Not long now until the Chinese New Year celebrations take place here in Manchester and it’s hard to believe that I haven’t enjoyed a single oriental meal for 2008.
A situation easily solved with a visit to Sweet Mandarin . This charming restaurant has been tucked away in the Northern Quarter since 2004 and I’m not quite sure why I’ve never made it in before now. Having called this weekend, I certainly wish I had.
According to its own website, Sweet Mandarin’s concept “is based on a simple theme: quick service, delicious oriental and pan asian food and most importantly value for money. ”
We put them to the test for an early evening meal before the crowds got going in what I think has become the most diverse and bustling streets in the city for food. Where else can you choose from Chinese, Japanese, game BBQ, curries, bar snacks, pizza and vegetarian wholefood?
For starters we shared the veggie combo(£7). The selection included “seaweed” with no pretence about its cabbagey heritage having both dark and light varieties included plus the simple looking but stunning tasting salt and pepper mushroom. It’s the mark of good cooking that such humble ingredients – mushrooms, onion, chili – become such an interesting taste sensation.
The main courses were equally good. Himself got a bit nostalgic for some reason and ordered a portion of sweet and sour fish(£11.50). A far-off look entered his eyes as he remembered how we frst met in a fish and chip shop where he’d called to got a portion of what to my mind is a rather sickly delicacy. The batter was lighter than that memorable predecessor and the portion more generous.
I tucked into a house speciality “Mabel’s vegetarian claypot” (£8.50). This was a good heart way of cooking tofu with chunky veg and plenty of fiery slices of ginger.
The service is friendly and informal and the atmosphere is one of a community, neighbourhood restaurant. The interior is decorated in a simple way with an almost homely style.
You can check out the interior with the brief clip above.
I enjoyed our simple meal there and could well be back for more.
Sweet Mandarin is at Design House, 19 Copperas Street, off High Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 1HS. 0161 832 8848.
You can also find out more about the interesting history of the restaurant with this clip: