Jonathan Schofield has his most enjoyable meal in Chorlton ever

Water Lily is somehow easy to miss. This is despite the large entrance canopy leading to stairs on Wilbraham Road in Chorlton. Restaurateurs know how difficult it is to make a first-floor location work but Water Lily has waved its wand and cracked the first-floor conundrum. 

​I’ve been four times to Water Lily in the last six or seven months and had a great time on each occasion

Water Lily's owner is from Belfast with a Hong Kong background and is delivering here some of the most colourful, taste-saturated Cantonese inflected food in the city.

On the one hand there’s something deeply old-school about the nosh, carrying a Proustian memory of Chinese restaurants visited long ago, yet on the other hand it has a very up-to-date quality.

The décor is delightful, so vivaciously colourful you might want to bring shades. I wonder if the owner knows back in the eighties and nineties this site hosted a bizarre suburban nightclub called Colours. Probably not. Looking back I’m pretty sure Colours wasn’t colourful at all, Water Lily is kaleidoscopic. 

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The canopied entrance Image Confidentials
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Colourful and then some Image Confidentials
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Vivid screens Image: Confidentials

I’ve been several times to Water Lily in the last six or seven months. It draws you back. I sort of developed a fetish for the prawn toast (£6.50). This simple dish has been a wonder, so juicy and crunchy I've wanted the recipe so I could make bags of it and munch away watching football matches. They would make a perfect big game snack.

On a recent visit we started with a couple of dim sum, the crystal prawn dumpling (4 pieces, £6.20) and the steamed fresh crab dumpling (4 pieces, £6.50). Both sets were exquisite, flooded with flavour and freshness and with delicacy too. The scarlet of the crab dumplings was startling and mesmerising. 

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Prawn toast - magnificent Image Confidentials
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The delightful dim sum Image: Confidentials

The extraordinary shades of the Water Lily crispy shredded chicken in honey soy sauce with cashew nut (£15.95) provided another welcome blast of colour and there was heat here along with the other elements. It was a big course and very satisfying with the almost sweet and tender sauce-infused chicken working a treat with the crunch of the cashews. 

Best of all and utterly wonderful were the Mongolian cummin lamb chops (£20.95). Juicy these were, stacked like a bonfire and appropriately ablaze with heat. This was a mesmerising dish, lush and rich. Get it. 

The egg fried rice (£3.50) we had with the mains was a perfect example of the genre, even the salt and chilli chips (£4.50) were good. A bonus mini pannacotta, on the house, provided a sweet and refeshing end to the meal. 

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Crispy duck, cummin lamb chops, rice, chips Image Confidentials

Water Lily also delivers panache with the cocktail list.

One example called Belfast (see above with reference to the owner) came with this description ‘Passion fruit, lime wedges, fresh strawberries and fresh lime juice is combined with Bacardi rum and cranberry juice to tickle the taste buds and leave you wanting more.’

Water Lily leaves you wanting more. There's none of that recent over the top Fenix Restaurant or Lucky Cat nonsense in which the food seems secondary to Tik Tok talk and Instagram whim. This is genuinely entertaining and genuinely good food. 

What’s happened to me? I feel like I’m gushing over this place which is not normally my style, but it did give me the most enjoyable meal I’ve had in Chorlton-cum-Hardy and I tell you what, I’ve been looking for just such an ‘enjoyable’ dinner in that strange suburb for years. Honestly, I’ve done the hard yards in C-c-H so I’ll be up those stairs on Wilbraham Road again very soon.  

Water Lily, 615 Wilbraham Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, M21 9AN

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The 'Belfast' cocktail Image: Confidentials

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by 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?

  • Food 7.5/10

    Crystal prawn dumpling 7, steamed crab dumpling 7, Prawn Toast 8.5, Chicken in honey sauce 7.5, Mongolian Cumin Lamb Chop 8.5, Rice 7

  • Service 4/5

  • Ambience 4/5