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Big sushi in little Manchester

Chuck out the sandwiches, lunchtimes just became a lot more fun. Mai Bai is the new kid on the block, sent to rescue us from boring lunchtimes forever.

Published on February 26th 2007.

Big sushi in little Manchester

Every day, Manchester becomes more and more cosmopolitan. Its tastes become more refined. Its accents become more varied, and its consumers become more demanding. It’s a buyers’ market, and ‘I want’ always gets. Sometimes though, we get something that we didn’t even realise we wanted until it turned up on Princess Street with a fridge full of sushi.

Success in business is all about finding niches, and Lisa O’Hagan has certainly found hers in Mai Bai, a funky sushi café that’s unmistakably Manchester yet alarmingly fresh and sophisticated. Indeed, it’s hard to imagine (in our office at least) what it was like in the dark ages before Mai Bai arrived to rescue the city’s business district from Pret a Manger and Boots meal deals.

26 year old Lisa came up with the bright idea for Mai Bai while travelling, and tasted her first piece of sushi in cosmopolitan Melbourne - a similar city to Manchester only with less of the rain, and more sushi than sandwiches - and realised just what Manchester was missing.

So, after arriving back in Manchester, Lisa quit her steady, reliable job as a chartered surveyor, learnt how to roll sushi, and gathered three highly experienced sushi chefs from the far corners of the sushi industry. And just like that, Mai Bai was born.

Mai Bai is not a Japanese café – it’s a Manchester café serving food in a Mancunian way – the food just happens to be Japanese. Which as all clever bunnies know, is good for you, and far less stodgy than some other foods. Rice is gluten free you see, so there’s none of that afternoon bloatedness that you get after eating your sandwich. Mai Bai is also fully licensed and serves Japanese Asahi beer, sake, and wine, as well as a large selection of herbal teas. It's the perfect place for a chill out drink after work to watch the mancunian world go by. They are also soon to introduce a Japanese style cocktail menu which sounds interesting, so we will get back to you on that.

The sushi at Mai Bai is freshly prepared each morning using top grade ingredients from Smithfield market and special Japanese suppliers, and made up into sushi lunch boxes ready for the hungry folk of Manchester to collect on their lunch breaks. Another escape route from dull sandwiches and greasy cold samosas at work comes via Mai Bai's corporate catering menu, which is perfect for nibbling on at meetings.

Between them, Mai Bai’s three chefs boast a very impressive CV, having worked in sushi restaurants across the world and headed up teams at Yo! Sushi. Mai Bai is completely independent, so you can dream up any type of sushi roll filling or mix up a box with anything you like, let them know and they will always try to cater for you or take your suggestions on board. You’re in good hands.

As well as sushi, Mai Bai serves a large selection of hot food, including miso soup perfect for a a pick-me-up, noodle and rice dishes, and the now famous katsu curry, perfect for a Friday lunchtime or after work treat.

Mai Bai has brought a splash of Northern Quarter vibrancy to an area of Manchester which is over populated by chain bars and coffee houses, and judging by the queues at lunch time, is exactly what the city was crying out for – even if we didn’t know it. Thank you Lisa, you’ve saved our lunchtimes!

Click here for more on Mai Bai.

Mai Bai
37 Princess Street (Albert Square)
M2 4FN

Opening hours:
Monday : 7.30 am - 6 pm
Tues - Friday : 7.30 am - 8pm
Sat: 9 am - 6pm

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