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Manchester's best restaurants
There are two types of sushi: the mass-produced standard kind that can be picked up at supermarkets, and the kind that's lovingly prepared in front of your face by a chef who will only use produce he deems worthy. The latter can be found at Umezushi, and the quality is so good it's a firm favourite with the city's chefs when they're off duty.
Manchester’s food lovers are forever fretting over the city’s lack of a Michelin star, and the arrival of Simon Rogan at the French was intended to change all that. Sadly, it didn't happen and Rogan departed some time ago leaving The French in the capable hands of Adam Reid, who had previously worked at the restaurant and been crowned a winner in the BBC's 'Great British Menu' competition. Despite Reid's best efforts and a refurb of the Grade II-listed dining room, we're still waiting for that star.
With a sumptuous sky bar and tasting menu by ambitious executive chef Aiden Byrne, Manchester House celebrates the city’s inimitable sense of style with aplomb. As the flagship restaurant and bar of Manchester’s most prolific and showy restaurant group, Living Ventures, no expense has been spared on the sleek industrial-chic design – or on the multi-million-pound state-of-the-art kitchens.
Although restaurants of its ilk are ten-a-penny in Manchester these days, The Grill on the Alley has been filling the bellies of Manchester folk with steak, seafood and cocktails for years with few complaints. Once you've sunk a few passion fruit slings at the bar, you’re led through the closely packed tables by a friendly member of staff. The dining room features a grand, open kitchen; the decor is all wood, exposed brick, low lighting and leather booths, both comfortable and lively when the restaurant is full – which it usually is.
Having splashed out a whopping £2 million on the place, the people behind Fazenda must be confident in their offer. And so they should be. You can certainly see where the money has been spent. There's an impressive bar area and an outdoor terrace with space for 50 – a great location to enjoy a tipple from the award-winning cocktail list. Fazenda offers 15 different cuts of beef, chicken, lamb and pork, while a bountiful salad bar caters for all diners, with options including sushi, smoked salmon, cured meats, hot dishes and traditional Brazilian fare. As you'd expect there's an impressive wine selection, too.
Brought to you by the folks behind Almost Famous, this contemporary Tex-Mex restaurant located in the Northern Quarter is Manchester’s premier spot for beer, tacos, burgers, burritos, beer, steaks, chilli, cocktails, fries, sides, desserts and even more beer.
Cicchetti (pronounced chi-ket-tee) are small snacks, designed to be shared and traditionally served in the bars of Venice. Think Italian tapas and you won't go far wrong. You might be familiar with this kind of food from London’s Polpo (and associated spin-offs and imitations), but equally impressive Venetian delights are available at Manchester's San Carlo Cicchetti.
With its glass prism-shaped entrance bursting up through Spinningfield’s pavement, Australasia literally takes you ‘down under’ to sample its pan-Asian cuisine. It’s one of the only places in town serving dishes inspired by south-east Asian, Indonesian and Japanese cooking, and despite being an underground restaurant, it's certainly not a gloomy place.
Among the colour and noise of Chinatown lies a single Japanese restaurant, Yuzu. It was once one of Manchester’s best ‘hidden gems’, before a glowing review from food critic Jay Rayner let the cat out of the bag. Now reservations are harder to come by, particularly at peak times, but they’re worth the wait.
The winner of the 2012 Manchester Tourism Award for Restaurant of the Year is an impressive 300-seat space just off the Oxford Road corridor. Modern and sleek and a far cry from the curry mile, Zouk offers Indian cuisine of the highest standard in a large, two-storey restaurant where you can also dine alfresco in the outdoor shisha lounge.
There are plenty of Thai and Malaysian restaurants to choose from in Manchester, some located in swanky million-pound buildings (Vermilion) or high-profile locations such as the King Street area (Chaophraya). One that has none of those things but consistently delivers good food is straight-up, authentic Thai restaurant Phetpailin.
While certain other places nearby have been grabbing the limelight, this Manchester stalwart has quietly been turning out quality food in a relaxed and friendly environment for many years. Named after its location, The Northern Quarter Restaurant & Bar (or ‘TNQ’) shares many of the qualities of its namesake and, much like the area, appeals to the artistic, young professionals and creative types with its unique combination of stylish, funky minimalism.
There are two menus at Red Chilli in Manchester’s Chinatown district. The regular one is perfectly fine, but nothing you can’t get at many other places nearby. But the second, ‘spicy menu’ is definitely worth asking for if you aren't offered it. There you’ll find the dishes that Red Chilli specialises in: the exciting, hot and fragrant food of Sichuan and Beijing.
If you fancy dining with the stars, look no further than San Carlo. It’s long been the favourite haunt of many a celebrity, something it's clearly proud of, as photos of famous guests adorn the walls. It’s not just a place to see and be seen, though – the food is pretty special, too.