"We visited Tai Pan for lunch on a Wednesday and even then is was quite busy, which is often a good sign, especially as it's a little out of town. Being half-term, there was a large number of families in here, both English and Chinese, and the menu seemed to suit both adults and kids alike. Sitting above an amazing Chinese Cash & Carry, which is open to the public, the restaurant is huge (300 seats) although first impressions remind you of a working man's club.
We were greeted abruptly by a guy at the desk who managed to deal with our request for a table of 4 without even raising his eyes from the paperwork he was reading. Another abrupt waiter escorted us to a table and took our drinks order before we'd even sat down, which hinted that the service was going to be very prompt (not a bad thing when you're on a lunch break). Unfortunately however we'd almost finished the drinks (including a very syrupy cola) by the time he'd returned to take our food order, which again was done abruptly (he apparently wasn't happy with the direction around the table we'd taken and bossily made us start again under his instructions).
The menu is excellent, with many Cantonese and Sichuan specialites, set menu's and offers. There's even a whole section of Ostrich dishes. Two of us ordered a 3 course meal from the Business Lunch card (only £9.45), whilst the other two choose a 3 course meal from the a la carte menu. Again, service was shocking with the two a la carte starters (a huge portion of tasty Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup) arriving, and being finished, a good 5 minutes before the two Business Lunch dishes (an equally large and enjoyable Hot & Sour Soup).
Next to arrive was the shared Dim Sum Platter from the a la carte menu, followed almost ten minutes later by the smaller Special Dim Sum selection from the Business Menu (by this point we were timing everything). Tai Pan is famed for its dim sum and we even bumped into a friend during our visit, who proclaimed he went there almost every week because the lunchtime dim sum special offer was so good. We were not bowled over though, it has to be said, with only two steamed offerings to choose from on the Platter of seven or eight selections (none on the Business selection), we've had much better, and less greasy, in Chinatown. On the other hand though, if you love you dim sum deep fried and crispy, then this is the place for you.
By now, we'd inherited a new waitress who was much friendlier and efficient. The timing of the servings also caught up with each other for the main course, and the quality of the dishes was superb - certainly amongst the best Chinese we've had in Manchester - a statement also mirrored by The Good Food Guide, of which Tai Pan has enjoyed an entry for many years. The Ostrich Steak in Honey & Pepper Sauce (from the a la carte menu) was worth the journey alone, whilst the superb Pork in Szechwan Sauce, highlighted how good value the Business Lunch Menu was. If the service, which should have been a lot more attentive throughout, had matched the quality of the food then we would be proclaiming huge things about Tai Pan. As it is, we'll certainly be returning, next time in the evening ahead of a gig at the nearby Apollo Theatre, to see if it fares any better." - restaurants of manchester 28/5/08 (visited on a wednesday lunchtime)