Every now and then I get a bit of work in central Manchester. I always head for Chinatown for lunch as there are so many good places to eat there.
My current favourite is…
Siam Smiles (Elementary A), NEW ADDRESS: Deansgate Mews, Great Northern Warehouse, 253 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN
OLD ADDRESS: 48A George St, www.facebook.com/siamsmilescafe
2018 update! The new location on Deansgate Mews (ie no longer in Chinatown) is a little hard to find but still very much worth the effort. Once in the Great Northern Warehouse go up to the Odeon on the first floor but turn right out of the doors onto the hidden mews. The shop is smaller and less rough and ready, but the menu is pretty much the same. The duck soup is great!
I have Marina O’Loughlin to thank for this one as she gave them a rave review in the Guardian.
It’s a no-frills place with plastic chairs and condiments in Tupperware boxes, located in a cellar which doubles as a Thai supermarket. It’s quite easy to miss as there’s no sign but when you’re on the street just keep an eye out for a downward flight of stairs.
As I only ever have lunch, a bowl of Kuay Tiew soup noodles is all I can manage. Pictured is the Chicken Kuay Tiew with flat rice noodles in a Nam Sai (clear) broth. Simple, clean and delicious (A). And very good value as well.
Haven’t had the chance to go for an evening meal yet but it needs to be done, soon.
I Am Pho (High Elementary B), 44 George St, Manchester M1 4HF
A decent bowl of Beef Pho but nothing spectacular (B). The bean sprout pancake is okay too (B).
Hunan Restaurant (Intermediate B+), 1st Floor, 19-21 George St (opposite Siam Smiles), www.hunanrestaurant.co.uk
I like my Chinese food spicy so I usually go for Sichuan food. It’s quite unusual to find a restaurant that specialises in Hunan cuisine.
Both provinces are neighbours and both like to put a lot of chilli in their food. However the Hunanese tend to use fresh chilli more whereas the Sichauanese dishes prefer dried chillies.
Also, Hunan cuisine is described as being dry hot (干辣), as opposed to Sichuan cuisine, which is hot and numbing (mala) due to the inclusion of Sichuan peppercorns.
In reality you can get dishes from both these regions in this restaurant (eg the Sichuan classic Kung Pao chicken) but suffice to say whatever you order will be packing heat!
I last came here for a birthday treat so I didn’t take any notes, but it’s all top tackle!
Wong Wong Bakery (Elementary B+), 28 Princess St, www.wongwongbakery.com
If I’m in a rush for my lunch I tend to just get a Char Siu Bau (steamed barbecue pork bun) to eat on the hoof. This small Chinese bakery does a very good one (B+).