In a word:
Indian Street Food
The curry connoisseur looking to surprise their taste buds with a more authentic taste of the East.
Scene is a special setting for spice-lovers wanting to sample the best of Indian food. From the mirrored ceiling to the spray painted feature wall portraying the train station at Agra; from shanty-style booths to rich wooden furnishings, the décor has been carefully thought out to create an authentic and exciting ambience.
Despite the upmarket location of Spinningfields, Scene lacked none of the buzz that you would expect from an Indian restaurant on a Saturday night. The warm welcome from co-founder Asif as we arrived made it clear from the start that there were to be no airs and graces in this restaurant – he greeted us (and every other diner) as friends, a level of hospitality that was reinforced by everyone we encountered.
As we embarked on reading the extensive and varied menu, Asif sent his right hand barman, Chris, over to take our drinks order. An experienced mixologist, Chris fancied the challenge of creating cocktails to suit our individual tastes. Whilst I opted for ‘something gin-based,’ my partner fancied something fruiter with a focus on rum, and away he went to whisk up something special.
Featuring Hendrick’s gin, vodka, cucumber, mint, lemon, cloves and sugar syrup, my concoction was as healthy (and potent) as cocktails come – refreshing, light and literally as cool as a cucumber. Meanwhile, aromatic apple infused with pear, cloves and rum gave the second cocktail a more mellow twist, with a depth of flavour that went perfectly with the Asian food we were about the eat.
Street Food Starters
As we tucked into poppadoms, we could watch the chefs cooking away in the open street food kitchen overlooking the restaurant; everything is cooked fresh to order – no universal curry sauce in here. To ensure that we got the full Scene experience, Asif ordered for us, choosing a mixture of street food delights as well as main dishes. Having worked with his talented chefs from all over Asia, he has carefully crafted the menu to be as authentic, exciting, and flavoursome as possible.
Jingha Til Tinka – £6.95
King prawns rarely do their name justice when served in a restaurant, but this dish reminded us what seafood should taste like. Butterflied on skewers, coated in delicate breadcrumbs and then lightly fried, the crunchy coating gave way to a meaty prawn filling. No greasy fingers here, just succulent bites of big king prawn lollipops.
Samosa Chaat – £6.95
Samosas are a classic dish, but Scene doesn’t play it safe with their phenomenal samosa chaat. Made with potato, peas, carrot and chickpeas, and served in a poppadum basket with a chickpea and yoghurt topping, this show-stopping starter had a rustic feel and a fragrant, zingy flavour. A great choice for vegetarians, even my meat-aholic partner was a fan of this dish.
Calamari – £7.95
As calamari is probably the last thing I’d expect on an Indian menu, Asif enlightened us to the origins of this dish. Trinidad has a strong South Indian community; Indo-Caribbean cuisine applies Indian techniques to Caribbean ingredients, with powerful results. In a sweet honey and chilli batter, this calamari was a delicious twist on a delicacy that is well loved around the world,
Lamb Chops – £5.95
I’ve always been told that one of the best ways to judge an Indian restaurant is by its lamb chops, so when Asif proudly insisted we must try Scene’s, I wasn’t going to resist. Sure enough, they were sensational. Marinaded and chargrilled, these chops had a smoky flavour that you simply couldn’t achieve at home, balanced perfectly by the cool raita on the side.
If you’re a regular at your local curry house, you’re probably familiar with the seekh kebab. Imagine then wrapping this in a chapatti, and that’s essentially what a Dubai roll is. Except we struggled to believe that the succulent, juicy and spicy filling in this starter was minced meat – the quality of the ingredients that Scene use stood out in every dish. This wasn’t on the menu, so be sure to ask for it when you order!
We could happily have chomped on street food all night long (and many people do), but next it was on to the curries themselves. And we’re glad that we left room for the mains, as they were just as impressive as the ‘starters.’
Scene Handi Gosht – £17.95
On learning of my partiality to spicy food, Asif recommended this rich lamb dish. Often, the hotter the currier, the less focus there is on taste; to say that this curry had layers of flavour would be an understatement. The mighty combination of ginger, coriander, green chilli and a plethora of spices really came through in every mouthful, not to mention the flaky meat that just fell off the bone.
Monkfish Malai – £14.95
At home, we have a curry every Saturday night – it’s a family tradition. However, I would rarely consider a fish curry, and a korma would be unthinkable in our household. So this mild monkfish dish was a surprising treat that both my partner and I fell in love with. Creamy and fragrant, it had a delicate but distinct flavour. The combination of coconut and coriander was a match made in heaven, whilst the meaty flakes of monkfish practically melted in the sauce.
Although we arguably didn’t need any more food, the sundries soak up the sauces perfectly. It’s a testament to the perfectionism of Asif and his chefs that their rice is as good as their curries – the saffron lemon rice smelled and tasted fantastic. Combined with the spicy, crispy Afghani naan (again, not on the menu, so ask!) it was the perfect way to wipe the plate clean at the end of the meal.
Whilst the Scene menu features many classic curry house favourites, the comparison ends here. With dishes that proudly display influences and flavours from across not just India, but the globe, be warned that your regular Saturday night takeaway may suddenly not quite ‘tikka’ the boxes after a trip to Scene.
Every dish offered an explosion of flavours, with freshly grinded spices and an authenticity that doesn’t pander to the British expectations of Indian food. From the food and drink to the infectious ambience, this restaurant stands out in a city that has no shortage of Asian restaurants to choose from.
This summer, Scene will also be opening a riverside outdoor dining area for guests, with work on their shisha lounge soon to get underway. We can’t wait to return when it opens!
Scene Dining – Indian Street Kitchen
0161 839 3929