UPON my arrival in Manchester from the USA, I asked the question that I always ask when I visit a new city: “Are there any good vegetarian restaurants around?”

These little guys had realistic details down to the point at their bottoms where the imaginary tail was meant to have been removed in some magical land of mock meats.

Shockingly, for such a hip, forward-thinking city, the strictly meat-free restaurants were discounted as lacking original ideas and even “giving vegetarianism a bad name”. After all, there is nothing particularly innovative about a fried goat’s cheese salad or a butternut squash risotto. Apparently very few places in town are doing much with the ever-versatile soybean.

The one restaurant that was repeatedly suggested, by vegetarians and omnivores alike, funnily enough, was not meat-free, but still managed to provide a aried number of options that intrigued and delighted this seasoned, perhaps even a little jaded, vegetarian.

I’m talking the Little Yang Sing.

This is a fairly standard-looking Chinatown restaurant from the outside, but its basement location is given a spacious feel by the strategic placement of mirrors. The low ceilings make the place seem cozy, rather than cramped, and the requisite dark red dragons and red and white tablecloths are comfortingly familiar touches. The staff, while all clearly Chinese, bear nametags that label them with English names, such as ‘Vanessa’ and my favorite, the bespectacled and shy ‘Kelvin’, the trainee waiter.

I was joined in my meal by my soy-curious partner, Matthew Frost, and Manchester Confidential’s own soy-dubious Jonathan Schofield. We started with Mock Prawns (£4.95), described on the menu as a  ‘soya product on skewer served with satay and peanut sauce’.

Having dabbled in faux seafood before, I can say that these were some of the most convincing I’ve ever had. These little guys had realistic details down to the point at their bottoms where the imaginary tail was meant to have been removed in some magical land of mock meats. The consistency of the first bite was firm and somehow managed to capture the slightly sinewy quality of the real crustacean. Schofield, in a voice filled with shock, awe and wine, exclaimed "That actually tastes a bit like prawns... I could eat that…”

Frost, ever willing to order vegetarian so that we can share, helped me select our mains. The first was the Vegetarian Spicy Rice-Vermicelli in Singapore Style (£8.95) from the list of ‘Chef’s Vegetarian Main Courses’, a list ELEVEN items long and taking up an entire page.

LysLysMy fellow veggies will understand that this amount of choice is unheard-of. And those eleven dishes are just the beginning. Throughout the menu, there are sections like ‘Vegetarian Dim Sum’, and ‘Vegetarian Appetizers’. And almost all of the other dishes on the menu are available with mixed vegetables, tofu, mock prawns, or soya chunks. Deciding on just two dishes was almost painful, since I’m used to only ever having to choose between two or three items on a menu.

But back to the Vermicelli. To be honest, there wasn’t really enough to this dish to make it a particularly interesting or satisfying main course on its own. The vermicelli itself was light, if a bit greasy, but I found myself wanting more of something to fill it out, be that more vegetables or some protein. A hilarious aspect of the noodles was how difficult they were to get from the dish to your plate, so I would advise foregoing it as a sharing course if you’re trying to impress someone with your elegance on a first date or a business dinner.


The star of the show, without a doubt, was the Ginger and Spring Onion Tofu (£8.95). Perfectly-textured tofu triangles came smothered in a garlic and rice wine sauce. One word of warning: when they say ginger, they mean ginger. Huge slices of the stuff. Frost, the ginger-lover, reveled in the excess root, but after my ill-fated chomp into a piece, thinking it was a bamboo shoot, I avoided them. The sauce, onions, and tofu, however, were exactly my kind of thing. Absolutely delicious. Schofield enjoyed it too. After several minutes, I had to intervene with my chopsticks to keep him from eating all of my tofu.


The rice both boiled (£2.80) and egg fried (£3.20) was just right. As was the Black Bean Sliced Duck (£10.50), that the traitors I was with sneaked onto the table. So I’m told anyway.

So, there you have it: a vegetarian meal in Manchester that delighted and surprised people on the whole spectrum of ‘soy’ appreciation. So feel confident taking herbivore and omnivore friends to the Little Yang Sing. You might even bear witness to a new tofu lover being born…


Little Yang Sing, George Street, City. 7 George Street, Manchester, M1 4HE.     

Rating: 14.5/20
Food: 7.5/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.