Rice and Three and Misogyny in Manchester

With 24 hours to eat and drink in Manchester, what would you do? Obviously I asked Twitter. The responses were many but amongst the crowd two contenders stood out as the most popular: the tradition of ‘rice and three’ curry cafes and the Almost Famous burger bar.

The curry cafe idea I was very much into and the most popular place seemed to be a joint called ‘This and That’ which is mentioned, well, pretty much everywhere as The Place to Go. The locals seemed to think differently however, which is how we ended up stumbling, extremely (really terribly) hungover, into Kabana. The idea of rice and three is that one is served rice and – guess how many curries? Yeah it’s three. Food is ordered from a very patient man who is clearly adept at dealing with hungover people. He stands over great big silver chafing dishes, waiting patiently while we dither about choosing what we want. Lamb, chicken and chickpea curries were duly heaped onto a mound of fluffy basmati and sprinkled with chopped green chillies, diced ginger and lemon juice, provided on the counter top for self service garnish.

‘Rice and three': chickpeas, chicken and lamb

An extra bowl of a lamb nahari; really tasty and totally necessary…oof

We totter over to a formica topped, screwed-to-the-ground table and tuck in to what turns out to be some fantastic food; simple, yes, but with skilful, distinct spicing and a punch from those garnishes. A garlic chapatti was stupendously good; a real thwack of garlic and a slick of ghee. Hangovers are sniffled away as we shovel it down unceremoniously, surrounded by a mixture of couples with young children, plus people like us, clearly also soothing hangovers, and Indian families scooping up curries with their hands; great food with no fuss and oooh, I haven’t mentioned one of the best bits – it cost…a fiver. A fiver!

And from substance over style to…well I expect you can work out where I’m going. Almost Famous. I’m going to bypass all the trend ticking, the queuing, the forced cliches, because none of that bothers me hugely to be honest. What matters to me is what they’re serving from the kitchen and of course, the bar. Oh and the way they’ve chosen to name the things that are produced in both of them.

Their signature drink for example is something called ‘bitch juice’. We ordered a round. It was possibly the sweetest drink I’ve ever tasted, and that’s from someone who grew up on raspberry Slush Puppies, you know, the scary blue ones. ‘Bitch juice’ consists of a heavy grenadine base, then some booze, presumably, and a topping of fruit and…icing sugar. Mixing grenadine and icing sugar is just…I’d say confident, bold perhaps. Brave, maybe? My teeth are aching at the memory. The fact that it wasn’t nice is not my real problem however. What I really take issue with, is the name, as I did when I ordered my burger with ‘slut sauce’. Sorry but, since when did misogyny = cool? I wondered at the logic behind this. Hey! We’re really edgy! We’re so fucking edgy we named everything after derogatory terms for women! Will the salad come with whore dressing perhaps? How about a slag soup? I think it could really take off. There are a lot of breasts on the wall, too. I like breasts, I have some. They’re very nice to look at but really, when muddled with the lame sexism on the menu it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. As does the food.

My burger, as you can see, was overcooked and also under seasoned. The house sauce appeared to be a mixture of mayonnaise and mustard but somehow, tasted of nothing much at all. It was reminiscent of a ropey Whopper. The wings I need not describe. Take a look at that picture. You know exactly what that BBQ sauce tastes like without my even needing tell you.

As I’m queuing up to order food I notice they’ve copied out Charlie Sheen’s breakdown rant on the wall. Er, cool. All the pictures are at jaunty angles. I want to buy them a spirit level. They sport a manifesto that says ‘no bloggers’, ‘no photos’. I wonder how they police that? There is a free jukebox at least, but they’ve allowed a situation where it is actually possible to put ColdPlay on, and lo and behold, someone has. And they’re singing along.

I’ve seen people draw comparison with London’s Meat Liquor, but let me tell you, Almost Famous has absolutely nothing on it. Meat Liquor has a history, which began with Meateasy and grew organically. The food is also a million times better, which is, let us not forget, what a restaurant is actually all about! Radical!

If you have to try very hard to be edgy and cool then I’m sorry to break it to you, but you aren’t. Kabana illustrate my point for me rather nicely. A slightly scruffy little cafe, no airs or graces, quietly doing their thing. Having just said the food is of utmost importance I’ll now admit that there is a place for restaurants which make their name on atmosphere alone and there’s nothing really wrong with that, I suppose. Just don’t be so goddamn desperate.

Kabana, 52 Back Turner Street, Manchester M4 1FP.

Almost Famous, 100 High St, Manchester, M4 1HP.

We also visited a couple of good pubs worth mentioning, if you’re interested. Very different places. Port Street Beer House is a craft beer pub of the well, craft beer pub ilk and The Castle is the kind of pub that I like. It’s sort of dingy and smells a bit and everyone talks to each other. Take yer pick.

I was invited to visit Manchester and was kindly put up in the Premier Inn, which I can vouch for. It’s dead close to Picadilly Station, and the reception was manned by quite honestly the friendliest woman I have ever met. Well, the friendliest woman I’ve ever met working on a reception desk in a hotel, anyway.

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35 thoughts on “Rice and Three and Misogyny in Manchester

  1. I’m a fan of This n That so will definitely visit Kabana next time I’m up. Seems to very similar.

    As for AF…I was raised with the adage, if you have nothing good to say shut up before you get a clip round the back of the head, which is what those guys need…with a blunt instrument*

    * I do not condone violence but sometimes I feel like it

  2. Yep, that’s the one! Definitely full force Sichuan. Last summer I went to Red Chilli and Bar Shu in Soho in quick succession. I might be biased since I’ve been to the former lots and the latter once, but, and despite people like Jay Rayner raving about it, I thought the latter was a fairly mainstream version with half the interest at about twice the price. Red Chilli is pretty understated and it always has these really shitty scanned photos on A4 paper stuck up with sellotape with the latest specials (part of the charm). Last time we went said specials included duck tongues, which took your face off with cool heat.

    Was fortunate to be on a conference jolly in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, too, and went to Mission Chinese, which people have been going nuts about. Some of the dishes were really interesting, but, again, not really any better or more exciting than Red Chilli which is always bang on the money. Defo worth a look next time you’re in Mancland.

    1. Awesome. I almost want to go back immediately. In my experience, Chilli Cool in King’s X has served the best Sichuan food. I’ve not heard anything that good about Bar Shu to be honest – seems like you had the same experience.

    1. Ah that’s the sichuan place isn’t it? I really wanted to – it was on the list! Sadly 24 hours didn’t allow it. Also we got carried away drinking on the first evening and didn’t really get much grub at all, hence the suffering the next day. Ouch! Definitely next time though. Is it full force sichuan? I can’t bear it the food is dulled down…

  3. Firstly I’m going to wear my serious daytime HR person / person with a brain hat and say that any business who is using the word ‘whore’ as part of their job vacancy descriptions should be in front of some sort of tribunal being made to feel very ashamed of themselves and paying a large fine. Unless they are a brothel of course. I don’t consider myself a particularly ardent feminist but I all the above offensive and just plain unfunny!

    Secondly, I’m going to tell you that my poor friend who moved to Manchester from London a couple of years ago is dragged to Almost Famous for almost every birthday or celebratory meal as her friends think it is the most awesome place with the best food. She hates it more and more each time she goes and makes a beeline for MeatLiquor everytime she is back in London for work. Spare a thought for her :)

  4. How has a mob not formed out front bearing pitchforks and tar and torches? I am astounded that women and people who love women continue to eat there. I am also offended by No Bloggers, No Photos. What have they got to hide? I’d say the offensive menu but apparently they are proud of that. It boggles the mind.

    Meanwhile, that curry shop? Is doing everything right.

  5. I live in Manchester, but have never been to Almost Famous, even though I’ve heard so many glowing reviews of it. The reason I’ve not been, the sexism running through it (deliberately and ‘ironically’ or not).

    I’d heard on twitter that the female servers are called sluts (no derogatory terms for the guys) and off their twitter feed “EVENTS / MARKETING WHORE WANTED “.

    Not a place I would feel comfortable dining in.

  6. It’s never cool to hate on women, yet often when things like this are brought up you’re labelled humourless, or a miserable cow. So distasteful, even more so since the food looks shit.

    Those curries though! Gimme!

    1. Well, quite. I clearly have no sense of humour, eh? ;)

      The curries were really good. Basic, but ace. And the value! I couldn’t believe it. If I lived in Machester they would be my hangover cure of choice. I’d be in there every Sunday.

  7. The ‘whoever’ is behind the twitter is a right dick. However it’s a well constructed persona/marketing ploy that unfortunately seems to work. Shame on us, Manchester.

  8. Oh we nearly tried Almost Famous when back in Manchester over Christmas. Somewhat glad we didn’t bother now! If you’re ever back again though I’d recommend finding somewhere that sells Marble Brewery beers, like 57 Thomas Street in the Northern Quarter, or the Marble Beer House in Chorlton if you’re out that way.

  9. Bleugh, a side of misogyny really is unpalatable. Not only is it offensive, it is just incredibly naff.

    But then Meat Liquor aren’t entirely innocent – the ‘No Fat Chicks’ sign wasn’t particularly funny.

  10. The misogyny alone would keep me from that place. Unless they had like, “manwhore salad” or something. Or “douchebag juice.” If you’re going to be derogatory, better keep it equal. Hm, funny how it’s very hard to create a food item name that is derogatory for a man, but it’s awfully easy for a lady?

  11. Oh dear. I’ve had many an Almost Famous burger and none have been quite that overdone. I think you may have been very very unlucky there. The suicide wings are also a hundred times better than the Redneck ones (which I think are the ones in the picture). I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to Kabana so it’s been put on the list of places to visit!

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