Mei Dim might not look like much from the outside. Nor, indeed, from the inside. No matter, though – good restaurants shouldn’t be judged by their proliferation (or lack of) neon lights and selfie traps.
This is a restaurant where the food is so excellent, the owners don’t need to bother with expensive refurbs and Instagram-friendly colour schemes.
Tucked beneath Manchester’s Chinatown, its interior likely hasn’t changed in decades – and it’s still busy at 3pm on a weekday.
Round formica tables are topped with paper tablecloths, whilst a fish tank full of exotic creatures languishes in the corner. Taped to its front is a stern handwritten note, written in all caps, warning you not to bang on the glass – or else.
Tripadvisor warriors should be warned now, the overall first impression here isn’t exactly welcoming. If you can get beyond that, though, you’re in for a ruddy good meal.
Just don’t expect any sort of fawning service, keep your focus on the food, and remember to pay directly at the cash desk as you leave to get the most out of this Cantonese small plates offering.
Long hailed by Mancs in the know as one of the best places for dim sum in Manchester, the sui mai here are always bulging and the house-roasted meats more than give rival restaurant Happy Seasons a run for its money.
Our advice is to skip the regular fare and ask to see the dim sum one. Cheap and cheerful, an extensive list – so extensive that even our resident Hong Konger Giggs didn’t know them all – spans pages and pages of different steam, fried and deep-fried small plate dishes.
We dug in as towering stacks of bamboo steamers brimming with dumplings filled up the table alongside plates of giant salt and pepper ribs, beef ho fun noodles, and birds nest-looking bundles of vermicelli stuffed with fried prawn meat (a messy highlight).
Plump sui mai, ha kau, soup and vegetable shoots dumplings disappeared first, and were quickly replaced with huge plates of crispy salt and pepper squid, beef ho fun noodles and satay chicken skewers.
Washed down with lashings of hot tea, the plates just kept on coming. A plate of triple roast meats, perfectly lacquered and crispy, had us salivating whilst Mei Dim’s pan-fried peppers stuffed with seafood managed to be spicy, salty and fresh all at once.
The crispy duck pancakes here also deserve an honourable mention. We might’ve had to wait ten minutes to get some hoi sin sauce to go with them, but it was completely worth braving the restaurant floor to flag down a server.
A no-frills canteen-style diner, Mei Dim is very much part of the old school of Chinatown restaurants.
Whilst at the other end of Faulkner Street you’ll find newer, younger eateries like Pho Cue installing flower walls and giving diners a smiling service, the focus here is on the food – and the food alone.
If you’re planning on visiting, get ready for steaming pots of tea and a vast range of dim sum that puts other spots in the city to shame. Just don’t expect to be gushed over, and you’re sure to come away feeling full and happy.
Featured image – The Manc Eats
Chatting with DJ Fabio ahead of ‘A History of Jungle, Drum and Bass’ with Grooverider and The Outlook Orchestra
Ahead of their upcoming tour next year, we got the chance to one-half of legendary DJing duo, Fabio and Grooverider, who’ll be coming to Manchester early next year.
‘The Godfathers of Drum and Bass’ were there at the very start of it all and have been able to see how the genre, along with offshoots like jungle, has evolved over the years — so it’s only right that they be the ones to deliver a real education to ravers and newcomers this January.
Bringing their ‘History of Jungle and Drum & Bass‘ to the Manchester Academy on Saturday, 13 January, 0161 is just one of three places that have been chosen for the limited run of shows and, as Fabio told us on the call, it because this city has a rich relationship with the genre and pioneering underground music in general.
So you’ve got the tour starting in the New Year and it’s a very limited run of shows — what can you tell us about what you’ve got in store?
What we’ve got in store is the best of live drum and bass and something very unique. It’s a great show and honestly, even if I wasn’t involved in this I’d go along and definitely enjoy it.
It’s everything that we expected and with a project like this, it’s not something that’s not really been done before, especially not with an orchestra of this size, anyway.
We want it to sound authentic and that’s what’s happened with the band; The [Outlook] Orchestra‘s amazing, the musicians are great and it’s a very entertaining two hours.
How have you found building this as a full production with the Orchestra and fine-tuning everyone’s performances on stage?
Well, over the course of our careers in general, it’s just got a lot tighter and we’ve all got a lot more confident. You’ve got to remember when this all started we’d never done anything like it before, you know — we’re DJs and we were on BBC Radio 1 for 14 years and then Kiss for seven.
Public speaking is a completely different thing than speaking in front of a mic, so that was really daunting at first, I’ve got to say; the first one we did I was really nervous and we still get that sense of anticipation, but where it was a bit around the edge at the start, the audience didn’t know that and now I’d say it’s almost 100% the way we want it.
We’ve been doing it two years now and, yeah, it’s just a process of tweaking those fine margins and getting your timings right — when you’ve got 40 musicians, even if you’re a millisecond off it can kind of throw everything.
Sounds like you’ve really nailed it. The idea of a ‘History of Jungle and Drum & Bass’ — how far back are you going into the genre and how do you think it’s changed over the years?
So we go back to 1992. It’s crazy for us to think that was 31 years ago, but yeah, we’re going right back to the beginning and we literally break up the set into years: ’92-93, 94-96 and so on into the 2000s.
I think it has changed over time and you can certainly hear it when you compare the likes of the first track we do, Johnny L’s ‘Hurt You So’, which is kind of like jungle techno, to the modern-day stuff which gets on the radio now, it’s different. But that’s the great thing about both genres, they move on real quick.
Say if you’re a drum and bass head now and took a year off and then came back, you’d be like, ‘What is this?’ but drum and bass is always like that, every single year.
It’s going through a great time at the moment, probably the best in three decades. It’s bigger now than I think that it’s ever been and I think it’s because it’s been accepted by the public get it; they understand it more and it’s less of a niche.
People have always known about house music but now people actually recognise the big names like Chase and Status, Pendulum and so on. It’s in a very healthy place and I know some of the real purists are a little bit p*ssed and feel it’s gone a bit commercial but the underground scene is still there and I don’t think that will ever die.
Yeah, and I suppose that’s what the beauty of events like these is you can play to both of those crowds. Do you find the audience has that mix?
Well, that’s why we’ve tried to get that fine balance between big tunes that your everyday, casual listener will recognise as well as keep some underground stuff in so the real ‘heads’ can come and dive into it.
It’s been very deliberate and we’ve sat down to really think about how to strike that combination and it’s another thing that’s been done really well.
And, obviously, you guys are London kings but how big a role do you think Manchester has played in the scene and how it’s progressed?
Oh man, it’s always been really important. Going back to A Guy Called Gerald who was one of the first truly big English producers, when people listened to ‘Voodoo Ray‘, even the Americans thought was a guy from New York and he’s a bit of an unsung hero really.
He made some of the first jungle tunes as well, so we’ve always felt the influence and link with Manchester, especially over the last 10 to 15 years when it’s been really, really strong here.
You know, you’ve got DRS and, of course, had Marcus Intellect, God bless his soul, who always flew the flag for Manchester, you know what I’m saying? And, um, you know, there’s a really healthy, uh, seed in Manchester.
Strategy, Dogger, Mindstate: a lot of those guys are very important to drum and Bass and a lot of them grew up knowing each other as well, which is cool. We’ve also got Jenna G in the show and not only is she from Manchester but she’s one of the real highlights of the show, she’s absolutely amazing.
Also, it’s really important that we put on a good show because the Manchester music crowd know their sh*t as well — you can’t really con them.
Absolutely, and in terms of artists right now, whether they’re from Manchester or elsewhere, who’s really exciting you at the minute?
I mean, the staple is obviouslyChase and Status who have helped get [the genre] some radio play to the point where there were four drum and bass tracks in the top 40 just last year. Absolutely insane.
Hedex and all those guys are also helping grow the underground scene but, honestly, there’s too many names to mention that lifting up others so we’re in a real good spot at the minute.
Are there any favourite Manchester venues that come to mind?
Band on the Wall — I LOVE it in there and, of course, Warehouse Project which is basically flying the flag for drum and bass across Britain right now. WHP is possibly the hottest venue in the UK so, yeah, Manchester was always a no-brainer and we’re really looking forward to coming there.
Nice, and lastly, if you could describe the upcoming shows in three words what would they be?
Fashion royalty Alexa Chung posed in a Chanel outfit, while Oldham-born supermodel Karen Elson walked in the show.
And Liam Gallagher’s sons Gene and Lennon – who are the absolute spit of their dad, eyebrows and all – were also there representing Manchester.
Guests were then whisked away to Victoria Baths for an almighty afterparty.
Chanel said: “The finale – the CHANEL 2023/24 Métiers d’art show took place on an emblematic street in Manchester, one of the most effervescent cities of pop culture and an avant-garde one, whose bands, spanning all genres, have changed the history of music.
“In a shimmering pop palette, with a dash of the sixties, the collection imagined by Virginie Viard celebrates the CHANEL art of tailoring and tweed, while wraparound skirts, miniskirts with godets and Bermuda shorts highlight the British accents of the silhouettes.”
You can watch the full video of the Chanel catwalk through the Northern Quarter in Manchester below.