Chinese cuisine lays focus on the colour, aroma, flavour and shape of its food, as well as the harmony between its five main flavours; salty, sour, spicy, bitter, and sweet. According to traditional Chinese medicine, each of these flavours delivers regulative functions to the human body, promoting wellbeing and good health. The strong spicy taste, for example, can diffuse the body of evil influences and promote blood circulation, whilst sweet flavours can help to improve mood and relieve pain.
I’m definitely not an expert in medicine, but I can confidently say that, when successful, this arrangement of flavours can create some of the most delicious gustatory experiences available. My experience at the Northern Quarter’s Sweet Mandarin restaurant convinced me of this, and proved that unrivalled culinary perfection is found when different tastes are masterfully combined together.
Sweet Mandarin is a family restaurant that culminates three generations of Chinese recipes under one roof. Sitting in the Northern Quarter close to Walrus and The Blue Pig, the establishment offers food of the finest quality at affordable, student-friendly prices. Portion sizes are perfect, the food’s presentation is flawless, and its staff are exceptionally hospitable.
You shouldn’t just take our word for it. Sweet Mandarin has won a plethora of awards, ranging from Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word Best Chinese Restaurant in the UK (after beating over 10000 other restaurants), to being awarded the 1 AA Rosette, making them the only Chinese restaurant in the North West to receive this honour. Its owners, Lise and Helen Tse, have both received MBEs for their dedication to food and drink, and have launched a series of gluten-free, vegan sauces that secured investment from Duncan Bannatyne and Hilary Devey, two businesspeople from BBC TV programme, Dragons’ Den.
You name it, Sweet Mandarin delivers tenfold. A range of genuinely unique and exotic cocktails offered in a stylish and ultra-modern dining setting? Check. A catalogue of famous followers? Check. Food to die for? Definitely.
When we visited, we decided to sample Mabel’s Claypot Chicken, a dish that the restaurant’s owners made for David Cameron and Premier Li of China at Downing Street in 2014, and the salt and chilli squid, one of the courses that helped Sweet Mandarin to obtain Gordon Ramsay’s F-Word trophy. These signature dishes are given brief descriptions and backstories on the menu, turning it into a colourful and interesting chronicle of the owners’ histories and pasts; a trait that we found incredibly original and innovative.
The combination of flavours on the squid and in its accompanying dip was divine, and its coating was succulent and tender. Needless to say, we left nothing. Mabel’s Claypot Chicken was phenomenal; the chicken was cooked to perfection and, like the squid, was immensely flavourful.
Sweet Mandarin is, by a considerable degree, the best restaurant that I have visited so far. Everything about the restaurant exhibits quality, from its pleasant interior to its delightful food, reasonable prices, and attentive hosts. It just works.
To watch how The Twins fared against The Dragons and for further information on their restaurant and products, visit their website and Twitter page:
Twitter – @SweetMandarin