Tampopo has brought its signature brand of Pan Asian cuisine to Manchester’s Exchange Square. Karen Connolly takes her ‘hard to please’ 13-year-old son for lunch.
Having fed my child a carefully thought-out organic, free-range and extremely healthy diet from the day he went onto solids, you can imagine my hysteria when my bouncing, shiny bundle of health turned into an inflexible, refractory 13-year-old whose idea of a balanced meal includes white bread and chips.
But he does love his Asian food, so he jumped at the chance of lunch at Tam Pop Up.
This 35-cover baby Tampopo has been specially built while it waits for its ‘real’ home, The Corn Exchange, to complete its transformation into a £30 million dining and drinking destination.
It’s right bang on the pavement outside the Corn Exchange, sitting under cleverly constructed canopies and warmed by huge free standing gas heaters.
The look and feel of the restaurant is very different from its usual minimalist decor of wood and shiny stainless steel. There are no communal tables either; instead a clutch of individual tables covered with brightly coloured tablecloths reminiscent of the street food stalls in Asia. Our waitress revealed the plastic stools have been imported specially from Vietnam, so it’s all very authentic.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because the venue is smaller than usual, the food has suffered in some way, because it still offers the same high quality, delicious mix of Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian dishes that it’s done for years.
Actually, Tam Pop Up has taken this opportunity to introduce some new additions to its menu with a ‘small plates’ section which basically refines the original menu and offers it as small plate options to share.
This is brilliant because it now means you can try everyone else’s food without the dirty looks. It’s certainly an economical way of tasting more of the menu too.
Make sure you give the Bahn Mi a try. This is a classic Vietnamese sandwich (Bahn is bread in Vietnam) made with a Vietnamese-type baguette that is much thinner than the type we are used to.
We shared a huge bowl of edamame sprinkled with chilli salt and, because we couldn’t agree on the small plates, my son had the Khao Soi (aka Chiang Mai Noodles) for his main course.
This Thai dish offers up chicken breast and yellow noodles in a red curry sauce. It’s spicy mind, and flavoured with ginger, garlic, red onion and fresh lime. It got a thumbs up from Finn – as he mopped his brow – and he said he could really taste the lime.
I went for the Pad Krakow stir fry, again from Thailand, and the chef kindly added quick-fried tofu to my dish of red chillies, fresh Asian basil and red pepper. We both had a bowl of gorgeously fragrant steamed Jasmine rice to go with our dishes.
They say hindsight is a wonderful thing and we did rather wish we’d gone for the small plates, simply because we were too stuffed to try anything else. So, although our food was wonderful, I reckon the smaller plates are the way to go here.
For those who don’t have the time to sit down, the pop up also does a new Grab and Go menu which, our waitress revealed, was proving to be popular.
With a Coca Cola and a refreshing Jasmine tea, it was pretty much the perfect lunch. Next time, I’m giving the Vietnamese coffee a go…strong, hot and served with condensed milk. Heaven.
And now that Manchester’s Christmas Markets are in full swing, a pop in to Tam Pop Up might just give you that ‘mulled wine free moment’ you’ve been looking for.
What: Tam Pop Up
Where: Exchange Square, Manchester
When: 12 noon till late
More info: www.tampopo.co.uk