No fanfare. No faff. Just good Chinese fare with a pop of imagination

We all know Ancoats is the 'hippest' area for restaurants in Manchester (perhaps the UK), but while there are plenty of hotshot chefs doing fancy things with turnips and smashing out more small plates than a Greek saucer convention, sometimes all you really want is a big, comforting platter of belly pork and sticky rice. 

It's a new venture from the team behind the Ancoats Panda takeaway, formerly Chop Chop.

Step up Blue Eyed Panda, a new Chinese restaurant on Jersey street, just up the road from Viet Shack

It's a new venture from the team behind the Ancoats Panda takeaway, formerly Chop Chop. Apparently, the locals had been salivating all weekend as glorious wafts of that holy trinity: garlic, ginger and spring onions emanated from the prep kitchen. Finally, on Monday, they quietly opened their doors for the first time, with no fanfare and no media hype. We were there though.

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Crispy Cantonese roast belly pork - no fanfare, just get stuck in.
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Salt and peppery aubergine: the favourite

The menu is fairly small by Chinese restaurant standards. Owner Carolina Ho Choy told us that they want to do something a bit different than what is already on offer in Manchester. So there are dishes like braised chicken leg with sweet soya sauce or traditional cold spiced duck. That’s not to say your old favourites aren’t there. You’ll find ribs, spring rolls and some of the classic sauces like Kung Po or black bean. 

There is also a focus on roast Cantonese style meats. We went for the belly pork - refreshingly presented without a load of faff - which was as crispy as we’d hoped for, deeply savoury and plentiful.

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Hot and spicy seafood

We also tried the hot and spicy seafood, served with braised pak choi and steamed rice, and a couple of dishes from the vegetarian set menu. The ‘monk style duck' in sweet and sour sauce went down a treat. Fake meat can be hit or miss (more often a miss in my book), but this had that satisfying chewy-crispy quality of a classic sweet n sour pork - a pleasant surprise. 

Our unanimous favourite dish was a vegetarian starter; the salt n peppery aubergines. They possessed unctuous, melting centres and perfectly crunchy exteriors all swathed in fresh red chilli, onions and enough garlic to ensure you will never be kissed again. A compromise we’re willing to live with. 

We went on opening night, so decided not to review on this occasion. But we'll be back to give them the full scored treatment soon enough.

Find Blue Eyed Panda on the corner of Henry Street and Jersey Street, Ancoats M4 6JA (opposite Armitage Construction).