NELSON Wang, now there’s a name to conjure with. Not on your radar the Mumbai restaurateur of Chinese lineage who invented Manchurian Chicken in the Seventies? Me neither until an encounter with the Gobi Mushroom Manchurian (£5) on the corking new Bundobust menu led me to do some digging.
Going for a Chinese is the meal out choice of many urban Indians. What they get is as far removed as our own chow meins and chop sueys and Wang’s chicken creation was as hybrid as they come, using Sub-Continent staples garlic, ginger and green chillies but instead of adding garam masala to the bird he chucked in soy sauce and cornstarch (footnote: real Manchurians live mostly off millet).
Bundo’s Mancunian Manchurian candidate is basically a mushroom and cauli pakora, deep-fried and slathered in a curious but moreish sweet and sourish sauce.
It’s part of an overdue overhaul of their all-conquering menu that won them Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2017 Restaurant of the Year and universally rave reviews. Not that they’ve gone over to the dark side and dabbled in meat.
Much of it is tweaking – what co-owner Marko Husak calls “creating a Greatest Hits album.” So new ‘recipes’, hardy reinventions, for rice flour siblings Idli Sambhar and Masala Dosa as well as Bhel Puri and Tarka Dhal. My desert island appetiser Bundo Chaat (£4.50) hasn’t budged and we fall on it ravenously before our inspection of the new troops.
Bhaji alert – broccoli and kale join onion and there’s fennel and onion in there. £4’s worth of crispy joy.
Next a challenge. Mushy peas are a not so distant cousin of moong dal. In Raghda Pethis (£5, vegan and gluten-free) they are spiced up and partnered with potato cake in a riff on pie and peas that’s slightly too sweet for me despite the tamarind chutney accompaniment.
Another stomach-lining newcomer Rav Bhaji (£6.50) is more like, a cauliflower, peas and potato, high on garam masala. Served with a brioche bun, it’s a real rival to their signature spud burger Vada Pav. These boys do like their potatoes.
Another instant Bundo classic (and my personal fave from the new menu) is Paneer Kadai (£6.50). Mainly thanks to the deep red tomato, pepper and fresh fenugreek sauce infused with cinnamon that soaks into the cheese. Chloe Saag (£6.25), chickpeas and spinach, is equally street but less gripping.
Still, all worthy of my second five star review verdict in a week. As critic Jay Rayner, a champion of the project, has pointed out again recently, it’s hard to over-estimate the significance of Bundobust as they seek to expand across the North.
Beer remains as exciting as the food offering. We matched the dishes with two Chorlton Brewing Co sours, the beer-friendly beers brewer Mike Marcus champions. The Citra Grapefruit (£5 a pint) was tinglingly refreshing; the Dirty Wild (£4.45 a half) more challenging for the novice palate, shall we say? Inspired by the Dirty Martini it’s a blend of wild ferment beers and olive brine. Better than both as a match for the new menu was a £5.70 Cucumber Pilsener from Norway’s Lervig who, coincidentally, are running a tap takeover a the NQ’s Patron Bar this Thursday (15th).
Bundobust, 61 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2AQ. 0161 359 6757.