Harley Young enjoys a Manchester institution on a Friday night

You know a place is good when there’s queues out the door. Queues out the door and onto the road, halfway down Faulkner Street, in fact. 

From the outside, Happy Seasons is pretty inconspicuous. There’s no frills, apart from the red canopies over each window that are frilled. Scalloped? You get the gist. Basically, it opened in 1982 and hasn’t changed all that much since. But why change when you’re already obviously doing something right? The punters clearly don’t need bells and whistles to keep coming back to this Manchester institution. 

2024 04 23 Happy Seasons Outside
The queue outside Happy Seasons Image: Confidentials

I watched as the staff waltzed between one another, delivering dishes, clearing tables and resetting them again in one fluid movement.

With the neon sign on full beam, crispy peking ducks strung up and hanging in the window and that sweet savoury smell wafting through the air, Happy Seasons are ready for business seven days a week. 

Standing in the queue with your mouth watering and stomach rumbling, peering through the glass at all the happy diners tucking into their feasts is almost like torture. But patience is a virtue and, like all good things, the dishes inside are worth the wait. Or so I’ve heard. 

Thanks to 40 years or so of perfecting the art of turning around tables, the queue for a table went down much quicker than I’d anticipated.

After ordering our drinks (a Coke for me and a Tiger beer for Dave), we took in the positive hustle and bustle of the place. It was busy, but not overwhelmingly so. There’s plenty of tables and seats but you don’t feel wedged in, touching elbows with the next table. I watched as the staff waltzed between one another, delivering dishes, clearing tables and resetting them again in one fluid movement. What would be a stressful situation to you and I, the team at Happy Seasons handle with ease. It’s thoroughly impressive.

To start, we ordered a quarter of crispy duck and pancakes (my mind was already made up about this one after being tormented by them in the window), salt and pepper spare ribs and a portion of sui mai which were steamed fresh so took slightly longer to arrive. 

The duck was shredded tableside and served with all the traditional accompaniments; spring onions, cucumber, hoisin sauce and of course the thing that holds it all together, the pancakes. Crispy on the outside whilst retaining its moisture on the inside, this duck didn’t come to be window dressing. Paired with the homemade hoisin, this starter was a winner. We, greedy guts that we are, should’ve probably gone for a half instead of a quarter though as there was plenty of sauce, spring onion and cucumber left over for more.

2024 04 23 Happy Seasons Duck
The peking crispy duck and pancakes Image: Confidentials

The salt and pepper spare ribs looked and smelled absolutely divine. Dressed with fresh chillies, diced garlic, spring onions, the works, these ribs had us in a chokehold and Dave very kindly let me have the last one. The spare spare rib, if you will.  

2024 04 23 Happy Seasons Ribs
Salt and pepper spare ribs Image: Confidentials

Swiftly after devouring our ribs and crispy duck, our freshly steamed sui mai arrived - four incredibly plump dumplings, bursting at the seams with a pork and prawn filling. This dim sum dish provided a meaty mouthful, but lacked some of that salty sweet flavour I was hoping for. Still, great value for money priced at just £5.20 for four absolute whoppers. These bad boys alone could’ve filled us up. 

2024 04 23 Happy Seasons Sui Mai
Sui Mai Image: Confidentials

For our mains, we decided to share a portion of crispy chilli beef, stir fried chicken szechuan style and a pot of egg fried rice. 

The rice arrived fluffy and perfectly cooked, presented in a simple metal pot and served into bowls for easy sharing. Ideal for mixing in with the fabulously crispy chilli beef and chunky cut white onions. I’m a sucker for chilli beef and this one has certainly knocked my favourite takeaway off its pedestal. Sweet, spicy, and oh so sticky, this dish alone is enough to keep me coming back to Happy Seasons for seconds, thirds and fourths. 

2024 04 23 Happy Seasons Rice
Fluffy fried rice Image: Confidentials

The Szechuan stir fried chicken, served with a few spoonfuls of crispy dried seaweed was fragrant, fresh and full of flavour. Be warned though, this dish packs plenty of garlic so if you’re on a first date (or out with a vampire) you might want to pre-warn your dining partner. Thankfully I’m a garlic addict and always have a pack of mints on standby. 

2024 04 23 Chilli Beef
Szechuan stir fried chicken (left) and crispy chilli beef (right) Image: Confidentials

Fully satisfied and ready to fall into a food induced coma, we waved the white flag of surrender and asked for the bill. It was time to let another couple, stood outside, itching to get in the restaurant, have a go. 

Happy Seasons truly is a staple when it comes to traditional Cantonese food in Manchester. It’s hard to fault a business that’s been around for nearly half a century and stood the test of time like this one. With queues spilling out of the door all days of the week, it’s clear that this Chinatown gem will continue to hold a place in our Mancunian hearts for many years to come.

Happy Seasons, 59 Faulkner St, Manchester M1 4FF

Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young

Happy Seasons is on Confidential Guides

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The scores

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?

  • Food 7/10

    Crispy duck 8, salt and pepper spare ribs 7, sui mai 5, crispy chilli beef 8, stir fried chicken szechuan 7, egg fried rice 6

  • Ambience 4/5

  • Service 4/5