Last week, I took a break from my gruelling Christmas shopping schedule to meet up for lunch with the Doyles at This & That Café - tucked down an alley in the Northern Quarter. I'd actually wanted to try This & That out for some time - if I had a quid for every time I'd had it recommended to me, I'd have, well, at least a fiver.
This & That is something of a Manchester institution, with many claiming its inexpensive, no-frills curries are the best in the city. Every lunchtime, the place is packed full of hungry diners of all ages, genders and professions and it can apparently get so busy you'll struggle to find a seat.
On this particular cold, windy and rainy Monday, I was so pleased to be going somewhere warm that the somewhat shifty exterior on the way into the somewhat shifty interior didn't bother me a jot. The place was typically busy so we joined the queue to order our Rice and 3 Veg curry deal. The menu changes daily ensuring that you literally could eat there every day of the week and today's veggie options were Lentil Daal, Mixed Veg and Cauliflower with Potatoes.
The three scrummy looking curries were slopped onto my plastic plate and handed to me so I could top them with a nice bit of green chilli and corriander. We helped ourselves to knives and forks and tap water from the jug and were even lucky enough to get a table to ourselves.
The three curries were all very tasty - hearty, flavoursome and very well-cooked, with the chopped chillis I'd distributed to my plate adding a bit of spicy excitement. I loved the textures of the various curries mixed together with the rice - thick sauces with tender veg and soft, grainy potatoes. Doyle also ordered a large Onion Bhaji which he said was very nice too.
Due to its canteen-esque nature, This & That isn't really the type of place to sit around for a post-meal chat, and the chances are someone will be after your seat anyway, so we discussed our thoughts on the meal while walking through town. We were all in agreement that the food had been good and our bellies were full - very satisfied. The food was also very healthy - no visible oil or grease, and I'm pretty sure my meal provided me with one or two of my 5-a-day.
At £3.30 a for Rice and 3 curries with a big old bhaji a snip at 70p you really cannot argue with the price either. I thought it's no wonder so many people go to This & That when you could quite easily spend the same amount of money on a rubbish sandwich or a sub-par coffee. If I worked in the centre I would definitely be in there every day trying out different dishes - if you were a meat eater you could try out a whole range of combinations resulting in a completely different meal every time.
So This & That was a hit. What did I think about the claim that the serve "the best curries in Manchester"? Hmm. Best value maybe, but I'm not sure if the food and overall experience were awesome enough for me to give them that coveted title. I'll just have to go back and try out a few more yummy meals before I decide - poor me!