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[Manchester, city centre] Middle Kingdom

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This is, I think, the latest addition to the city centre’s small list of “not Cantonese” Chinese restaurants. It’s on the southern fringes of the centre, at the end of Princess Street. And, as with many such places, it’s in the basement of one of the old Edwardian cotton trading buildings. These days, we’re used to being older than other diners at a restaurant but, here, folk were less than half our age with many perhaps being students. Certainly the very reasonable pricing would make it attractive to students. And, for what it’s worth, all the other customers appeared to be Chinese – not always a guarantee of good food but at least a possible good indicator.

With experience of the other Sichuan places, like Red Chilli and Red & Hot, we correctly made the assumption that portions would be vast, so decided to skip starters. It was straight into the food mountain that was fish fragrant shredded pork . Well, this was a new one for us and a very successful one. Shredded pork is always going to be a winner, whether it’s American pulled pork or, as here, mixed with lots of strips of ginger, sliced garlic and a couple of different (although unknown) greens. And it’s ginger, Sichuan pepper and the inevitable chilli that are the predominant flavourings. No fish, of course, they do like their bit of fun, don’t they. Apparently it’s only called “fish fragrant” as it uses the same seasonings as used for fish.

The other vast mountain was the Sichuan standard of gong bao chicken. Well, standard for me. It’s one of those dishes which you know so well, you can judge a place by how it is. And how it was, was damn good. For me, the right balance of flavours and textures, with the crunchy nuts, the slightly sweet, slightly more vinegary sauce. And there’s the dried chilli lending something of a smoky kick to it all. Even my partner, usually no fan of chicken outside our own kitchen, tried it and declared it a winner.

Upto now, I’ve reckoned Red & Hot to be my first choice for Sichuan. I think they’ve just been overtaken.

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  1. On the list for next time I'm in Manchester, definitely. Even if it does sound like something out of Lord of the Rings!

    BTW, we had good meals at Sindhoor and Damson at the weekend, based on your recs.

    5 Replies
    1. re: greedygirl

      So pleased the reccs turned out well. By the by, Steve Pilling, who owns Damson and used to own Sams Chop House in the city centre, also owns the Red Lion in High Lane (just within the Stockport boundary). Not tried it yet but it's on the list. Man knows how to run a successful restaurant!

      And, if you don't like the look of Middle Kingdom, almost directly opposite is EastzEast which is probably my favourite Indian in the city centre. Lots of flash; lots of hype when it opened but damn good food, IMO. It's usually heaving with BBC types :-0

      1. re: Harters

        I had a really good meal here last year. The best dish we ate was duck braised in beer. Lovely tender chunks of duck on the bone, an intensely flavoured beery broth (plenty of Sichuan pepper and chilli in the mix) freshened up with chunks of mild sweet peppers and pickled peppers. It was great. Good lamb skewers too.

        1. re: Harters

          Harters

          regarding EastzEast, of the two Manchester sites which restaurant is the better

          1. re: davidne1

            I'm not sure you could really get a fag paper between them but I prefer the original on Princess Street (as my April post) - but that may be more because you can always find nearby parking, which isnt the case at the Riverside one.

            It's a while since I've needed to look at their website (couldnt remember that the Riverside was called Riverside). I see they now have branches in Liverpool and Preston. Good to see a local business doing so well.

            1. re: Harters

              Thank you very much.