This 'n' That Café

The Northern Quarter is famous for it's 'rice n three' cafes. This is Indian food but not as you know it. These are basic, no frills, cafe type establishments that serve up a selection of different currries for a cheap price - usually in the region of £3-5 for a big plate of food. They cater for a lunchtime crowd and most don't stay open past 6pm. These curry cafes are huddled around Thomas Street and High Street but the one that everybody raves about is This n That, hidden away down a dingy back alley called Soap Street.

Spinach/potato, kidney beans/new potatoes, dhal. 
With Indian food there is often a question of whether it is vegan. Many indian resturants use butter ghee to fry with and often add yoghurt or cream. The food in the curry cafe's is different to the sauce based dishes you see in restuarants. It's simpler, less rich, less sauce and more veg. They almost all use vegetable ghee, although it's good to check first. But you are unlikely to find cream or yoghurt added.

I have to confess that due to my chilli allergy, I haven't eaten at This n That. But the Curry cafe's are so iconic of the Northern Quarter I had to feature them, so I sent my partner Matt out to sample the food. To be honest this wasn't hard as he eats there at least once a week, sometimes more! Here's what he said

Matt writes :  'This n that' is not just my favourite curry place in Manchester, it's my favorurite anywhere. I've eaten amazing Indian/Pakistani/Bengali food all over the world (including India) and I'd put this place up against any of the rest. 

Cabbage, chana and mixed veg
The menu changes each day but basically you get three vegetable curries on offer each day. Rice and three for about £3.50. All the veg curries are vegan. It is possible to go every day and get a different plate each time. My favourites are the chickpeas (Chana) the spinach and potatoes (saag Aloo) the cabbage and the best of all the Dhal. I can honestly say the Dhal is the best I've ever tasted. I've no idea how they do it but it is amazing. 

One downside for some people is that it's hard to judge heat. Some of the curries are fiercly hot but mostly they are mild and full of flavour, but you never quite know what you're going to get. That's also part of the attraction!

This is a lunchtime place, so although it opens late it's best to go at lunchtime when the food is hot and fresh, otherwise you might just be getting warmed up leftovers.  There's no table service. You queue up, choose from the pots and they dish it out there and then. A bit like school dinners. But the staff are friendly and they do understand vegan, so don't be afraid to ask if you're unsure. The only things I've seen that are not vegan (apart from the meat dishes) are the Naan Breads, the Raita (yoghurt) and the potato patties. 

So I think we can safely say that Matt enjoyed his trip to This n That. The curry cafes really are an established part of the Northern Quarter's foodie scene and no trip to Manchester is complete without a trip to one.


  1. Cool! I often struggle to find Indian restaurants that don't do the ghee thing, which is a real shame, as I can't eat enough of Indian food. Those plates are making me hungry - definitely a big bowl of dhal is in order today!

  2. I know of this place, but like you, I can't do chillies and unfortunately I've yet to find even one place in Manchester where when I ask for something as mild as the mildest Korma and Vegan....I actually get one! It drives me crazy as I loved Kormas years ago, they weren't hot at all. Have any suggestions hon? Is there anywhere Indian you've found that does no chillies when asked? :) x

  3. Ha, know what you mean Michelle. I went to the Punjab in Rusholme for 5 years for their dosas which I always asked to be made mild. Last time I went though it wasn't mild at all, even Matt and his nephew found it too hot and were sweating! When we said something about our uneaten food I was given short shrift and told that they are always served like that so I've never been back. I usually end up just making my own at home sans chilli but we visited Coriander in Withington recently and I managed to find some dishes on the menu that were mild enough for me to eat. They also label stuff as vegan. I can't be sure they were completely chilli free though - I'm usually ok with a bit of chilli powder and a tiny bit of milder type chilli. The food was really lovely and the staff nice. On their website it does say to contact them about allergies so they might be worth a try if you can speak to them beforehand!

  4. These curries look great. Yet another food I haven't eaten since becoming vegan. I will need to find a place soon cause now I'm craving it.

  5. Thanks for that it's brill! I've been past but had given up trying asking. I'm not allergic to it, I just can't tolerate alot of heat, as I say, Korma, maybe just slightly hotter, but I always end up with something supposed to be mild that's actually as hot as the surface of the sun. I'll definitely try them, and will mail beforehand like you say as they seem to take these things into account xxx

  6. To ALL CONSUMING : In restaurants the mild curries like korma or dansak are almost always tempered with cream or yoghurt. I find it best to avoid the main dishes altogether and order from the sides menu. As the sides are always veg based they tend to be less sauce driven and usually are much milder. As they are viewed as "accompaniments" they tend not to overspice them. Bombay potatoes, saag aloo, chana, and dhal are usually a safe bet for vegans and those who don't like heat. But as ever it really depends on the restaurant.


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