Manchester is now known as one of the most exciting places for food and drink in the UK, so it follows that the best restaurants in Manchester can be considered among the very best in the whole of the country.
It’s always difficult to talk about the best places to eat in a region where there is so much variety. We could easily list over a hundred Greater Manchester restaurants we love here but we’re not sure your attention span is up to that. So we have picked the restaurants we would choose for a special occasion. The ones that do something extraordinary or continue to raise the bar for quality. The ones we would never hesitate to recommend to a friend, and the ones that in a city with enough options to at somewhere different every day of the year, we still head back to time and again.
Read on for our round up of the best restaurants in Manchester.
10 Tib Lane
Don’t get confused and head to Tib Street in the NQ, 10 Tib Lane is tucked away on the lane it’s named after just off Cross Street near the town hall. This one’s an ideal spot to slunk away to for a low-lit rendezvous. Cocktails or wine in the ground floor bar with perhaps a couple of sly oysters are a good shout for a post-work catch up or head upstairs to enjoy the menu of French-ish small plates.
That menu changes frequently so will be different every time you go – and you will go more than once. We’ve very much enjoyed their veg-forward plates, things like red chicory with pickles and candied walnuts, or radicchio, pear and fresh mint all lounging on a bed of pillowy mascarpone. Elsewhere there is usually a beautifully pink onglet or juicy pork chop on the menu, and always multiple inventive seafood options. Think monkfish crudo with oyster leaf, orange and lovage oil, or cod loin with samphire, broad beans and guanciale.
For a city that boasts such culinary prowess as Manchester does, there are precious few French restaurants to be found here. French cuisine is regarded as the bedrock on which all great chefs should build their skills and while you will find its influence everywhere, one of the only restaurants in Manchester actually owned and run by French people is 63 Degrees in the Northern Quarter.
Here you will find such chic dishes as scallop and confit tomato tart, whole Lobster with Kari Gosse (aka Breton curry) butter, and the restaurant’s famous 63 degree chicken which is cooked at the perfect temperature to keep it at its juicy best. The French pillars of foie gras, snails and stinky cheese are all present and correct as is a wine list full of Burgundy’s best and beyond including a great selection of Champagne.
Adam Reid at The French
The French restaurant at Manchester’s famous Midland Hotel (where Rolls met Royce, as the story goes) has long been regarded as one of the finest places to dine in the city. It no longer serves a classic French menu, Mancunian Adam Reid has spent a decade making it his own, but it is an essential if you are working your way around the city’s best restaurants. Modern British is the term used but this is distinctly modern Mancunian. The tasting menu goes from snacks that reinvent childhood dishes like fish pie and sausage rolls through a section of more hearty portions under the heading ‘today’s tea’ (your evening meal is tea, not dinner, if you’re a true northerner), and ‘afters’ that feature yet more nostalgia (it’s rare for custard not to make an appearance) with modern foraging flourishes like meadowsweet or lovage.
It is also one of the most glamorous places you can dine. A recent makeover replaced the formerly lime green walls with a more up to date navy blue, making those signature spherical chandeliers seem even more other worldly, like sparkling moons on a midnight sky. This is the place for one very special date night.
Hotel restaurants can be a bit hit and miss. With a captive audience of people who aren’t necessarily familiar with the city, they don’t always have to work as hard to fill tables and often play it safe with beige, people pleasing menus. The only thing beige at the Alan is the decor, and that’s very much a design choice as part of a modern palette of neutral shades and natural fabrics on an industrial backdrop. Widely appreciated as the city’s most stylish hotel, The Alan’s restaurant has also won over Manchester’s discerning diners – and national critics – with its menu of inventive small plates. When the Head Chef changed in 2023, the restaurant could have gone downhill, but with the appointment of James Hulme, formerly of ambitious indie The Moor, it has gone from strength to strength.
Highlights of the nose to tail menu include aged dairy cow tartare with cured yolk, whipped bone marrow and beef fat breadcrumbs; cavatelli pasta with brown crab and Yorkshire pecorino; and butterbean hummus with smoked salt, blood orange and flatbread. It’s all about salt, fat, acid, and heat, James told us when we interview him about his approach to cooking.
18 Princess St, Manchester M1 4LG
Julian Pizer and Max Yorke opened this hard to find restaurant up on Manchester’s hidden street Deansgate Mews in 2022. Just down the way from previous project 3 Hands Deli, they may have built a reputation for knocking up some of the best butties in town but there is much more to them than sourdough and charcuterie – as this fantastic casual dining project proves.
The small plates menu features some of the most inventive dishes in the city, think sugar cured venison with cocoa nib, kola nut, smoked yoghurt and blackberry, or pearl barley with cider apple, roscoff onion and salsify. There are also updated versions of dishes Pizer made a name for himself with when he was at The Edinburgh Castle: pickled ox tongue with sauce gribiche, and the outrageously good hay roasted hasselback potato with buttermilk and black garlic.
Wine leans towards the low intervention end of things and there’s always a special cocktail or two, all to be enjoyed on the prettiest burnt orange booth seats in the city.
Bar San Juan
The tiny Chorlton tapas joint Bar San Juan is one of those ‘if you know, you know’ places that locals love to keep to themselves. Decked out in the yellow and red of the Spanish flag, the walls are half pretty vintage tiling and half cluttered with ornate framed photos and postcards. Pull up a high stool and order a jug of sangria or a glass of sherry and you could be in any little bar in Spain.
On the menus, you’ll find classic items like croquetas, padron peppers and Iberico ham of course, but there are a few dishes that are less common elsewhere in Manchester. Like the essential order of cojonudo trufado – cojonudo translates as big bollocks – a tapa made of spreadable chorizo and quail eggs on baguette drizzled with truffle oil; carrilleras de ternera – slow cooked beef cheeks with crispy leeks; and brochetas de rape – monkfish skewers on a bed of roast potatoes dressed with Jerez (sherry) vinegar.
56 Beech Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9EG
The Black Friar
After 18 years standing heartbreakingly derelict, Salford’s Black Friar re-opened in 2021 following a £1.4m restoration of this beautiful old pub. Now flanked by modern Salford’s glittering skyscrapers, The Black Friar still boasts a sun trap of a beer garden that is one of the very best places you could find yourself with a cold beer on a hot day. Inside, it’s part pub – maintaining its original charms as much as possible – and part open plan dining area with a black and white tiled floor, a greenhouse style roof and an open kitchen.
Head Chef Ben Chaplin has devised multiple menus to suit the different diners and their designated areas. So you’ll find the pies and sausages of pub grub, freshly fired flatbreads with fancy toppings in the beer garden, and the kind of refined but distinctly northern food that Jay Rayner called “ambitious, big and bullish” in the main dining room. Did we mention they do a cracking Sunday roast too?
There are a few lofty restaurants in Manchester that boast that their views of the city are the best, but the actual best view is from the outdoor terrace at relative newcomer Climat. Our top tip for this popular restaurant is to visit for lunch, that way you are more likely to get a table but you also get to enjoy that view in its full daytime glory. But there are many more reasons why everyone and their corgi is fawning over Climat at the moment.
The food, from the same team as celebrated Chester restaurant Covino (Marina O’ Loughlin is a fan) is inventive, impeccably sourced, and fun – see the weekly changing vol au vent. Other dishes might include veal sweetbread with nettle, pine nuts, lemon and brown butter, or a tandoori spiced cuttlefish with lime pickle and white cabbage, or go large and get a whole John Dory or lamb shoulder for the table to share. Climat calls itself ‘wine-led’ and true enough its wine list is enough to pop any sommelier’s cork. Heavy on the Burgundy, you can politely ask for a little peek into the wine cave to marvel at the selection. Best visited with a generous, wealthy friend who likes showing off about their wine knowledge.
Dishoom is another London born restaurant that we are allowing into our list among our favourite Manchester indies because it’s just too good to leave out. Inspired by the Irani cafe culture of Mumbai, Dishoom’s commitment to its Salman Rushdie-esque tone of voice is commendable in itself. Make sure to have a read of the house rules which include “no combing of hair” and “no poisons, magical drugs or fights between cobra and mongoose”. Spoil sports.
The Manchester Dishoom is housed in the impossibly grand surroundings of the former Freemasons’ HQ of Manchester Hall on Bridge Street. It’s disarmingly huge, made up up multiple dining rooms, all dark wood, stained glass and high ceilings. The menu is designed to share with a mix of familiar grills like sheekh kabab, chicken tikka and grilled paneer alongside small plates like samosas and chaats and a very special cheese on toast. Save room for a kulfi or a Gulkhand Mess “Perfect for the fancy parties thrown by the well-to-do ladies of Malabar Hill”.
The Edinburgh Castle
Having been through a few different kitchen teams all with slightly different approaches since it opened in 2019, This lovingly restored Ancoats pub seems to have finally found its foodie groove under the tutelage of South African Shaun Moffat. Shaun’s CV speaks for itself with stints at the likes of Manteca, Berber & Q and Acme Fire Cult in London and his approach to cooking is from the sustainable nose-to-tail school championed by his hero Fergus Henderson of St John.
A chip butty that features steak tartare on the pub menu got social media all abuzz, and you should certainly try it, but book a table upstairs to really see what’s cooking. Moffatt’s menu is short and sweet and can be shared or taken starters and mains style, however you like it. Think Cinderwood Market Garden celtuce dressed with smoked oysters and Spenwood cheese, Swaledale lamb belly, Pool Hullock broccoli and wild garlic, or a signature pie which might be made with Swaledale beef, Gloucester Old Spot pork, or whichever whole animal is being fashioned into that week’s dishes. Incidentally, every single thing on the menu here comes from British producers which is not as easy as you might think.
El Gato Negro
Chef Simon Shaw quit a high flying role at Harvey Nichols in London to open a Spanish tapas bar in deepest Yorkshire the early 2000s. After winning over locals with the kind of Spanish cookery that wasn’t common in the UK back then, Shaw went on to win the approval of Gordon Ramsay on The F Word and national food critic Jay Rayner. Then he closed his Yorkshire restaurant and uprooted it to Manchester’s King Street.
Now over seven years strong and with outposts in Leeds and Liverpool, El Gato Negro continues to be one of the most consistently excellent places for tapas in the city. It’s always packed full of people knocking back salt cod croquetas and honey drenched goats cheese like they’re going out of fashion. There is an expertly selected Spanish wine list with a range of different sherries or cocktails if you prefer. It also boasts one of the best roof terrace bars in the city – that’s if you can get a space.
One of the early adopters of Ancoats, small plates, and natural wine in Manchester, Elnecot’s Michael Clay is a trailblazing chef and one of Manchester’s most creative. One of the more casual restaurants on our list, Elnecot is well known for its Sunday roast and for being one of the few brunch menus in the city that features both pork belly and lamb shoulder, but make sure you also try the ever-evolving small plates menu or one of the regular themed supper clubs.
Dishes are inspired by Clay’s travels all over the world but link back to his northern roots. They might include things like fried squid with cultured butter and fermented habanero, Shropshire veal and bone marrow curry with garlic and onion seed bread and kefir, or his famous sexy cabbage.
From the team behind its Ancoats neighbour, Trove – a Levenshulme-born bakery at the forefront of Manchester’s indie sourdough wave – Erst arrived quietly in 2019 with a left field approach to small plates. Early menus featured ox heart and cured salt cod at a time before ingredients like these were showing up on half the menus in Manchester. Fast forward several years and Erst has stuck to its guns while the rest of the city has fallen into step alongside it. Critics from all over the UK have now visited to shower it in praise.
But what is it about Erst that’s so easy to love? The menu is as minimalist as the decor – and the amount of intervention used in producing the wines on the list. Star ingredients shine from the plate with a light touch. Oysters, mussels, steak tartare, dishes are tweaked for the seasons rather than huge menu overhauls. If you visit every couple of months, you’ll always spot something new and your old favourites might be wearing a new frock. There are always a couple of seafood dishes alongside something meaty, at time of writing it’s hogget leg. Pannacotta shows up on the dessert menu often with a seasonal fruit or herb flourish. But we suspect the biggest draw is the most simple dish of all, a puffed and blackened flatbread doused with either melting lardo or garlicky olive oil. It’s the simple things.
Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop
There aren’t many chefs in Manchester who can boast that they have cooked for five out of the last six US presidents, championship boxers and Man United footballers. Exec Chef Ryan Stafford of Fold Bistro has done all that and more in his career so far but he has now brought all that experience back to Marple, the town where grew up.
Fold is strictly in Marple Bridge, that pretty little section of Marple just over the other side of the River Goyt. But either way, it’s a short skip from Marple train station if you’re not lucky enough to be local. Many of the dishes are inspired by nostalgic childhood foods like Scampi Fries, chippy teas and Lancashire hot pot, but don’t take these themes too literally, this is definitely on the fine dining end of the scale. Fold is not just a bistro but also a bottle shop, and it would be rude not to take a few bottles home after dinner.
One of the only restaurants on our list that isn’t Manchester born and bred, upscale steakhouse Hawksmoor may have originated in London but it has been adopted as an honorary Mancunian. A favourite for a business lunch or a Sunday roast, the buzzy dining room at Hawksmoor does have kind of a London feel to it, all chatter and clatter and surprisingly good tunes. You might even spot the odd celebrity tucking into a round of oysters.
The staff here are known for their down to earth charm and are some of the most knowledgeable and professional you will find anywhere in the region. But before you even think about sitting down for dinner, you must dip into Hawksmoor’s cocktail menu, it’s one of the best in the city. We recommend the sour cherry negroni if you like things bittersweet. Otherwise, they do a very good lychee martini. Dinner will almost certainly revolve around impeccably sourced beef from chateaubriand to rump and chips – and you’d be a fool not to add a ramekin of wobbly anchovy hollandaise on the side. If you’re not a red meat fan, worry not, there are oysters, chargrilled monkfish, brined and garlic buttered chicken and even (whisper it) vegetarian options on the menu.
Higher Ground may be one of the newest restaurants on our list but Joe Otway, Richard Cossins and Daniel Craig Martin are far from new to the game. The trio met while working at places like Blue Hill at Stone Barns in NYC and Relais Copenhagen and Joe also did time at Stockport’s Where The Light Gets In before they opened their own wine bar with small plates called Flawd in 2021. In 2023 they finally opened Higher Ground on the edge of Chinatown, a project that had been in the works for almost five years. A few months later it was named one of the best restaurants in the UK – alongside Michelin starred mana, the only other Manchester restaurant on the list – at The National Restaurant Awards.
What’s so good about it? Commitment to produce is a biggie. From fruit and veg that comes from their own organic farm, Cinderwood Market Garden in Cheshire, to the whole animals that they butcher and use every part of, you can be certain that they care about where every bit of food on the plate comes from. Less locally, they even ship in the fairest traded sugar around from Colombia to use in a simple but effective treacly scoop of ice cream. Leading FOH, Cossins’ service comes from the school of welcoming you like an old friend. The atmosphere is relaxed with great tunes, an open kitchen and a wine room full of low intervention stars.
If you want a real showstopper of a restaurant for a meal with a big group of friends – and the freshest seafood you can possible get your hands on – Live Seafood is the one. This old school Chinese restaurant on Ashton Old Rod (not far from the Etihad) specialises in seafood which is kept live in tanks ready to cook freshly to order. Think wild king crab, lobster, razor clams and turbot, all cooked in either Cantonese or Sichuan style to your preference.
Elsewhere on the menu you will find geoduck or arctic clam sashimi, stir fried frog’s legs, whole dover sole, and the luxurious ‘Buddha Jumps Over The Wall’ with chicken, sea cucumber, scallops, baby abalone and more simmered together slowly in chicken broth. Fish and seafood is often sold at ‘market price’ so ask how much it is before ordering if you don’t want to be in for a shock as some of this seafood is highly prized with a price to match. Decor is understated, it’s all about the food here.
When talking about Manchester’s top restaurants, it would be remiss not to mention the place that brought a Michelin star back to the city centre after 40 odd years. Famously steely eyed and laser-focused chef Simon Martin opened mana in 2019 and less than a year later brought home the spangler that had eluded other deserving restaurants on this list for decades.
But what is it like to eat there? An ever-changing menu takes in at least 12 courses with plenty of special FX from smoke, heat and ice along the way. Commonly recurring ingredients include eel, duck and langoustines all infused with some kind of witchcraft that heightens their flavour and texture beyond anything you’ve tasted before. There’s plenty of Japanese and ESEA influence so you might be presented with a savoury chawanmushi or a kakigori dessert. The wine list includes show off bottles aplenty but also rarer finds and surprisingly affordable options. It might feel like the kind of place you need to dress up to the nines for but we’ve seen plenty of people dining in sportswear at mana. Very Manchester.
Manchester has more than its fair share of Indian and Pakistani restaurants keeping its inhabitants’ appetite for curry in all its forms sated. At one time, many of these were concentrated on Wilmslow Road in Rusholme, a stretch that became known as The Curry Mile. These days, that stretch is a bit more eclectic, with a bigger concentration of kebabs than curries, many of which are very deserving of your time. But for a special occasion Indian meal, our money is always on the OG Mughli. Not to be confused with Nisha Katona’s restaurant chain Mowgli (although that’s not bad), Mughli is a Rusholme institution that has been going strong since 1991.
Yes there’s curry (or kari) from butter chicken to jalfrezi “do-pyaaz” and a garlic, coconut and almond korma modernised by Manchester’s second generation to be “unapologetically unauthentic”. But ignore the charcoal pit (or koyla) section at your peril because Mughli’s tandoori chicken thighs, charred lamb chops and scorpion prawns are the stuff dreams are made of.
Another recently opened restaurant, Musu is one of the most expensive on our list and thus a favourite of footballers and other wealthy diners. Chef patron Michael Shaw made his name in Manchester at The White Hart gastropub at Lydgate near Oldham. His career also took in stints at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Gordon Ramsay’s Aubergine and Richard Neat in Cannes before making the move to this high end omakase restaurant.
It’s had a £3m kit out with plasma screens covering some of the walls showing moving scenes of Japan’s beautiful natural features to help you get into the zone. The omakase menu is a procession of small plates of sushi, sashimi and other dishes inspired by Japanese cuisine. Think black cod with artichoke, yellow wine and walnut, seared wagyu sirloin with truffle and wakame, and duck meatball yakitori. Cocktails are luxurious takes on classics with infused gins and flavours like yuzu, lapsang souchong tea and lemongrass. Elsewhere there is a range of sake and a huge wine list which includes a small selection of Japanese wines.
Prestwich’s star restaurant OSMA is a name very much on the lips of Manchester’s foodie know-it-alls. It might sound like a character from a Frank L Baum book, but the name actually comes from Oslo and Manchester, the birthplaces of owners Danielle Heron and Sophie Stoermann-Naess.
Whitefield born chef Danielle has worked at the two Michelin-starred L’Enclume in the Lake District and three star Maaemo in Oslo. This fine dining background weaves into the dishes alongside a love of Scandinavian flavours to make a truly unique menu for our region. This is another small plates restaurant that Manchester seems to do so well with a regularly changing menu which ebbs and flows with the seasons as all good restaurants should. There is always plenty of seafood on the menu, very often in cured or sashimi form, plenty of locally grown vegetables, and unexpected combinations like Szechuan pepper in a strawberry dessert or Diane sauce with celeriac. There are reliable combos for the less adventurous too but this is a place to expect the unexpected including the fact that they also do a cracking Sunday roast. There’s nowhere like OSMA.
There are plenty of fish in Chorlton’s sea of dining options but this one’s a real catch. The Oystercatcher does oysters, natch, but also a whole Disney chorus of fish and seafood dishes centred around an in house chargrill that its fans go crazy for. Chargrilled octopus with batata harra and harissa? Got it. Halibut steak with pomme Anna, cavolo nero and chicken butter sauce? That’s on there too. You can really splash the cash and go for a whole platter of fish and seafood to share, or you can keep it down to earth with a souped up chippy tea.
Recep Canliisik and Duncan Ranyard’s The Oystercatcher has defied Manchester’s nonchalance towards seafood restaurants in the city centre by keeping it local since 2017. Things have recently scaled up with a second branch imminent in Sale, too.
The Perfect Match
Sale has become quite the hotspot for foodie adventures this past couple of years and boasts all sorts of casual dining and brunching treasures. But the Sale restaurant we would reserve for a special occasion is The Perfect Match. The whole premise is about how the perfect match between the right wine and food can elevate the flavours of both, so every course has a suggested wine alongside it chosen by sommelier Andrea. Think rabbit and leek pie matched with Sangiovese (the Chianti grape of Italy), glazed pork cheeks and hash browns with an off dry Riesling, or beetroot cured chalk stream trout with a delicate Provence rosé. Andrea worked at Gordon Ramsay’s Savoy Grill for several years and it was there that he met his perfect match Jazz, a chef and they formed a plan to open their own place.
If you prefer to choose your own perfect match, the wine list is lengthier than those in most small neighbourhood restaurants and includes a ‘top shelf’ section of finer wines with a remarkably low mark up. Service at this tiny independent is as good as it gets and they also do a great value Sunday roast.
Manchester has a lot of impressive Polish food, especially in its satellite towns and suburbs, but Platzki is the place we recommend for a special occasion. Chefs Lukasz Mazurek and Przemek Marcinkowsk named their restaurant after a potato pancake, and you will find these on the menu as well as their homeland’s famous pierogi dumplings. But there is so much more to the menu here.
Changing on a regular basis, the main courses are as hearty as they come, but no less refined for it. You might find your platzki served with a rich venison stew for a main course or topped with smoked mackerel and mustard and honey creme fraiche in starter form. There’s always a pork dish on the menu as well as light and fresh sides like cucumber dill salad. Pierogi fillings change daily from the traditional potato and cottage cheese, to more outré creations with black pudding and bacon, beetroot or duck and plum sauce. Many dishes come adorned with edible flowers in the team’s typically flamboyant fashion. This is Polish food, Jim, but not as we know it.
Altrincham’s food scene has long been admirable. It was ahead of the modernised indoor market as food hall trend and became a blueprint for how to do that right, but it also has more than its fair shares of casual dining and drinking spots. Porta being one of the biggest success stories along with Sud, which we’ll come to later. Borne from Chester’s Michelin-approved deli and paella bar Joseph Benjamin (which has now merged with its adjacent offspring and rebranded as Porta too), the brand has since expanded to include a branch on Chapel Street in Salford.
The premise is simple, to do one thing really well. Porta’s tapas menus are small but spotless, which explains its fervent fan base. Those fans will tell you to try the albondingdhas de cordero (lamb meatballs), the tenderstem broccoli with romesco sauce, and the grilled wild Atlantic prawns with ajillo (garlic and paprika) dressing. There are regular specials on the board too, like cuttlefish with manchego and almond pesto or monkfish a la plancha topped with crispy jamon Iberìco. Whatever you’re having, wash it all down with a chilled glass of vermut with ice and a slice. All Portas are walk in only, for the proper Spanish tapas bar experience.
If you like restaurants that you have to work hard to find, The Spärrows, located in a huge black painted archway near Victoria Station certainly ticks that box. Tap on the door and you’ll be welcomed into a golden-hued arch-ceilinged dining room adorned with vintage paraphernalia and a wall of wine and sake.
The menu at The Spärrows centres around handmade dumplings and spätzle, a straggly thick type of pasta from the mountainous regions of South Germany, Switzerland, Alsace, South Tyrol, Austria and Northern Italy. Douse your rugged edged spätzle in a clingy sauce of your choice, whether that’s a rich and cheesy one or simple tomato. But you’ll also want to order some Russian pelmeni or Polish pierogi to share, and if you’re hungry, a shallow bowl of lemon zest dusted Tyrolean Goulash with a wodge of bouncy house made focaccia is a fine choice. There are salads, sauerkraut and alpine cheeses to dip into as well, or literally dip into the retro Swiss fondue. The menu is fairly consistent with just seasonal tweaks to specials. But you’ll still want to go back again and again, especially with someone who’s never been before. If you need further convincing, The Spärrows’ recent addition to the Michelin Guide (with Bib Gourmand status) should indicate how good it is.
Kevin and Rachel Choudhary are doing something completely unique for Manchester city centre with this ‘market diner’ complete with daily menus chalked onto a blackboard. Street Urchin is one of those places that seems to go under the radar when people are rattling off best restaurant lists but that only makes it more of a delight for those of us who really know where to eat.
Chef Kevin worked in plenty of top restaurants in Manchester, including a stint with the legendary Robert Owen Brown, before running The Victoria in Altrincham for several years. Street Urchin came next, opening in 2019 right on the edge of Ancoats. Kevin makes absolutely everything in house from bread to the langoustine head bisque for his famed seafood stew. He even makes his own halloumi and labneh. The menu is divided into small and large plates which you can treat as starters and mains if you like or order a few of different sizes to share. A recent addition of buttermilk fried English grey squirrel (a meat also favoured by Rob Owen Brown) made headlines.
If you’re old enough, you might recall a French restaurant called Beaujolais that was a Manchester institution back in the day, going strong for 32 years before being forced to close in the early 2000s. Its legacy lives on in Stretford though as Josephine Sandwith – the daughter of Beaujolais’s owners – opened the French/British nose to tail restaurant Stretford Canteen with her partner Dean in 2022.
There isn’t another restaurant in Greater Manchester quite like this one. Reminiscent of the kind of tiny European-style neighbourhood bistros you might find in London, the space is intimate and invites friendly chatting between tables. Expect classic dishes like Toulouse sausages with white beans and creme fraiche enlivened by a zippy green sauce, coq au riesling, and steak frites with béarnaise all served on cute old fashioned crockery. A small list of desserts and cheese finish of the meal, perhaps with a little glass of dessert wine on the side. The wine list is small but carefully selected to match with whatever they are serving that day. Pop over to Head a few doors down if you want to keep the party going afterwards. Proper old school Manchester vibes.
Southern Italian pasta specialist Sud (formerly Sugo Pasta Kitchen) began its journey in Altrincham before branching out to Ancoats and, more recently Sale. If you’re wondering how good a menu based solely on pasta can actually be, just try it. One visit to Sud will make a convert of you. We don’t know many people that don’t absolutely love this place.
The much lauded (for good reason) House Sugo is a deeply dishy mix of beef shin, pork shoulder and nduja slowly bubbled for eight hours and served over house-made orecchiette pasta ‘ears’. If you prefer the fruits of the sea, you can’t go wrong with Sud’s Scoglio, a deeply flavoured fish stew with seasonal seafood (perhaps mussels, perhaps crab, perhaps both) adding meaty intensity. But starters and seasonal specials must not be overlooked. A Sicilian mackerel and sultana dish on a recent visit was a revelation. Vegetarian options might feature smoky cruschi peppers from Basilicata or freshly popped peas with ricotta and herbs. Make sure to leave room for a scoop of local legend Ginger’s ice cream.
This fancy Catalonian spot just a few doors down from El Gato Negro is one for a very special occasion. The kitchen is overseen by a chef who holds about six Michelin stars (at last count) across his restaurants in Spain, Paco Perez. The menu is an homage to his Catalonian roots with dishes that come from the mountain and the sea. You can tackle it tapas style with ‘tastets’ like duck egg with fried squid, potato soufflé and tartar sauce or an elegant cylinder of braised chicken cannelloni with béchamel. Or if you want something a little heartier (yet still refined) there are Catalan style rice dishes or huge hunks of meat or whole fish from the Mi Brasa charcoal oven.
Drinks-wise, Tast is a bit of an unsung cocktail spot with a small selection of regularly updated unique creations alongside the classics. If it’s wine you’re after, Tast has one of the largest collections of Catalonian wines in Manchester so you’re sure to find something new to try. Mine’s a Macabeo.
This slick and contemporary ESEA-inspired restaurant is all jet black interiors with splashes of precious metals, and a now iconic, cherry tree. Tattu also absolutely thrives on wow-factor special FX so expect billowing clouds of liquid nitrogen surrounding your skull shaped cocktail glass, black cod dim sum that looks like a tiny koi carp, and vivid dragon-printed white chocolate collars on the desserts. But it’s not all Wizard of Oz theatrics with no substance, the food here is very good. Our picks from the current menu include tuna sashimi blossom with rose, cucumber and wasabi, red snapper tom yum with lemongrass, kaffir lime and pak choi, and sticky beef short rib with soy, chilli and crispy shallots. Tattu’s also the spot where the Man City team celebrated winning the treble this year, and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.
The Walled Gardens
The Walled Gardens is a genuinely unique dining experience in a flat in Whalley Range, South Manchester. Chef Eddie Shepherd has developed his own style of modern vegetarian cooking in his home laboratory-meets-kitchen. Dishes look like something from a sci fi film all vivid blue liquids and test tubes full of colourful gels but every last bit of them comes from plants. The menu changes regularly but among its 12 courses you might find vegetable charcuterie made with koji; scotch bonnet truffles; or pine sorbet. Part of the fun is the surprise.
It’s not just about the food though. With only eight diners per night, the experience is like an intimate supper club with guests sitting together around a large table in Eddie’s front room. You can bring your own booze too.
Where The Light Gets In
Sam Buckley’s sustainable labour of love needs little introduction. Where The Light Gets In opened in Stockport in 2016 when the food scene in the city centre, never mind Stockport, was a shadow of what it is now. It was a bold move, but almost seven years later, it looks like it’s paid off. This is the second restaurant with a Michelin star on our list – though WTLGI’s isn’t a big ole red one but a newer green one for sustainable practise in fine dining.
The setting is a huge old warehouse that gives vibes of a massive New York loft, its open kitchen is the stage towards which tables are angled, theatre style. The food is either sourced from local farms – probably not dissimilar to that scene in cult US sketch show Portlandia – or grown on the top of a Stockport shopping centre around the corner in an allotment the restaurant has built called The Landing. But provenance aside, the food is beautifully prepared by the team of skilled and passionate chefs and served with natural and biodynamic wine from one of the UK’s top sommeliers. It’s also really reasonably priced for food of this stature. Where The Light Gets In fought off tough competition to win Manchester’s Best Restaurant at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards in 2022.
Simon Wood’s eponymous First Street restaurant is a surreal playground for the former MasterChef winner’s whims and fancies. WOOD’s ever evolving menu features nods aplenty to its owner’s Oldham roots with locally foraged ingredients and a huge dose of imagination. Dishes might include Anjou squab pigeon with bacon butty bread sauce and radicchio, monkfish with Wye Valley asparagus, wild nettle and white beetroot, or the perennial sharing tomahawk steak with peppercorn sauce and sides. Wood has also recently opened Homage, a mezzanine within the restaurant dedicated entirely to the pleasures of cheese and wine.