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Address: 222 Burton Road / West Didsbury / Manchester / M20 2LW

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      26.08.2013 16:19
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      A great night out - I'd go again

      ~Picking Random Restaurants~

      Although I work in the North West, I'm out of the office more than I'm there. Our friend Alex and his wife Katya live in central Manchester and had been nagging us for about six months to go for dinner. The combination of both Alex and me travelling a lot for work means that about half the times we try to get together, one or other of us has to cancel. For the first time in ages they were both available and not only was I around, but my husband had a day off and could come along too. Once we realised we had the chance to finally get together, it fell to me to come up with some suggestions where to go. Since I have membership of a scheme called 'Tastecard' which gives two for one or half price offers at thousands of restaurants, I decided to suggest some of the places in the south Manchester area that take the card. Narrowing it down further to those restaurants that do the deal for groups of four people rather than just for couples, I send Alex a list of three places and he picked Green Tea in West Didsbury for no better reason than he fancied a Chinese.

      My husband rang to book a table for 7.30 pm and we agreed to meet Alex and Katya at the restaurant. Green Tea is on Burton Road in West Didsbury in a parade of shops and restaurants. Locals would probably be able to place Green Tea as it's a few shops away from Crazy Wendy's , the Thai and 'Shirley Bassey impersonation' place. With the sat nav programmed for the postcode, we set off, arriving about 10 minutes early. Those ten minutes were very quickly eaten up by trying to find a parking space and by other drivers getting increasingly incensed at the parking situation. Eventually we found a place, parked up and walked back to the restaurant only to find two enormous spaces right outside the restaurant. Such is life.

      ~Small is well......not very big~

      Green Tea is a tiny restaurant with tables for just 24 people. It's not much bigger than a good sized front room. There's a mix of tables for two and four people but none of the massive round tables that you tend to see in bigger oriental restaurants. The colour scheme is simple red and black with interesting shell chandeliers. Green Tea has one of the worst wobbly laminate floors I've trodden on in a long time. When we went in, just two tables were in use and one of those turned out to be someone waiting for a take-away and I wondered if we might have made a really bad choice. It was a Thursday night and I was really surprised there weren't more people around.

      Nobody greeted us when we arrived because there was nobody behind the counter and after a few minutes standing around wondering what was going on, my husband decided we should grab the menus, pick a table and sit down. Looking through my bag to find my phone, I managed to hook the shoulder strap over a glass and send it flying across the room. It was horribly embarrassing but it did the job of getting the waitress to appear. I apologised and she didn't seem to be at all bothered, picking up the bits and replacing my glass with one from the next table. We ordered diet cokes - oddly mind came with a straw and my husband's didn't so we wondered what coded message that was giving us. Perhaps the waitress thought I was less likely to drop and smash the glass if I had a straw.

      Alex and Katya were about 25 minutes late so we hit the prawn crackers, trying not to get too carried away. They were served in a bamboo 'bucket' and accompanied by sweet chilli dip. We started to look at the menu, rather overwhelmed but just how many different dishes were on offer. How can a restaurant that small keep the ingredients fresh for so many different dishes? I was a bit sceptical. In the two hours we were there, I don't think they served more than 10 diners and maybe 4 take away customers.

      ~From the North East - no, not Newcastle~

      The restaurant website describes the food as being from the BenXi area of north east China and claims that they offer food that's healthier than many Chinese restaurants, with less salt, less sugar and less fried food. They also have a healthy options menu which was created in cooperation with a local nutritionist. It's a nice idea but the choices were very limited - just two starters and three main courses - and the two I could have eaten both sounded really bland. So good for Green Tea for trying to offer something special but healthy shouldn't have to mean bland and I'm sorry to say that prawns and pak choi doesn't turn me on.

      ~Veggies Galore~

      By the time our friends arrived we'd chosen. They grabbed the menus, ordered some drinks and quickly picked some dishes. Tony and I ordered soups to start - crab and sweetcorn for him and seafood and tofu for me. Alex ordered prawn toasts and Katya duck rolls. I thought the soups were ridiculously inexpensive at £2.50 for one and £3.50 for the other. The duck rolls and prawn toasts were both around £4 each which again seemed more like a takeaway price than a restaurant deal. Tony's soup was pretty standard looking crab stick and sweetcorn and he said it was very good. My seafood and tofu was very good with a surprising range of seafood and plenty of tofu. It's not every Chinese soup that contains baby octopus! I prefer a spicier soup normally but the combination of tofu and seafood was too much to resist. I didn't try the duck rolls because I don't eat meat but they were apparently very good. I shared a prawn toast with my husband and it was very good - not too greasy and deep fried.

      For main courses we picked dishes off the 'pick the sauce and pick the protein' list. I suspect that the 'specials' are more likely to be delicately balanced than when you pick yourself but I rather like to design exactly what I want. We decided to share a tofu dish and a prawn dish although apparently my brain said prawn but the word that came out of my mouth was "squid". We had tofu with green pepper and black bean sauce which was supposed to be hot and squid with Thai Tom Yam sauce which was indicated as medium hot. Katya ordered a prawn Thai curry (medium hot) and Alex went for a sizzling chicken dish. We ordered jasmine rice to share and the others ordered fried rice.

      The timing of the food was perfect. We were not rushed at all, but neither did we find ourselves twiddling our thumbs or tapping on the table. Our dishes came first and were quite generous in size. The rice came in a square bowl and we were each given small square bowls from which to eat. Both chop sticks and cutlery were offered. Alex's sizzler was sizzling violently as it came to the table - I quickly moved my glasses and my phone out of the way before they got splattered.

      The black bean and tofu came with lots of green pepper and the tofu was a really good type with a firm bite and not too 'fried'. The black bean sauce was supposed to be hot but it really wasn't very spicy at all. That wasn't a problem as it was still lovely but it wasn't really 'as described'. The squid was a surprise - since I thought I'd said prawn - but everyone assured me I hadn't. I'm glad I hadn't as the squid was delicious, slightly chewy, well cooked and beautifully presented. The sauce was spicier than the black bean and the heat level was just right. What I particularly liked was that there were lots of vegetables in the dish - lots of green pepper, onions, mushrooms and something cabbage-y like pak choi. One thing that makes me reluctant to have Chinese food more often is that so often it's pretty low on vegetables. If something is called prawn and cashew, then often that's what you get - sauce with prawns and cashews and nothing else. Since I tend to empty the veg drawer into everything I make, I'm always a bit let down if the chef is mean on the greens. Green Tea really impressed me by chucking veg into everything.

      I didn't try Alex's chicken sizzler but I did have a couple of spoons of Katya's green Thai curry and it nearly blew my head off. I could understand why she'd left about half of it. Since this was supposed to be medium hot compared to the black bean which was allegedly hot, something had gone a bit wrong in the kitchen. On balance though, the food at Green Tea was the best I've had in a Chinese in a long time and I thought the prices were also excellent.

      ~Tea Time~

      When we'd finished eating we weren't ready to leave so we decided to have drinks. I don't actually like tea but when I saw the tea menu I was tempted. Alex went for jasmine tea, Katya for chrysanthemum and goji berry, and Tony and I had ginger tea. The jasmine tea was quite funny because the tea cup was wobbly and kept falling over. The chrysanthemum was beautifully presented in a glass tea pot with the central well filled with flowers and berries. Our ginger tea was in a Chinese tea pot and when we looked inside it was just hot water and lots of shredded ginger. I love ginger and I really want to make this at home, perhaps with a bit of honey and lemon added.

      The toilet at the restaurant was one of the cleanest I've ever seen and the room smelled beautiful thanks to a reed diffuser with - appropriately enough - a green tea perfume. On the downside, they seem to only have one CD and by the time I'd heard Robbie Williams' 'A Better Man' sung three or four times in Chinese, I was getting a bit irritated by it.

      ~Good value - even without the card~

      Tony crept off to pay the bill. The Tastecard deal at Green Tea gave us 50% off the food bill whilst drinks were full price. Our total bill came to just under £50 which was quite a substantial saving. Without it our bill would have been around £80.

      I'm baffled why this restaurant was so empty. The food was excellent, the prices were very reasonable and the service was great. There's admittedly a lot of competition in the area and perhaps the recession is hitting in this area but it really should be full all of the time. If you are in the area and fancy no-fuss Chinese food with lots of vegetables at great prices, I really do recommend Green Tea. I'd just suggest that if you want something really hot or really mild to be sure to tell them when you order.

      ~Details~

      Green Tea
      222 Burton Road
      West Didsbury
      Manchester
      M20 2LW

      Closed on Tuesdays. Open for lunch Thursday to Sunday and for dinner every day except Tuesday.

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