[Manchester, city centre] Wings

We’ve been here before, although not for some years. In the intervening period, we’ve usually got our Cantonese fix at Glamorous on Oldham Road. But we fancied a change and thought of Wings. We weren’t put off by its “Real Housewives of Cheshire” image ( I remember it even getting a celeb plug on Match of the Day from the then manager of United). We weren’t put off by its high prices, seemingly at least a couple of quid dearer on each dish than other city centre Chinese gaff. We weren’t put off by the meaningless puffery of its website which claims that it is “one of very few 5 star restaurants in Manchester”. Eh? 5 star? Wot that? Nor were we put off by the website review page of which the latest review was back in 2005. Nor were we put off by the fib that it “has been recommended by the Michelin Guide for the past 8 years”. It hasn’t – although I’m sure back in the days of pre-history it got a mention somewhere. Right, now I’ve got that off my chest, we’ll get on to dinner.

I might have ordinarily said it’s in a nice area of the city centre. However, there’s demolition work going on and there’s a sense that it’s in the middle of a building site. Once inside, it’s a nice room (albeit one with the walls decorated with plates signed by celeb diners which may be to some folk’s taste – but I wouldn’t be amongst them). And there’s generally attentive staff who actually smile (definitely not a given in the city’s Chinese restaurants). And a thankfully relatively short menu (by comparison with the offerings down the road in Chinatown) .

To start, there’s freebie prawn crackers which come with three dips – sweet chilli sauce (?), another just generic sweet and a belter of thick chilli paste. We then ordered a couple of items from the dim sum list. Char sui bao was everything you’d expect – soft, light steamed dough, encasing the pork filling. First you got anise, then the pork and, finally, the sweetness of a little clingy sauce (maybe a bit too sweet). The second item – lo han vegetables – proved to be something of a mistake. It appears twice on the menu – once as a pan fried bun (which is what we ordered in the expectation of it being a bit crispy) and, second, as steamed dumpling (which is what came). Not knowing the dish, we hadn’t appreciated that this was also quite sweet, so we ended up with two very similar items.

Main courses were both from the beef section. One advertised shreds of fillet steak in a crispy chilli coating. Now this tasted good – a little crunch to the strips, not shreds, of meat in the same way that you get a crisp coating on a toffee apple. And a nice hit from chilli. But you’d have to doubt whether this slightly chewy meat was actually fillet. I have only myself to blame for another bit of not very clever ordering. Beef in Cantonese sauce seemed like a good bet in a Cantonese restaurant but I hadn’t realised that it would be quite sweet. In itself, it was fine (and none of it was left) but this was now sweetish beef, after sweetish pork and vegetables. Rice, as you’d expect was fine.

As I mentioned upthread, the staff are generally on the ball but it’s one of those places where they keep the rice (and your water) on a separate table. Now, I don’t have much of a problem with this but its success is entirely dependent on the staff being sufficiently on the ball to do top-ups before you realise you need one. Unfortunately, they weren’t and I felt a bit like Oliver Twist – “Can I have some more rice, please.”

But, in spite of this not being a perfect meal by any stretch of the imagination, it was an enjoyable enough evening. However, I’m not sure it was sufficiently enjoyable to warrant a return visit more often than once every several years.

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Lo han vegetables is also known as Buddha’s Delight (羅漢齋/lo hon jai/luóhàn zhāi). It shouldn’t be sweet, and definitely shouldn’t be “very similar” to char siu, so you’re not to blame for bad ordering!

I’m flabbergasted that the restaurant actually described its dumplings - irregardless of whether those were pan-fried or steamed - as lo han vegetables !

To the Chinese, lo han cai (i.e. “Buddha’s vegetables”) is a common braised vegetable dish. It’s vegetarian, and usually contain Chinese white cabbage (Napa cabbage), carrots, shitake mushrooms, beancurd sticks, glass noodles, lily buds, etc. The dish’s trademark is also that it’s slow-cooked or braised to the verge of being mushy - a departure from most of the other Chinese cooked vegetable dishes where the colour of the vegetables are retained, and the textures are crunchy and fresh.


I wondered if there was some transcription error when the menu was formulated.

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Possibly, although your comments and those of Kake make me wonder if this place just isnt as good as its reputation suggests. I’ve got a vague recollection that, when I posted a review back in 2012 (on Chowhound or egullet) someone mentioned that one dish we ate was nothing like how it was supposed to be.

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Actually, they are listed on the Michelin site.


That’s really weird. As they are not listed at viamichelin.co.uk, nor do they appear on the city map. You would expect the listings at .com and .co.uk to be the same surely.

What’s actually even weirder are some of the restaurants that are actually listed at .co.uk - including a Harvester and at least two Toby Carvery - both of which are very much bottom end pub chains. I can only think that they now appear as Michelin has recently bought reservation website Bookatable.com and the pubs must have previously been listed by them. If that’s the case, then it makes the Michlein listings totally worthless in terms of finding good food.

I searched again, the restaurant isn’t there in either site anymore, it seems this morning I saw it listed as Michelin guide 2018, now the site has listing of 2019. I believe they were updating the websites.

My google search isn’t updated yet, see the screen capture, still mentioned 2018.

I had forgotten that I wrote about Buddha’s Delight back when I was blogging about learning to read Chinese menus.

To quote from that article (note that this is in the context of UK Chinese restaurants): ‘Finding a good version of 羅漢齋 on a restaurant menu can be a little tricky. I have eaten many, many fairly pedestrian dishes listed as “Buddha’s delight” or “monk’s vegetables”, ordered from restaurants and takeaways that serve Westernised Chinese food rather than the real thing — often a sad selection of tinned vegetables (water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, baby sweetcorn, mushrooms) in a gloopy brown sauce, maybe with some fresh carrots and mangetout if you’re lucky.’

Another thought — I suspect what might be going on is that Wings is using the term to indicate that the dumplings are vegetarian.

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I think they used the Lo Han veggies leftover to wrap them into dumplings and bun.
Lo Han appear 3 times in the 2 menus. And notice “stir fried”.



Tinned vegetables + gloopy brown sauce sounds pretty nightmarish. :joy:

You’re right - I think they used lo han to indicate that the dish is vegetarian. It also makes the dish sound more “exotic”.

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Certainly makes sense, naf.

I suspect that, next time we’re seeking Cantonese, we’ll have a look at a couple in Chinatown. It’s a pity about Glamorous, where we’ve always enjoyed the food, but I had concerns about cleanliness last time and they pissed me off by adding their “large party” 10% service charge onto our bill.

Second largest Chinese community in the UK - we really should be able to do better.

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