Plaza café, Manchester

Plaza 01

If only it still existed. A legend in the 1970s, this small Somali café, run by Charlie Ali, was open until 4 am, serving a range of simple curries at modest prices. At the height of its popularity, the speciality was Chicken Biryani which can with very yellow rice, raw onions in a tomato paste, and the special sauce. This was ordered as hot, very hot and suicidal. Apparently they also did a beef version, but there seemed some doubt about the provenance of the beef, so chicken was the safer option.

In order to add to the Biryani lore I recall the onion dish had a red spice paste on it. The infamous sauce was a thin grey/brown (khaki?) gravy, possibly of lentils and maybe other vegetables, with a layer of iridescent oil floating on top. It had a red glow, I think, but that may just be a false alcohol induced memory. Anyway, the hotter the sauce the thicker the layer of red oil so I suspect it consisted of oil infused with red chilli – the more the hotter! We often joked about the chicken being Alsatian. A 9 shilling portion was enough for 2 people with the chicken and rice being served together in a large pile on an oval platter. Happy days!

Now, the portions were large and so you always ordered a half-biryani; to order anything else was to endanger life. Cost about 4 shillings and sixpence, or 22.5p in new money. A whole one was the outrageous price of 9 shillings [45p]. We lived quite close by in Alexandra Park, and this was a regular haunt. One evening the police were outside questing a student. One of the upper floor windows opened, where there were more tables, and a glass of water poured out onto the police below. The police rushed up the stairs, but all the water glasses were empty…

Not for the faint hearted, but loved by its regulars.

There’s a new place opened now, run by Carlie’s daughter Farida and her husband, called Buzzrocks.

The Plaza on Upper Brooke Street

The Plaza on Upper Brooke Street

The menu - 1980s prices but the same choice

The menu – 1980s prices but the same choice

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