His career has taken him from northern India, to Shanghai and then to Manchester. During more than 25 years as a professional chef, Manish Mahipal has worked in five star hotels and now runs a stylish restaurant in King Street West.
But there’s always someone he can call on if he finds himself a little puzzled on how to approach a dish – his mum, whose own skills in the kitchen have inspired him.
“I’ll give her a call whenever I’m stuck,” said Manish, a dad of two who lives in Altrincham. “She’s a very good cook herself, so I never hesitate to ask her.”
It’s this authentic Punjab culinary tradition which has made Wah Ji Wah, which means ‘wow’ in Punjabi, a popular dining destination in the city centre. Opened in February 2019 by head chef Manish and his business partner Sanjeev Toteja, this small, elegant premises includes dishes that Manish’s mum cooks herself, such as Sarson Ka Saag – a vegetarian dish made with mustard green and spices – and Dal Makhani, slow cooked black lenses with cream and butter.
“It was always my dream to come and live here in the UK and cook authentic cuisine,” Manish said. “And we include Punjabi dishes on our menu. I keep our food subtle and light, so you don’t feel heavy after eating, I don’t believe in using too many spices.”
Wah Ji Wah’s selection of dishes includes a wide range of Indian food, which Manish has perfected during his globe-trotting career. He started out in the vibrant city of Agra – home to the Taj Mahal – where he worked at the luxury Oberoi Hotel Group, learning his craft from him from some of India’s most respected chefs.
“I quickly realized that if you are a good chef you focus your heart and soul into it,” said Manish, who later moved to Shanghai, to work at the five star Jin Jang Hotel, and, in 2001, to the UK where he was employed by high profile restaurants in London and the Midlands before making the move north.
After running a restaurant in Whaley Bridge, Manish and business partner Sanjeev decided to head to the city centre. Having transformed a former cafe into Wah Ji Wah, Manish, as head chef, now oversees a casual smart dining experience that has won good reviews on TripAdvisor, and can also cater for parties, at a price to suit your budget.
With his signature dishes – including pot-roasted duck and lobster pepper fry – to vegetarian options such as Dum ki biryani, basmati rice cooked with ingredients including vegetables and soya, Manish’s mum is always keen to hear how he’s bringing traditional dishes to Manchester.
“She is very proud to see her son running his own restaurant,” said Manish. “She says ‘Just keep doing the good work and you will have many more restaurants in the coming future – my blessings are always with you’.”
Wah Ji Wah is at 37 King Street West, Manchester M3 2PW. For bookings and for more information, call 0161 819 5460 or visit wahjiwah.co.uk
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.