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Jonathan Schofield goes to Ning and finds it charming in the evening

Written by . Published on March 31st 2008.


The last time I reviewed Ning, eighteen months or so ago, for the Manchester Evening News, I was ambivalent – despite what the the artfully edited snippets cut from the review might suggest on the website. The Malay and Thai food was ok, but the rest was unsure of itself.

It was a visit where you go expecting an average filler meal before the Friday fun starts and it delivered a gem of a dinner at an excellent price

In particular I was doubtful about the location. Could any business with aspirations such as this, survive in the rust-belt environment of upper Oldham Street - a four hundred yard drag which seems impervious to change? There're more shrubs growing out of buildings here than anywhere in Central Manchester, which is a bad sign. And it’s got worse recently with retailers such as the fancy dress shop, Anything Theatrical (with its odiously rude owner), closing down or about to close down.

Yet Ning has survived.

A minor, but important, improvement has been with the carpets. They've now got some. Ning seemed to think it was trendy to have a bare concrete floor at the start. It was a silly decision. The decor was sharp and clever with that vivid chrysanthemum feature wall, clever but cold: at a stroke it's moved to welcoming.

The major improvement has come with the food - the reason why Ning has not only survived but thrived. On Friday night it was simply wonderful, much, much better than I remember, quite clearly due to a different crew in the kitchen. With main courses just about all under a tenner I’m nominating Ning for the current best value, best tasting meals in town.

The Nesi Lemak (£9.95), was the first amongst equals. It was a main of fragrant fried chicken breast, coconut rice, egg, cucumber, coriander and chilli sambal paste (a condiment made from a variety of peppers). All this, together with a pile of crispy anchovies too.

I loved this dish. It was fresh, light, invigorating and beautifully presented. The fragrancy was the key. This was so pronounced that you could put it on the mantlepiece and it’d be better than a vase of daffs. The sambal paste on the beautifully cooked chicken was a revelation of gentle lifting heat, which made the meat more intense. I still have no idea where the crispy anchovies fitted in, but they were a welcome oddity.

Before that I’d had the best Tom Yam soup (£5.25) I can recall. This aromatic, hot and herby broth came with mussels, squid and prawns. It was that most marvellous of combinations, delicate yet powerful. The seafood presence helped, especially the chewy squid which added body. Not that the broth wouldn’t have been anything but spectacular anyway: you could fill a flask with it and live off it or years.

Another starter of Cucur Udang (£5.52) was a beauty. The main feature were the lightest of floaty fritters with prawn and vegetables which came with peanut sauce, cucumber and, rather like the anchovies mentioned above, a pointless blob of tofu. The latter was the only rubbish thing about the whole meal.

To round of the mains, the Rendang (£8.95) was just a little below the standard of the other dishes. This was slowly cooked beef in coconut milk, lemongrass, chilli and galangal (a form of ginger with more of a citrusy or pine-like flavour). Good but not quite such an entertaining mix as the Nasi Lemak.

There is a limited wine selection which is good and proper for an informal dining space such as Ning. A bottle of the Argentinian Viognier, the Trivento Tribu, was a welcome addition to the meal. It was easily the most expensive item at £16.

Confidential absolutely recommends Ning. It was a visit where you go expecting an average filler meal before the Friday fun starts and it delivered a gem of a dinner at an excellent price. As an added bonus Ning now do home delivery. Try it as soon as the opportunity presents.

Rating: 16/20
Breakdown: 8/10 Food
4/5 Service
4/5 Ambience
Address: Ning
The Burton Building
92-94 Oldham Street
Northern Quarter
M4 1LJ
0161 238 9088

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

Anthony McCaulMarch 31st 2008.

Always wandering past and thinking I should go in - decor looks great and always full. A definate winner.

JoMarch 31st 2008.

The food's easily better than chaophraya!!

ClareMarch 31st 2008.

Not a massive fan of thai but thought the food at Ning was brilliant - had the salmon fish cakes followed by ginger beef, both of which were delicious. Good service and chilled out atmosphere.

JamesMarch 31st 2008.

Ning is a little marvel, apart from the bloody stupid name. Not had a bad meal there yet and I'm working my way through the menu.

HeatherMarch 31st 2008.

I love it here it is the prefect place for a romantic meal or a girly giggle the staff are wonderful and the food is delicious I veggie and love all the options it is refreshing to have a place to eat where you are hard up choosing what to eat!I am glad they are getting recognised but selfishly dont want it to get to popular! well done Ning x

zabzyMarch 31st 2008.

I dont have anything to do as I am a victim of the ecconomic slowdown, gotta park my audi outside the Job centre soon.... the shame!!!

scoteeeMarch 31st 2008.

just who does zabzy think he is!!!! hamds off!!!....they did a cooking cousre a few months ago which ran over a 6 weeks period....they are superb chefs that try to tweak what the british consider to be a preferred version of their native dish, not that this should be the point I suppose...maybe a sloppier chicken was the native version Ms G?

JennMarch 31st 2008.

In response to Emma, I hope you complained and explained your grievencies at the time? I had a teeny issue with the food (wherby I requested something removing from the dish due to a crappy allergy) and the staff were delightful despite it being my problem! I got a free glass of wine whilst they remade my meal, oh and a touch on the shoulder too...incedentally the gentelman I was with was rather pleased (maybe with the fact he didn't have to shell out on the wine) and impressed with the 'shoulder toucher's' professionalism. Maybe Ning just isn't for people who go out with gentlemen who are rather uptight/jealous types?

EditorialMarch 31st 2008.

Oops sorry about that Anonymous, was still editing and pressed the live button when I shouldn't have. Let's agree about Ning shall we.

zabzyMarch 31st 2008.

i thought thats what women like (zabzy slaps a girl on the ass)

LianeMarch 31st 2008.

Went on Saturday in a large group - and the service, food and atmosphere were excellent. Only one small criticism, that applies to loads of restaurants of this genre: the fishcakes were a little overdone. But that's the only negative point I can think of.

JoMarch 31st 2008.

Ning is a real little find. I went after this review and loved the place.

AnonymousMarch 31st 2008.

"Many of its customers are the sort of people who eat pies during country pub excursions as a retro ironic pastime, otherwise it's pesto all the way."Get a grip, you patronising idiot. Otherwise, agreed, Ning is excellent.

AdrienMarch 31st 2008.

I've been to the Ning a couple of times now, had both the £10 special and main menu, can't fault either. Well worth a visit whether an intimate or large group. Word of advice about service, the drinks order proved to be a little over complicated for the waiter/ess with several tables getting the wrong drinks, however it did get us all talking, especially when it came to reconing who's drinks were on who's bill.

emma graceMarch 31st 2008.

Oh I don't know...it just didn't float my boat. Bet the cooking course was interesting, would have liked to have done that...

emma graceMarch 31st 2008.

no ta...it was just plain leery

JBMarch 31st 2008.

EVERYONE SHOULD TRY THERE ICE CREAM/SORBET!! Oh my god last time I went there the waiter offered us some sorbets, the flavours were peculiar sounding (peanut, green tea, red tea etc) but they were absolutely delicious. I believe they have won awards, exactly what awards I am not sure, but they are definitely award winning!

not so sureMarch 31st 2008.

I went there about four months ago, thought the food was alright, my mrs thought it was ace. We were only two people in there and I'm pretty sure they stuffed up the bill as it didn't seem reasonable to me, but the worst thing, which is why i'm ranting, is the bottle of merlot (can't remember the name) which tasted exactly like Kia-Ora, weird. Maybe i should give Ning another go but avoid wine to be on the safe side

HeatherMarch 31st 2008.

Sorry mean where you AREN'T hard up choosing what to eat!!

AnonymousMarch 31st 2008.

Nasi Lemak is a traditional Malay breakfast and the 'pointless' anchovies play a huge role in most Malaysian meals. Thanks for the review though; am now raring to go there and so nice to see a restaurant that seemingly does serve actually 'authentic'Malyasian food.

Tom MayMarch 31st 2008.

The Tom Yam is such a star, love it, but try the vegetarian one as well as the seafood one. You don't even have to be a freak like me to enjoy it, well according to by blood-sucking mates.

zabzyMarch 31st 2008.

Emma Grace... i would of thought you would be gratefull for a man to touch you on your shoulder given your recent form :-)

being sickMarch 31st 2008.

Godalmighty, zabzy, emma grace, don't you two have work to do?

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