Harden's - Reviews
• Albert Square - For a “light”, “fresh“ and “interestingly different” bite at “reasonable prices”, this noodle bar near the Town Hall continues to be a popular recommendation.
• South Parade - “Better than the nearby Wagamama” – this more “authentic” Asian wins praise for its “quick” and “satisfying” food, “friendly” staff and “buzzy” atmostphere.
• Fulham Road - “Cheap and cheerful” but still quite “classy” – this Chelsea canteen is “conveniently located” for the cinema, and its Oriental (“wok and Thai”) cuisine rarely disappoints.
The Times - A first-rate pad thai
It is considered the better of the noodle options in town, with choices ranging from Japanese ramen and Vietmanese pho This basement restaurant goes one up on the bare-bench and shared-table brigade, offering a stylishly minimalist décor, a relaxed vibe and good value. It is considered the better of the noodle options in town, with choices ranging from Japanese ramen and Vietmanese pho, to laksa from Singapore and tom yam from Thailand. Similarly, sushi takes its place alongside grills, yakitori and tempura. The results are mostly accomplished, including gyoza (delicious Japanese dumplings filled with minced pork, bamboo shoot and spring onion, with a soy dip) and a first-rate pad thai.
Evening Standard - Where I've been this week
Tampopo and Wagamama, Londonwide - Both doing the Asian noodles, ramen thing and both about the same price, but the fact is that Tampopo is simply better. Had both this week. Chicken ramen in Waga is insipid and the juices look like bilge. Tampopo’s Laksa – spicy coconut broth with prawn, chicken and tofu at about £6 is a revelation.
Tampopo, the thinking noodle eater’s Wagamama (or is it the other way round?) are launching a new eaterie in Manchester’s Triangle shopping centre. It aims to recreate the look and atmosphere of an Asian courtyard, selling authentic ‘street food’. That should keep up the strength of the skate boys. Tampopo takes its name from a film chronicling the quest to find a perfect bowl of noodle soup. It began in our own Albert Square 10 years ago – I’ve always been a big fan – and has recently expanded to open a fourth branch in London’s Fulham Road
Evening Standard - Where I've been this week
This small chain of simply kitted-out restaurants serves the best, and most authentic, Asian street food in London. Seating is at benches. Goi Cuon (refreshing Vietnamese rice-paper rolls with crunchy vegetables, glass noodles, mint and Asian basil), the superb Som Tam (a Thai salad of papaya, peanuts with lime and chilli) and Daging Lembu Goreng (Malaysian strips of steak, fresh ginger and shallots). With a couple of Tiger beers you’re all in for about £20.
Observer - Food Monthly
Stunning East Asian food in big servings at small prices.
We were seated at one of the large communal tables, Kirin beer (a Japanese favourite) in hand as the restaurant buzzed around us. The service was quick and the generous meals were swiftly delivered. We shared a laksa (why are they so hard to find in London?) which was great, before tucking into the biggest plate of mee goreng I’ve ever seen. My only complaint? With such large servings, you’re undoubtedly going to want a doggy bag (they don’t do them for soups).
Back in 1997, university buddies, David Fox and Nick Jeffrey, decided that they could make a business from their experiences travelling. Tampopo was born, Based upon the staples of noodles and rice, they sought to bring a taste of Asia to Manchester. Explains Nick: “Manchester seemed the logical base. It displayed a progressive culture and embraced ethnic cuisine. Plus, we realised that it would be harder to get a business going in London”. After building up a devout following and a strong identity, two other sites followed, one in the shopping mecca The Trafford Centre and the second in Leeds. “Three sites, all under the same design theme – which was characterised by minimalism, communal dining and open kitchens – that’s where we were at”.
So where next? 'Something more intimate, more cosy, seemed a good progression, but our main concern was that the interior had to reflect the ethnic style of the cuisine". After referring back to past issues of theme magazine, a shortlist of designers was drawn up. A chance visit to another ethnically styled restaurant in the capital pushed Ou Baholyodhin's name to the fore, and the decision was made.
So what made them choose Ou? "It was a meeting of minds", asserts Nick. "In an instant he grasped what we were trying to do". The fact that Ou is still working in South East Asia was also a huge plus point. "He has recently been designing a restaurant in Phuket, and because he is in touch with current trends over there, he offers fresh interpretations on the theme that we are going with", says David. "He has acted as the perfect bridge", embellishes Nick. "He is in touch with Asian culture but also has an appreciation of Western styles. We couldn't have asked for a better combination".
Looks-wise, it was decided that the interior should be humble and informal, reflecting the style of the vendors of street food that had first influenced the concept.
An open kitchen kicks things off, with communal tables and fixed individual stools, filling the open space. Emphasising the rustic nature of the cuisine, a plethora of different textures have been used from pierced timber screens to Balinese pebbled walls. Pendant lights add after dark shimmer to the scheme, their shades bringing a flash of colour during day.
In addition to the change in appearance, Tampopo has also expanded its culinary range to offer greater experiences for diners. "We have expanded the menu to illustrate the cooking styles of more countries, to offer customers a greater variety off flavours", explains Nick. "Next, we'd like to lead people away from their favourite dish to explore the differences more. To really get to grips with the different nooks and crannies of styles of food".
Fashionable noodle bar with prompt service and well-priced, tasty food. Try the light and crispy tempura vegetables (£3.50) and the agadashi tofu-fried beancurd served with pak-choi and ginger and bean sauce (£2.95).
The soups are thick and hearty, the stir-fry selection is mixed and tasty and the noodle dishes were a real treat. Everything came in enormous white bowls and no matter what main course you ordered, it seemed to be priced around seven or eight pounds. Extras and starters range from spicy pickled cabbage at just over £1 to meat dumplings at just less than £4.
Whatever you choose, you get the feeling that it is unlike anything you’ve had before and for that reason … it’s worth the trip.
The Independent - Best of Manchester
"Divine fast food eaten on communal wooden benches," says Jo Hartley. Tony Wilson loves it too: "as Western noodle bars go, this northern independent is the best yet", he says. Slurp up seemingly bottomless bowls of noodle soup, plus tempura, filled dumplings and Japanese beer, at waiting-for-payday prices.
Manchester based noodle outfit Tampopo, which has announced its first foray into London. The new site on Fulham Road will open at the end of August. It’s a triumph for the small chain whose first outlet opened six years ago in Albert Square and has since expanded to Leeds and the Trafford Centre, and is also a good sign of the company holding its own against competition from the Manchester outpost of the London based Wagamama.
Manchester 's original noodle bar is still by far its best. And it just got better with the introduction of a new menu. Tampopo was such an instant hit in Manchester that the astute owners were actually scared to change anything.
They’ve sneakily tweaked a few dishes over the years' to make them more authentic, but the recent menu overhaul is the first time a Tampopo classic has bit the dust.
The departure of Mee Penang has certainly left a hole in many Manc’s hearts. The bulgogi thin slices of beef marinated in rice wine soy and sesame oil - is the best I’ve tasted outside Korea, although you're denied the pleasure of cooking it yourself at the table.
Whilst both chao tom deep fried skewers of minced prawn, with sweet chilli and pho bo beef and flat rice noodle broth with mint, Asian basil and limejuice ¨ are as authentic as they would be in Vietnam.
Elle Magazine - Eat Manchester - Hip
Central, bustling and beloved, the mint-green walls and communal tables of this smoke-free Japanese space make for an airy space to stop for a slurp-me-up noodle fest with your sisters in shopping. What my combat-trousered and my little sister says “a bejewelled diva can resist veggie tempura, while deciding on a main dish from Laos or Japan? Don't giggle when you order the sweet punani dessert now, will you?"
A key selling point of Tampopo is that its well-constructed menu allows diners to sample dishes from across East Asia at one sitting. Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian and Japanese noodle dishes bursting with flavour and reminiscent of food snatched at a bustling stall in Bangkok or Penang or the noodle vendors of Singapore and Tokyo jostle alongside authentic rice, soup and salad dishes.
The food is quite simply superb. Fresh and alive with colour and taste, the food is well presented and arrives in abundant portions. And like traditional Asian cooking, it is mostly healthy.
One of the best starters on the menu is the deep fried coconut prawns - a Thai speciality and the most expensive at £4.95.
We also sampled the Satay chicken skewers of grilled chicken breast with peanut dip - (£4.75), Yakitori from Japan - two skewers of chicken breast and spring onion in teriyaki sauce - (£4.50) and giant Japanese Tempura vegetables (£3.75). Of the rice main meal dishes, prawns in coconut and Asian basil sauce from Indonesia was a visual as well as literal feast. Chubby prawns with tumeric, basil, yellow peppers, shallots and coconut in a sauce that carried a kick in its tail was excellent and filling for £7.50. Mee Penang (£7.95) derived from the island of Penang in Malaysia another favourite. Chicken in a spiced curry and coconut sauce was buried in bean shoots and a weight of noodles.
The Japanese vegetarian dish Yasai Yaki Udon was simple but good - a range of vegetables and white noodles with soy sauce, ginger and chilli. (£6.75).
Because the food is healthy, the figure-conscious have a ready-made excuse for sampling one of the excellent desserts. The ginger creme brulee (£3.50), served with a sprig of mint, is good and there is no substitute for quality chocolate ice cream (£2.95).
What will be obvious by now is that another fine feature of the restaurant is the price.
Manchester 's original 'noodle bar', Tampopo is still preferred by many despite the rise of competitors. The Japanese-influenced interior with communal bench seating and bright airy ambience is surprisingly warm and inviting. In fact, from its prime location on Albert Square, it's rare to see anything but a bustling, teamy and sociable atmosphere at meal-times.
The menu that spans Southeast Asia and the Orient and encourages Epicurean adventures from Thailand through Laos to Indonesia. Look out for huge bowls of Ramen (Japanese noodle soups), fried noodle and rice dishes, speciality sauces, soups and side dishes such as Gyoza dumplings and vegetable tempura. Desserts include the somewhat salaciously titled 'Sweet Punani' and an Eastern influenced crème brulee. Good for vegetarians. Non-smoking.
Briskly enthusiastic staff tap your order into state of the art calculator thingies while you sit at long sheeny tables alongside (gosh) strangers. There's a metallic bar- that is, thank goodness, quite sheeny and you get to watch the chefs dashing around and throwing food together in their hot woks. Exciting. It offers pretty solid value too; you can eat well for less than a tenner and there's no mincing around with cordon bleu splodges.
Theme Magazine - Once upon a time...
Once upon a time there was a lovely little noodle bar in Manchester. It was nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s bars and it served excellent food in pleasant surroundings. It had a small, dedicated following and it was the perfect place to stop for a quick meal. Then gradually, by word of mouth, everyone heard about it and it suddenly became a more coveted place to go than any of the city’s more expensive restaurants and cool bars. Tampopo was, and still is, a little gem of a noodle bar, real breath of fresh air and it has been a great success, so was no surprise that the owners would eventually open other, much larger site in Leeds.
Nick and David are resistant to the idea of Tampopo becoming, or being seen as, a chain restaurant, although the potential is evidently there. I must confess to being selfishly sad that my secret favourite little noodle bar is no longer so secret, but Tampopo deserves its success.
Tampopo is a noodle bar. The customers eat at long wooden benches and the interior is painted white and is decorated with artefacts from South East Asia. The food is based from recipes from Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Korea.
The city centre’s original noodle bar which set the fashion for pan-Asian food served in designer chic, minimalist surroundings. Tampopo adopted a philosophy from the word go that an operation offering what is by and large hawker market street food ought not to be over embellished by too many airs and graces.
It has always been however much more than a casual caff. That’s not to say that Tampopo has stood still in the last couple of years. It did seem to us that the spread of dishes – from Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan – is wider than ever before.
There was something else that was different. The plain white walls of Tampopo had become a picture gallery for an artist. A previous exhibition at the restaurant had caught the eye of famous regulars David and Victoria Beckham who bought one of the works on display.
Tampopo drinks list is a real pleasure to behold. Not only are the best beers in the Orient featured – Kirin from Japan, Thai Singha and Singapore Tiger but there’s freshly squeezed orange juice, home made lemonade and refreshing teas.
Manchester ’s first and finest noodle bar has gone from strength to strength in its short lifetime. This minimalist basement restaurant, with bench seating and tables, promotes a contemporary approach to dining with a flexible menu which is an extensive cruise around southeast Asia, calling at Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia among others. The astute management encourages customers to turn up on spec, only taking bookings for parties of six, but they work this policy well so you never have to wait long for a table. Their star is quickly rising.