“NOW,” the waiter says expectantly, “would you like to video this?”

His hand hovers ready to theatrically whip a glass lid from what looks like a toffee apple with wisps of smoke encircling it. Four heads turn towards him, four mouths move as one. And drum roll… No, is the universal and short answer.

So dies another Instagram moment (for the restaurant anyway).

Actually, I would have liked to have Instagrammed the reaction from the four of us earlier as we picked up menus to choose starters. And saw the prices. Uh, £12, £15, £14, £18, £14, £14 jump out. Just two at £8. For starters?

This is followed by a somewhat ungentlemanly scramble to the vegan section overleaf where prices are (slightly) more palatable.

To say Swadish seems to have a big hit for itself is to put it mildly but then they have just won a restaurant of the year award and that’s actually the reason we’re present tonight.

Me having completely forgotten I was here a couple of years ago and then when that old review popped up having also forgotten that I’d written about how staff were handing out voting forms for some restaurant awards at the time and urging positive online reviews.

Hey, if you don’t try you don’t get.

After all this you’d think this is going to be a car crash of a meal. Well, the booths in the old Fire Station, as this place will be forever known to us who once worked in Albion Street round the corner, don’t really get any more comfortable. The raised side seating, low and lonely central area, layout still doesn’t zing with ambience.

Yet, on a still Sunday evening when the place is half-full and walk-ins from the Merchant City out there roll lazily in we eat and chatter happily enough.

“A curry leaf,” The Big Bopper will say as he picks one from his Lamb Pepper Fry (£17); “the meat is tender in this,” Gibbo will exclaim as he peels a pastry lid back from the Hydrabadi Lamb Nihari Biryani (£22); “monkfish good” reveals pescatarian Goffy.

I’m not that excited about my Delhi Butter Chicken though. Getting none of the promised smokiness from the thigh, and nothing much in the way of the headlined fenugreek. But I suppose they think they’re giving it away at £14. Yes, these are mains.

The starters included a Chicken 65, it and mussels at £8 being the cheapest on the mainstream section, a reasonable portion of moist and highly flavoured chicken. Good. A Cauliflower Koliwada, fried crisp, dark with spices isn’t served with the normal peanut chutney but with a tomato pickle (£8.50); while cakes of Aloo Tikka Chat (£7.50) are squirted up and down endlessly and vogueishly with chutneys and yoghurt. Both also good.

Only my £15 soft shell crab, that hardest of dishes to get quite right, doesn’t hit the mark; the unnecessary and tasteless spice coating (cook the crab first surely, then spice) making it not quite as all-over crisp as it should be, before the soft white interior is exposed. I’ve had much better.

That biryani though. My fork keeps finding its way back into what is a huge portion; steamy hot, lush lamb, punchy spicing and then little diamonds of sweetness bursting on the tongue. And a delicious yet distinctive curry leaf aroma hangs over the table from the pepper fry, a reductio-ad-almost-gloop dish that is somehow just deeply satisfying.

Yeah, the naan is ordinary (£3.50), the rice (£3.50) so-so but we still have that Forbidden Apple (£10.50) from a dessert list that begins ambitiously at £9.50.

It advertises Granny Smith, dill, white chocolate mousse and apple liquor. Certainly looks great. That toffee apple coating cracking to reveal what tastes like, uh, whipped cream, an occasional though nowhere-near-enough cube of apple pops up; a far-too-hard and crunchy chocolatey base making the whole thing very shardy and uncomfortable to eat.

Lots of show then probably not quite enough go?

Swadish by Ajay Kumar

33 Ingram Street,


0141 553 0581

Menu: Lamb nihari biryani, tandoori salmon, poached salmon, Goan monkfish. Ambitious menu with interesting rejig of Indian classics from award-wining restaurant. 4/5

Atmosphere: Slightly awkward up and down seating area in former firestation but pleasant enough. 3/5

Service: Plenty of staff. We were served by three or four different people; all pleasant and efficient. 4/5

Price: Expect to be hovering around the £20 mark for mains sans sides, and it’s very easy to hit mid teens for starters. Desserts start at £9.50 2/5

Food: Lamb biryani at £22 is worth a trip on its own, the pepper fry satisfying, starters freshly spiced. Some overreaching though so not yet universally good. 8/10