Back in what I like to think of as the glory years, super restaurant mini-chain Red Chilli had a restaurant just up the road from us in Atherton. The food was so good and such ridiculously good value that we were there almost every week. But that good value was actually its downfall- you can’t charge £10/11 for a banquet of that quality and stay afloat. RIP Red Chilli Atherton- we will never forget you.
Fast forward to the here and now, and in a bid to recreate our weekly chilli hit we went to the original Red Chilli in Manchester last night.
I couldn’t talk Andrew into trying some of the pig intestine dishes which they are famed for so in the end we stuck to a set banquet; the cloyingly named Courtship Banquet.
First up, hot and sour soup. We waited with anticipation. The h&s we knew from the old branch is still my benchmark for all others: a deep volcanic red colour crammed with mushrooms, tofu, ham and prawns. We couldn’t wait to try it again. Uh oh, it did not start well. This wasn’t h&s, this was something loaded with black pepper, one prawn- all be it giant- and a bit of tofu. I picked out the prawn and tofu but left the broth. To be fair the waitress did ask me why I’d left it so I explained about the pepper bomb and she said she would mention it to the chef.
Yikes. So next up, starters. Harking back to the glory days agin we always loved the platter of starters, in particular the salt and pepper ribs. We were not disappointed. The ribs were massive, juicy and oh so tasty. The finely diced fried onions and peppers they come dressed in were something we would always fight over and tonight was no different! Andrew was particularly taken with the satay chicken which had been lightly battered before the sauce was added. Even the spring rolls, normally tasteless plate fillers, were crammed with chicken. Crispy duck followed then we needed a break before our main courses.
By now we were already fit to burst but we soldiered on! Both dishes served up were delicious. Sizzling fillet steak in a pepper sauce was lovely and tender and the sauce really hit the spot. The gong bao chicken was hot and slightly sweet but had a real kick in the aftertaste. I avoided the tiny bullet shaped chillis hidden in there but Andrew tells me that his lips are still tingling from them twelve hours on. Peanuts gave it body and crunch and again the chicken was meltingly tender and not dry. Pak choi and rice with ham and prawns completed the meal.
Defeated we asked for the leftover chicken and rice to bring home and will make a tasty tea for me later!
It’s a shame that the decor hasn’t been given as much attention as the Atherton branch or even the Oxford Road one, but they were busy so maybe they think they don’t think they need to bother. The staff were welcoming and friendly and, soup aside, the food excellent. It was £26 each for the food- given how much & the quality, a fair price I think.
I’d still like to try some of their more adventurous dishes but Red Chilli will always have my vote.
Corner of Portland Street, Manchester