On The Plate: Bundobust

This week’s dish comes to you from an inner city basement! Which is a surprisingly lovely locale for a more than lovely dinner…

Bundobust

Where: In a basement next to the Subway that’s opposite Piccadilly Gardens
Price: Reasonable
Tastiness Factor: 110%
Return Custom: Mentally planning another trip to eat the other half of the menu

Apparently not everybody does like chicken. Those people are called vegetarians. Even if you do love chicken and meat, not eating those things isn’t a bad thing and in some ways good. Particularly if not eating meat means that you get to sample the delicious offerings of Bundobust!

The words ‘small plates’ may induce fear in some. Experiences of pricey tapas, having to order many dishes to feel full and the obvious hazards and woes that come with sharing food spring to mind. Bundobust does small plates (more accurately small card tubs), there is no pretence of sharing unless that’s what you fancy and a single larger dish of £6 paired with rice £1.50 is plenty for a tasty lunch or lighter dinner. My tall friend and I ordered 6 dishes all together, sharing a few and just having a taste of others, with a couple of beers totalling £43. Now I’m not obsessed with price, but I’ve been stung before by the lure of ‘small plates’, so a little over £20 for a very tasty, filling meal and some unique beer is a decent price.

It is important to take a line or two here to mention the beer as they only have about 5% of what’s on offer on their menu. Bundobust’s ‘thing’ is modern veggie curries, a relaxed setting and a surprisingly large variety of beer. There are other drinks including Indian inspired cocktails like the Mumbai Mule, having not tried any yet I can only recommend the Bombay Dazzler, Bundobust’s signature beer. It’s light, refreshing and slightly savoury in taste, an excellent palate cleanser as you try the different rich and aromatic dishes.

I’m not really sure where to start with the food because it was all so good. Perhaps one of the more important points to make is that this is a different style of Indian food that you will get on the Curry Mile or from a takeaway. It’s really nice to try food that isn’t a meat in a different style of spiced sauce with rice and a naan. I love a traditional curry but I can have that at home in pyjamas; if I’m making an effort to leave the house I want to experience something new. The best comparison I have for the food is to Mowgli in the Corn Exchange, minus the pretentious setting, but a little more on the comfort side of food. The Vada Pav burger, for example, is a spiced soft ball of mashed potato fried and sandwiched in a brioche bun. Like a fancy chip butty.

I feel I’m at risk of boring you because I could quite easily describe each menu item I tried and what I liked about it. You may not love everything about all the dishes on the menu but they are full of flavour and made with passion. And as I mentioned the plates are small, so if okra fries aren’t your bag get your friend to finish them.

A brief dining experience evaluation: Food is served in card tubs street-food style, the cutlery is plastic but the fancy biodegradable sort and it feels nice. You do go up to the till to order food but the till is at the bar so it really just incorporates picking out a beer. Along with the big tables and squishy benches, this makes for a pretty chilled out atmosphere. Somewhere you could quite easily come with a group of mates for the night, ordering beers and dishes as you like. There aren’t many things that Northerners collectively love but beer and curry can bring them together, so take them to Bundobust.

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Post-work day beer and very serious food evaluation.

On The Plate: Nando’s

In this first, and weekly if I’m feeling dedicated, food review round-up I begin our culinary journey across Manchester. Or more accurately to places near work and in town because I don’t go too out of my way for food unless I’m expecting something spectacular.

Just to set your expectations, I don’t have many pictures because when food arrives at my table I’m usually too excited to actually be eating it that I forget to take a pic for Instagram. However there is a lot to learn from pictures that can be better conveyed than in words e.g. portion sizes, dinnerware quality and drool-ability. So this month’s pictures are not the prettiest or as informative as one may hope from the debut article – in fact I don’t even have any for some of the places – but I guess that gives me the opportunity to grow.

Nando’s

Where: Up the road (Opposite the Lowry Theatre and 279 other branches across the UK as of 2013)
Price: A little more than one may like from such a big chain with minimal service, and don’t order an avocado salad because you will be mugged
Tastiness Factor: Satisfactory
Return Custom: Not rushing to but sure, it’s fast and convenient; like most chains you will usually have your expectations met

Let’s assume you have never been to Nando’s. It’s not unlikely, but perhaps you’re not the bantering lad you’d always thought you were. A cheeky Nando’s is almost a rite of passage for young people today. I mean, where else can sixth-formers go on dates? But that’s not to say Nando’s isn’t for everyone – everyone likes chicken, right? Nando’s is a bit of a paradox by both trying and not trying to be a more upmarket chain. Imagine Pizza Hut and Pizza Express had a lazy chicken of a child, that’s Nando’s. The food quality is good, fresh, tasty, and they offer a number of flavour and side options so that you may customize your dinner to suit you. (If you are like my tall friend that means double carbs and extra hot peri peri, with extra extra hot sauce.)

While this may sound exciting, this actually gets pretty dull. As someone who has been to Nando’s a grand total of three times in her young life, getting to pick a different spiciness of sauce or whether I want chicken in a bun or with rice doesn’t set your world on fire. The flavours are very one-note, a little tang and spice, and it’s nothing to tell your mum about. Having different combinations of unimaginative and mundane foods makes for an unimaginative and mundane meal.

Pair this with ordering your food at a till, paying before you eat, setting your own table and no check up on if your food is OK -because OK is the only thing the food ever is- the ‘dining experience’ is severely lacking. Perhaps even non-existent. There is nothing to hate or love about Nando’s. The matter of style and ‘did I go to a restaurant or a KFC that grills their chicken?’ is both a little perplexing and hollow. It’s soulless. But yes, I probably would go back. Perhaps hopefully, as though to a reliable old lover who you remember as being ‘alright’ or maybe, and more likely, out of convenience and lacking more inspired options as The Quays currently does.

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The only picture I have to commemorate the moment. I believe that my tepid smile and subtly uncertain eyes reveal my lukewarm feelings.