Restaurant Review: Peachy Keens, Manchester

Peachy Keens – Keenly Priced & Far From Peachy

First impressions of the bizarrely named Peachy Keens were positive: bright, clean, but juvenile. With over thirty starters, the variety on offer was quite astounding; yet, restaurants trying to be everything become nothing – Peachy Keens Manchester was no exception. I self-righteously tittered at the giant ‘ORIENTAL’ neon sign looming over the school canteenesque dining room, and queried the authenticity of ‘Fish Fingers’ listed under ‘Italian Starters’. This cacophony of branding strangled any potential atmosphere although may appeal to a younger demographic.

Peachy Keens Manchester’s food was disappointing; although, given the exceptionally frugal price, expectations should have been no higher than ‘edible’. The assortment of sushi all tasted the same e.g. of nothing. The Salad Bar was OK but punctuated by tasteless olives and unpleasant cheese. Peachy Keens Manchester’s hot wings were predictably far from hot, rendering themselves redundant. The “Grill Section” masqueraded as a legitimate piece of kitchen equipment – it warmed grey lumps up – rather than cooking steaks to order. My steak was impossible to cut, let alone digest by a human. The Lamb Rogan Josh was ungodly,  smelling like Satan’s left over takeaway; after I was too terrified to return for hot food.

Peachy Keens Manchester’ desserts were either sickly or luminous – the pastry chef made Ronald McDonald look like Michel Roux. Things resembling Aftershock were avoided and ice creams were a psychedelic dripping mess; although, neatly formed miniature cheesecakes were surprisingly edible and in endless supply.

I was amicably greeted, seated and warmly bid farewell to; but, the Peachy Keens Manchester staff were impressively morose. However, the team were organised, with plates quickly materialising and disappearing when required.

Peachy Keens Manchester offered all-you-can-eat food for the price of a nearby swanky cocktail: nobody can ask for better value. Furthermore, Peachy Keens Manchester provided the ultimate in variety and convenience, perfect for young families or groups with differing dietary requirements. Unfortunately, the food ranged from acceptable to offensive.

Peachy Keens Review Summary

Atmosphere 3/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 2/10    Service 4/10

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Restaurant Review: The Shampan, Preston

The Shampan Didn’t Curry Favour

In the most fantastic piece of PR hyperbole ever witnessed, The Shampan Preston promised a ‘zen like atmosphere’. Last time I sat under gaudy neon, watching giant TVs playing hypnotic music I waited for lap dances, not a Chicken Tikka Masalas. I have visited on various occasions, and more than once the staff were comically rude and void of rapport. My all time favourite example was a Shampan Preston’s server abruptly

I’ve visited The Shampan Preston many times, usually, the staff were comically rude and void of rapport. My personal favourite demonstration was a server abruptly stopping in his tracks, cartoonishly double taking, and with a broad smile, zealously proclaimed my partner looked like ‘Ugly Betty’ – the ensuing awkward silence was suffocating.

I have thick skin and a nose for a bargain, so keep crawling back. The Shampan Preston’s Early Bird Menu offers fantastic value, guaranteeing a decent meal for cheaper than I can cook myself, minus the hassle.

The poppadums, sundries and starters were uninspiring but perfectly edible. If used in conjunction with The Shampan Preston’s Early Bird offer, they’re basically free. If you like food that is so hot it makes you cry, go for Chicken Naga Naga. It’s the highlight of The Shampan Preston’s menu, saturated with flavour and full of married together oomph. There is something to be said for eating a meal that doesn’t leave you painfully leaking from every orifice; if you don’t enjoy the exhilaration of inflamed stomach lining and trachea, the Nepali Chicken is a tasty, sensible choice. The Classic Favourites are fine but forgettable, the Madras being particularly flavourless. The side portions and bread were generously portioned, moreish and fabulously unhealthy. The Shampan Preston’s drinks were pricey, but with the Early Bird Menu being so inexpensive, this was no cause for alarm.

The Shampan Preston is not designed for romance but is a great value midweek eatery for chilli-heads looking for speedy service and lots of choices.

The Shampan Review Summary

Atmosphere 2/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 6/10    Service 2/10

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Restaurant Review: Kashti, Preston

Kashti Restaurant – Curry Not In A Hurry

I have previously dined in Broadgate’s Kashti on previous occasions and been impressed with the food relative to its reasonable price point. Although I fell off my chair in hysterics as one TripAdvisor reporter advised Kashti provided the: “Best Curry In England”. I can categorically advise this is bollocks.

Like most Indian restaurants, Kashti suffered from the delusion that the more complicated the menu, the better it is. Twenty-eight starters, ‘Traditional Favourites’, ‘Classic Favourites’, an ‘Early Bird Menu’ available practically 24/7, combined with ‘Set Meal’ options and ‘Half Price Food’ all await the bamboozled bargain baji hunter.

The big issue was that despite booking, the kitchen seemed stunned this would entail producing anything. It took forty-five minutes not for the meal to arrive, but just for someone to take the food order. If I’d have known, I’d have brought a packed lunch. Two and a half hours later after arrival, the main courses were served, then unceremoniously wolfed down in five minutes by the ravaged crowd. Not only did the kitchen smash the previous world record for the World’s Slowest Curry, but it all frustratingly arrived in drips and drabs.

Firstly the plates, five minutes later the bread, five minutes after that the rice – as though this carefully staggered arrangement was the preferred way to eat curry. This sea of empty of plates, without any explanation for the lack of anything edible, was the culinary adaptation of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The first couple of dishes arrived, diners waiting politely for ten minutes for the rest to follow, gave in to hunger and ate awkwardly in defeat. Some had finished, smoked a cigarette and still had twenty minutes before other’s food materialised. I could have driven from Preston to Manchester, popped in at Tesco, prepared a Chicken Madras from scratch and served it quicker.

Not only that but the restaurant ran out of draught lager; I don’t need alcohol to have fun, but how can a supposed city centre Indian restaurant run out of all drought on a Saturday night? It’s not as though there was a tempting wine list instead. The starving hoard’s spirits were only kept alive by the broken promise of beer. When this turned out to be a mirage, morale sunk to rock bottom.

What made this painful situation explode off the Richter scale of embarrassment was the Kashti manager’s insistence on photographing everybody. There’s a reason you don’t see overstretched doctors taking selfies of bleeding patients waiting in A&E. Why he wanted to document his diners with plates devoid of curry was beyond me.

Regarding the food, the poppadum and sundries were of low quality but almost free, thus difficult to criticise. The starter of the Shami Kebab was light and tasty, with no great depth of flavour but well cooked nevertheless. The Chicken Vindaloo consisted of literally six pieces of chicken, drowned in a bowl of exceptionally thin sauce. The dish had flavour but was not as fiery as its proceeding reputation, and ultimately it was hard to get excited over six pieces of chicken. The Vegetable Rice provided a welcome upgrade from boring basmati, while the Chilli Naan was thankfully grease-free. The Chicken Gurkali was tender and bathed in an exotic mix of whole spices. This Nepalese dish was ideal for those who like heat without melting their minds. The Handi Chicken was handily cooked in its saucepan and provided a flavoursome but more sedate option.

For the sake of your sanity, avoid Kashti Indian Restaurant for group bookings.

Kashti Review Summary

Atmosphere 1/10    Cost 10/10    Quality 4/10    Service 1/10

*Since this review was first published, Kashti in Preston is unfortunately no longer with us – hence the lack of link*

Restaurant Review: Kebabish Original, Preston

Kebabish Original – The Thrill of the Grill

I’m unaware of any unoriginal Kebabish joints, but Kebabish Original enticed me through its strap line alone. I imagined “the thrill of the grill” would either be comically terrible or awesome – it turned out to be neither.

Some money had been clearly spent; Kebabish is thankfully playing a small part in gentrifying the London Road area. First impressions were that Kebabish Original was spacious and tastefully decorated in a contemporary manner. Kebabish Original managed to avoid the tacky pink neon, that every Prestonian Indian restaurant feels bizarrely obliged to provide. I could have done without the hospital canteen style laminate numbered tables, but overall the theme worked.

The big issue was that nobody else was there (at 6:20 pm on a Thursday). Walking into the large, empty dining room, my eyes met a  vacant looking chef from the open kitchen fifty metres away. Cracking a poppadum only to hear it reverberate around the room was a little disconcerting. A few diners did trickle in, but I was ever conscious of my whispered chatter echoing around. Service was friendly but laboured along without a surplus of rapport, despite few other customers.

However, the food was surprisingly good and offered excellent value for money. At Kebabish’s budget price point, the starters were some of the best, not just from an Asian restaurant, but from any Preston restaurant.

The Paneer Pakoras were not greasy and just plain delicious, proving that vegetarian dishes should not be just for vegetarians; I’d seldom eaten something so tasty for under £3. Similarly, the depth of flavour to Lamb Tikka was quite frankly incredible: the meat was well grilled, generously portioned and mouth-watering.

For mains, the Chicken Balti was the archetypal Balti – just as expected and very much enjoyed. The Chicken Madras was a vibrant red without being radioactively luminous. Those demanding their chilli fix will need to be bolder, as it was relatively mild and not terribly exciting. Finally, the Peshwari Naan was a little greasy, but was certainly fresh and not tooth-meltingly sweet

Be warned: no alcohol is served on site. I respect the cultural context behind this, but washing a Madras down with J20s is immoral in itself. With zero wine pairings available, Kebabish was disadvantaged against competing restaurants, aligning itself more to sit-in takeaways. That said, diners are welcome to bring their alcohol and their lovely Mango Lassies deliciously refreshing.

Kebabish Original got the hardest parts of any business, price and quality, commendable under control – I hope a few more visitors arrive to improve the atmosphere.

Kebabish Original Review Summary

Atmosphere 3/10    Cost 9/10    Quality 8/10    Service 5/10

Restaurant Review Kebabish Original Curry Preston

Peshwari Naan

Restaurant Review Kebabish Original Curry Preston

Paneer Pakora

Restaurant Review Kebabish Original Curry Preston

Lamb Tikka

Restaurant Review Kebabish Original Curry Preston

Chicken Madras

Restaurant Review Kebabish Original Curry Preston

Chicken Balti

*Since this review was first published, Kebabish Original is unfortunately no longer with us – hence the lack of link*