Newest Review: ... in the typical red brick of Manchester. These buildings had been built in Victorian times when Manchester had been a very prosperous... more
Member Name: barbara107
Date: 23/11/01, updated on 16/02/02 (665 review reads)
Advantages: As below
This weekend sees the start of Chinese New Year and is a great time to visit. Be prepared for crowds, and you may have problems finding a place to park the car..but that aside you will be in for a real treat!
China Town Manchester.
Situated in the centre of Manchester, about a 15 minute walk up from Piccadilly railway station, and less than 5 minutes from the bus station, Chinatown, Manchester is a real must for any visitor to the city, and also a great place any time of day, be it a Sunday afternoon in summer with your family, or a boozy Christmas night out with friends or colleagues from work.
It is estimated that the Chinese population in Great Britain is now around the 300,000 mark and little communities like this have sprung up in other major cities, like London and Liverpool but for many years Manchester has been the focal point for the whole of the Chinese community for the north of England..
One of the first Chinese establishments in Manchester arrived just after the end of the second world war, in 1948 the Ping Hong restaurant, but it was in the 1950's that saw the greatest influx of Chinese people, mostly from rural areas as their land was being bought up by the Hong Kong government to enable the city to sprawl out.
The 1970's in Manchester saw a real boom in the restaurant trade and Chinese was at the forefront of this, with many opening along George Street and Faulkner Street, behind the Old Piccadilly Plaza, just behind the famous Piccadilly Gardens (Which have now sadly been demolished.)
George Street, Faulkner Street, and Nicholas Street had long been abandoned cotton warehouses with roomy basements and glorious facades in the typical red brick of Manchester. These buildings had been built in Victorian times when Manchester had been a very prosperous city, the centre of the cotton trade and lined both sides of the narrow streets, an ideal location
for any “New Community”
So one by one little restaurants such as Charlie Chans, Yang Sing, The Hong Kong and many more with equally exotically sounding names gained rave reviews for the wonderfully different foods they were introducing to us all.
I remember my first ever trip to china town in the 70's to a restaurant that is still there now, to see all the crispy ducks hanging on display in a window, A sight that has always stayed with me.
However, there is so much more to Chinatown than restaurants, there are Casino’s, Chinese Supermarkets, banks, bars. herbalits, arts centre and martial arts studios. By the 1980's it was evident that a real community was thriving and providing the whole of the city with something different, apart from becoming very prosperous.
1987 saw the unveiling of the breathtaking imperial arch that spans Faulkner Street and is adorned with red and gold painted dragons and phoenix’s the first such arch of its kind in the whole of Europe. The arch is the focal point of the whole area and is where important events are held such as the signing of petitions against human rights violations back in China, or happier events like Chinese new year, when the streets are filled with Chinese dragon dancers and firework displays. The arch at night time is a sight to behold as its golden handpainted messages of good luck and prosperity shine in the lights.
At the side of the arch is a little Pagoda where on a summers afternoon you can sit and watch the world go by.
The supermarkets which can often be found alongside or below a particular restaurant are like an Aladins cave, selling everything you could possible think of or need to prepare Chinese food. There are prawns as big as crocodiles (maybe thats a bit of an exaggeration!) Mushrooms of ever shape and size (and price...there was a bag of dried mushrooms that cast over £50.00!) Fish, squid and things from the
sea I have never seen. Confectionery, fortune cookies, herbs spices and rice by the barrow load! They are also great places to buy things such as a wok as they are authentic and very cheap, (No Teflon here!) Vast arrays of chopsticks, soup bowls, lanterns and decorations give the place a feel of the real China, when you walk out of the doors you could be stepping on to any street of Peking, rather than the middle of a busy British town. If you want to see Chinatown at its Busiest then Sunday is the best day to visit, especially with your family (Be pepared to park miles away and walk in as parking is a nightmare!)
Sunday is the day when the area really comes alive as the community comes into the city centre to promenade and chat, visit Chinese medicine shops and health centres, visit Chinese financial and legal services, pop in and out of the shops and supermarkets and drop the children in at the Sunday schools. In this way Manchester Chinatown has become the Chinese village for the north of England.
This role has been enhanced with creation of several old peoples homes in the city centre.
Gambling is also a very serious business in this area, and there are many Casino’s. In the evening the streets are lined with the most expensive cars, Rolls Royce, BMW and Mercedes, mostly driven by Oriental looking men, who you wouldn’t want to mess with! In all the years I have been going into Chinatown I have never, ever seen any trouble. If anyone does step out of line then justice is quiet and swift!! Say no more!
Chinatown now boasts some of the wealthiest restaurant owners in the country, especially since the TV programme about the re building of the Yang Sing, which had been destroyed by fire. The re building cost millions, but I am sure they have made that back and more as it is nearly always fully booked! The food, service and surroundings are difficult to beat.
Chinatown has also in the last year or so got another li
ttle community growing within it, one that is not so prosperous. Homeless people. There is a small car park in the centre where I have seen a soup van many times, which draws people in, but also as there are lots of people around until the early hours of the morning, possibly who have been lucky in the Casino’s I expect that there may be chance of the odd pound or two being handed over? With all the wealth so obviously on display it makes the difference between the have’s and have nots even greater.
If you find yourself in Manchester on a visit then Chinatown is a great place to eat and browse around, I am sure you will enjoy the tastes, sights, sounds and smells of this Little China.
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