With its world-famous football teams, rejuvenated central district and MediaCityUK, Manchester has proudly announced its credentials to become England’s Second City. The restaurant scene is swiftly catching up, and outstanding venues are opening thick and fast. Here we list Manchester’s 10 best places to eat and drink.
Adam Reid at The French
Why: Since taking over from Simon Rogan, Adam Reid has kept The French at the top of Manchester’s restaurant tree. Though the decor within The Midland’s grand dining room remains opulent, the vibe now feels less formal – but the food continues to impress. Thrilling encounters have ranged from nibbles of tempura-style sprouting broccoli dipped into oozing Tunworth cheese with truffle shavings, to a superb dish of heather-smoked duck and preserved-cherry sauce. An utter joy.
Where: The Midland Hotel, 16 Peter Street, Manchester, M60 2DS
Why: Now with Nathaniel Tofan leading the kitchen, Manchester House combines a thrilling industrial-lite restaurant with an über-glamorous bar/lounge – located 10 floors apart in a reconfigured office block. The menus are enticing: from a great-value, well-executed set lunch to multi-course tasting extravaganzas and genteel afternoon teas. Rich confit duck terrine might kick-off lunch, followed by brined, poached chicken breast with roasted salsify, artichoke purée and aromatic truffle vinegar. A must-visit Manchester destination.
Where: Tower 12, 18-22 Bridge Street, Spinningfields, Manchester, M3 3BZ
Why: Opened by former MasterChef winner Simon Wood in the flourishing First Street development, Wood is a large, welcoming venue. Whether you opt for the fine-dining carte, the good-value set lunch or the tasting menu, the kitchen allows fresh ingredients to shine. Starters such as scallop with gremolata and sardine focus on up-front enjoyment, while hearty main courses include flavoursome grilled pork chop in sweet cider jus. Fancy something casual? Try the lounge menu.
Where: Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, Manchester, M15 4RA
Why: Occupying a 19th-floor rooftop, 20 Stories is the first Manchester project from D&D London. The glamorous restaurant and casual grill offer distinct menus, with a cocktail bar and roof terrace boasting 360-degree views. Luxury ingredients feature on the restaurant menu where squab pigeon with cherries might precede John Dory with foamy langoustine velouté. In the grill section, everyday favourites such as cottage pie hold sway. A stunning venue, with service to match.
Where: No.1 Spinningfields, 1 Hardman Square, Manchester, M3 3EB
Why: You know the Hawksmoor drill: great steaks, banging cocktails and the epic dessert that mustn’t be called a giant Ferrero Rocher. The dining space is in several cosy sections thanks to the layout of the old courthouse. A separate bar is ideal for pre-prandial sips. To eat, start with gooey bone marrow or plump scallops with tarragon and garlic. Friendly staff then explain the steak cuts; if you’re hungry choose the 1kg chateaubriand.
Where: 184-186 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WB
El Gato Negro
Why: Chef-patron Simon Shaw has relaunched this stylish tapas bar-restaurant in a historic three-storey building, where floor-to-ceiling windows and an open kitchen grace the first-floor dining room. Here you’re treated to top-flight charcuterie, cheeses and a cavalcade of flawless plates: ‘hot and cold’ sugar-cured mackerel with salt-baked celeriac and grapefruit salad, say, or onglet steaks from the Josper. Make sure to visit the Black Cat upstairs, a beautiful cocktail bar with a retractable roof.
Where: 52 King Street, Manchester, M2 4LY
Why: The Didsbury bistro of barnstorming chef Gary Usher has a relaxed, homely feel. It’s a convivial place for sampling the confident, concise menu – perhaps starting with char-grilled duck hearts with green sauce and brioche. Pan-roasted lamb rump with braised celery and pearl barley might follow, though vegetarians do well too (char-grilled Tenderstem broccoli with swede and walnut vinaigrette, say). Superb-value lunch and early-evening offers also attract locals. An exemplary neighbourhood destination.
Where: 1c School Lane, Manchester, M20 6RD
Where the Light Gets In
Why: Ex-L’Enclume chef Sam Buckley’s curiously named gaff is a bright, loft-style space with views across the rooftops. There’s no regular menu; instead, diners are offered various small plates inspired by what has been foraged, fermented and butchered. Thrilling combinations abound: delicate langoustine carpaccio with rose, plum and lavender, for instance; or slowly roasted pigeon breast and leg accompanied by sweet salt and nutty morels. Electrifying cooking – and a revelation for Stockport.
Where: 7 Rostron Brow, Stockport, SK1 1JY
Why: Indian street-food specialists Bundobust have ventured across The Pennines to open this spacious Piccadilly branch. Inside, seating is at booths or canteen-style. The menu of snacks and sharing plates is equally informal, and entirely vegetarian: the likes of okra fries seasoned with black salt and mango powder, or a special of pav bhaji (a robust veg curry). To drink, 14 keg beers appear alongside two cask lines showcasing local brewers.
Where: 61 Piccadilly, Manchester, M1 2AQ
The Rabbit in the Moon
Why: Housed in Manchester’s famous Urbis building, The Rabbit is a notably classy joint with Michael O’Hare running the kitchen. A revamp has left it brighter and lighter: a fitting space for O’Hare’s technically impressive, Asian-inspired tasting menu. Highlights include mini bao buns stuffed with smoked eel, oyster sauce and avocado; and plump scallops atop crispy duck tongues with rich XO sauce. An elegant, impressive and, above all fun, dining experience.
Where: Urbis building, Cathedral Gardens, Todd Street, Manchester, M4 3BG