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01 February 2003

Chine Rouge, Manchester

Wine magazine (UK) February 2003 issue:
Chine Rouge, 54 Faulkner Street, Manchester M1 4FH.
0161 236 8998, www.chinerouge.co.uk
Restaurant 4.5/5 Wine list 3/5

(That website doesn't work anymore and, although I found the restaurant listed elsewhere, the link to it also didn't work. So I don't know if it's still open: anyone who knows more, please email me...)

This grand swish establishment is a newcomer to Chinatown and offers refinement, cosiness and high camp courtesy of Manchester institution Francis Carroll (of Lounge Ten fame). The interior is glorious: black painted and red padded walls neatly matching red benches, low black armchairs and red stained wooden floorboards. A giant Buddha sits observing amidst candles, Chinese umbrellas above on the roof, marble-affect pillars ornamented with kitsch oriental designs and a large painting of two Geishas or lady-boys drinking.

The menu aims for an ambitious French/Far Eastern crossover and certainly delivered in terms of freshness, variety and quality. Just two criticisms really: it’s a bit pricey, e.g. £3 for a bottle of mineral water, and a bit chilly (room temperature rather than atmosphere). However the food was delicious and beautifully cooked. For starters the idiosyncratic dish of Calamari & Frogs’ Legs in salt & chilli pepper (£6) was proclaimed “the best frogs’ legs ever” by a companion. Jumbo Prawns (£6) materialised as three large langoustine-like beasts, which were meaty, fresh and so hot I couldn’t peel them straight away. The moist yet textured Cuttlefish Cakes (£5) with Vietnamese dip were also flavoured with crabmeat and coriander; three small ones just didn’t suffice!

The sauce for the Pan-fried Halibut (£11) was a little non-descript but it didn’t matter, as the fish was superb oozing just from the sea flavour (although not so warm). The Pan Woked Chicken Chow Mein (£6.50) came in tender flavour-infused strips with lots of veg and noodles. Thai Stir-fried King Prawns (£11) sat comfortably in a tasty hot and sweet sauce. On the side we had very crispy thin noodles (£3.50) and two lovely vegetable dishes: garlicky smoky Pak Choi (£3.50) and ginger-laden Beansprouts (£3). Oriental restaurants often disappoint on the dessert front, so the wide choice here was welcomed. The abundant Fresh Fruit Platter (£6) was ideal to finish: piles of melon, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, cumquat plus mango sorbet. The pastry around the Banana Spring Rolls (£6) was a tad dry but the nice runny sweet centre compensated.

Chine Rouge didn’t score so well with the drinks. On our visit they had no Chablis or Sancerre and several wines were different to those on the list; also no Tiger or Chinese beer. “We’re between lists; we’ve changed suppliers,” was the apologetic but logical explanation. The house white (South African Sauvignon Blanc) and red (French Syrah) cost £3 per 175ml glass or £12 a bottle. 2002 Vistasur Sauvignon was dear at £16 (actually the price of the listed New Zealand SB) but charmed with its crowd-pleasing Chilean style, showing aromatic citrus fruit and soft acidity. The Delegat’s 2000 Hawkes Bay Reserve Chardonnay (£23) offered more weight and richness with toasty creamy barrel-fermentation notes. Confusion and omissions aside, the overall selection is OK and features several (rather expensive) Champagnes as well. The service was friendly and professional throughout.

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