David Adamson tackles the mighty portions served up by the new Chinese restaurant, and is defeated
Nothing builds up an appetite quite like being told ‘we’re fully booked’.
I’d initially planned to visit Madre. But you know what they say - man makes plans and the booking system of Manchester’s trendy new Mexican restaurant laughs.
So my brother Will and I walked out onto Chorlton Street, turned all of 90 degrees and were greeted by the sight of Home Chinese Manchester, the new restaurant on the edge of the Gay Village priding itself on serving authentic Chinese dishes. Don't they all? How would this one fare?
That was fantastic, said Will, I can’t wait to finish it for my lunch tomorrow
We wandered in and were asked to sit at the bar to wait for a table, but before I could even park my bum on the barstool we were told it was ready, and my stomach got the message loud and clear, kicking into a seismic rumble.
Ordering a preliminary two pints of Asahi (£6.20) we thumbed our way through the vast menu, but ultimately we all know the perfect place to start - dim sum.
We went for the Home dim sum appetizer (£8 per head) due to it having the kind of variety that kicks this kind of meal off nicely - prawn and pork siu mai, prawn har gow, grilled pork and ginger and mixed vegetables.
The siu mai and har gow were wonderful. Plentifully packed and with a level of flavour that pulls you in rather than blows your head off. The same goes for the grilled pork and mixed vegetables, it’s just hard to outshine a classic. Add to that a serving of crispy seaweed and you’re in the rhythm, positively chewing at the table leg at the thoughts of what else is to come.
Again we went for variety, as the gift of Chinese cuisine is its suggestion that a meal can be made up of endless combinations. Braised pork belly in soy (£15.80); wok fried mixed vegetables (£11.80); egg tofu with mixed seafood in XO sauce (£15.80); egg fried rice (£3.80).
The braised pork belly was soaked in soy and bronzed to a suntan brown, managing that balance of delicately cooked meat with a thick band of belly fat that simply dissolves away on eating.
The seafood, mostly comprised of basa (a type of catfish), was just what you want to stand up to a strong sauce like XO - both sturdy and succulent, lending its own slight inflections of flavour to make for a not overpowering experience. The egg tofu was a little too eggy for me, but then I should have probably gone for the straight up, bean curd kind. As can sometimes be the case, the broccoli was best. How those little trees hold so much flavour I’ll never know.
Again, the wok fried vegetables were a delight. While there’s the option of several sauces, we didn’t feel any was needed. Instead a quick flash in the wok and they did the rest. The cabbage was particularly good, especially when combined with the belly pork. Will the humble cabbage ever throw off its reputation for being just a bald, boiled nothingness? I hope so. It carries accompanying flavours like few leaves can.
Egg fried rice brought the familiar conundrum - is one enough? Yes, it is. In fact, there were leftovers. There’s few delights like seeing the fluffy strips of egg peeking out from beneath the rice, and when its good I think it should be something you could eat simply on its own with great satisfaction. This was good.
My appetite was not simply bested, it was taken to the alley outside and given a right kicking.
I can understand the pricing may seem steep to some, but in effect this was two meals in one. Portions of this magnitude are rare to come by, and when it’s not only expected but encouraged that you take home your leftovers, you’ve got round two on the horizon.
“That was fantastic,” said Will. “I can’t wait to finish it for my lunch tomorrow”.
I will certainly be sure to visit Madre (and will be sure to book ahead) but in the meantime I’ll thank them for sending me away, as it meant I alighted on a fantastic new Chinese restaurant that I would happily wander into again. I’ll just make sure I haven’t eaten for three days beforehand.
Home Chinese Manchester, 16 Chorlton St, M1 3HW
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials 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.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Home dim sum appetizer 9, braised pork belly 8, wok fried mixed veg 8, egg tofu with mixed seafood in XO sauce 7, egg fried rice 8
Almost sarcastically attentive, with the manager gliding about the tables effortlessly in a well-tailored suit. Never mithered though.
Busy with families, students and first dates. Doesn’t overstate itself, but could perhaps jazz up the décor a little for extra impact to rival the food.