So, another year, another edition of the Michelin guide and Manchester is still starless. Does anyone care? Must we all worship at the pillowy shrine of the Michelin man? The kind of atmosphere and price range of Michelin restaurants is not what keeps me excited about food in Manchester.
I’m in it for the small places, the old places, the fill you up and send you on your way with a glow places. Nothing too heavy on the wallet, and if possible, I like a little narrative with my food. Some history, some background.
Koreana is Manchester’s oldest Korean restaurant. It lies on King Street West, just down the road from San Carlo, the city’s Italian titan. On first appearance, Koreana is everything San Carlo is not. The former you descend into down little flight of steps, the later is a bright and loud affair that screams its name.
Koreana is unpretentious and has a fantastically accommodating front of house. I was dining with the Redhead, and despite her asking what everything on the menu tasted like, attempting to hustle free pickled cucumbers and generally talking the waitress’s ear off, the waiters remained kind and calm.
They opened in 1985 and for a restaurant to keep its doors open for three decades is no small feat. Restaurant years are like dog years. Restaurants come and go with the ebb and flow of taste and trend, but by consistently cooking unambiguously tasty food, and having a front of house team that really give a shit, Koreana has remained a heritage classic of the Manchester restaurant scene.
Their prawn spring roll is a testament to the enduring success of Koreana. Everyone has eaten a thousand spring rolls in their life, one bad Chinese takeaway blurring into another. The spring roll rarely stands out or is memorable. But this particular prawn spring roll made me pause, it was delicious, there were tangible chunks of prawn nestled amongst the pastry, where so often can be found unidentifiable homogeneous mush.
One thing that’s definitely worth mentioning is the value for money. In a time were restaurant goers are spoilt for choice, perhaps more so than ever, price-point becomes an increasingly competitive issue. Monday to Friday you can get a bulgogi or a bibimbap with a side, for £12-14.00. We opted for the kimchi pancake and aforementioned spring roll.
Bibimbap and bulgogi are two staples of Korean cuisine. The former is a rice bowl adorned with a choice of fish, meat, and vegetables. A raw egg gets placed in the middle and we were encouraged to start gently stirring the dish, that way the hot ingredients begin o to cook the egg. Bulgogi translates to ‘fire meat’, and is thinly sliced and marinated meats cooked over a barbecue or in a pan.
So many dining fads come and go, Korean has always been a quiet murmur in the background of the British dining scene. Never shouting particularly loudly about its presence, Korean food is probably alien to the majority of Brits. But in Manchester, ignorance is no excuse, we’ve got Koreana, Ban Di Bul and Seoul Kimchi. Eat up.
Koreana40A King Street West
40A King Street West