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.