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Happy Seasons Reviewed

Gordo falls In love with Cantonese again.

Published on October 6th 2011.


Happy Seasons Reviewed

BELLY pork, slow roasted with crispy skin, appeared on our menus maybe ten years ago. A cut that was only ever used by the western world as a cured piece for bacon, it started to take over after that other immensely cheap cut, the shank of lamb.

To be honest it’s a long time since he ate Cantonese. Frankly, it has become poorly cooked across Chinatown as well as Greater Manchester. But since first eating the cuisine in Ken Lo’s Memories of China in London. But here, both meals were utterly outstanding.  

Less than twelve years ago shanks of lamb would cost quite literally pennies; I saw a pack of two scrawny individuals in Marks & Spencer the other day for a startling eight quid. 

Belly pork, mind you, is still a cheap cut. But handled correctly it’s the alpha cut of roasted meat.

Very fatty, the trick is to cook on low, for a very long time until the lean and the fat seem to melt together, with intensely piggy flavours. Of course, what makes the cut divine is then the crunchiness of the skin. It makes the dish immense, that mixture of textures. Gordo’s favourite is when fennel seeds have been massaged into the scored skin, with rock salt and cracked black pepper.

Prawn ToastsPrawn Toasts

In the past ten days Gordo has eaten belly pork four times. One as a starter, two as mains. One of those mains twice as he was so startled at the way the cut had been handled; with knowledge, patience and a clear understanding of the procedure and timing to produce crisp belly pork of sheer unadulterated perfection. The other two were failures.

Why were the other two failures? It appears that the chefs do not understand the need for that crisp snap-crackle-pop requirement. Maybe they do and are just plain lazy. Both of these failures had great accompaniments which showed that the chefs were top quality. At one of these restaurants, Gordo, over six or seven meals this year, has had three perfect and three misses. The other one, one perfect and one miss.

The third, perfect one, the one that delivered heaven twice, was so sure of itself, it refuses to be shared on the plate with any accompaniments, simply because it needs no props.

Roast Cantonese Duck, Crispy Belly Pork On Boiled RiceRoast Cantonese Duck, Crispy Belly Pork On Boiled Rice

It's all that crispy belly pork should be and is served in a straightforward Cantonese on Faulkner Street in Chinatown, a road that used to have several restaurants showing off their crispy belly pork and Cantonese roast ducks and chickens along with char sui barbecue-ey pork. They disappeared for a while, they were great.

Then, after an absence of years, Gordo, half-way through an eight pint evening, stumbled across a window full of the little beauties on his way from the City Arms to The Circus Tavern. It had a queue of middle class Chinese boys and girls snaking down the street, ordering take-outs. Gordo decided to see if there was a table; there was.

Along with the crispy belly pork, he took a portion of the Cantonese roast duck both on boiled rice. Before these arrived he tackled pork chop, salt'n'pepper spare ribs and prawn toasts.

Rambo And JoyceRambo And Joyce

Yes, Gordo hears what you say, all a bit normal. But to be honest it’s a long time since he ate Cantonese. Frankly, it has become poorly cooked across Chinatown as well as Greater Manchester. But since first eating the cuisine in Ken Lo’s Memories of China in London, along with Harry Yeung’s Yang Sing (even better in those days) Gordo has missed all this stuff. 

Which is why he was ordering the ‘boring’ stuff. And which is why he has been a very happy bunny since, because he went back one lunch time to replicate the meal just in case he'd been hallucinating on the Tetleys.

He wasn’t. Both meals were utterly outstanding.  The prices aren’t shown here as Gordo forgot to get a menu, and these guys don’t have a website.

The restaurant Gordo is going on about is Happy Seasons and if there isn’t new management it must have a new chef. The place is a typical red and gold gaff, with those strange seats made out of bronze aluminium and faux-velvet seats and backs that seem to be standard issue up and down the Chinatowns of the world. The art work doesn’t disappoint either, stampeding horses that have been spending time getting a tan in Liverpool gracing walls that could, quite frankly, do with a lick of paint.

Not ConstableNot Constable

The clientele are 95% Chinese, 4% Gordo and on the lunchtime visit 1% Oz Clark, apparently having a tuck in before doing the Three Wine Men gig which Gordo spectacularly missed.

Other dishes eaten were ‘prawn and meat dumplings’, great pasta and a filling cooked to the point where the flavour is doing a little bit of humming to itself. Scallops, shot through with fresh ginger, top, and from the vegetarian menu (extremely well catered for, those veggie weirdos) three types of Chinese vegetables, all crunch and promises of sorting out your wrinkles.

Gordo drank tea and Tsingtao beer (£2.50) which is about right for Chinese food if they don’t have a very good Riesling. Weirdly though, these fellers have as their house wine by the glass, cuvee Paul Bocuse white and red. Weirdly, because if Gordo ain’t mistaken it’s the same stuff that Bocuse serves in his three star Michelin in Lyon, France. A glass is a very reasonable two-and-a-half English as well.

Service is swift. On the first visit it was delivered with cold professionalism. The second, charming professionalism, which is down to Gordo’s new favourite girl, Joyce. How fab are you, Joyce?

Gordo is happy to declare this place the King of Cantonese in Chinatown. A complete corker.

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @GordoManchester

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Happy Seasons
59-61 Faulkner Street, City,
M1 4FF

Rating: 15.5/20
Food: 9/10
Service: 4/5
Atmosphere: 2.5/5

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: Gordo gets carried away.

Happy SeasonsHappy Seasons

Lined Up And Ready To GoLined Up And Ready To Go

Steamed Spare RibSteamed Spare Rib

ScallopsScallops

Pork ChopPork Chop

 

 

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousOctober 6th 2011.

Oh no don't tell everyone about it!

AnonymousOctober 6th 2011.

Best Asian restaurant in M/cr, can't believe you've blown its cover !!!!

Rob MortimerOctober 6th 2011.

Been there a number of times, best duck in Manchester.

Richard HJOctober 6th 2011.

But which is the happiest season?

ConfuciousOctober 6th 2011.

Dear Richard. The happiest season is Middle Age.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Richard HJOctober 6th 2011.

Excellent news. Doubles all round.

Rachel ComerOctober 17th 2011.

gutted you have outed our secret to the whole of town!! The won ton noodle soup is the best Ihave ever eaten.

Ruth EdwardsFebruary 26th 2012.

We went having read the reviews on here and were massively disappointed. Service was poor but it was a busy Friday night so that could be excusable but the food was mediocre at best, bland and loaded with msg and thickeners at worst.

Alan WharrierJune 21st 2012.

Love the three roast meats and rice however ....

The New Hong Kong is bar far the best Cantonese in Manchester it also has an amazing selection of Szechuan dishes .. The hot and spicy lamb is out of this world!

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