Jonathan Schofield with another of the 'shorter review' series for smaller venues
What: Spicy City
Where: Faulkner Street, Manchester, M1 4FH.
Food/drink type: Vegan/plant-based. Licensed with beer, wine and spirits an option.
When: Mon-Sun 11.30am-9pm
Independent or chain? Independent
Décor and location: Classic Chinatown location in view of the Chinese Arch and as colourful as it gets on the outside and around the bar and as plain as it gets elsewhere with pale shades and muted tones given the odd lift with red chairs, wall hangings and jolly light fittings.
There are also some shouty signs telling people what not to do such as 'Do Not Move Table Thank You!' Presumably, this refers to physically moving the tables rather than choosing to sit at a different table after every course. Not come across this particular injunction before but I suppose in Spicy City it must have become an issue.
The main event: I eshewed the delights of 'duck blood curd in chilli sauce' or the 'mutton offal soup in a pot' and made a conch-scious decision to go for the stir-fired hot and spicy sliced conch in a pot (£17.80) plus some egg fried rice (£4.80) on the side.
I would have liked the conch shell on the side so I could emulate these crazy Americans. Sadly the shell wasn't available which was so disappointing I almost picked up a table and wandered around the restaurant weeping.
The food was superb.
Come and get this conch one, it's an autumn and winter warmer with onion, sliced potato, onion, chillis and pomegranate seeds brightening the mood and adding tartness. I can't recall a Chinese dish with cauliflower before but bloody hell it worked and really bolstered this fiercely entertaining dish.
Conch tastes very like whelk, like super-sized whelk. It's rubbery, very rubbery, beautifully redolent of the sea. The heavy, compact flesh works well with all the other elements of the dish. The fried rice piled in there mingles with the sauce that lurks at the bottom of the pot to fabulous effect.
For a pudding I had the only pudding available which made things easier. This was deep fried ice cream (£4.50). This seems to be the Chinese equivalent of the Glaswegian deep fried Mars bar. The frying delivers a good crisp bite to the cool vanilla ice cream below. Nothing much to write home about with this.
Scale was a distinguishing feature of the food. If you want filling up with flavoursome fodder, hie thee hither.
Judgement day: Spicy lies on that packed part of Chinatown south west of the Chinese Arch where competing restaurants clamber over and under each other. This restaurant is on the first floor and is easy to bypass. Don't. While the interior is hardly elegant the food is delicious and generous. It's worth a wander in for really enjoyable grub with some proper exotica on the menu.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.com and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.
Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?
Conch dish 7.5, rice 7.5, ice cream 6
Efficient but willing to offer advice
No frills but tranquil