Often, the unplanned nights out end up being the most enjoyable. Particularly those that come with a healthy dose of nostalgia; indeed, for most of Friday I was located somewhere in the mid-1990s, and having a thoroughly lovely time.
First I got to relive my academic career at Manchester University by taking a party of students to the Discover English Day at the Roscoe Building, a full day of talks and lectures that obviously I enjoyed far more than some of the students, pushing my way through the adolescent ranks to take my rightful place at the front of the class with my new Paperchase notebook. By 4pm I had more than earned a Friday beer, and where better than sitting outside KroBar with a lovely friend who works at the University, enjoying the Manchester sunshine (and trying hard to pretend I wasn't clutching an A4 folder entitled "Welcome to the University of Manchester" - slightly beer stained now).
Three beers later, and my friend was replaced by a hot and bothered (and slightly cross) husband, who had apparently trailed all over Manchester checking in ALL the KroBars for his errant wife, who, being advanced in years, had failed to realise quite how many variations there now are on the Kro theme. In my day - shifts Zimmerframe slightly and readjusts blanket over knees - there was only one, hence the confusion. Such discontent was soon smoothed over, and as it was such a lovely evening we decided to walk part of the way home; this was our second mistake. It is clinically impossible to walk through Rusholme at meal time and emerge unscathed on the other side; one of the curry houses, with their lovely tempting aromas and twinkly waiters lurking outside, ready to lure you in with promise of free poppadoms, will get you in the end.
On Friday it was Shahenshah. To be honest, we had to go in, for my husband made the startling confession that he had NEVER EATEN THERE. And then, when I thought about it, I realised that I probably hadn't eaten there for about ten years, and therefore was in no position to mock. Shahenshah was our student restaurant of choice, largely (I suspect) because they would let us eat there no matter how drunk we were, although I do recall that the drunker you were, the more likely you were to be hidden away upstairs, so as not to cause offence. Was the food there actually any good? Or were my rosy memories about to be shattered?
Hurrah; the food was amazing. My starter of Aubergine Pakora - four generous slices of meltingly soft vegetable (N.B. vegetable, therefore healthy) in light and crispy batter - was delicious, as was the Chicken Chilli starter across the way. Even better were the mains; my Chicken Punjabi was the best curry I've had for ages - bear in mind this was my second curry in three days, so this recommendation does actually say quite a lot - and my husband's main was polished off so quickly I can't even remember what it was. Prices are reasonable, and wine particularly so - we had a very drinkable bottle of Chilean Merlot that was under £10.
Shahenshah tends to get slightly mixed reviews from its diners, and has had some unfortunate brushes with environmental health issues in the past; on this form, however, we will certainly be back. My only criticism? Don't tell the waiter that the chairs are heavy as you struggle to pull it out from under the table, as he will tell you the same line that he told me and EVERY OTHER WOMAN within earshot during the course of the evening - some new jokes please!
- Shahenshah is at 135 Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, Manchester M14 5AW; tel 0161 2572534.