|Sweet Mandarin Chinese Restaurant - member's reviews|
"Sweet Mandarin have been getting a fair bit of attention, what with their owners being relative Chinese restaurant celebrities, mainly due to last year's appearance on Gordon Ramsay's F Word, where it was voted the best independent Chinese restaurant in the country, by a man who like him or loathe him, truly knows what he's talking about when it comes to food and the restaurant business. Surely it couldn't fail to be great if a 3 star Michelin chef says that it's the best?
6 of us attended for dinner on a busy Saturday night, and the dining room was packed to the rafters. Fortunately, we had a table pre booked, so we were quickly seated by a friendly and efficient gentleman. The dining area for me, is a little too tightly packed, no doubt to cash in on their recent fame and media spotlight, but clearly that didn't bother those in attendance too much. Overall, the dining space was a little unimpressive, and looked like a lot of DIY had taken place.
Anyway, not to worry, its all about the food, and we couldn't wait to get stuck in. Due to being in a group, we ordered several things off the menu including prawn toast (£4.95), dumplings (£5.95), sticky ribs (£6.90), salt and pepper ribs (£6.90) and salt and pepper mushrooms (£4.95). They arrived quickly, were slightly briskly put on the table, and tasted nice, but nothing special really. The one which we were mostly looking forward to, the home made dumplings as seen on TV, were very extremely average. The casing was very thick, almost like pasta, and the filling was well under seasoned. Not unpleasant, just very underwhelming. Still, we were having a great time, were being well looked after, and everything tasted fine, despite feeling underwhelmed after promises of greatness from Chef Ramsay's team.
We followed up the starters with half a crispy duck (£21.00), which as per usual with that dish, went down a treat. Again though, it was just as you would expect from anywhere. No twists, nothing to set it apart. Just plain crispy duck as you would find at 20 places in Chinatown, but for £21? After finishing this course, I noticed advertisements on the table to purchase copies of the restaurant's book, 'autographed' by the owners. I was starting to realise how powerful the media is, whilst partially resenting this place for jumping on the wannabe celeb bandwagon without backing it up, and also wondering what on earth Chef Ramsay saw in this place, that it would be deemed the UK's best? I'd seen nothing bad so far, apart from the overpacked dining room, steamed up windows, and DIY like dining room, but then saw nothing great either and it was starting to look expensive too!
Anyway, the mains came and we went for the famous, as-seen-on-TV Claypot Chicken (£12.95). I know that VAT has gone up, and I know they've been on TV, but can't help notice a review from Restaurants Of Manchester posted only 2 years ago, when the same dish was £9.50. That's a15% rise per year! I had no doubt at this point that they were indeed bumping up prices and packing people in, to cash in on their reputation. The dish itself was again, decent, but nothing special really. The chicken was moist, the pak choi was tender, and the Chinese sausage very nice, but it really wasn't anything too out of the ordinary. £14 for a Chicken based main course, in a no frills British/Chinese restaurant? It didn't even come in a clay pot, just a regular bowl! It was a similar story across all our mains really. £12 for spicy beef, £16 for the Manchurian fillet steak dish, and another £16 for the scallop dish. All again, were nice, and tasted fine, but £16 for a main?
Anyway, we had a great time, had finished our 4 bottles of decent, but again very slightly marked up wine (£17 for a Chilean Red), and then the bill landed. £220 for 6 people, and we only got 4 main courses, 2 rice and 1 noodles to share. Another reason that it came out as such is that all the above prices are subject to a 10% service charge, something which irritates me in all but top end places, as it's traditionally those who charge it. So suddenly your half duck becomes a mind boggling £23, the Claypot Chicken becomes almost £14.50, and your fillet steak dish not far off £18. So, if you got the stir fried fillet steak and a boiled rice, your looking at over £20, for a main course! These prices are in short, ridiculous.
My advice is, whilst the food here is decent, you can get 25% more for your money, of equal quality, at scores of the top places in town. If the food were 25% better than the top places in town then fine, but its just not. If you fancy going to see what The F Word was raving about, then fine, but for me, that's its only appeal and, on this occasion, Chef Ramsay overlooked a score of better places in Manchester, and no doubt dozens and dozens across the country.
To be fair though, despite my tight fisted rants, based on how busy the dining room was, perhaps they have the right idea, and its probably good business sense to make an extra dollar whilst you're in the limelight, since the prices clearly don't put people off, and it is pretty much the only Chinese in the Northern Quarter.
Food 3/5 ~ Price 2/5 ~ Service 3/5 ~ Smartness 2.5/5 ~ Overall 2.5/5" - Chris Handley, Salford - TRUSTED REVIEWER (18/1/11 visited on a saturday evening)
| "I visited Sweet Mandarin on a lunch time, and opted for the £5.50 lunch time deal. Although everything was fairly pleasant and £5.50 hardly breaks the bank, when considering there are some decent Chinese buffets in the city for around the same price, with a lot more choice, I probably wouldn't opt for this again. The starters were simple and pleasant. For main we ordered a dish each and shared. The 'Famous Chicken Curry' left a lot to be desired, it was quite bland and small, but the Sticky Schezuan beef was absolutely delicious. If you work near to the restaurant and are after a simple, quick lunch, then it may be worth a visit, but I probably wouldn't go again." - claudia, manchester - TRUSTED REVIEWER (8/4/09 visited on a thursday lunch)|