. The menus could do with a reprint, but its the food that does the talking here.
We started conventionally enough with a basket of pappadums and a trio of dips (2.20) before exploring the culinary geography. To begin we shared Prawn Rubian (7.95) and Adraki Lamb Chops (7.95) inspired by the north and south of the sub-continent respectively.
The former comprised a trio of giant prawns that had been marinated in yoghurt, mace and saffron, butterflied and baked on skewers in a searing tandoor oven. The flavour, lifted by slight charring of the shells from which they slipped easily, was exquisite and the meaty texture was akin to lobster.
The three generously proportioned lamb chops, prepared in a ginger flavoured marinade before being committed to the fiery furnace were juicy, tender and subtly spiced.
We shared main courses too: Thaaravua roast (12.95), a dish originating in Chettinad in Indias far south, comprised breast of duck pot roasted with coriander, cumin and garlic and finished with pepper powder, delivered a satisfying chilli kick, but offered lovely, rich and spicy depth.
The duck itself, cooked for longer than western convention, nonetheless afforded good flavour. The second main, Goan Prawn Pulao (10.95) from the former Portuguese enclave on Indias west coast, was prettily presented in a pot and the fine basmati rice was well populated with fleshy prawns cooked with green chilli and fragrant cinnamon. The rice dish obviated the need for more rice; instead we shared excellent, light, garlic naan (2.25).
The wine list is limited but reasonable. After a couple of Cobra beers (3.25 each) we chose an Italian Montepulciano dAbruzzo (15.95) that packed enough fruity oomph to compliment the spicy duck.
60 Stamford New Road,
Altrincham WA14 1EE.
Tel: 0161 929 7484
Meal in a minute
Digest this mini-review in 60 seconds
La Casa Vecchia
4 Old Market Square
Sandbach, CW11 1AT
Tel 01270 761077
Style of venue
A cosy neighbourhood Italian restaurant that Sandbach residents can be deservedly excited about.
On the menu
What you would expect of a good local Italian eaterie and we were really impressed by choices on the blackboard and the abundance of fish. Generous side portions, a fair vegetarian selection and a decent wine list. We must get a taxi next time.
This former shop has been pleasantly refurbished with an Italian feel: a striking mural of Venice fills one wall and wrought iron trellis room dividers work well. Its a small space but, thankfully, diners are not elbow to elbow with neighbouring tables.
Cosy in a continental way.
Warm, friendly and efficient.
Good value. Special deals are available but two of us dined a la carte and enjoyed a three course dinner with wine and coffees for 77.