Looking for Manchester restaurants? Want to find the best local café in Manchester's Northern Quarter? After the best brownie in the city? We've found the best places to eat and drink in Manchester, from the trendy Northern Quarter, to revamped Salford.
Rudy’s – best pizza in Manchester
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.
Bundobust – best casual dining in Manchester
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.
Umezushi – best sushi in Manchester
You wouldn’t expect to find this zen little space hiding down an alley near Victoria Station. Blond wood benches, panelled walls and a spotless sushi counter help to create a calm ambience in which to enjoy some sushi.
All the Japanese classics are there – neat little nigiri rice piles topped with wagyu sirloin or freshwater eel, sashimi slices (pickled mackerel, sea bream, scallop) cut with precision, and tightly-rolled maki cylinders filled with salmon and avocado, hand-picked crab or pickled veg.
There’s a whole section dedicated to unique cuts of tuna, ranging from lean akami to fatty otoro. Daily specials include salmon head, lamb rack and pork belly on springy sushi rice. Book in advance, as this tiny room gets rammed.
Pollen Bakery – best bakery in Manchester
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…
Federal – best brunch in Manchester
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.
Hatch – best street food market in Manchester
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.
Takk – best coffee shop in Manchester
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.
El Gato Negro – best tapas in Manchester
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.
Beermoth – best bottle shop in Manchester
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.
Peggy’s – best cocktails in Manchester
Peggy's has recently closed, but keep an eye out from the next project...
This backstreet drinking den is a hidden secret (look out for the leaf motif above the inconspicuous door). Though it’s above ground, the cocktail bar feels like a speakeasy, with candles flickering on wooden tables, brown leather booths hugging a mottled black and white brick wall, and a record player spinning blues and rock and roll.
Apron-clad owners Adam Day and Shane Kilgarriff mix up clever concoctions behind the white-tiled bar. There’s an unsung commitment to zero waste – no garnishes and a constantly-changing menu that allows the guys to utilise small-batch cordials, vermouths and bitters made in-house using hyper-local produce foraged from the outskirts of the city.
Examples of cocktails on our visit were a Twinkle that incorporated Chorlton elderflower cordial and fennel bulb liqueur, a Sour Butter Gimlet with lemon-and-asparagus-infused gin, and Whisky Mac (homemade ginger wine and blackcurrant leaf-infused Scotch). For something really boozy, go for the Rabo de Galo, served martini-style with cachaça, homemade vermouth and an intense grapefruit caramel.
The Bagel Shop by Eat New York – best bagels in Manchester
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 and set up camp in nearby Piccadilly Gardens for a gourmet picnic.
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.
Teacup – best teahouse in Manchester
Co-owned by DJ/tea enthusiast, Mr Scruff, bright, busy Teacup (55 Thomas Street) majors on top regional ingredients and simple, honest dishes. Its baked beans with smoky bacon bits on home-baked sourdough is ace.
Common – for Northern Quarter charm
Common (39-41 Edge Street), is the quintessential N/4 hangout, and the menu at this hip, arty bar is now overseen by Aumbry chef, Laurence Tottingham. Look out for New York Jewish delicatessen specials, the homemade salt beef sauerkraut stack for instance, or Common’s pastrami-topped Reuben burger and classics like lamb kofta kebab.
Hanging Ditch – best wine shop in Manchester
Wine buffs should head to vintners HangingDitch (42-44 Victoria Street), for friendly, down-to-earth advice and the chance to try before you buy.
Where to stay in Manchester – The Cow Hollow Hotel
Looking for a boutique hotel in Manchester for a foodie base? When a hotel’s reception doubles up as a cocktail bar you know you’re in for a good time. After a friendly Northern greeting, continue up the statement stairs to a cosy reception area that’s all exposed red-brick walls, gilt-panelled mirrors and hanging plants.
This unique style continues through to the hotel’s sixteen bedrooms; the building was previously a textile warehouse, so some come with impressive marble fireplaces, wooden floors and original beams.
Owners Muj and Amelia have catered to every need for an inner-city break, with super comfy beds, REN toiletries and even hair straighteners and curling tongs to prep for a night on the town (plus earplugs to block out any unwanted wake-ups).
Make the most of the complimentary early evening prosecco and snacks, or sit at the hotel’s swish marble and wood bar to order classic cocktails. There’s no restaurant, but the central location means favourites such as Bundobust and Rudy’s are a five-minute stumble away. After dinner, kick back and watch Netflix in bed with a round of milk and cookies (delivered to your room before 11pm), or head out to embrace the buzz of the Northern Quarter’s bars.
Craft beer bars in the Northern Quarter
In the N/4, drinking late is no less than mandatory. Keep following the ale trail all the way to one of Marble Beers' microbrewery bars 57 Thomas Street (57 Thomas Street) is a legendary boozer and music venue, The Castle Hotel (66 Oldham Street; ) and Port Street Beer House (39-41 Port Street). If you’re still peckish, Slice (1a Stevenson Square) serves authentic, Roman-style al taglio pizza till late.
Other great restaurants in Manchester
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.
Adam Reid at The French
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.
Acclaimed chef Aiden Byrne (previously of Manchester House, read our full review here, Danesfield House & Spa and Tom Aikens) joined the D&D London group to open 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.
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.
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.
Chef Michael Caines’ ABode (107 Piccadilly) stands out for its urban-loft style and good food.
What else to see and do in the Northern Quarter
The boho Northern Quarter [N/4] is crammed with indie record shops, vintage stores and boutiques. Don’t miss Richard Goodall Gallery (59 Thomas Street), with its unique collection of music-focused art, and Manchester Craft and Design Centre’s cute jewellery workshops (17 Oak Street).
Pick up the food-shopping pace at Bonbon Chocolate Boutique (9 John Street) – chocolatier Joel Collins’s salted caramels are sensational, Wood Wine and Deli (42 Tib Street), and revive yourself with a peerless flat white at North Tea Power (36 Tib Street).
Words by Alex Crossley and Tony Naylor
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.