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16 Nicholas Street, Manchester
+44 0161 236 2041
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May 1, 2008
Best of IgoUgo
Back in Manchester I was once again recommended that China Buffet (an interesting name for a restaurant) was a decent place to eat. It’s on the corner of Faulkner Street in the heart of China Town and in the shadow of the Ceremonial Arch. It really ...
Back in Manchester I was once again recommended that China Buffet (an interesting name for a restaurant) was a decent place to eat. It’s on the corner of Faulkner Street in the heart of China Town and in the shadow of the Ceremonial Arch. It really doesn’t look a great deal from the outside – mind you that isn’t too unusual for the area – but I decided it would be crazy to reject a recommendation from a woman who had already given me three or four decent venues.
I descended the steep set of stairs into this basement restaurant and was a bit taken aback by its presentation. It’s real basic and reminiscent of a works canteen. I thought for a second about retracing my steps and bidding a hasty retreat, but a glance towards the huge selection of dishes persuaded me to stay. I was shown to a very small table next to the wall and even before I could sit down was asked what I wanted to drink. “Beer” I questioned, and I was told that they had a couple of Chinese beers (including Tiger) and various other light beers. At £2.60 a bottle it seemed to be par for the course and I opted for a Chinese beer that I hadn’t seen before, but before I sat down I decided that the table I’d been allocated was not to my liking. It was too small and rammed up close to the wall in a dark corner. I decided to move to a bigger table (set out for four people) and although the waiter didn’t look too impressed “I toughed it out”.
Although I knew that the China Buffet only offered the “eat as much as you like” menu I would have expected the waiter to have pointed me in the right direction. He said nothing and I made the assumption that I should just “dig in”. As I checked out the “buffet bar” he acknowledged me once again and said “just help yourself.” Just as well, because by this point I was digging into the seaweed and helping myself to some crackers. There was a good choice of starters including a couple of soups, spring roll, chicken parcels, sesame toast, spare ribs, battered king prawns and plenty more and I was soon conscious that I needed to be sure that I didn’t over indulge at this stage of the meal.
I was pleased to see that crispy duckling was available and took a couple of the “pancakes” coating them with sauce and adding some of the shredded duckling. I’ve had tastier, but it was more than OK and I did enjoy the tastes, although it would have been nicer had it been hotter!
Next I turned my attention to the main courses. I chose the accompaniments of egg fried rice and a portion of soft noodles and bean sprouts and ladled a decent portion of sweet and sour chicken alongside a smaller spoonful of sweet and sour pork. Now I love sweet and sour so returned to my basic table and chair with my spoon and fork (that’s the only eating implements that are on offer) in eager anticipation. I was not to be disappointed and happily finished off my plateful. After a rest and catching the waitress’s attention for another beer (this time I chose Tiger) I returned to the buffet bar (it having been fully replenished) and selected a portion of beef in a black bean sauce with some more soft noodles.
I was to be doubly disappointed – the beef was tough, although the sauce was tasty and the promised beer hadn’t been delivered to my table. In fact I had to attract the waitress’ attention for the second time to remind her of her failure! Next I tried some pork in a tasty and rich sauce alongside a small portion of roasted chicken. Typically Chinese, the meat had been “cleaver cut” and there were some real interesting presentations. It never makes the chicken any the less tasty, but I’m always surprised how strange the cut looks when served on the plate.
Alongside the meat dishes there were various vegetable dishes, Sushi, and prawns – indeed I’d be surprised if any diner had difficulty in finding a dish to “tickle their taste buds”. Surprisingly there was a large selection of “puddings” and although none were particularly inspiring they made a decent conclusion to my meal.
The China Buffet Restaurant is not a place to frequent for a “posh night out”. It’s a utilitarian basement eatery with some “crude and basic” tables and chairs with minimal place settings (a spoon fork and paper napkin). The plates were maintained warm and were well-worn and it’s very obvious that the throughput is “fast and furious”. When I got there many of the tables were empty, but within half-an-hour almost every table was occupied and a quick read of the drinks menu indicated that diners were expected to complete their meal within the hour. Indeed there was a clear line that stated that the time of your arrival would dictate the time of your departure! This was not enforced when I visited (I was there for over 75 minutes), but I suspect on a busy evening there is no hesitation from the waiting staff to remind you of this condition. Even on this Monday night I didn’t feel that the “front of house staff” were particularly welcoming of me or the other diners. Indeed they were fairly off-hand and not particularly attentive.
Don’t get me wrong the meal was fine and at £7.50 you’d be hard pressed to fault the quality and indeed the quantity. But it’s not a stylish establishment. It does what it says at the entrance – it offers you as much as you can eat from the Chinese buffet. Have a go if you’re peckish and don’t want to linger.
The follwong day when I was recounting my experience back to my colleague (the one who'd recommended it to me)she looked somewhat surpised with my description of the place."What was it called" she enquired. "The China Buffet" I replied. Her face said it all, I'd gone to the wrong place!!
Manchester and Its China Town