Michelin star restaurants Manchester: the complex history between the food guide and the northern city

So, why are there so few Michelin star restaurants in Manchester?

Updated on 24 November 2021 • Written By Caroline Hendry

Michelin star restaurants Manchester: the complex history between the food guide and the northern city

Whether you’re a restaurant lover or simply a casual diner, it’s likely that you’ve heard of the Michelin guide. This annual food bible doles out awards to what they consider to be the UK’s finest restaurants, and has international outposts around the globe too. However, despite Manchester’s ever-expanding food scene, the guide has historically overlooked the city. So, what is the deal with Michelin and Manchester?

The Michelin guide was created by French tyre company Michelin, and continues to be published by them to this day. The first edition of the guide was published in 1900, but then it was simply a publication to encourage more people to drive which featured useful information for motorists, such as maps and listings for nearby hotels. Later on, restaurant reviews were added and the first edition of the Michelin guide as we know it was published in 1926, which saw the initial introduction of the star system (at this time, just one star could be awarded).

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Eventually, the guide introduced the two- and three-star ratings that we know today, and went on to become extraordinarily popular. Now, ‘Michelin’ is a byword for must-visit restaurants up and down the country, so it’s no surprise that the people of Manchester want their restaurants to be recognised by the famed guide.

According to the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2020, the UK boasts 187 Michelin-starred restaurants. However, readers may be shocked to learn that just one of those restaurants can be found in Manchester, despite it being one of the largest cities in the country. The sole Manchester restaurant baring a star is fine-dining establishment Mana, which achieved the historic feat just one year after opening.

When Mana received the accolade in October of 2019, it became the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Manchester since 1977.

Michelin star restaurants Manchester

There might only be one, but it's a good'un.

Mana, Ancoats

What: Mana is a fine-dining restaurant headed up by chef Simon Martin, formerly of two Michelin-starred Noma in Copenhagen. The restaurant’s sole offering is its 12-17 course tasting menu, which is a hyper-seasonal affair that evolves depending on which produce is available at the time. On our visit, we were thoroughly impressed by the likes of Devon smoked eel marinated in blueberry vinegar, and crisp fried reindeer moss topped with cep powder and thyme salt. One look at the prices will tell you that dining at Mana is definitely in special occasion territory; however, the lunch menu is priced at a slightly less daunting £65, offering an easier way in.
Where:
42 Blossom Street, M4 6BF
Book now: Mana

Manchester restaurants with a Bib Gourmand 

There is only one restaurant in Manchester with a Bib Gourmand and that’s El Gato Negro. So, what is a Bib Gourmand? The accolade is a level below a Michelin Star and indicates a restaurant that serves "quality food at a value price’’. Not to be knocked as Michelin’s less-valued award, the Michelin guide isn’t all about fine dining and duly recognises restaurants that offer truly great food at a price bracket for everyone.  

El Gato Negro 

What: Occupying three floors of an elegant converted townhouse, the bar and restaurant serves tapas dishes that combine modern and traditional Spanish flavours and techniques. It’s privy to multiple awards, including a Bib Gourmand, and features dishes such as salt cod croquetas with piquillo pepper purée and aioli, meatballs in tomato fritarda sauce and spiced aubergine with onion confit, fritarda sauce and lavosh bread.  
Where: 52 King Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 4LY 
Book now: El Gato Negro 

Manchester restaurants included in the Michelin guide 

There might only be one Michelin starred restaurant in Manchester, but the foodie city is home to many restaurants that feature in the Michelin guide which is an achievement in itself. Take a look.  

Erst 

What: Erst is a natural wine bar and restaurant serving a seasonal, sharing-style small plate menu. Simple, pared-back interiors complement a concise menu, but don’t be fooled. The dishes here are high quality stuff: think venison carpaccio with fermented celeriac, hazelnut and rocket, grilled flatbread and confit onions and bay pannacotta with prunes and PX. Sip on a selection of carefully selected natural wines from small producers alongside. 
Where: 9 Murray Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 6HS 
Book now: Erst 

Canto 

What: From the team behind El Gato Negro (above) comes Canto, a bright and cheerful space serving a small plate Portuguese menu. Spacious and warm interiors create a chilled-out setting in which to feast on a series of well-executed dishes – the salt cod fritters with tartare sauce are a must.  
Where: 16 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 5AN 
Book now: Canto 

20 Stories 

What: 20 Stories is the first Manchester project from the D&D London restaurant group and treads the line between glamourous restaurant and causal grill. Check out the rooftop garden terrace for amazing views of the city while you dine.  
Where: No 1 Spinningfields, 1 Hardman Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 3EB 
Book now: 20 Stories 

The Bull & Bear 

What: The Bull & Bear is chef Tom Kerridge’s northern debut, with the aim of bringing a piece of Marlow up North. Plush interiors feature green banquettes, leather armchairs and lots of gold, while the menu (it serves food from breakfast through to dinner) offers elevated twists on classic dishes. Try short rib of Yorkshire beef with pomme anna "Reuben" and mushroom XO glaze or duck liver parfait with fig and cherry chutney and toasted brioche.  
Where: 4 Norfolk Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 1DW 
Book now: The Bull & Bear 

Allotment 

What: It’s great to see vegan restaurants gaining recognition and Allotment is one of them. Serving modern plant-based plates in a rustic setting, it’s up there with the best vegan restaurants in Manchester 
Where: Lloyds House 18-22 Lloyd Street, Manchester, M2 5WA 
Book now: Allotment 

Tast 

What: Tast offers three dining experiences under one roof: a casual restaurant, a bar and fine dining. As well as serving a collection of classic Catalan dishes, the menu features ‘tastets’ designed for sharing, while in the fine dining restaurant there are a choice of tasting menus to take you on a culinary Spanish journey.  
Where: 20-22 King Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 6AG 
Book now: Tast 

63 Degrees 

What: Why 63 degrees? Apparently, it's the perfect temperature to brew coffee while also being the key to many of its slow and low-cook dishes on the menu. Designed to bring a taste of Paris to Manchester, diners can indulge in French favourites such as chicken ‘63 degrees’ with truffle paste, duckling fillet with blackberry reduction and whole lobster with tarragon.  
Where: 20 Church Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1PN 
Book now: 63 Degrees  

The history of Michelin stars on Manchester’s restaurant scene

Mana may be the only restaurant in Manchester to currently boast a Michelin star, but it isn’t the first restaurant in the city to ever receive the accolade. In 1974, Adam Reid at The French became the first (and only) Manchester city centre restaurant to be awarded a star, which it retained until 1977.

In 1998, Greater Manchester restaurant Juniper, based in Altrincham, was awarded one Michelin star, which it kept for 11 years until the departure of chef Paul Kitching. Manchester has never been home to a two- or three-star Michelin restaurant, but these are harder to come by – there are currently just seven three-Michelin starred restaurants in the whole of the UK.

The dining room at Michelin House in Chelsea, London

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does it mean to be in the Michelin guide?

Michelin stars are a rating system used by the Michelin guide to determine the quality of a restaurant. According to the guide’s current specifications, one Michelin star signifies “a very good restaurant”, two represents “excellent cooking that is worth a detour” and three stars means “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey”.

Can you be awarded four Michelin stars?

There is often confusion surrounding just how many Michelin stars it is possible for a restaurant to receive. However, the highest accolade that Michelin currently awards is three stars.

Do you apply for a Michelin star?

No, there is no way for a restaurant to guarantee that it will be awarded a Michelin star. Michelin’s team of inspectors are entirely anonymous and pay for their meal in full, without the chef or waiting staff knowing that they are dining at the restaurant.

Can you lose a Michelin star?

Receiving a Michelin star is often the highlight of a chef’s career, but the guide also has the power to take them away. Throughout the years, several restaurants have lost stars following the departure of chefs or a change in standards.

Whether they have recognition from Michelin or not, there’s no denying that Manchester’s restaurant scene is a force to be reckoned with. Don’t believe us? Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Manchester.