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Red Chilli

Gordo falls in love on a trip from the ridiculous to the sublime

Written by . Published on July 5th 2007.


Red Chilli

Last Thursday found Gordo walking back through Chinatown at ten in the evening having been to see a bit of theatre. Hungry, he was thinking about having a Chinese, and saw the ‘all you can eat’ buffet restaurant next to Ho’s bakery. £7.50. The first clue was the fact that there was not one Chinese person in the grubby cellar. The second clue was the sorry state of the diners, a grim lot. Three of them were nearly as fat as Gordo and he has an excuse. It was the worst food Gordo has ever eaten in Chinatown. Scratch that, anywhere.

If you need food and have no more than £7.50, go back to Portland Street and try the kebab outfits on the right, next to the Grey Horse. Good pub that by the way. This horrific shite that the Chinese restaurateurs give the stupid Anglo Saxons and Celts simply reflects the fact that they have been trading across the silk routes for six thousand years, whilst the likes of Gordo’s family came out of the Welsh hills a couple of hundred years ago with sixteen sheep and still couldn’t get a fair bargain. They finished up in cotton mills and down coal mines.

The other half got on a ship from Belfast to Boston, USA, and came back a year later because they didn’t like the American Irish. They were also homesick for the Emerald Isle. They were a bit confused to be thrown off in a place called Liverpool, but Great Uncle Edward had to come clean later and admit that he had drunk fourteen pints of Porter just before he bought the tickets. Ireland has breathed a sigh of relief ever since whilst Chorlton groaned.

Tonight, the Editor who knows everything there is to know about Manchester instructed the cuddly Fat One to go and review Ikan on Portland street, a ‘Pan-Asian’ restaurant owned by the formidable beauty Catherine Lim. He arranged to meet Helen Ramsbottam there. She got there first to find the place closed due to ‘technical reasons’. So Gordo, walking past Red Chilli, and decided to try this gaff out, a place he has never been in.

Walking downstairs, at six thirty, Gordo was expecting to have the pick of tables. It was not to be, the place was rammed. With Chinese people. Gordo was given a horrid table for one and a half people. “Can we sit on that table for two over there?” pleads Fatty. “No,” says the terribly sweet Chinese girl. “The manager has reserved that for himself.” “Oh,” wimps out Gordo. He sits down with Rambo and they start to look at the menu, mainly Beijing and Sichuan fair. Gordo was tucking into part of his five a day with abandon, the carrot sticks. Realising a little too late that they were pickled, very hot carrot sticks he downed his half of Tsingtao beer in one. The charming waitress then arrived to say another table had come free and that the golden couple could move there. Well done.

Then a mange tout and sesame salad (£4) arrives, sliced on the angle into millimetre strips, uncooked, apart from a light marinade and the seeds. A Chinese master class in how to serve a salad.

The room is small, well decorated in a contemporary Chinese manner and beautifully served by a team of absolutely charming girls. Good lookers as well. A crispy duck, one quarter, (£8) arrived swiftly with a bottle of Muscadet (£13.50, bargain folks). Gordo had ordered this just to see how the kitchen compared with the competition. It was good. On par with the others. Pancakes, light, the cucumber strips chopped and thrown onto a dish fifteen seconds ago, along with the spring onions dispatched with a sharp cleaver straight after. Then a mange tout and sesame salad (£4) arrives, sliced on the angle into millimetre strips, uncooked, apart from a light marinade and the seeds. A Chinese master class in how to serve a salad. The alternative cold starter Gordo felt he had to pass on, Husband and Wife’s Lung, at £4.

The starters next up were the Beijing dumplings. These were pale, wrapped parcels of chopped chicken, spices and herbs (£4.50), with a bowl of warm vinegar and soy dressing that sharpened the dumplings, making them pucker up and squeal with delight. A magic, magic starter.

A bowl of braised yellow eel with garlic in a clay pot (£9, ordered by Rambo, this nutter will eat anything) was steaming hot, un-boned eel, in a deep, dark mushroom infused stew with whole cooked cloves of garlic. It had a subtlety of a street fighter from Ancoats but lighter on its feet. Like the street fighter, it was bony, aimed at the Occidental love of texture. Gordo won’t have it again but was glad that he had. The ‘captain’ of the room, a beautiful lady by the name of Ling ‘Wendy’ Yiang told Gordo to try the Beijing-style fried sliced eel (£9) next time.

A sauté king prawn (£12) came in the shell with a sweet and dark vinegary sour sauce which made a fantastic dip. Top of the tree, well worth the mess.

Then- drum roll please - the best Chinese dish Gordo has had since the Yang Sing’s Chinese air dried sausage rice arrives. Crispy fried pork with sweet vinegar (£7.50). This people, is what we have all been waiting for. Imagine the best pork chopped in strips, dragged through a thin, floury batter, deep fried until crisp, dribbled with the best malted vinegar mixed with a dark caramel and finished with orange highlights which manages to stay CRISP all the way through. This is sheer heaven. Egg fried rice (£2.20) unfaulted, fried soft noodle (£3.50) slightly dry and undercooked? Hmm. Not sure.

Still Gordo can’t go on, need the eyes dabbing, overcome with emotion and all. This is now officially Gordo’s best Chinese (Beijing and Sichuan) in the North West.

Obviously a Gordo Go.

Rating: 17/20
Breakdown: 9/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Red Chilli
70-72 Portland Street Manchester
0161 236 2888

Mon-Thu noon-11pm, Fri-Sat noon-midnight, Sun noon-11pm

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

arnyJuly 5th 2007.

Red Chilli is the best chinese in Manchester along with Glamorous

GorJuly 5th 2007.

This is now my number 1 restauarnt. I reckon I could eat here every day! It has also been refurbished now and looks lovely. We had some big brown blob of pork!! god knows what it was but there was a picture of it on the menu that intriegued us and it was absolutely beautiful!

China Girl SalfordJuly 5th 2007.

We've eaten at Chillis and the food is great. A lot of different stuff to try, and very helpful staff. Try thecasseroles - but not the one with a ton of chilli in it. It nearly burned it's way thru the pot! As for the buffets, Buffet City is by far the best. Ok, so not gourmet, but what do you want for £6.50 a head. Forget the rest - they are rubbish. The Glamorous is great too - but not good for city centre people, and non drivers. We like the Great Wall in Chinatown - their set lunches (specially the Exec Lunch) makes a nice change to go-get-it-yourself food.

ThrushpuppyJuly 5th 2007.

CLARE:- Where is this Chop Chop place? We have been desperately seeking a decent chinese take away in South Manc since both Didsbury Dim Sums and the Fortress closed.

EmJuly 5th 2007.

I went to that all you can eat place a few months ago and it was nothing to write home about, but it wasn't horrific - must have gone downhill.Now, the AYCE place on Portland St., that's terrible! Really bloody awful.

CLAREJuly 5th 2007.

The best Chinese food I've had in Manchester came from a take-away not a restaurant. It's called Chop Chop and is gorgeous-plus it saves me a fortune as I don't have to eat out! Never tried Red Chilli but intend to after this review!

HellersdadJuly 5th 2007.

Chinese buffets? Usually crap, coz it's the Chinese pretending to give "authentic" nosh to us Brits. Far better to stick with a caff which makes the food to order and avoids the salmonella rice. Red Chilli sounds good, can't wait to give it a try. Zai jian!

jayceeJuly 5th 2007.

But why, oh why, do they not answer their phone? Made too popular by this heavy praise?

gorJuly 5th 2007.

Thank you for reviewing this place and drawing my attention to it!! unbeatable food - better than I had in Hong Kong. I can't go without having the spicy poached beef hot pot and beijing dumplings!

LaydeeJuly 5th 2007.

yes! yes! and yes .By a long way the best Chinese food in the city .

FoodloverJuly 5th 2007.

Obviously it depends on what you order and what you like. I've eaten at Red Chilli several times, but I find they are not always good so I'm still looking for the best place to eat!

NeilJuly 5th 2007.

Got to agree that the Red Chilli is the best in Chinatown. And you need to ask for the 'Chinese' menu when you go as that as loads of unusual things like offal and blood. If you're brave (or going with a Chinese friend who knows what they're doing) these can be fantastic.I have to say though that, in my opinion, the best Chinese food is now served at Pacifica in Eccles. Absolutely fantastic.Oh...and the kebabs on Portland Street are very good indeed. Got to agree with you on that one.

Lobster69July 5th 2007.

More fool Gordo for missing out on the Mother&father pigs lung. It's delicious.

GorJuly 5th 2007.

Based on this review I ate at Red Chilli on Saturday evening. I was very impressed and intend to go back very soon!! I didnt dare try eel, intestines or pigs heads but the food we ordered was very nice and similar to food we had whilst in Hong Kong. Great service too. I recommend the fried lamb in corriander - yum.

SteveJuly 5th 2007.

That big brown blob used to be Pigs Trotters on the old menu but they changed it as it was a tad misleading. I am led to beleive that it's a peice of pork just above the hock...it's chuffing beautiful though isn't it?! Tried the cold starters of 5 spice pigs head, pigs maws in spicy sauce and salted duck last week...all fabulous.

Johno spice co-ordinatorJuly 5th 2007.

Having eaten in most of china towns restaurants I can highly recommend red Chilli and for the best AYCE Chinese, Buffet city on Portland Street is the best in Manchester. We at Spice regularly take groups of over 20 in there before going clubbing.

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