Cheadle Hulme’s night time economy has grown significantly since we left the area for Mellor some six years ago. There are now an increased number of restaurants including Gusto and another Indian, Silsila. A third pub, The Penny Black, has opened in the old post office building and The John Millington has grown in popularity. We chose to have a drink in the Millington before our visit to the Seven Spices Indian Restaurant. A Halloween party was in full swing with bar staff all suitably (and scarily) attired. I’ve never had a pint pulled by a skeleton before and the pub’s abundant customers were also joining in the fancy dress fun. To use a good old Manchester expression, we were spoilt for choice when it came to choosing a pint as, in addition to the excellent Hyde’s range of beers, there were a number of guest ales from a variety of Greater Manchester microbreweries available. Full marks to Hydes for supporting smaller local rivals and giving their customers a fantastic choice. One wonders if Robinsons would ever contemplate doing the same. Sadly, I think not.
On to the business in hand, we had an 8.30pm booking at The Seven Spices on Mellor Road, Cheadle Hulme. We have visited this restaurant before on two other recent occasions and were looking forward to our meal. I had entered their details on the Urbanspoon website and anticipated being able to give them a good review. Seven Spices is an authentic Indian, the owners, and presumably the chefs, are from India, not Bangladesh (usually Sylhet) as is the case in many so called Indian restaurants you may visit. The dishes although familiar are subtly different and use less oil or ghee. If smaller portions and higher prices are any indicator, the aspirations of Seven spices are definitely more towards finer dining. The ambience and quality of service , always efficient and reliable in most South Asian restaurants, again are normally at a higher level here. On our two previous visits we could not fault any aspect of our experience.
On arrival, despite having made a firm reservation the day before, we were shown upstairs to another almost overflow-type dining room. We got the impression that perhaps our booking a table in advance had made no difference and that, seemingly, walk-ins had been shown to tables in the main part of the restaurant. Still no problems at this point and the first floor was already occupied by three tables of diners and this area of the restaurant was supervised by an older Maître d-type Indian chap with a proprietorial air. Attentive to our needs, he even suggested moving to a nicer table. The relish tray and the customary small but complimentary papadums promptly arrived with our drinks order.
However it was some 45 minutes before we saw our starters. This first course were delivered by a young male waiter who didn’t seem to know which table they were for and when one table declined the food, let slip a quite unnecessary expletive. I managed to call him over and explain that the order was destined for us.
These starters arrived before those of the other tables who had been waiting even longer without food or indeed explanation. Mr Maitre D, by now, had retreated downstairs never to be seen again, leaving us in the hands of stressed and inexperienced waiting staff.
We had chosen to start with the meat platter, priced at £9.95, which we were assured was enough for 2. Just as well I had also ordered a portion of Paiz ke pakore, or Onion Bhaji, as the tandoori Meat Platter starter was severely portion controlled. One chop, one piece of tandoori chicken,one piece of tandoori salmon and a seekh kebab. This was served with a spicy fried bread similar to a paratha. Like the curate’s egg, the starter was good in parts, the chop was excellent but the rest managed to be both overdone and a bit cold suggesting it had been waiting around in the kitchen. This combined with the lack of food coming to tables indicated problems in the kitchen area.
On to the main courses, we had chosen a Lamb curry, Gosht Pasanda, a Chicken dish, Lababdar Murgh, and a side dish of black lentils, Daal Makhani, with Jeera Pilau rice and plain rice. These came soon enough, and to be fair, seemed to be of the usual high standard, complex and rich and quite different to the usual curry house fare. The rice was fragrant and well cooked and the Naan was light and crisp with none of the usual over-doughiness. We enjoyed this part of the meal but just as well as no one checked – Mr sharp suit still being conspicuous by his absence from the whole first floor.
We called for the bill, paid and left. No one wished us goodnight as we passed the bar area where the owners remained incognito, heads buried deep in the proverbial sand. A real shame as we will not now go back and would not encourage others to try Seven Spices.