I’ve always been a bit of a Tampopo fan. I like the understated noodle bar style of their Albert Square branch, I used to like the temporary kitchen they set up in the summer at Canteena in Castlefield and I even like the faux shanty town feel of the Trafford Centre eaterie so the newest outlet in The Triangle had to be given a road test.
The first thing to note is the different style of this recent opening.
There’s a more sophisticated, lady-who-shops feel to the place with the long cylindrical lights dangling over the tables, but the format of being seated traditional noodle bar style is still there, and all the old favourites are still on the menu.
But there’s one very unusual move – unisex toilets. Very Ally McBeal (if anyone can remember that!).
I’m not sure personally. I know it’s illogical but there’s something not quite right about reapplying your lipstick or adjusting your hair in the same room as a strange hairy fella – however civilised he might be.
Forgetting the toilets, the menu offers the same choices as the other outlets – healthy, fresh stirfries, noodles and soups with crisp, clear flavours and distinct seasoning.
We chose off the value Express menu which is available from 12pm until 7pm and costs £6.95 for two courses from a limited selection.
The side dish of vegetable dumplings (gyoza) was the only slight let-down in an otherwise fulfilling lunch with the filling being a bit detached from the casing – perhaps a little over steamed. But this is small criticism, and I will forgive them.
The vegetarian ramen was a delight of mushroom, beansprout and greens in a garlicky base soup – a pretty pond of a dish – while the Khao pad rice dish was not without fire but still cleanly flavoured.
With an accompaniment of green tea, this is a lunch that’s a tonic for the taste buds – especially on a dark, blustery, wintery day.
Tampopo sets the standard for noodle bars being value for money and using quality ingredients in a pleasant surroundings – whichever part of the growing empire you choose to sample their wares.
Plus: Healthy, fresh and tasty.
Minus: Sorry but it has to be those unisex toilets.
Value: Good value for money in a sophisticated setting – two courses for two people with tea £17.50.
Know a better noodle bar? Let me know below.