I’ll be honest, I was confused when I first heard that Man’s Market was coming to Leeds. Where in the basements of West Point, one of Leeds’ largest block of flats, is there space for a restaurant? Apparently this wasn’t obvious to the owners either, who purchased the plot as a concrete room used occasionally for landlord’s storage. But they some how transformed it into, what is currently, Leeds’ most talked about Chinese restaurant at the end of the 2016. We checked it out as a birthday treat on a Monday evening in December.
Mans Market advertises itself as a new age Chinese bar and restaurant, a niche offering for Leeds in my opinion. It’s a bit of a way from the heart of the city centre, and I struggle to think they will get a lot of passing custom. But being the only one of its kind in Leeds (for now), I can imagine people would walk that little bit extra to get there.
From first glance, it wasn’t obvious that it was open. The blacked out door, next to a well-lit Primo’s, isn’t the most inviting entrance. But the door opened, and lead us down to a surprisingly huge place. There’s always a risk with basement restaurants. You have to commit to entering before you know how busy, or empty, it is. Unless you want to brutally walk out, mid convo with the host, when you realise it’s dead. Unfortunately on this occasion, we were the first people in the restaurant, but I’m not blaming them for this!
The interior is clever. Industrial meets oriental, with concrete block work covered in Bruce Lee posters. Above every table there’s a peg hanging from the ceiling. The idea is that you mark up on one of the menus what food you want, clip it to the peg, and someone will come over and take it. If you want more food or drinks, you just clip up another menu. A bit of a gimmick, but a great idea when the place gets busy as it means you don’t have to mess around trying to get someone’s attention. It was a bit awkward when the place was nearly empty though. It got busier as the night went on, but I can imagine the atmosphere is a lot better when it’s full.
We stacked up on some smaller dishes to start with: prawn and sesame toast, pork and prawn (Siu Mai) dim sum, chocolate and coffee ribs and some salt and pepper chips (has to be done). The sesame toast was an interesting version of a classic, made with sliced baguette that actually looked toasted instead of deep fried as you expect. The dim sum was nice, but not the best I’d eaten. And I really wasn’t sure about the ribs – I think they’ve tried to go full on hipster with these, and ended up with something that’s way too rich to enjoy. But…this was all rectified by the salt and pepper chips. Okay, they aren’t the most traditional Chinese food, or a challenge to cook, but they were delish! So good, in fact, that we had to order a second bowl!
Fairly full on starters, we went on to share a couple of larger dishes – yellow bean and cashews with chicken and some fried noodles. They were nice and presented well in skillet pans…but both were salt-heavy with very similar tastes. I liked the chunky veg in the yellow bean dish though, and the fact that the noodles were thin which makes a change from your standard chow-mein style strands. The portion size was a bit on the small side to be honest and wouldn’t be enough to fill you up on their own, but the prices aren’t too steep, with most mains coming in at £8.50 (the exception being sweet and sour chicken, which seems like a random dish to charge £12 for, and salmon).
Overall, I like the concept of this place. It’s about time Chinese restaurants had a revamp and Mans Market has made a good job of doing this. But I wasn’t overly impressed by the food. I’d happily give it another go, but nothing I ate is drawing me back, except the salt and pepper chips! Next time I’ll see what the the roast duck and pork is saying.