It's not often that you will hear my say I'm going to dine out at a Chinese restaurant, when I told people that is what I was going to do I was met with looks of confusion. Sadly the perception of Chinese restaurants (in Leeds at least) has been formed by the many poor attempts at Chinese food, usually in the shape of all you can eat buffets. I've not always been a food snob and as a hungover teen I frequented a few of said establishments and only changed my mind on eating in them when I saw a member of staff pour water in to the container... to you know, keep the food 'fresh'.
Anyway, Mans Market isn't a Chinese buffet. I'd seen a few things about it on ol' social media and thought it might be worth a try when friends suggested going somewhere new for our foodie gathering.
First things first, I have to get this out of my system, the ordering system is crap. Why do places have to try and reform the waitering service? It's worked for hundreds of years I don't think it needs to change. Also, if you don't tell your customers what your 'cooky' (I'm starting to sound like an old grump now) and have to revert to the 'traditional' way then what's the point?
You see this oversized peg? That's how you order. There are pens/pencils on the table with cards for mains, drinks and desserts. Once you've decided you peg your order up and someone comes and takes your order. But what happens if I have a question? Is this spicy? What would you recommend? What is this? It's removing an essential part of customer service, the interaction of the waiting staff. They could literally have no training on what is being served as no one will ever ask them questions as the customers are ignored until they peg up their order.
The menu is small compared to other Chinese restaurants, there are 'safe' options and their choices that are a little more adventurous.. but not too adventurous you won't find any traditional chicken feet on a stick.
We ordered starters, not feeling overly inspired I ordered the spring rolls. They came piping hot, so much so that I struggled to eat them and keep up with my fellow diners without scolding myself. I'm not sure I've ever had a bad spring roll or perhaps my memory is just fading, one of the most popular menu choices in most Chinese or Thai restaurants most chefs will get a lot of practise.
For mains I ordered the roast duck, char sui (pork) and greens, we ordered sides of rice and salt and pepper chips for the table. Both meats were cooked well, with the middle soft and the edges caramelised and crispy. There weren't too many greens but I was filled by the generous portions of meat, rice and chips. Beneath the meat and greens was a puddle of soy sauce, I like salt in my food, blame it on my parents being of a certain generation where they doused everything in salt, so this was nothing but fine for me. My friend who had the same dish however doesn't tend to put salt in her food (she's much more sensible than I and once even gave up refined sugar for lent) and she found it too overbearing.
Another dish on the table was the chicken curry. Served in a wok. I very much doubt having looked at said wok that this is the cooking implement used to cook said curry so it was purely for presentation. What's wrong with a good old dish guys?
My friends weren't particularly impressed by curry and one even remarked that it tasted like what she used to get on her chips in Ireland. It tasted like stereotypical Chinese curry to me, great for dipping your chips in but I'd never go much further.
We visited on a Tuesday night, a fairly quiet night for dining out in Leeds. There were at least 2 or 3 waiting staff working that night and the restaurant wasn't at half capacity yet I heard the manager tell one of the front of house that they would have no walk ins that night. Seemed a bit odd especially as the staff didn't appear to be completely run off their feet.
I asked fellow social media friends if they had yet visited and what they had thought. Overwhelmingly the replies included that the ordering system needed to be ditched (it would appear I am not the only grumpy foodie in the city) but generally people liked it. One other remark which made me chuckle was "the feeling of though you're doing something seedy as you enter the restaurant though a black door with bright red neons above declaring it to be a mans market and then descend down a darkened stairwell".
Have you been yet? What did you think?