I genuinely feel a rush of excitement as I am typing this post- mainly because I have not been this happy over food for a long long time. As many of you know, I regularly review Manchester bars and restaurants, and I do tend to only feature them on whatemmadid.com if I am happy all round with the place. I’m fairly lucky; I have had a really good run with the eateries I have visited as of late.
However, the most recent place I dined at has topped them all, and the poor people who got to spend time with me over the recent weekend heard nothing else from me except my constant ramblings about how I have had the best Duck of my life. Well… it is kind of a big deal, and if your rating it, why not shout about it? Introducing Manchester’s Vivid Lounge…
Vivid Lounge is situated in Ancoats, which is the area of the city centre heading slightly North, behind Piccadilly train station. It actually sits at the foot of the Islington Wharf apartments, in the Higher Islington area of Manchester, and at first glance you may not expect it to be a Thai fusion themed eatery.
That could also possibly be because it isn’t just a Thai place – Vivid Lounge caters breakfasts and snacks to suit traditional tastes, and also have the scrummiest selection of home baked cakes and biscuits, coffees and teas, wines, beers and soft drinks. So a little bit about the interior first, as lets face it, we do always judge a place by it’s appearance first hand, which is terrible but we are all guilty of it.
Vivid Lounge is fairly impressive by appearance. It isn’t anything flash or over trendy, but it does have a modern touch and it’s usage of floor to ceiling windows make the place intriguing to look into, and just as intriguing to look out from when sat inside.
It actually over looks the 200 year old Ashton Canal, and I did feel for a moment as if I was situated away from the city centre when I had a little glance around at the surroundings (which is a good thing, as I currently live here!). The vibe is fairly laid back- I attended on a Friday evening at 6pm and there were a number of gatherings for early diner along with after-work drinks, so the bar had a nice buzz to it, but nothing overly rowdy or over noisy.
Myself and my guest were greeted by very happy looking staff, who lead us to a table and left us to browse the menu at our own leisure. Vivid Lounge has what I like to call the relaxed bar ordering system, where you can catch up with friends and talk for 15 minutes before actually deciding what to eat and making an order. I do sometimes hate it when I’m still chatting away and I am blatantly annoying the waiter when they ask me why I haven;t chosen a dish yet…
Anyhow, onto the exciting bit which is of course the food and drink. The first thumbs up was when I requested a bottle of red wine and the first choice offered was a Malbec. My very favourite red wine and you really can’t go wrong with a decent bottle of this stuff on a Friday evening. Plus, a rich red wine usually compliments Thai and Asian cuisines fairly well I seem to think. That may just be me, but I was more than happy with the choice. And the red wine was truly delicious, I’m pleased to add.
So going back to the food, as it was 6pm on a Friday, we could order from the diner menu that focuses on home cooked Thai dishes.
The starters consisted of Shiitake Spring Rolls, Spicy Tomato Dip (with free-range mince pork, pork crackling and vegetables) Pork Skewers, Edameme Beans, Thai Fish Cakes and Veg Tempura.
I opted for the Shiitake Spring Rolls, which came as handmade spring rolls stuffed full of shiitake and oyster mushrooms and served with homemade chilli dip. If you love mushrooms, then you will love these, they were ridiculously tasty. And the nicest thing about this starter was that for a Thai eatery, they weren’t dripping with grease. Just crispy and tasty spring rolls.
My guest had the Thai cakes and they too were full of flavour, coming as a generous portion size. The starters are all priced at £4.95 which is definitely worth the value.
Now for the most amazing part – the Duck and Taramind Sauce with Jasmine Rice. A concoction of slow roasted crispy duck topped with homemade tamarind sauce on a bed of mixed leaf, and a sprinkling of fried red shallot. Perfection.
I love duck, and thought I had experienced the nicest tasting duck during a meal at Beach Blanket Babylon in Shoreditch, London, but now I know I was wrong! This is by far the nicest Thai fusion duck I have ever tasted. It was a mixture of sweet yet sour, with a real Asian kick to it, but not too spicy in the slightest. The duck was so soft to eat – it had the nicest of textures.
My guest had the Pad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle dish served with stir-fried eggs, homemade tamarind pulp, garlic, king prawns, red chilli, peppers and seasonal vegetable with lime wedges and chopped roast peanuts. I was too busy enjoying my duck to try some of hers, but she did say it was delicious! I may also add that the presentation of food was 10 out of 10 – completely spot on.
For a cafe style eatery, you don’t always expect food presentation to be a priority, but Vivid Lounge have really nailed the art of serving up pretty looking food. Hats off to the chef serving up rustic Thai food in the kitchen – he was definitely proved that his Thai cooking skills are second to none.
As well as incredible Thai food that I have been blessed to try (that’s how much I enjoyed it!) I want to head back to Vivid Lounge and indulge in their breakfast and lunch menu’s too. For those early mornings, they serve up a Full English Breakfast along with a Mini English Breakfast, depending on how hungry you may be.
But if it’s healthy options you want, then there is Steel Cut Oats too (As described on the menu- Organic steel cut porridge Oats slowly cooked in coconut milk and almond butter and served with chopped banana, walnuts, brown sugar, and seeds-that’s a personal breakfast favourite of mine!).
The lunch menu takes on the Thai twist again, with favourites such as Chicken Fried Rice, Pork Satay Skewers and Green Thai Chicken Curry. If you love Thai food – I really recommend coming down to Vivid Lounge and trying it out for yourself. The best thing is that Vivid Lounge is possibly most enjoyed in the Summer, with it’s external terrace and views of the canal. And seeing as we are in Mid May, then your in for an ever better experience!
I genuinely am overjoyed to have discovered this little Ancoats gem, and will be recommending it to everyone coming to Manchester who is looking for breakfasts, coffee and cakes, and of course, Thai food. Ten out of ten!