Caroline Howarth, editor of Mumsnet Cheshire, and mother-of-two, brought her brood to Tampopo Corn Exchange for a far eastern adventure …… and to also put our menu through its paces. Could it satisfy the demands of two hungry boys?
There is one thing guaranteed to get a teenager to engage with the outside world and that is the promise of food. My 14 year-old has a real interest in food and cooking, mainly from his Grandma who is a great cook. Definitely not from school, as the curriculum still seems to be stuck in the 70’s with sausage rolls and rock buns being the most innovative things made! So we all took a trip into Manchester to try Tampopo, with three locations in Manchester and one in London, we went to try the one at Corn Exchange, bang opposite Selfridges. For a Tuesday night it was pretty busy in Exchange Square with hundreds of runners snaking their way through shoppers and office workers.
We’ve never been to Tampopo before and it promises “The world’s most exciting cuisines from East Asia, where food is fresh, healthy and delicious. Each country has developed its own unique dishes, and sampling them is a culinary adventure”. We couldn’t wait for our journey to begin. With the menu on a paper placemat the choice is abundant and we didn’t know where to begin, thankfully all was expertly explained to us by our server and with a few recommendations made we’d ordered a mouth-watering selection of small plates, main course and sides. As other diners dishes were dispatched from the open kitchen the aromas that wafted throughout the restaurant just made all our mouths water, such a punch of spice and freshness, my eldest started to gnaw on his chopsticks in anticipation! Thankfully some prawn crackers were popped on the table by our thoughtful server.
With mocktails; apple and elderflower lemonade & pink lemonade for the children and, quite frankly, cocktails with a gigantic kick; bangkok popsicle and lemongrass mule, our journey into Asia began. My lemongrass mule included vodka, ginger beer, infused with fresh lemongrass and lime and boy-oh -boy I was smitten! The food swiftly arrived all at the same time and our table was covered with a spectacular array of dishes, and we were desperate to dive in.
The crispy fried chicken wings with sesame and a sweet soy and chilli glaze were practically inhaled by us all, so moreish. My personal faves were the coconut prawns with a sweet chilli dip; huge prawns in a light crispy batter, light and heavenly. My youngest, who is nine, started with a Gyoza pork dumpling with a soy and chilli dip and after his first one exclaimed “I’m coming here again” before going straight back in for dumpling number two.
The teenager was just having a total ‘food moment’ with the Pad Thai with chicken and prawn. He’s literally a ‘growing boy’ taller than me and just needs decent delicious fuel, and he practically ate the whole thing, whilst his younger brother had chicken katsu from the children’s menu, which was enjoyed just as much. The recommended asian sharing platter for two was also a hit, and it gives you the chance to sample several things from the menu, the corn fritters and dipping sauce on here were lovely.
To end we had mint tea and Vietnamese coffee, which comes in a cute silver style pot with condensed milk, which sounds odd but is truly delicious. We loved the churros, popular in the Philippines since Spanish colonial times, these deliciously crunchy doughnut sticks are served with a warm chocolate or caramel dipping sauce.
They were loved so much that we had to order some more to stop an argument over the last one! We also tried Vietnamese fried bananas coated in breadcrumb and crunchy nuts, served with a cinnamon ice cream and fresh lime.
All the staff were lovely, relaxed with their approach and very knowledgable about the food and drink available. They were all great with the boys too, which makes Tampopo a smashing place to take the children.
Yes there is chilli, spice and things you know about but don’t necessarily cook with at home each day, but take your children and just get stuck right in. It’s fresh, delicious and awakens all your senses five-fold. I’ve felt inspired to inject a little more pizzazz into my own cooking at home with some fresh chilli, lemon grass and lime to get me started as I don’t want my far eastern adventure to end.