DEFINITELY. On a first visit to the South India restaurant opposite Southern Cemetery we chickened out of their signature version filled with spinach and red kidney beans because I have an aversion to the latter. A colleague calls it ‘inspired’. I found inspiration of my own in the standard Masala Dosa (£7.50) with its ample filling of crushed potatoes and cashew nuts inside the vast, lacy, crisp rice and gram batter crepe.
And, of course, there was fresh coconut chutney and sambar lentil broth on the side. A perfect way to celebrate Veganuary – though in Chennai where the owners’ families hail from it’s often Veganuary every month.
It is no coincidence that that the previous champion dosa in the region (a close run thing with Lily’s in Ashton) was at Sanmini’s in Ramsbottom, also run by folk from Chennai (or Madras, that helps you get your bearings). But the last we heard Sanmini’s was shut and put on the market by the medic couple who ran it.
Amma’s owner Saju Ravindran’s background is definitely in catering. He has cheffed in kitchens as diverse as Loch Fyne and Las Iguanas. Keralan-born, his culinary influences in his own place range across South India, land of coconut and curry leaves and street food with hard to pronounce names such as Karuveppilai Eral (lentil curry encrusted prawns) or Kaikari Mandi with Oothappam (coconut milk cooked veg on a rice crumpet). It’s an enticing menu we’ll be back to review fully. Though lots of it is vegan (and gluten-free), fish features, as it would in Kerala.
A couple of dishes we chose as a prelude to the Dosa Main Event proved far too dry – Porucha Vendaka (£5.75), where crispy nut-filled okra is paired with a dull lentil hummus and Chicken 65 (£6.55), deep-fried chicken balls; advertised as a fiery Chennai snack, they lacked chilli heat and need a mint chutney or yoghurt accompaniment.
Chilli paneer (£6.95) compensated, the tender cheese deep-fried and smothered in a rich chilli sauce with spring onions. With the food we shared a £13.95 bottle of Chilean Chardonnay, from a tiny list, that coped well with the spicing. The draught beer alternative is predictably Kingfisher.
The Canteen is set back on an unprepossessing shop parade near the veteran Indian eaterie Coriander. Inside, though, the surroundings are warm and slightly rustic quirky with trompe l’oeil ‘stone’ wallpaper, while Ravindran’s wife Ganga (below) is charming front of house. Amma’s means ‘Mother’s’ and she tells us many of the recipes have been handed down.
Only a few months after Bundobust in the city centre scooped Restaurant of the Year in the Manchester Food and Drink Awards, serving Gujarati-influenced veggie grub it’s good to see Kerala and the South being showcased here. Bundobust’s dosa, alas, is a mini-version. For the real fix head for Chorlton.
Amma's Canteen, 285 Barlow Moor Road, Manchester M21 7GH. 0161 291 1682.