“Well that was the best Chinese food I think I’ve ever had in Sunderland,” I found myself proclaiming to my friend as we left Shanghai Manor with content tummies.
In a city that’s not short of Chinese takeaways, as well as a fair few sit-in Asian restaurants, the above is a bold statement to make, but this place impressed me so much I’m already planning my next visit.
First signs were good: the restaurant was filled with Asian students, which is usually an indication that the food is more authentic than the pile ‘em high buffets who claim to dish up Far East fare.
It’s easy to walk past the restaurant, which is towards the cinema-end of Fawcett Street, without giving it a second glance.
The decor is no great shakes, it’s modern, simple and comfortable enough, but it’s the food which will reel you in here.
At first sight, the menu can be a little difficult to navigate for the Western palate, but the waitress was happy to explain the more complicated concoctions such as “pig maw” – which is the stomach of the pig.
Granted, some features may not tickle everyone’s fancy, but diners can take their pick from a vast menu of cold dishes such as spicy pickled Chinese leaves (£3.50), hot dishes including hot crab in pot (£10.80), sizzling dishes, casserole pots, soups and more.
It was also a culinary breath of fresh air to see dim sum on the menu – a rare find in Sunderland city centre.
We decided to limber up our stomachs with a light soup. We were warned the chicken and sweet corn soup (£5.80) was large and the whopping pot was indeed more than enough to satisfy three of us.
I went with a fairly safe option for my mains, though it would be great to go with someone more versed in Chinese food, so I could make a more informed decision.
Stir-fried prawns with cashew nuts (£9.80) is a dish I’ve had in takeaway form before, but this far exceeded that.
For my pounds, I was presented with a sea of juicy prawns peppered with nuts in a delicate sauce, that managed to provide just the right amount of flavour without detracting from the main ingredients.
Chinese food can sometimes be greasy and glutenous, but this was fresh and light and left me feeling just the right side of full.
It looked good enough to eat too – so much so I immediately committed a picture of my meal to Instagram to shout about its deliciousness.
To accompany my main, I shared a bowl of noodles which came with a fried egg perched on top. I’m not sure how they’d cooked the noodles, but they were divine, so good I could have eaten them on their own.
My friend tucked into the sizzling beef (£9.80) which was a triumph – succulent, tender and packed with flavour.
The drinks on offer are as authentic as the food with Chinese beers such as Tsingtao and teas, including a pot of chrysanthemum tea for £2.
Payment was cash only, but there’s a cash point nearby, so a lack of a card machine isn’t too much of a problem.
Meals can also be prepared for delivery and there was a steady stream of people calling in for pick-up on our visit, though this isn’t an easy option if you don’t live in the city centre.