Hungry, me old China? Kate Feld reckons the city’s most exciting cooking is right here.
Manchester’s Chinatown might seem petite if you’ve seen the ones in New York or Paris, but it’s actually the country’s second biggest. Wedged between Moseley and Portland Streets, it’s a riot of colour and flavour; restaurants serving up Chinese, Japanese, Nepalese, Vietnamese and Thai food jostle for attention at street level, with more places to eat, specialist groceries, karaoke bars and massage parlours occupying basements and upper floors. It’s always a fun place for dining out, and some of the city’s top kitchens are here. Every Mancunian has very strong opinions about good restaurants in Chinatown – here are our picks.
1. Red Chilli – Passionately adored by many Mancunian foodies (and the first Manchester restaurant in ages not to get a slating from notoriously picky Observer food critic Jay Rayner), this Szechuan restaurant rules the culinary roost from an unprepossessing basement on Portland Street. But rest assured, the food is as stunning as the décor is not. We especially rate their green beans with pork and chilli, and fiery lamb hot pot, and their Beijing dumplings are the ultimate comfort food. There’s a second location near the university on Oxford Road. 70 Portland Street, M1 4GU.
2. Red N Hot– Not so long ago, the only Chinese food you could get in Manchester was Cantonese. But fast on the heels of Red Chilli’s success came the excellent Hunan, Middle Kingdom and Red N Hot (which also has branches in Brum and London). Like RC, Red N Hot specialises in down-home Szechuan food, heavy on the chilli and offal, but serves it up in much prettier surroundings. Cook-your-own hot pot, sliced lamb Szechuan style, gong bao and fish-fragrant aubergine are all winners. Beware, though – they are very serious about that name. 56 Faulkner Street, M1 4FH.
3. BBQ Handmade Noodles King – Yup, the sign’s a little confusing. So which is it, exactly, that they are the king of: BBQ or noodles? We believe it’s the noodles. Our Tibetan-style beef noodles arrived slightly chewy (so you know they’re fresh) in a deep bowl of savoury, peppery broth with chunks of slow-cooked beef and Chinese greens. On the other hand, a platter of barbecued chicken was expertly cooked, and served with a tangy sweet sauce. Don’t let the run-down interior put you off, the food’s good here and very reasonably priced. Faulkner Street, M1 4EE.
4. Yuzu – This newish little Japanese place is a very welcome addition to the neighbourhood, and has already won plaudits from food bloggers like Northern Food and Hungry Hoss. Menu standouts include feather-light tempura and traditional Japanese rice and tofu dishes, and a top seaweed salad. You can get lovely fresh sashimi here, but for sushi, head down the street and take a stool around the belt at the ever-popular Wasabi. 39 Faulkner Street, M1 4EE
5. Ho’s Bakery – Giggle at the name all you want, their buns are the business. Honey buns, cream buns, roast pork, coconut, and (mmm) red bean buns, all pillowy soft in that way that only Chinese baking can be. Our favourites, though, are the egg tarts, which are so decadently rich they should probably come with a gym membership. There are a few little tables inside, but if it’s nice out you’re better off sitting outside in the pagoda-topped benches arranged atmospherically around a car park. We defy you not to finish everything in your bakery bag long before you get home. 46 Faulkner Street, M1 4FH
Images: (from top) Great Arch, Chinatown Manchester by Emil Stefanov via Flickr; Red Chilli sign by Leo Reynolds via Flickr; Ho’s Bakery by Amit Patel via Flickr. Did we leave out your favourite restaurant? Go on, sing its praises in the comments, and our hungry readers will thank you.