The trouble with coriander is this: it’s a herb that divides opinion. If you like, it’s the Marmite of the herb world: you either love it or hate it and it tends to provoke a strong reaction in people, rather than indifference.
I live with a coriander-averse person and I surreptitiously slip it into soups, stir-fries and curries, finely chopping lest he notices it. If I’m feeling particularly charitable, I will cook two versions of the same food without the dreaded herb in his.
Inevitably, he usually notices, grimacing at the metallic taste if I’ve only bothered with one version of carrot and coriander soup. Coriander haters always notice. I reckon that I particularly like it as it’s used liberally in Thai cooking, which I always enjoy. It can transform a boring salad and gives a zing to Mexican salsa, and is a natural bedfellow of prawns. Coriander lovers of the world unite.
As I made my way to a new branch of the authentic Bengal restaurant Coriander, I must have been thinking about the name. Rather unusually, there’s a second branch of Coriander just off the M56 on Barlow Moor Road, opposite the Southern Cemetery about a mile from the new restaurant.
Alfred Searls, whom I was meeting there along with Northern Soul editor Helen Nugent, and writer Lucia Cox, had just written a splendid thoughtful blog about the cemetery. However, the real Coriander is further down the road, close to Beech Road, and its independent shops, bars and restaurants.
It is now epicurean heaven in this bit of Chorlton. Virtually every shop opposite beneath the distinctive wrought iron canopy is a restaurant. Thus the gentrification of the district is now completed.
When I used to hang out there with my friends at the turn of the Millennium, before fleeing home to the suburbs, it felt like a different place. More edgy. Nowadays it’s more likely that you will see people pushing prams, not narcotics, on the streets.
The launch night of Coriander, somewhat surprisingly, consisted of a buffet. I admit that I’m a bit sniffy about buffets, blame it on Peter Kay and the quiche, chicken wings and garlic bread joke. Clearly, this was a much better class of buffet. Yet there was an awful lot of chicken dishes. I think my issue with buffets is that you tend to eat more food and quicker than if you order a la carte. I had serious a la carte envy as the couple on the next table were regular diners and their meals looked fabulous.
Despite this, there was a great array of dishes and it was an opportunity to try a bit of everything. The naan bread was just lovely and non-greasy, the rice perfectly cooked and fragrant, the onion bhajis perfectly executed. Not forgetting the many chicken dishes – slathered in spinach, korma and all the other sauces, all equally fine. But Coriander came into its own with the vegetarian dishes. I can safely say that was the best daal I’ve ever eaten and the vegetable curry was mighty fine.
Review by Helen Carter
Where: 485 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, Manchester