Mans Market has been on my list of places to try for years, since I’ve heard brilliant things about the food and unusual eating experience.
Thankfully, this weekend I was able to make that goal a reality when I went to Mans Market for Sunday lunch.
We battled the wind and made it to West Point just after 12. We made our way down the pretty steep staircase at the entrance to the restaurant before arriving at the cosy basement setting. The venue was decorated with Chinese proverbs and quotes on the walls. It was very quiet for a weekend, unusual for Mans Market, which is normally packed with hungry diners, though a big plus for us as it meant we could relax and chat.
We chose to sit at a corner table in plain sight of the kitchen. We loved the open kitchen as it meant we could see, hear and smell the food cooking. After a few minutes to take in our surroundings and enjoy the interesting artwork on the walls, we had the menu and unusual ordering process explained. We were told that the three cards on the table were ready for our orders. One card was to order drinks ‘I’m Thirsty’, one was to order food ‘Feed Me’ and one was to get the bill ‘I wanna go’. To order items, we had to suspend the respective card above the table ready for the waiter or waitress to retrieve. It was a fun process, and one that we would love to see copied elsewhere.
We were given a tray of prawn crackers, or rather a prawn cracker. It was huge and unlike anything we had seen before which made the eating of it even more exciting. We broke the cracker up and dipped it into the sweet chilli dip as we pondered over what to order. Our friendly waitress recommended that we start with the Mans Market sharing box, so that is what we did. The sharing plate offered four of the restaurant’s favourite starters, which included crispy salt and pepper chicken, satay chicken, two prawn sesame toasts and a few crunchy vegetable spring rolls. We enjoyed all of the nibbles – I thought that the prawn toasts were a highlight as they were unexpectedly moist and well-seasoned.
Whilst eating we ordered more dishes. We chose the veggie tempura aubergine bao buns, which were delicious. For me the baos were the highlight of the meal. The huge buns were light and fluffy whilst the aubergine filling was crispy on the outside and soft and steaming in the middle. I loved the aioli sauce and caramelised onions which balanced the otherwise mild dish. The baos were filling and to be honest, could have done me for lunch by themselves. However, we couldn’t resist trying more dishes, so we went on to order again.
We opted for the war tip pork dumplings which were epic. The dumplings were generously filled with sliced pork and they were packed with flavour. The dumplings had been steamed and then fried which gave them a brilliant soft yet crispy texture. They came with an acidic vinegar sauce, which was tasty, but we were also given some soy sauce which went so well with the pork and we preferred that as a dip.
We also wanted to try a main dish, so ordered the Mongolian beef. Whilst the beef was super tender and the soy sauce was well balanced, the ratio of vegetables to meat wasn’t great and we agreed that it would have been better to have had a smaller dish with more meat. Alongside the beef, we opted for a bowl of fried noodles. The bowl was generous and although it was tasty, we couldn’t manage the whole thing. If you like noodles, they could have been a main dish on their own!
We were both pretty full from the lunch, but we always struggle to leave a restaurant without at least trying one of the desserts. The sweet menu at Mans Market is not extensive, in fact it’s pretty much just ice cream, but to try something a bit different, we went for the deep-fried vanilla ice cream. We were both intrigued by the concept but when the bowl was served, we were a little underwhelmed. The ice cream was hard, I expect because it had been deep-frozen to allow it to cope with deep frying, but it made it difficult to cut into to scoop. Also, the pastry coating was thin which meant that it went soggy quickly. We agreed that it would have been better to have had a smaller ice cream scoop with a thicker batter coating. We would also have liked to have had a choice of ice cream flavours, but can understand that it requires prep.
Overall, we had a lovely lunch at Mans Market and would recommend the Hong Kong eatery to all. The ordering concept is cool and worth a trip to Mans Market just to try it out for yourself. The menu is definitely best enjoyed like tapas, with several dishes to share amongst the table.
Although the restaurant was quiet when we went, we have been told that it is usually very busy, so if you are looking to try out the cool Chinese eatery, be sure to book beforehand.