Manjal, London E14
This classy Isle of Dogs gem has always impressed me with its freshness (see Fast but certainly fresh) – now it boasts a fresh menu as well as fresh food. And what a menu it is.
Dishes are split into sections on the new line-up: as well as dosas, rice and breads, there are veg starters, autograph veg starters, non-veg starters, autograph non-veg starters, with the same format used for mains. I almost felt sorry for the lovely sounding dishes that failed to be elevated to the autograph status! But there was no need. The Potato Tikka Chat (£5.95) was one such dish and it was delicious. The potato patties were lightly fried and topped with channa dal and carrying an unexpected kick with its spicing.
This was just one of the dishes that will interest vegetarians. Broccoli Varulal (£5.95), delivers the trademark freshness, as I know from previous visits, while the great named Gobi ’65 (£5.95) – an Indo-Chinese offering of deep-fried cauliflower florets – is certain to get a testing in the future. It’s also nice to see dal dishes treated with deserved respect by the menu creator as too often diners see it just as something to moisten up their rice, if they eat it at all. Here there is a choice of Dal Tadka (£5.95), the wonderfully creamy Dal Makhani (£6.95), a popular dal-lovers dish that is cooked with different types of lentils, and Dal Manjal (£6.95), a coconut curry from South India.
But this dockside venue, which had a smart after-work business buzz to it on this visit, has superb choices for those of us who enjoy non-veg dishes as well.
The Mutton Kothu Roti (£9.95) has to be tried. This dry dish of Sri Lankan origin is a mix of meat (there are also chicken and veg versions), onions, leeks, spices and pieces of shredded bread – think of it as a sort of bread biryani. It’s really unusual – each mouthful delivers a spicy mix with tasty chunks of mutton and the odd chewy piece of roti thrown in for good measure. It’s always extremely filling – I could only manage one tier of this nicely presented two-tiered dish. It comes with a side of spicy sauce.
The kottu was, of course, one of the autograph non-veg curries. And it had some serious competition when it came to me choosing my main because others on the menu were the Chettinad Manjal Special Chicken Curry (£8.95), the Manjal Special Fish Curry (£10.95) and the got-to-be-tried-next-visit Manjal Special Lamb Curry (£9.95). Another creation from South India, this is a dish where lamb, liver and bones are all cooked together in a thick masala sauce.
I’m always on the look out for new dishes to try and this menu certainly offers scope for plenty of return visits for that. Having tried the Devil Chicken starter (£9.95), another of the Indo-Chinese offerings with a wow spice kick, as well the dishes mentioned above, I know they are more than worth a try.
Manjal, 3 Turnberry Quay, Pepper Street, London, E14 9RD. Tel: 020 7538 1140. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Open: daily, noon–11pm.
Scores on the tandoors
Atmosphere 8 (Thursday night)
Service and friendliness 9
* The Greenwich Curry Club was hosted by Manjal restaurant.