|Manchester Wheel - looks bigger than it is
We decided to visit Chinatown, which for me was also a trip down memory lane. It's hard to believe that it's over thirty years ago since my parents first brought me here. It's from my parents that I have a passion for food but the reason why I love noodles is all to do with Manchester.
|Are you sure this is Chinatown? Give me the map!
I fear I'm turning into Kevin from The Wonder Years so lets fast-forward to the here and now. Manchester's Chinatown has evolved from being pretty much 100% Cantonese to encompassing other Chinese cuisines, most notably Sichuan, as well as other Asian cuisines like Japanese and Thai. With such a bewildering array of options, I had no idea where to go. It also didn't help that many of the best places for dim sum aren't in Chinatown, e.g. my parents' favourite, Tai Pan. In the end, we plumped for The New Emperor because it was busy. I'd been here before but it was so long ago that I had no idea whether it'd still be any good.
|Haam sui gok 鹹水角 and the scary Chinese-only dim sum order form
The dim sum isn't the most delicate but it is freshly made, well seasoned and generously proportioned. I can't remember everything we ordered but I do recall that everyone really liked the ginger & spring onion beef dumplings (薑蔥牛肉餃). Consisting of beef and ginger wrapped in bean curd skin, these zingy treats were steamed with a soy-based sauce and topped with spring onions; a great combination of classic Cantonese ingredients.
There were one or two misfires but I could live with that as this veritable feast cost a mere £10/head, which included loads of dim sum, a giant platter of three roasts with crispy noodles (三燒麵), tea and a tip. An amazing bargain and none of us could remember the last time we ate so well for a tenner. It isn't as good as the best dim sum in London but it's certainly better than the stuff found in the capital's Chinatown.
But it wasn't the quality of the food or how cheap it was that made this meal special; it was the good company and the convivial atmosphere. I know I'm forever banging on about this but there really is something special about the vibe in old school dim sum joints like The New Emperor. I think the Black Widower had it spot on when he proclaimed this restaurant to be 'a classic of its genre'.
The New Emperor, 52-56 George St, Manchester M1 4HF (Tel 0161-228-2883)
|Why is Manchester Town Hall not called Manchester City Hall?
'curry mile' in Rusholme tempted us.
However, we couldn't be arsed to get a cab to south Manchester so we ended up in East Z East just off Deansgate. This is an opulent restaurant with a plush interior that features palm trees! I was a bit suspicious of the bling but the selection of seven different pickles that arrived with the poppadoms allayed my fears that this place might be an exercise in style over substance.
|"Take me to your leader" demanded the giant naan
East Z East (Riverside), Blackfriars St, Manchester M3 5BQ (Tel 0161-834-3500)
After a nightcap or two, we decamped to our hotel, the City Inn, a great choice by the boy Pony. In the morning, we kicked off with an above par full English that was cooked to order. Unfortunately, the dismal weather put paid to the rest of our plans so we ended up hanging out in cafés and wandering around the Arndale Centre. After leaving 'Eat Noodles Love Noodles' on assorted iMacs and iPads in the Apple Store, we went for a final brew at Druckers. I wasn't going to eat but I couldn't resist ordering a toasted currant teacake with butter.
|None of that panettone crap, I want a toasted currant teacake
Postscript: There was one low point during the trip and that was Duckgate. At The New Emperor, we tucked into a platter of three roasts with crispy noodles. All of it was delicious but the roast duck was different class with its glistening crispy skin. So you might wonder what kind of a man would toss the skin aside with the bones. A betting man might've had Mr Fussy down as the prime suspect but it was Italian Shetland Pony who was guilty as charged. But don't worry; I ate the skin before giving ISP, a stern lecture on why crispy duck skin should NEVER be discarded.