Manchester foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
Manchester’s food scene is buzzing, with fine dining to street food, hidden cocktail bars to craft beer joints
Looking for Manchester restaurants? We've found the best places to eat and drink in Manchester, from the trendy Northern Quarter, to revamped Salford.
For more exciting restaurants and weekend ideas for food lovers, check out our best UK city breaks.
A weekend break in Manchester
Mooch around Manchester’s Northern Quarter and adjoining trendy Ancoats neighbourhood for the weekend. Start at antipodean-style Federal, and brunch on French toast laden with summer berry compote or corn fritters piled high with toppings. Work your way through the Northern Quarter’s network of shops, cafés and bars – Beermoth is jam-packed with local brews. Amble over to Ancoats’s New Islington Arena to scandi-cool Pollen Bakery to enjoy canalside Manchester tart cruffins and cuddles with Maru the chow chow. For dinner, Rudy’s is the local go-to for Neapolitan pizza and refreshing aperitivo with pals. The next day, hop on the bus to Hatch, a trendy foodie outlet near Manchester Met University. Strings of exposed light bulbs cast a hipster twinkle over the self-contained courtyard, and there’s a sun-soaked garden filled with long wooden tables where you can while away afternoons with Öl nanobrewery craft beers, Takk iced lattes and Firebird Hope chicken sarnies.
Where to stay
Converted textile warehouse, The Cow Hollow Hotel, has a reception that doubles as a cocktail bar, where guests can enjoy complimentary early evening prosecco and snacks. Rooms come kitted out with impressive marble fireplaces, super comfy beds and a round of milk and cookies delivered to your room each night. Doubles from £129 per night, check availability at booking.com
Where to eat and drink in Manchester: the full list
Rudy’s – for pizza
Rudy’s is a unanimous favourite among Manchester’s foodies. With its original site in up-and-coming Ancoats and a newly opened branch on Peter Street, it’s a go-to place for pizza and cocktails with your pals.
Pizza dough is made on site twice a day and cooked for no longer than a minute to produce a springy base. Choose from toppings including classic margherita with buffalo mozzarella, spicy ‘nduja sausage with tomato and fior di latte, or white pizza with smoked mozzarella, Tuscan sausage and wild broccoli.
The aperitivo list uses some of our favourite Italian brands to create twists on classic cocktails – gin fizz is spiked with Cynar (a bittersweet artichoke leaf liquer) and Disaronno is mixed with Limoncello, lemon juice and fresh basil for a refreshing Amaretto sour. Otherwise go for a creamy dolci colline prosecco, bright and citrusy Sicilian white or forest-fruity Puglian red. Rudyspizza.co.uk
Bundobust – for Indian street food and craft beers
Bundobust is many things (craft beer haunt, Indian street food hangout, veggie restaurant) but it sells itself as a ‘beer and Indian joint’. The basement bar is filled with casual, communal tables that encourage interaction with fellow punters, and has a relaxed order-at-the-bar system that keeps the crowd mingling.
The food menu is all about vegetarian Indian street food. We suggest opting for one of the combos that arrive on wooden trays – a modern twist on the thali. Plant-based are filled with paneer and mushroom tikka skewers marinated in yogurt curd, crisp onion, broccoli and kale bhajis spiced with fennel, and tarka lentil dhal to mop up with deep fried bhatura flatbread. Our highlight was the bundo chat – layers of crisp samosa, sweet-and-sour tamarind and frilly little crunchy bits on top.
Beers include collaborations with Leeds brewery Northern Monk and several Manchester breweries (see some of the best in the Beermoth section below). There’s simple house chai for a booze-free option, though you can add a dash of bourbon or cognac if you’re after more of a kick. Bundobust.com
Pollen Bakery – for bakes by the canal
If you’re in search of comfort then head to this canalside bakery for indulgent brownies and stay for cuddles with Maru the chow chow (aka lion dog).
The light and bright space beside New Islington Marina is kitted out with sleek scandi furnishings (concrete, pale wood, muted tones). Behind a counter heaving with freshly baked loaves and cakes there’s a huge area dedicated to baking. Pollen is famous for its sourdough loaves (try the Pollen rye, oat porridge, five-seed sour) and Manchester tart cruffins, but don’t miss the moist and zesty lemon and poppy seed cake and the decadent salted caramel brownie topped with cocoa nibs.
The owners support small foodie entrepreneurs with supper clubs and pop ups, so check out the website for Asian food from Pippy Eats and more… Pollenbakery.com
Federal – for brunch
This popular antipodean cafe drags loyal Northern Quarter locals out of bed at the weekend for its epic brunches. Emily’s homemade banana bread is treacly and dark, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg with a fragrant vanilla mascarpone. If you’re really hungry, the hefty French toast is very popular, laden with homemade summer berry compote, almonds, whipped vanilla mascarpone and salted caramel; while corn fritters with a choice of toppings make a worthy savoury choice.
Federal’s owners are committed to excellent sourcing, with sourdough bread brought in from Lovingly Artisan in the Lake District, and coffee carted up from London’s Ozone Coffee Roasters (try a signature espresso martini made with vanilla infused vodka and Ozone espresso).
It’s a lovely spot to spend a few hours – above wooden floorboards mustard banquettes hug two sides of the almost triangular corner room, and lush green plants spill out of tiny hanging pots. Federalcafe.co.uk
Hatch – for street food
This trendy foodie outlet sits under the flyover near Manchester Met and Manchester University. Strings of exposed light bulbs cast a hipster twinkle over the self-contained courtyard, and there’s a sun-soaked garden filled with long wooden tables where you can while away summer afternoons.
Peruse the artisan beers on tap and by the bottle at Öl nanobrewery. Try one of their own brews or go for the local Cloudwater IPA, brewed under the railway arches around the corner. Otherwise sit in the shipping container above Takk coffee and sip espressos or iced lattes from sleek black bamboo cups.
The rotating street food offering showcases Manchester’s up-and-coming vendors. We tried Firebird Hope chicken sandwiches – the crunchiest outer shell covering extremely succulent pieces of chicken thigh with Koji mayo and green slaw. Hatchmcr.com
Takk – for coffee
With the main space in the Northern Quarter and a funky outpost in one of Hatch's shipping containers, this sleek coffee shop is an ode to Scandinavia. The owners are obsessed with all things Nordic (particularly Reykjavik), so opened this ode to the region complete with the house Nordic Style espresso (roasted by Clifton Coffee in Bristol), cosy 'hygge' vibes and trendy baristas.
At the Oxford Road shop, there's a more contemporary Scandinavian them, with a turquoise coffee machine, plenty of blonde wood and funky grey tiles create a calm backdrop to enjoy your coffee, or purchase one of the handy reusable cups and get an iced coffee to take away. Takkmcr.com
El Gato Negro – for tapas
This upmarket tapas restaurant opened in 2016 and has quickly gained a reputation as Manchester’s go-to spot for a splash-out dinner.
Set over three storeys of a converted townhouse, there are plenty of choices when it comes to seating – a ground floor bar framed with shiny black tiles and seats that spill out onto the pavement, and red leather stools overlooking the open kitchen on the first floor, allowing punters to inhale aromas from the Josper grill. Then there’s el Gato Negro’s trump card, a swish rooftop dining area, complete with sliding roof, where you can enjoy a glass of fresh and fruity Albariño wine from Galicia.
The restaurant’s small plates menu sees chefs adding modern twists to traditional tapas dishes. Though we thought some additions weren’t needed (Galician octopus, for example, was so soft and beautifully finished on the Josper grill that it didn’t need the punchy pickled shallots), other dishes really shone – long, slim heritage carrots were drenched in walnut pesto, miso and aubergine purée, while croquettas entailed an extra cheesy béchamel encased in crisp breadcrumbs. Elgatonegrotapas.com
Beermoth – for craft beers by the bottle
This small shop on buzzy Tib Street is jam-packed with bottles, cans and kegs of beers from Manchester, as well as from the UK and across the globe.
Brews from the inner city include neon-packaged Runaway Brewery (smoked porter, summer saison, American brown ale), Track Brewing Co. (visit its weekly brew tap events under the arches of Picadilly), and Cloudwater, which has gained a global reputation for itself over the past few of years.
The friendly staff sure know their porters from their DIPAs, so make sure you pick their brains. We came across a fab new favourite from Northern Ireland after describing our preferences. Beermoth.co.uk
Adam Reid at The French – for fine dining
Hidden behind a curtain in a corner of the grand lobby of the Midland Hotel, there’s more than a feel of Alice in Wonderland as you are transported through mirrored doors into the dining room of The French. Soft grey and sage green tones give everything a muted luxurious feel and there are two huge cylindrical chandeliers which throw light back and forth via the mirrored panelling around the room.
Chef Adam Reid’s cooking is inventive and playful but executed with real precision and flair. (He’s the bold chef that took over the helm after Simon Rogan left at the end of 2016.) A nibble of the creamiest smoked cod roe with puffy squid ink wafers kicked the six-course tasting menu off in style. Crispy pig’s trotter to start, proper came as fall-apart meat slowly braised in a rich deep umami soy base then breadcrumbed and deep fried into a crisp nugget, with pickled onion purée. Courses to follow include corned beef and potato hash, brill with silky artichoke and basil purée and suckling pig belly served with fermented cabbage and punchy cherry sauce.
Reid won the Great British menu in 2016 with his Empire apple dessert – a blown sugar apple filled with a meadowsweet custard mousse – and our incredibly pretty pud is a take on that, this time a shiny orange clementine sugar shell filled with airy white chocolate mousse. It’s a little piece of cooking wizardry which perfectly reflects the rest of the menu at this magical place. Adam-reid.co.uk
The Bagel Shop by Eat New York – for bagels
This Northern Quarter newcomer is the latest hangout for hip young Mancunians. There are screens indoors to enjoy the footie, or grab a bagel or burger to takeaway. Bagels are top-notch – tempura-battered aubergine is meltingly soft and really holds itself up to the doughy bagel base. For something more classic, go for the homemade salt beef or pastrami smoked for 15 hours in ‘Old Buddy’ the smoker. Eatnewyork.co.uk
Yuzu – for Japanese
Yui Nagami of Manchester’s Yuzu restaurant says the reason it stands out from the crowd is the freshness and the fact everything is made from scratch. “The uniqueness of our food is that we make everything on site, including the soy sauce-based sauce that comes with all the sashimi dishes, the teriyaki sauce and the ponzu that accompanies the karaage. The fish is delivered every day and meat is marinated at least several hours before serving – the prep is the most important part of our operation.” As well as claiming to serve the freshest sashimi in the city, dishes such as teriyaki salmon served over Japanese rice in a donburi bowl and traditional chicken katsu has helped Yuzu retain its place in the 2020 edition of The Good Food Guide. Yuzumanchester.co.uk
Mana – for progressive fine dining
Progressive, sustainable, creative – all words that have been bandied around concerning Simon Martin’s new restaurant. The 28-year-old Shropshire chef worked at Noma and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay before opening Mana, his first restaurant, in October 2018. With an aim to be “casual”, “accessible” and celebrate the “best of our island’s produce”, the restaurant serves a seven- or 14-course set menu (£65 or £105) in just 1 hour 45 minutes.
Little-known ingredients have raised eyebrows among foodies – from dessicated spruce and bark to reindeer moss and lacto-fermented barley – and there’s the option to go for juice, beer or wine pairing. Eight-metre-high ceilings make this minimalist, modern space feel bigger than its 28 seats. Dark wooden floors, grey walls, cream leather, wood-framed chairs and statement drop lighting provide the backdrop for the main attraction – a £300,000 bespoke open kitchen, with compressed stone surfaces, and the brigade of chefs who double up as servers. The ever-evolving winter menu (served until the end of this month) focusses on shellfish, fish and winter greens, and is available four days a week. Manarestaurant.co.uk
TAST – for Catalonian cuisine
Executive chef Paco Pérez, who holds five Michelin stars across seven restaurants around the world, is behind the Catalonian menu, which starts with three types of bread and tomato, cheese and charcuterie, and canapé-like tramuntanades, including toasted cheese and truffle sandwiches.
‘Tastets’ are similar in size to tapas, and beg to be matched with the all-Spanish wine list, Catalan gins and out-there cocktails (try vodka with apple, black garlic and basil oil). Order a couple of tastets each – whether Iberian ham or roasted chicken croquettes, or plates from the ‘garden’, ‘sea’ or ‘mountain’ – then move on to shared rice platters, or the likes of Iberian pork presa and bone-in sirloin steak cooked in a charcoal oven. Can’t decide? Let Paco choose, with a £40 menu of his favourites.
With space for 120 covers across three dining areas (the private Enxaneta on the second floor, main dining room Folre, and Pinya bar), the décor is slick but understated, with plenty of natural light. Tastcatala.com
20 Stories – for modern British with a view
D&D London group's all-day restaurant, bar and grill, 20 Stories, on the 19th floor of the No1 Spinningfields building in central Manchester.
The modern British menu in the main restaurant showcases local produce, with the majority sourced within a 50-mile radius of the city. Herdwick lamb sits on potato gnocchi and chanterelle mushrooms, poached John Dory is served with a smart langoustine velouté and white asparagus, and butter-poached salsify is topped with burnt leeks and parsnip purée. There’s also a more casual brasserie focussing on the grill, serving the likes of Yorkshire beef steaks, grilled heritage beetroot salad, and bone marrow burgers topped with beef cheek, mushroom and an onion ring.
With 360-degree views, the swish space also brings the outside in with glamorous interiors inspired by nature (plenty of wood, hanging plants, stone features). The bar and outdoor terrace is dedicated to cocktails, including the signature 20 Stories cocktail made with Tanqueray gin, vermouth, honey and herb cordial, and grapes shaken with fresh lemon. 20stories.co.uk
WOOD – for casual fine dining
Fine dining made casual with a modern spin on British classics, in the shiny First Street development just outside Manchester’s city centre.
High ceilings tower over dark wood and teal furnishings, with cosy booths and dim lighting. An open kitchen gives diners a view of the MasterChef at work.
There are four menus to order from, to reflect the different ways you might like to dine here. A tasting menu is kept as a surprise for the night you visit, they call it a mystery tour. The lounge menu focuses on the Josper grill with flat-iron steak, smoked gnocchi, rocket parmesan pesto and leaves on offer, while the low-key theatre menu is restricted in choice, but expansive in flavour, with the likes of belly pork, cider, granny smith apple, and sage and onion popping up as a starter. Woodrestaurantgroup.com/manchester
Australasia – for Australian fusion
Australasia (1 The Avenue), a glam subterranean bar-restaurant goes on late and gets busy. Visit pre-dinner to enjoy a rose and lychee martini. Australasia.uk.com
Salut – for wine
“Salut aims to be the place where you want to break bread and drink wine with your pals,” says Sara Saunby, co-founder of Salut Wines, which she opened with husband Jon in 2014. With the help of an Italian Enomatic wine preservation and serving system, Salut offers around 60 wines by the glass as well as a large range of craft beers and spirits. Salut.co.uk
Porta – for tapas
Founded by brothers Ben and Joe Wright, there are now three Porta wine and tapas bars spread across the north-west, the latest of which opened in Salford at the end of 2018. The Iberian-influenced tapas – staples of jamón, croquetas and patatas bravas but also slow-roasted ox cheek, pickled walnuts and purple sprouting broccoli with romesco sauce – is complemented by a carefully curated selection of Spanish wines, cava, beer, sherries and vermouth. Portatapas.co.uk
Words by Alex Crossley, Tony Naylor and Mark Taylor
Trust olive Food and arts journalist Tony Naylor was born, lives and works in Manchester. olive's digital editor Alex Crossley has family in Manchester and visits regularly.