“Malaysian food, it’s not like anything really.” That’s how Juliet Moo, a co-owner of Chinatown’s newest restaurant, Kaya, puts it to me when we sit down for a chat after dinner.
Having just worked my way through piles of fiery curried Laksa noodles, buttery jam toast, tea, eggs, fragrant rice, cucumber, and fried chicken, I want to know more.
The special thing about Malaysian food, she says, is how it takes influence from the country’s three main ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese and Indian.
“Because Malaysia is a multi racial country,” she explains, “our cuisines are unique in the sense that it’s like a combo of all these different cultures and ethnicities coming together and sharing flavours.”
Heat, I have already learnt, is a must. Even the national dish Nasi Lemak – a mellow sort of Malaysian ‘picky tea’ with coconut milk aromatic rice, cucumber slices, boiled egg, fried chicken, peanuts and salty morsels of dried anchovy – has a chilli-based sambal on hand to spice things up.
Kaya hasn’t yet been open a month, but Juliet says they have been ‘overwhelmed’ with the response to the new opening – admitting that they weren’t quite prepared for the number of people they would get coming through their doors.
Most of the flavours here are big and aromatic, with dishes using a lot of lemongrass and galangal, turmeric and other spices.
That said, there is also a surprising amount of toast on the menu served with homemade Kaya jam and thick chunks of butter that could’ve well been laid on with a trowel.
Eggs come two ways – half-boiled with a little soy and pepper with strips for dipping, or hard-boiled and halved – whilst noodle and rice dishes comprise the bulk of the mains.
It is, as Juliet has already explained, a real mishmash of flavours. But it totally works, with Kaya already drawing in the crowds.
“It was quite overwhelming to be honest, in the beginning, because we were not expecting this turnout,” she reveals.
“I guess a lot of people are obviously curious as to what Malaysian food is, so we had a lot of people coming in just to try, but we also had a lot of Malaysian coming in, just to, you know, because they feel like ‘oh cool, I can come here and eat the food from home.'”
She also says they’ve already found it to be a balancing act with spice tolerance levels. Simply put, some English customers – myself included on this occasion – can’t always handle it.
I don’t know if I was having a bad day, because I’m usually into it when my lips start to tingle and my mouth feels like it’s on fire, but on this particular afternoon, I confess to finding the spicy curry laksa noodles a bit of a challenge.
Juliet laughs and tells me their Asian customers say the opposite – that it should be hotter. It doesn’t do my ego any good, but I suppose I’m not that surprised.
Her goal, she adds, is to make Kaya “as authentic as it can be, but at the same time introduce this type of food to locals.”
“I’m trying to find a balance, it’s been quite overwhelming, but it’s exciting to try new things, see people eat the food and we’re always improving, definitely, we want to make things better.”
Whilst Malaysian cuisine has exploded in London, here in Manchester we’ve been slower to catch on – at least in the city centre.
For Juliet and her family, though, the lack of competition in town is a plus. They had previously tried opening a different style of restaurant a few years back, she tells me, that was a franchise and on a “very different scale altogether.”
By comparison, Kaya – she adds – is “very small, but it’s a nice size to start.”
“My brother, Nicholas, my older brother. He’s been in Manchester for I think about thirteen years. So we’re all from Malaysia, so we’re all born and raised there, so he came here for school and he stayed on,” she says.
“So the fact that there’s not much Malaysian food in the city itself made us feel like there could be a chance, so we just went for it.”
It certainly makes a very welcome addition to Manchester city centre.
Whether you’re already a diehard fan of Malaysian food, or you’re curious to experience something new, take it from me: Kaya is well worth a visit.
Whenever it gets cold and rainy (which is at least 75% of the time here in Manchester), there is nothing we like more than slurping on a steaming hot bowl of noodles and broth, so it’s a good job we’ve got some of the best ramen places in the country.Yeah, we said it.
For many people, ramen still conjures up images of Pot Noodles and packet food you simply ping in the microwave or stick the kettle on for, but the truth is that the Japanese comfort dish with roots in China, Korea, Indonesia and all over the world is a deeply rich cuisine has decades of culture behind it.
It isn’t just a case of dumping any old carbs in a bowl of soup and sprinkling a few bits and bobs on top: the very best ramen chefs in the world pride themselves on the expert craft of slaving over broths for days, perfecting homemade noods and fine-tuning the dish into something more gourmet and special.
Fortunately, there are plenty of people who take ramen seriously here in Manchester and serve up bowls made with just as much finesse as love — here are some of the best:
Starting off with a noodle bar that has been duking it out for the top spot on Manchester city centre’s ramen scene for years now, Tokyo Ramen is and always will be one of our absolute favourites.
Being the first place responsible for introducing us to fried chicken in our ramen and experts at tweaking their broths with various types of tare, there’s a reason this place is walk-in only because not only does it pride itself on its informal setting but it would be booked out all year-round otherwise.
Known not only for a small but superb menu of four different bowls of broth, noodles and toppings but popular Japanese sodas, twists on classic cocktails and an absolutely banging playlist (we couldn’t not shout it out), for many people Tokyo will always be one of if not the best ramen place in Manchester.
2. Maki and Ramen – Central
Next up is a relatively new addition to 0161: Maki and Ramen. Starting out with one restaurant in Edinburgh before going on several more and then sister sites in Glasgow, Leeds and now Manchester, we have literally no complaints about their start to life in our city. Even their takeaway containers are ace.
From founder Teddy Lee‘s time studying the art of both ramen and sushi making in the heart of Tokyo to being welcomed through the doors with the banging of a drum as all the staff shout a traditional Japanese greeting, you get that feeling of authenticity right from the off.
The sushi, side plates and other mains are all genuinely delicious too but we all know what you’re here for and while the classic tonkotsu never misses, the steak tataki is lovely and creamy and the salmon miso one is a nice light take on things, we’ve never had anything quite like their black garlic ramen. Wow.
The 2.0 site has all the charm of its parent pop-up and is still ordering in the freshest and most sustainable Japanese ingredients available. You can get your standard miso and shoyu ramen, but specials like the chicken and meatball are so lip-smackingly umami we can never get enough, and the spicy lamb Tantanmen is just unreal.
We won’t lie, it helps that the new place is literally right around the corner from The Manc office but we’ve been enjoying their hearty bowls for a hot minute and now they’ve even got ex-CBRB chefs working in the kitchen for all you former ‘Girl Gang’ members (guilty as charged).
Formerly known as Wasabi, which itself was already a popular and budget-friendly little city centre spot for a good while, this Faulkner Street gem is basically the same ramen and sushi restaurant just levelled up, open six days a week and, once again, walk-in only.
Offering some of the more unique concoctions we’ve stumbled across in Manchester, including the likes of roast duck tonkotsu, ramen filled with nothing but broth and gyozas and the Chef Special packed with all the best proteins, this place unsurprisingly gets a lot of Chinatown footfall.
In at number five is Lucky Ramen which is based out of the Mule coffee shop over in Ancoats and only comes out when the intimate little spot tucked away into the side of a building on Blossom Street turns into a cult favourite ramen and sushi bar in the evenings.
Chiming perfectly with the immaculate and stylish design of the interior, this place promises clean and complex flavours served in colourful bowls topped with the freshest ingredients. We’ll say one thing, though, don’t expect ladles upon ladles of broth here: it’s all about savouring things — and you can always fill up on sushi.
6. Samsi – Central
As we cross the halfway mark, we’re going aiming for smack bang in the middle of the ramen experiences here in Manchester and one of the longest-standing places on this list: Samsi.
Situated near the Gay Village and not far from Piccadilly Station and Oxford Road, Samsi has been sitting as a go-to food spot for all things ramen and Japanese cooking not only thanks to its central location but because of its reputation for delivering no-nonsense but traditional and incredibly tasty food.
It might look somewhat unassuming from the outside but the second you step inside to see the cherry blossoms and red accents, you’re already transported. All that being said, their beef and Jagoki chicken ramen are the stuff of legend and the ‘Kinoko’ might be one of the best veggie ramen we’ve ever had.
Stepping out of the city centre and into the reaches of Chorlton, we’re heading to another ramen place that prides not only on its authenticity but being one of the best when it comes to price point.
Boasting queues that went all down the road and around the corner after Sacha Lord chose to pay for everyone’s billin August 2023, Shogun Ramen went from feeling like one of our best-kept secrets and instant recommendations to friends out-of-town to one on everyone’s list of must-try food spots.
We can’t speak highly enough of this place but we have tried in the past, and if we can tell you one thing is that more people should make and eat chicken teriyaki ramen. They even do kid-sized portions — though we assure you they’ll be asking for more.
8. Mr Su’s – Oxford Road Corridor
Ok, getting to the business end of things now and if you’ve not jumped on the Mr Su‘s hype train yet, what are you playing at?
Joining the ever-growing list of food and drink units at Circle Square, Mr Su’s is flying the flag for the Chinese side of the dish and while it might be simply listed as ‘noodle soup’ on the menu, there can be no mistakes as to the rich tradition you’re enjoying here.
With over 20 different types of noodles, five different broths and 30 different fresh and authentic ingredients to choose from, you can essentially build a different and potentially perfect ramen, noodle soup, hot pot or whatever you want to call it every time you visit. A real interactive experience.
From one Leeds fave to another, House of Fu is our penultimate pick and another newbie here in Manchester, but it inserted itself into the top 10 places to go for ramen the second almost immediately.
It might have started out in Yorkshire but we couldn’t give these lot a warmer welcome as the noodle bar serves up some of the nicest scran you could ask for when the weather’s a bit crap. If their trademark ‘Spicy Fu’ or incredible kimchi and cheese ramen doesn’t sort you out, nothing will. Their broths are also thicker and creamier than most and that can only be a good thing.
This place also has the bonus of not only a wide selection of other non-noodle-based items, as well as some pretty banging cocktails, but it also has private rooms and a karaoke bar downstairs after you’ve finished fuelling up. Ramen, booze and a sing-song — what’s not to like?
Last but not least, this list of the top 10 ramen spots in Manchester wouldn’t feel like we’d done it right without adding in another relative newcomer which has quickly become one of the most popular in The Manc office, and that’s Suki Suki.
Chuckle at the name all you like, these lot know what they’re doing and after trying virtually everything on the menu at their Great Northern site, we can confirm the ramen is up there with some of the very best stuff they do — and they do a lot really well.
From soft-shell crab, prawns, karaage chicken, char sui pork and more to choose from as your toppings as well as four different broths — miso, shoyu, tonkotsu and their take on a curry ramen — we promise each bowl is the umami bomb you’re hoping for and you’ll neck every last drop.
And that’s it, that’s your list of the top 10 ramen places in Manchester — or at least what we believe is the best we’ve had from the region’s budding scene.
Thankfully, this is just a drop in the MSG-infused ocean of noodle spots across the various cuisines in the city overall and there are literally too many of them to mention, so we’ll all have to go away, do our research and reconvene when it comes to the best Chinese hot pots, bowls of pho, laksa and so on.
Inside Piccolino Grande, the £2m Wilmslow eatery set to transport you straight to the streets of Tuscany
The highly anticipated new Piccolino Grande opened its doors this week, showcasing the very best of Italian hospitality.
The Piccolino brand is well-known for its decadent food, opulent interiors and outstanding service, and their newest venture in Wilmslow is no exception.
Following a £2m transformation, Piccolino Grande on Swan Street is a real feast for all the senses.
Elegant marble and brass interiors, a show stopping traditional copper clad pizza oven taking centre stage and a beautiful Winterised Tuscan terrace complete with terracotta flooring – this is Piccolino’s most stylish dining experience to date.
And it doesn’t stop at the interiors, guests at Piccolino Grande in Wilmslow can dine on an exclusive menu created especially for the restaurant.
We were lucky enough to sample dishes from their bespoke menu, and it certainly did not disappoint.
From wafer thin Carpaccio Di Salmon topped with a zingy apple salsa to perfectly pink Bistecca Alla Fiorentina (steak to you and I), this is fresh Italian cooking at its finest.
A standout dish was the Tortellini Di Manzo, an indulgent slow cooked beef shin filled pasta, tossed in savoury sage butter and topped with lashings of parmesan of course.
Paired with a glass of Italian red wine from their specialist wine cabinet, this truly was a match made in heaven.
But what sets this restaurant apart from the rest is the proper Italian hospitality, from the minute you walk through the door to the moment your last glass of wine is poured you’ll be treated to faultless service.
So if you fancy escaping the city centre for an evening to experience the Italian way of dining, then Piccolino Grande is the place for you.
Whether it be to enjoy a cocktail at their elegant bar or to enjoy a meal with friends, you can rest assured you will be welcomed with open arms. To find out more and to book your table, take a look at Piccolino’s website.