Best restaurants in Manchester | BBC Good Food

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Erst

Best for: Casual dining, special occasions

A spin-off from neighbouring Trove, a local chain of excellent bakery-cafés, Erst’s fame has eclipsed that of the mothership. Its mix of on-point sharing plates and well-selected natural wines has won this Ancoats’ restaurant national recognition, and rightly so.

Within this minimalist space (all polished concrete, brushed steel, breezeblocks, glass), head chef Patrick Withington, a former plumber, works his magic across beautifully blistered flatbreads (topped with beef fat and urfa chilli), escabeche mussels with lardo and toast, or spiced lamb shoulder with farro and celeriac. Dishes around £5 – £15.

Kala
Best for: Casual dining, special occasions

Chef Gary Usher’s decision to name his restaurant group Elite Bistros was made hastily, tongue firmly in cheek. But in recent years his venues have set a North West benchmark for populist, quietly innovative bistro cooking (Usher also operates Hispi in Didsbury, South Manchester). King Street’s Kala maintains that run.

In an attractive upstairs dining room (simply styled in green banquettes and darkly varnished parquet tables), enthusiastic young staff deliver dishes which routinely hit that sweet spot between modish ideas and tradition, technical rigour, interesting ingredients and flavours which land in immediately persuasive ways. Braised featherblade with truffled parmesan chips is an Elite Bistros’ classic, but expect to be equally smitten by a pig’s head croquette with poached pineapple and mojo verde, or a vegan plate of salt-baked celeriac and crispy kale with soy-pickled onion, roasted peanuts and sesame dressing. Two courses, from £23.

Flawd

Best for: Casual dining

When Higher Ground opens as a permanent restaurant on the edge of the city’s Chinatown early in 2023, it will complete plans long delayed by the pandemic. In the interim, the same team has filled its time developing this extraordinary natural wine bar and diner in Ancoats. Despite working from an unusually basic food prep area (in terms of heating, the team is limited to a toaster, electric pressure-cooker and sandwich press), Flawd is producing some of Manchester’s most exciting dishes.

Seasonally driven and often using ingredients from the regeneratively farmed Cinderwood Market Garden (which shares owners with Flawd), chef Joseph Otway’s short, clever menu of sharing plates bristles with creativity and compelling flavours. Dishes such as a deeply moreish whipped split pea dip; golden beetroot with salted gooseberries and elderflower; or summer yellow beans, goat’s curd and sungold tomatoes (dried into so-called ‘raisins’), will make you double-take that so much is achieved in such a limited kitchen with so few components. Dishes around £4 – £9.

Porta
Best for: Casual dining, kid-friendly

Launched in Chester by brothers, Joe and Ben Wright, this impeccable tapas bar has latterly spawned two Greater Manchester sites (Altrincham, Salford). The Salford branch occupies a former bank on Chapel Street, walkable or a five minute taxi-ride from Manchester city-centre.

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Porta favourites such as Picos de Europa blue cheese with caramelised walnuts, sultanas and honey or the presa Iberica pork shoulder with mojo verde, are deft marriages of fine ingredients. A list of good-value wines from often overlooked regions seals the deal. Dishes from £4.20.

Asmara Bella

Best for: Casual dining

A small, chilled oasis in the Northern Quarter, Samrawit Tekle’s Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant has won a loyal following among East African heritage diners and clued-up food lovers new to her cuisine. At Asmara, deliciously lactic-lemony, spongy injera flatbreads are topped with vividly flavoured stew-like dishes, such as lamb tibsi (ghee-fried lamb with rosemary, onions, green chillies) and kitfo (chopped beef cooked in ghee, herbs and paprika).

Orthodox Christian fasting rules have left the Eritrean and Ethiopian region with a rich repertoire of meat-free dishes and vegan-veggie diners will have a lot of fun here. From shero (spiced chickpea dahl) to a sensational hamli (spinach cooked in olive oil with chilli and garlic), the meat-free options will bring joy to your heart. Mains from £10.

Go Falafel
Best for: Cheap eats, kid-friendly

For all the frenzied growth of Manchester’s food scene, the city centre lacks places where you can pick-up good, affordable grab ’n’ go food, particularly at night. Vegan Go Falafel is an unassuming lifeline, serving hot, crisp falafels with tahini, potent pickles, spiced potatoes, great hummus and salad, wrapped in satisfyingly thick, chewy Arabic-style flatbreads. Arguably, the best sub-£5 food bargain in the city. Wraps from £4.95; city-centre branches, 3 Newton Street and 99 Deansgate.

Pollen

Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, kid-friendly

At two city-centre venues, in New Islington Marina and Kampus, this bakery-cafe provides Manchester with, not just exceptional bread, coffee and pastries (Pollen’s croissants are glossy, lacquered beauties), but also ace brunch-lunch dishes, from crème brulée French toast with chilled crème anglaise to a panko-breaded tofu katsu curry sandwich. The sobrasada, seasonal greens and fried egg on toasted sourdough will gird you for a big day of sightseeing. Dishes £4 – £11.

Where The Light Gets In
Best for: Special occasions, casual dining

This guide is focused on Manchester’s city-centre, but WTLGI is well worth the 10-minute train ride to Stockport. Hidden in a gorgeous warehouse loft, WTLGI is chef/hippy idealist Sam Buckley’s attempt to demonstrate how a high-end restaurant can operate in an environmentally and ethically sustainable way, with almost zero waste (no-choice set menus, natural wines etc).

Buckley does this by working with foraged produce, low-intensity meats and seasonal vegetables, often heritage varieties grown on roof-top allotment, the Landing, above the Merseyway Shopping Centre. Dishes tend to punchy, flavour-packed minimalism (mutton, beetroot cream, fermented onions), but this is food shot through with fun ideas, too. WTLGI once created a ‘donor kebab’ for charity using wild mallard offal. Sister bakery-café, Yellowhammer, operates nearby. Menu from £75.

New Century Hall

Best for: Cheap eats, casual dining, kid-friendly

Catnip for fans of mid-20th century modernist architecture, the striking New Century Hall has recently been revived as a gig venue and food hall. Highlights include the self-explanatory work of BaoBros23, whose noodle salad of confit pork belly and torched pineapple is full of exciting flavours. The delicious vegan banh mi at Banh Vi – complex creations of real flavour-heft and zing – are among the best plant-based sandwiches GF has tasted. Mains from around £9.

Almost Famous
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats

Premier exponent of, as Almost Famous describes them, “super-juicy dripping down your arms” burgers. The 2.0 iteration of the ‘triple nom’ double cheeseburger with slow-cooked pork, slaw and various sauces, is a prime example. Burgers from £10.

Another Hand

Best for: Casual dining, special occasions

Tucked away up on Deansgate Mews, chef-owners Max Yorke and Julian Pizer have created a hip, cosy space – slick minimal house soundtrack, open-kitchen, buzzy atmosphere – where stellar produce (including rare mushrooms indoor cultivated in Altrincham) and historic skills (fermenting, foraging, smoking etc), meet cutting-edge technique in beautifully presented plates boasting huge depths of flavour.

The modish menu of smaller and larger potential sharing dishes pulls in influences from all over, such as plates of trout tartare in burnt apple dashi, or chopped lamb with ginger, chilli and coriander. Note: by day, Another Hand serves a more casual, brunch-y menu. Evening dishes £7.50 – £20.

Mackie Mayor
Best for: Casual dining, kid friendly

Altrincham’s Market House food hall has been one of the UK’s most influential openings of recent years. Its large city-centre sibling, Mackie Mayor, housed in a Grade II-listed building in the Northern Quarter, is similarly full of impressive food.

Highlights include Honest Crust’s superlative wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas, Pico’s terrific tacos and Tender Cow’s burgers and steaks (its flat iron sandwich with béarnaise and caramelised onions on a ciabatta from artisan bakers, Lovingly Artisan, is recommended). Wash that down with beers from Blackjack Brewery’s bar or interesting wines from Reserve. Dishes from around £9.

Exhibition

Best for: Casual dining

Exhibition is sometimes described as a food hall, but that’s a little misleading. Instead, think of this autumn 2022 opening as a full-service restaurant that just happens to have three kitchens you can order from simultaneously. Ramsbottom’s Baratxuri (creators of high-grade Basque-inspired pintxos), is the best known of the three options, but Scandi-influenced OSMA and Brazil-born Caroline Martins’ Sao Paolo Bistro are doing impressive work, too.

From OSMA’s elevated chicken thigh salad, its dressing created from anchovy and Westcombe cheddar, to Sao Paolo’s classy scallops with artichoke-like palm heart in a cassava mousseline, there is some very good cooking happening at Exhibition. Most of the menu is designed as sharing dishes. Don’t miss Baraxturi’s salt cod, served on still burning embers, or its crab-filled tortilla. If you want to push the boat out, its 1kg, bone-in txuleton of 50-day-aged, ex-dairy, Rubia Gallega beef (basically, one of the most prized cuts in the Basque Country), is a memorable way to drop £75. Most lunch/plates £8.50 – £12.50; larger sharing dishes from £26.

Yuzu
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats

While other restaurants loudly promote themselves, this unassuming Japanese restaurant on the edge of Chinatown keeps on at the business of being quietly brilliant. Regulars swear by its kara-age fried chicken with ponzu dipping sauce, prawn gyoza, sashimi selections, stir-fried udon noodle and donburi rice bowls. Mains from £9.

Escape to Freight Island

Best for: Casual dining

All-singing, all-dancing, indoor-outdoor complex of bars and kitchens (and now a roller-rink!), which brings a serious party vibe and almost festival scale to the food hall concept. DJs and live acts keep it pumping in the main Ticket Hall, but there are quieter, bookable spaces (Jane Eyre cocktail bar, for example), where you can tuck into Burgerism’s self-explanatory work, Madre’s tacos or knock-out Vietnamese dishes from Mi & Pho. Menu prices vary widely, see website.

Siam Smiles
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats

Deansgate Mews café, where the four elements of Thai cuisine – spiciness, sourness, saltiness, sweetness – are handled with real aplomb. Various noodle, rice and salad dishes include, for example, a Phuket-style crab meat noodle curry, minced pork salad, laab moo, and vibrant tom yam noodle soups topped with pork and prawn wontons or fish balls and BBQ pork. Mains from £8.

Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun

Best for: Casual dining

Late-night Northern Quarter hang-out (2am finish at weekends), that’s a firm local favourite, thanks to its quality grub and the welcoming demeanour of its energetic staff. Start with kara-age chicken or soy-glazed ox cheek bao. Then, move onto pork bone broth tonkotsu ramen bowls topped with chashu pork and ground crackling; lacto fermented chilli, charred sweetcorn and Szechuan lamb; or soft shell crab with pickled chillies and carrots. Two boa, £8.75; ramen from £14.

Bundobust
Best for: Casual dining

Hidden off Piccadilly in a large basement space (whose skylight windows offer evocative, grimy views of fire escapes and surrounding buildings), Leeds-born Bundobust is now firmly embedded in Manchester’s affections. Why? Because its Gujarati dishes – served street food-style in waxed-paper pots at communal tables – reverberate with bold flavours.

Bundobust has always stocked blazingly modern craft beers and, in 2021, it launched its own brewery in Manchester on Oxford Street. It operates as a bar-restaurant too, and you can eat (tarka dhal of endless savoury depth, addictive chaat, legendary okra fries, the vada pav mashed potato burger with its super-zingy chutneys), sitting next to the tanks in which Bundo’s Dhania coriander lager or Chaitro porter are brewed. Dishes from £3.75.

10 Tib Lane

Best for: Casual dining, special occasion

Co-founded by the Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun team and tucked away near the town hall, 10 Tib Lane shares some characteristics with its forerunner (notably, a focus on good cocktails), but it’s an altogether cosier, calmer, candlelit bistro affair – a nook for couples rather than gangs of mates.

Well-executed small and intermediate plates (pork chop, burnt apple pureé, celeriac remoulade; sardines and green sauce; beetroot, pickled walnut, mint and créme fraîche) reveal a French leaning, but, like the food in modern Parisian bistros, regularly stray further afield for inspiration – think Italy, Spain, India, Korea. Main plates £8 – £20.

Grub Food Fair
Best for: Cheap eats, kid-friendly, casual dining

On the city centre’s Cheetham Hill border (head out under the railway bridges around Manchester Victoria station, then up Red Bank), you’ll find Grub, an indoor-outdoor DIY hub of northern street food activity. Things really get going Friday and Saturday nights with the Grub Food Fair (four traders weekly), while its Plant Powered Sundays have all your Korean pulled jackfruit burrito and seitan döner kebab needs covered. Dishes from around £6.

The Jane Eyre

Best for: Casual dining

Attractive neighbourhood cocktail and wine bar in Ancoats, which, in its small plates, also knocks out impressive food. Think whipped cod’s roe and roasted squash, sesame tofu with house kimchi and ponzu, or a pork chop – toffee-like ridge of delicious crackling fat, sitting on five-star truffled pommes purée, topped with spiced apple compote) – which has become a cult dish among Manchester foodies. Plates £6 – £14.

El Gato Negro
Best for: Special occasion, casual dining

El gato negro fish dish

Three-storey complex where Spanish food obsessive Simon Shaw has created this glamorous homage to Madrid, Barcelona and beyond. El Gato’s elaborate G&Ts set the tone, before boquerones and bikini sandwiches (jamón serrano, Manchego, truffle butter), followed by plates of bavette steak with romesco, caramelised red peppers and toasted almonds, gambas pil pil or octopus, sautéed potatoes, aioli and capers. Dishes from £6 – £16.

Society

Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, kid-friendly

A waterside neighbour of the Bridgewater Hall concert venue, this bustling food hall is home, among others, to a 44-tap bar from West Yorkshire craft beer aces, Vocation. Also, Aarti Ormsby’s reliably brilliant South Indian and street food-inspired menu at Chaat Cart, and terrific Swaledale beef smashed patty burgers at Slap & Pickle – hot tip: the Personal Cheesus double-cheeseburger. Mains from around £10.

Sugo Pasta
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, kid-friendly
Sugo’s three branches: city-centre Ancoats and suburban Altrincham and Sale, serve painstakingly prepared southern Italian-inspired dishes (using fresh pasta imported from Puglia), radiating big flavours.

The house sugo (an eight-hour ragu of beef shin, pork shoulder and n’duja), is a must, but all the combos sing, from calamarata with guanciale, cod loin, squid and tomatoes, to strozzapreti with broccolini, anchovy butter, chicken stock and pangrattato. Mains from £12.90

Maray

Best for: Casual dining

The arrival of Liverpool’s Maray (and its broadly eastern Mediterranean/post-Ottolenghi food aesthetic) has been warmly welcomed in Manchester. Expect falafel, fattoush and lamb shawarma, labneh and salt-baked beetroot or pork cheeks with tahini, amba sauce, balsamic and red pepper.

Of course, one of the most Instagrammable dishes of the age, Maray’s disco cauliflower, has made the trip up the M62. This whole-roasted cauli comes elaborately dressed in chermoula, harissa, tahini, pomegranate, yogurt, almonds and parsley. Plates around £5 – £13.

Adam Reid at The French
Best for: Special occasion

The French interior

The grande dame of Manchester hotels, The Midland’s restaurant was given a new lease of life in 2013, when L’Enclume’s Simon Rogan took over this iconic space. Rogan has since departed and chef Adam Reid is now in sole control of its journey into the 21st century.

Key dishes include Adam’s modish spin on that Lancastrian classic ’tater ’ash, and his Golden Empire – a 2016 Great British Menu-winner – in which a golden apple made of sugar is filled with meadowsweet custard, apple compote and hazelnut crumble. Menus from £45.

VNam
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats

At the time of writing, cult fave VNam was – check website for further details – poised to relocate from its relatively fringe location on Oldham Road to Edge Street in the Northern Quarter. It’s a move sure to broaden the appeal of a Vietnamese restaurant where the beef pho or the bun thit nuong BBQ pork noodles boast multiple dimensions of fresh, arresting flavours. Mains from £9.49.

Pancho’s Burritos
Best for: Cheap eats

Britain loves a burrito, but Pancho’s Mexican owner Enrique Martinez goes beyond the standard Tex-Mex menu. As well as burritos, his Arndale Market stall serves topped enchiladas, tostadas and quesadillas. Details such as cactus leaves as an extra or the vividness of Pancho’s habanero salsa owe a debt to his mother’s tried-and-trusted family recipes. Burritos from £7.50.

Common
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, kid friendly

Manchester’s Northern Quarter is hardly short of hip bars serving casual food and craft beers. But Common has always been a cut-above. In its latest incarnation, food is provided by Nell’s, Common founder Jonny Heyes’ new NY-style pizza concept. Pies come in individual slices, 14in or mammoth 22in versions, topped with everything from n’duja, pepperoni and chilli honey to burnt onions, Lancashire cheese and roast garlic cream, in a tangential tribute to the northern cheese and onion pie (geddit?).

There’s a second, standalone Nell’s Kitchen pizzeria at the Kampus development, where, from January 2023, you’ll also find a new café from Great North Pie Co – arguably, the region’s best pie-makers – and a branch of Madre, the Liverpool taco aces. Don’t miss Madre’s slow-cooked beef shin tacos with Oaxaca cheese, served with their own spicy dipping broth. Slice from £2.25

Rudy’s Pizza
Best for: Casual dining, cheap eats, kid friendly

The original Rudy’s in city-centre Ancoats is now part of a national chain, with sites from Soho to Sheffield. It remains a top option for Neapolitan-style pizza. Expect to queue for a walk-in table at peak times, such is the appeal of Rudy’s nicely charred, puffy, softly foldable pizzas. The dough is proved for 24-hours but fired in just 60 seconds. These are topped with deliciously sweet, piquant San Marzano tomato sauce and, beyond that, everything from aged prosciutto to artichoke hearts. Most pizzas around £10.

Hawksmoor

Best for: Special occasions, casual dining

The Manchester branch of the acclaimed Hawksmoor occupies an historic courthouse building, a perfect fit for the group’s wood-panelled, clubby aesthetic. Its relaxed service has won over a city that abhors pretentiousness and the food delivers, whether you’re dropping big money on British grass-fed steaks and triple-cooked chips, or grabbing a burger with Ogleshield cheese in the bar. Mains from £16.

10 More Manchester foodie essentials

Idle Hands

From cold brew and single-origin pour-overs to the (now) humble flat white, Idle Hands serves exemplary coffee alongside fine cakes, bakes and brunchy breakfasts.

Schofield’s Bar

Handsome, friendly cocktail bar where, to a soundtrack of vintage vocal jazz, the staff (led by owner-brothers, Joe and Daniel) create Manhattans, negronis and Sazeracs of such élan that in The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 longlist, Schofield’s rated at 59 – the first UK bar outside London or Edinburgh to ever make the top 100.

Salut

Popular wine shop, bar and, in summer, al fresco pavement drinking spot. Salut has all wine bases covered, but if you’re looking to burrow deep into the natural wine niche, also check out Ancoats’ Kerb.

The Smithfield Tavern

Blackjack Brewery’s Smithfield is the perfect mix: a no-nonsense, old school boozer (complete with much-used dartboard and Seabrooks crisps) serving on-point, modern beers.

Lily’s Deli

Grocery spin-off from the Sachdev family’s much-loved meat-free Ashton-Under-Lyne restaurant, Lily’s. Its Ancoats store serves daily hot curries and dahls alongside chaats, samosas, Indian sweets and storecupboard essentials.

Companio Bakery

Bread supplier to several of the city’s best restaurants, or sample its offerings direct from the Radium Street bakery. Expect ace croissants, topped focaccia, savouries and sandwiches.

Vurger & Co.

The Manchester outpost of this vegan burger brand is quietly blowing minds with, in particular, its crispy, soy-based ‘chicken’ burger, which is almost indistinguishable from fried chicken.

Siop Shop

A site of pilgrimage for lovers of coffee, doughnuts and assorted baked treats. A fine place in which to recharge your batteries after (record/vintage clothes) shopping in the Northern Quarter.

Wing Yip (Oldham Road, M4 5HU)

A short walk down Oldham Road, the Manchester branch of Wing Yip supermarket, one of four in the UK, offers a vast array of Chinese and East Asian products. For more from East Asia, also check bakery, restaurant and food retail hub, Hello Oriental.

Fat Hippo @ Lane 7

Should you want to go bowling on your visit (and why not?), be aware Lane 7 includes a concession from Newcastle’s next-level burger slingers, Fat Hippo. Try the Swiss Tony or the classic American cheeseburger.

Enjoy this? Check out more of our UK guides

The best restaurants to eat in Oxford
The best restaurants to eat in Cambridge
The best restaurants to eat in York
The best restaurants to eat in Bath
The best restaurants to eat in Chester

Travellers are advised to read the FCO travel advice at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice for any country they’re travelling to.

Image credits: Chris Pople, Claire Harrison, Getty Images

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