Back in 2010, I discovered an unpretentious, unassuming treat nestled away in a basement in Chinatown. I had just moved down from Edinburgh and I was gagging to burst right on to Manchester's culinary scene and sample its bountiful delights. This was about to become my new home city and I wanted to immerse myself right into its food paradise. China City's bargainous prices locked me in- admittedly, the restaurant has a basic interior but as I have previously said; if the food is good, you're not going to be admiring the wallpaper! China City wormed its way into my heart thanks to its friendly staff and great prices- important in these austere times.
I revisited today for one of its £5 3-course business lunches, a no-brainer when some places in downtown Manc are charging the same price for a limp sandwich. Descending into its atmospheric basement, the staff instantly recognised me despite being out of the country for months. The menu has had a slight reshuffle since my last visit, with a few new specialities being added. To start, I opted for an old favourite of mine, a vegetarian Hot and Sour broth- fabulously potent, with a strong distinction between the hot and sour tastes, padded out with tofu and pickles. The Carnivore slurped a Chicken Noodle soup which was surprisingly hearty with some veg thrown into the chicken noodle mix.
The Main Event for me was the Chinese answer to Vindaloo- Bean curd and mixed veg in a Szechuan sauce with lashings of EFR. The Szechuan was potent, punchy and plummy, combining well with the moreish slabs of tofu. Meanwhile, the Carnivore was silent, obviously enraptured in his satay chicken. Silence is golden and definitely the sign of a decent dinner.
The third course was a choice between fruit salad and coffee- as there was no trace of a coffee machine, signalling the potential weak potency of a cup of Nescafe, I sensibly opted for the fruit. And a Mint Imperial, naturally. Put this friendly, credit crunch busting lunch on your Mancunian lunching itinerary and ignore the chains.