Spice Advice: The Northwest's Best International Cuisine

Tasty Thai and ties galore bring us a whopping seven winners in our Best International Cuisine category; seems given the choice between indulgent Mexican and budget-friendly curries, you're both spoilt for choice and really indecisive...

Feature by Jamie Faulkner | 07 Jan 2015

Last year we had four regions for world cuisine: the Americas, the Indian sub-continent, Europe and Asia. We thought we'd simplify things a bit this year – at least, that was the plan – and have all the 'world cuisine' restaurants thrash it out under one banner. This just meant the competition was even fiercer. Still, there were some familiar faces, many of them firm favourites in our previous survey; so either their standards have remained as impeccably high or the same people voted. We’ll never know

Mughli, who taught us how to make curry their way (read: bloody delicious) last time around, remained popular after another busy year, capped off with a ten-week pop-up in Alderley Edge. The Railway Cafe, which served Indian small plates, was a joint venture with chef David Gale, formerly of the Hilton and The Lawn Club, and Mughli owners the Arshad brothers, Haz and Sax. The most recent menu incarnation at the original Rusholme location features some of our favourite vegetarian food in the city: pau bhaji, halloumi menander, and pani puri.  

Aubergine in West Kirby proved popular once again but for different reasons. The recently refurbed cafe that gave us hangover advice last year and is revered for its Full English breakfasts also peddles a Thai menu: it’s all prepared by a self-taught Thai cook who operates under the name May’s Oriental Kitchen and is available 3-6pm on Fridays, but check Twitter and Facebook (orders are taken over email too). Laab phet, a sliced duck salad, looks mighty appealing while the classics of panang and massaman will appeal to curry lovers. Whether it will outshine Manchester’s Siam Smiles – our favourite this year – remains to be seen.

Cooking from the Far East was well represented: Northern Quarter’s Ning, which has the UK’s leading Malaysian chef, Norman Musa, at its helm, made another appearance and Etsu, it seems, enjoys a pretty much unchallenged status. Try Thai was a newcomer in Manchester but has long been favoured for its keen prices and enjoys a pretty devout following if you trust online reviews, though consistency has been an issue in the past; also edging its way in is This & That, the unassuming, long-standing curry cafe in the NQ whose budget-friendly vegetarian curries give the aforementioned Mughli a run for their money.

Flying a solitary flag for Mexican food was Lucha Libre. With their bells-and-whistles site in Manchester’s Great Northern and their original, understated Liverpool location, they’ve been serving tacos, burritos, ceviches and empanadas for years now, for the most part avoiding the Tex-Mex food that has generally been done so badly here. However, many would argue that an exemplary purveyor of authentic Mexican cuisine continues to elude both cities.

If next year proves to be as busy with openings as 2014 was, we’re sure to see even stiffer competition; in the meantime, someone should really start an actual food version of the World Cup. Please.