When Siam Smiles was still a little cafe in a Chinatown supermarket it received serious rave reviews. Since moving up to Deansgate Mews, however, it seems to have been forgotten about a little.
Most famously described as “the most exciting thing to happen since the days of the Hacienda” by Marina O’Loughlin in a 2014 review for The Guardian, owner May also made headlines for teaching herself to cook on Youtube after her chef left the business one month after opening.
National critics, like O’Loughin and others, were seemingly drawn in by the cafe’s novelty – not one review missed the opportunity to mention the supermarket, or tell you how the ingredients in the dishes were often the same as the ones on the shelves.
But since it has moved over to The Mews, an oft-forgotten back street within the Great Northern Warehouse complex, the reviews have gone suspiciously quiet – so we thought we’d pop in to see if it’s all still up to scratch.
Spoiler alert, it definitely is.
Two years after that rave review from O’Loughlin, rising bills forced the cafe to close – but with a little help, May reopened in 2016 at the Great Northern Warehouse. It’s here that you’ll still find her cooking up a storm today.
With bills firmly on the rise once again, we thought we’d pop in to shine a light on this longstanding Mancunian gem and are happy to report her food hasn’t faltered one iota.
We went for stir fried chicken Pad Ka Paow with jasmine rice and a fried egg, and a steaming bowl of KuiiTiwe Moo Nam Tok with fresh egg noodles and roasted duck breast, with two glasses of Singha on the side.
We also couldn’t help but opt for a hearty portion of green papaya salad with dried shrimps, a dish that’s hard to find but something of a speciality here, as well as a second glass noodle salad with plump prawns and minced pork.
The dressings, always made by May herself, completely hit the spot with their balance of hot, sour, salty and sweet.
We strongly recommend you pop in and show Siam Smiles some love. It’s not all just about the shiny new restaurants, after all. We need to treasure the veterans too – and this is one we need to protect at all costs.
Find the cafe on Deansgate Mews Unit G Upper Level ,Great Northern, 253, Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN.
Feature image – The Manc Eats
The unique artworks hidden around Manchester’s ginnels and backstreets
Manchester is home to so much beautiful art, from the masterpieces hanging in its impressive galleries to the statues and murals that line its streets.
Wander around its back alleys long enough, though, and soon you’ll discover that what’s on the official tourist trail only scratches the surface.
Beyond the main thoroughfare, there’s more to seek out – with pieces of art sequestered on hidden backstreets, down city centre ginnels, and even up high on the top of buildings and – sometimes – carparks.
Keep reading for a true local’s guide to the hidden unique artworks you won’t find on the official maps.
Sound Bites on Oldham Street
Created by Manchester-based artist Tim Rushton, it’s highly likely you’ve walked over this piece on a Northern Quarter pavement without noticing it’s there.
Comprised of 20 cast iron triangles, it is essentially Manchester’s very own Hollywood Walk of Fame – set into the pavement outside Fig and Sparrow.
Commemorating the greats of Manchester’s music industry, it honours the likes of Oasis, the Twisted Wheel Club, and The Hacienda.
The brainchild of anonymous French artist Invader, these alien artworks can be found dotted in various locations around the city.
Known locations include Salmon Street, Dantzic Street, Canal Street, Newton Street, and Bunsen Street – but there could be many more.
Invader calls themself a UFA, an ‘Unidentified Free Artist’. Invader explores international densely populated urban areas and “invades” them. Displaying 20 to 50 pieces per city, Invader sometimes returns several times deploying different “invasion waves”.
The Ancoats Peeps
More urban myth than reality nowadays, a few of the Ancoats peeps remain in the area but sadly most have disappeared.
Initially designed to preserve a glimpse of history into the area’s days as a leading powerhouse of industry, unfortunately, many have been swallowed up in to new build apartment complexes.
That said, if you look really hard you can still discover a few – with maps online to guide you.
Spring Gardens Post Office Murals
The mystery of the Spring Garden Murals is one that has puzzled many art lovers.
Brutally bold murals sit above the counters of Spring Gardens Post Office but are often unnoticed by busy Mancs panic-mailing their Christmas presents or scribbling away in birthday cards.
It seems strange they are so overlooked, as it’s hard not to notice them once you know they are there. Even stranger, however, is that no one knows who made them to this day.
Apparently, they were a gift from Manchester University when the Post Office opened in 1969, but some are not convinced.
There is no credit from an institution, student, or artist – and they sit unclaimed and unnoticed.
Can you solve the mystery?
Perched Exotic Birds
The Northern Quarter is bustling with art and colour, its streets are literally paved with art. So is the sky.
Roosting above John Street, watching the shoppers go by, is Guy Holder’s sculpture ‘Perched Exotic Birds.’
The Brighton-based artist sculpted a cluster of ornamental birds and parrots to sit on old fire escapes and window ledges above the streets of the Northern Quarter.
At first glance they look like your standard street pigeon, however, closer inspection shows they are brass and have a much more interesting story.
Moving into the Victorian Era, Tib Street residents shaped the trading community by featuring live animals in their muddy markets – at one point it’s believed 20,000 people descended on the area in one evening to enjoy the sights.
The idea behind Holder’s birds is that although the markets are gone, the birds are not – they escaped capture and fled to the surrounding streets. Today they live freely and forever above our heads.
You wouldn’t know they were there unless you were told. Now we’ve told you – you won’t unsee them.
Manchester is one of the chosen ones, and we feel honoured.
This ginnel just off King Street, adorned with plasterwork umbrellas, is dedicated to famous Mancunian John Dalton – also known as the father of meteorology.
There used to be four metal umbrella tops hanging overhead too, but these have since been removed.
Nearby, you’ll also find Dalton Entry and Mulberry Passage – also dedicated to the meteorologist.
Big Boys Toy
A 12-meter-high art installation on the top of a Northern Quarter car park? We have so many questions.
Located in an NCP car park, Peter Freeman’s installation often goes unnoticed, but its purpose is important to our city.
Originally installed as part of the Northern Quarter Street Festival in 1998, Freeman wanted to reflect the vibrancy of the regenerated part of town so when night falls the beacon lights up in brilliant neon lights.
Sadly, for five years, the lights were switched off due to a dispute between CityCo and the NCP on how the installations would be powered and paid for.
Thankfully they sorted out their differences last summer, and now between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am you can’t miss the beacon as it lights up the Northern Quarter.
Sat above one of the busiest street corners in Manchester is the Binks Pineapple.
The artist Kate Malone was commissioned in the late 1990s by Majolica Works said of the piece: “I see my pineapples as a symbol of friendship and hospitality.”
The work sits at the top of the Binks Building based in an area steeped in history, art and culture with a view of the walls and gates of Speakman, Son and Hickson’s Wholesale Fish Market.
Featured image – Geograph / Supplied
Hit Christmas market stall opens permanently at Piccadilly Gardens
Crunch Korean Gansig has become a must-try foodie stall at the Manchester Christma Markets, now it’s pulled up at Picadilly Gardens permanently.
The hit Korean hot dog stall has wowed visitors over the past few years with its cheese, potato and meat-filled creations.
Deep-fried in a crispy waffle coating and then lightly rolled in sugar, these sausages on a stick come drizzled in sweet ketchup and mustard.
Incredibly moreish if we do say so ourselves, since first making their appearance at the 2021 Manchester Christmas Markets they’ve consistently been ranked one of the event’s best food traders.
Now, thanks to a new permanent stall popping up where it all began for the team, Manc foodies can enjoy their hot meaty and cheesy Korean goodies all year long.
Popular flavour choices include all-cheese, all-sausage and half-and-half versions, with a vegetarian-friendly cheese-filled version wrapped in a potato waffle coating, and halal-friendly options that are made using separate batter and fryers.
This really is a hot dog stand that caters to everyone. With owners having previously said they would work on a vegan hot dog once they got their own permanent stand, we don’t expect the plant-powered gang will be left waiting too much longer.
Sharing the news to Instagram, the Crunch Korean Gansig team wrote: “Hey guys, we’ve got exciting news to share! We are launching a new market stall in the Piccadilly garden street food market from tomorrow.
“After two years of successful Christmas trading, we are ready to take on a new challenge, and love to serve our hotdogs to you guys again!
“So come on down to the market and say hi, we love to see you there! See you soon!”
Fans of the Korean hot dog stall have responded to the news with enthusiasm, flooding into the comments to share their excitement.
One person wrote: “So excited we will have to go!!”
Another person said: “Nooooo stop!!! I’m so happy I could cry”