You've probably walked past Happy Seasons 100s of times and seen a queue snaking out the door. Theres always a queue.
Having people willing to wait up to half an hour for your food is a really good sign. Another barometer of a really good ethnic restaurant is seeing plenty of people from that region of the world eating there. A quick scan of the room anytime I eat in Happy Seasons and at least 70% of the faces enjoying their meals are Asian.
As if the signs weren't good enough when I walked in the fact that a skilled chef was expertly chopping up Peking duck that hung all around him filled me with more confidence. There is something very refreshing and honest about seeing food prepared in front of you.
The only people I'd advise to avoid this place are vegetarians. It's not that there aren't some great items on the menu for them but the ducks hanging in the window along with steaming plates of meat passing your table every 30 seconds and a stock pot of boiling bones emitting a strong meaty fragrance could put them off.
The decor here is best described as cheap and cheerful. That's probably a compliment to be honest but you don't come here for white table cloths and waiters wearing tuxedos. You come here for the food.
I started with a hot and sour soup which was thick, tasty and packed with shrimps, beef, pork and a ton of vegetables. The sort of soup you'd welcome if you were stuck in the Arctic. delicious.
The big win here for me where the dumplings. Unlike other dumplings from around the world like the Japanese version, Chinese dumplings are a messy hot affair.
The waitress helpfully offered me a spoon before I even started sensing the big mess I'd get myself into. Mine were stuffed with delicious prawns and were piping hot, full of that gorgeous sweet natural liquor and wonderfully gloopy in texture. A delight.
After the soup and dumpling I was struggling and wondering why I'd ordered another course but the monkfish was the perfect main. Simply cooked with Chinese vegetables and served with rice it was light, vibrant and everything I'd want from a good fish dish.
The monkfish itself was plentiful and hard to believe it only cost £10 including rice. You wouldn't get a quarter of the portion size in a high end restaurant in the city. The whole meal (with a couple of Cokes) came to £22 which is startling value given the standard of the cooking.
The place is loud, the staff are efficient rather than there to entertain you. It feels more like sitting in a working kitchen crossed with a canteen but that is what I love about it. No bullshit, no airs and graces and just bloody good food.
As I sat there licking my lips pondering a wonderful meal I only had to look at the new queue of 12 people at the door and the packed tables to realise I wasn't the only one enjoying a happy ending to my meal in Happy Seasons.
READ NEXT: Manchester's Top 5 Burritos