[Manchester, city centre] Happy Seasons

If you look at any online list of recommendations for Chinese restaurants in Manchester (particularly those in Chinatown), you are pretty much guaranteed to see Happy Seasons on it. It’s been there donkeys years – I’m sure I remember it from the 1970s. It’s a place you’re going to remember walking past from the cooked Peking ducks hanging up in the window. You’re probably also going to remember it as it’s the only place where you’ll see folk waiting on the street for a table. Yes, it’s that popular. And it was rammed even on a lunchtime – but we only had a five minute wait. Long enough for a brief chat with a couple of tourists visiting from Barcelona for a couple of days. Most customers were Chinese. Now, I don’t hold to much store by the ethnic make-up of a restaurants customers. If it was a guarantee of quality, then Harvesters would have Michelin stars. But it is a guide – not least as it seemed to be the only place that was actually busy.

We just wanted a main course each and one starter. The server asked if we wanted things to come when we were ready and said “yes”. Something of a mistake, as the starter didn’t arrive until we were both well stuck in to our main courses. It was three chicken skewers in “Cantonese sauce”. I suspect that this is one of those sauces that have as many variations as there are chefs. It was nicely thick and clingy with the main flavours coming from hoisin and soy sauce.

I remembered the ducks in the window and thought that if they do that they must be pretty confident about cooking duck. So, that was me sorted – duck with pineapple and ginger. Thick slices of meat, together with stirfried veg and a little fairly nondescript sauce. The ginger gave it a good lift. The other plate was much more straightforward – a simple vegetable stirfry – mushroom, carrot, beansprouts, bamboo shoots, etc. Served almost dry with nothing more than a little dressing of soy – my partner isn’t too keen on the lake of gloopy sauce you so often get in Cantonese places. We shared a portion of boiled rice.


Can I just pick up on this. Cantonese shouldn’t be gloopy and nasty like that. “British Chinese” is the gloopy stuff and is to Cantonese food as Domino’s is to Neapolitan pizza.

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As you’ll know, almost all Chinese restaurants in the UK are Cantonese, with original owners coming from Hong Kong. Much as it’s all but impossible to avoid overly wet food in South Asian restaurants, it’s all but impossible to avoid gloopy Chinese food. They’ve been cooking that sort of food in my part of the UK ever since I can recall (at least back to the late 1960s when I first recall eating in Chinese restaurants)

I looked up the picts on their google review. Most of the dishes look normal visually, except a torn duck is very weird and looks dry or the saucy dishes. The gloopy sauce is a easy way out to cook when the skill is elementary. Many of the sauces are a mix of stored bought sauce, thickened with corn flour.