The Mancunion got an invite to the relaunch party of Tampopo, and sampled as much of the cuisine as it could get its hands on
Being invited to attend and review the launch party of the revamped pan-Asian restaurant Tampopo in the Corn Exchange came as a bit of a surprise. The party was billed as a VIP event; even in my capacity as a part-time journalist, I barely even qualify as a P.
However, being a student, the opportunity of free food proved an irresistible proposition, as did the chance to try my hand at restaurant criticism.
Tampopo’s zany aesthetic is a cross between Chinatown and a Fallowfield bedroom; lanterns hanging from the ceiling, walls painted in vibrant colours, neon signs all the way down the staircase, with bamboo and other exotic greenery dotted around. Old episodes of Pokémon were being played on television screens above the bar (mercifully, atmospheric music was being played rather than audio from the TVs) and, all in all, it’s a rather pleasant place to be.
Frustratingly, the draw of the party proved to be so popular amongst the great and good of Manchester that the restaurant exceeded its seating capacity of 105, plus bar seating, so it was a night mostly spent standing.
Softening this blow was the free bar, which was open all night.
At first I did not compute, and when at the bar for the first time, I went to pay for my drink. Being told by the (lovely) bar staff that the bar was free gave me a euphoric feeling, unmatched neither before nor since.
There is a wide selection of beer and wine to be had at Tampopo, with the East Asian beers a real treat, and provide welcome respite from the relative monotony of European lagers available everywhere else.
At this point in a restaurant review, it would be fair to ask for some mention of the food. However, this was the most problematic feature of the launch party. The volume of attendees at the party meant that only canapés were served and, whilst the two that I was able to sample were perfectly nice, fate contrived to deny me more than a couple of morsels of Tampopo’s Asian street food throughout the night.
That said, when we were able to grab seats at a table later in the evening and light churros with a divine hot chocolate dipping sauce were brought out of the open kitchen, the feeling of euphoria came back.
It would be unfair to any restaurant to give a negative review based on its opening night—one need only watch ‘The Innkeepers’ episode of American sitcom ‘Frasier’ for confirmation of that much—so I will reserve proper judgement until I have had the chance to have a more traditional sitting at Tampopo. That said, the beer and churros are worth a return trip alone and, if the main menu lives up to those standards, the people behind Tampopo may be on to a winner.