Eating out in Manchester has never been better. Over the past few years the food scene has flourished: trailblazing indie restaurants have opened across the city, under-the-radar local favourites have been celebrated by national restaurant critics and world-famous chefs are setting up flashy new ventures. But the biggest headline? In 2019 exquisite fine-dining establishment Mana was awarded a Michelin star – the first in the city for more than 40 years.
That star may have put this city on the global map, but for locals it just confirmed something they already knew: Manchester’s fledgling culinary scene is growing up, and it’s only going to get bigger and better. From late-night kebabs to fancy fine-dining, hidden curry cafés to mind-blowing tasting menus, here’s our round-up of the best restaurants in Manchester right now.
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Best restaurants in Manchester
Off the tourist track but well worth the pilgrimage, Where The Light Gets In attracts serious food fans from around the world thanks to an inspired seasonal tasting menu, a stonking wine list and relaxed but attentive service. The passionate team operates in the loft of a lovingly restored Victorian coffee warehouse in Stockport and many of the ingredients are sourced from their own nearby farm. Visit their pop-up bar and vinyl night for a more affordable taster; it’s hosted in their staff room – complete with ironing boards and coats – on select weekends.
Slick and serious Mana – which in 2019 became the first restaurant in Manchester to receive a Michelin star since 1977 – serves thoughtful dishes using under-celebrated British ingredients and produce. The open kitchen enjoys surprising guests with anything from reindeer moss to nixtamalised corn broth. The innovative menu won’t be everyone’s cup of corn, but any restaurant that makes moss taste utterly delicious deserves a place in this list.
Until Mana’s 2019 award, Manchester’s lack of a Michelin star was always a hot topic and the arrival of Simon Rogan at the French was intended to change all that. Sadly, that didn't happen and Rogan departed some time ago – leaving The French in the very capable hands of head chef Adam Reid. Reid has since made the Grade II-listed dining room his own, shaking off any stuffy fine dining preconceptions and serving his own inspired take on modern British cuisine.
There are few things more wonderful in life than a good neighbourhood bistro and Hispi is top of the pack in Manchester. Hidden away in the suburb of Didsbury, this is the kind of place you wish you had on your doorstep. Reliable, confident, classic cooking makes this relaxed spot many people’s go-to for special occasions. Be warned: the custard tart will make you want to dance around the room with glee.
This meticulously curated space looks like it’s from the cover of a magazine, and equal attention goes into creating big flavours on the menu. At the heart of Erst’s kitchen, an open-flame grill kicks out dishes that vary according to the season. Think ice-cold oysters, flame-grilled pork collar with rosemary and plum and squidgy confit squash with curds and crunchy seeds. Trust the staff to recommend a bottle of natural wine and settle in for the evening.
With dark, wood-panelled rooms and frosted windows, Hawksmoor Manchester was the first branch of the upscale steakhouse to make its delicious mark outside of London. Like its southern brethren, it’s a place to blur day with night over cocktails and the country’s finest grass-fed meat. The staff are always a delight, too – we love a warm welcome followed by discreet yet attentive service.
Indian street food and craft beer: it doesn’t get much better than that. Bundobust started out in Leeds and chose Manchester for its second outpost – how lucky are we? Inside, it’s casual and hip with a smattering of retro Bollywood; long communal dining tables groan under the weight of dishes which fuse northern produce with Gujarati street food. The menu is vegetarian, but we reckon even the most hard-headed meat-eater wouldn’t have beef with eating here.
Hot on Hawksmoor’s heels as Manchester’s new favourite London import, Dishoom is winning hearts for homey dishes served in the eclectic splendour of the 1920s Grade II-listed Manchester Hall. The cocktails can hold their own, too, with original takes on classic mixes. Expect Indian street food and traditional dishes inspired by the old Irani cafés of Mumbai. Humble, hearty and spicy, this is comfort food at its best.
From the chef behind neighbourhood favourite Hispi, Kala brings classic, down-to-earth dining to the city centre. Everything here is cooked to a tee. Dive into creamy burrata with glazed carrots and smoked garlic honey, tender braised feather blade beef with cavolo nero and perfectly cooked truffle and parmesan chips. And the Sunday roast – oh, the Sunday roast.
This backstreet Basque joint is a gem. Pull up a stool and help yourself to a tempting line-up of snacks in the pintxo bar before taking a seat in the dining room. The wood-fired Pereruela oven is at the heart of the operation – a beast of a thing that imparts a smoky, chargrilled flavour to huge cuts of meat and whole fish, theatrically carved at the table.
Among the buzz of Chinatown lies a single Japanese restaurant, Yuzu. It’s refined and simple, both in terms of décor and food, and the lunch deal is a proper steal. It was once one of Manchester’s best-kept secrets, before a glowing review from food critic Jay Rayner changed all that. Reservations are now harder to come by, but they’re so very worth the wait.
The trendy suburb of Chorlton is like a pick ’n’ mix of top restaurants, but none quite match the ambition of The Creameries. Led by a fierce trio which includes the much-loved chef Mary-Ellen McTague, the kitchen serves beautifully presented set menus for lunch and dinner. Thoughtful plates include smoked white beetroot with hazelnuts, home-smoked mackerel with mustard cream and pickles, and roasted local venison with parsnip puree and buttered kale.
Not so much a restaurant as a market trader in the acclaimed food hall Mackie Mayor, Honest Crust still deserves a place on this list for knocking out the city’s best pizza. The Neapolitan-style base is light, chewy and dotted with charred bubbles like leopard’s spots. Toppings are always top quality – think things like San Marzano tomatoes and locally made fennel sausage. Ours is the classic margherita: scoff it while you marvel at the 1858 Grade II-listed building surrounding you.
Erst’s big sister, Trove is the Levenshulme arm of this uber-stylish duo. The South Manchester joint started as a dinky bakery and café in 2011, and has since blossomed into a thriving restaurant and bar (open late from Thursday to Saturday). It’s a short train journey from the city centre, but well worth the trip for the top-notch cakes and bakes, homemade flatbreads with tender roast lamb shoulder, or roasted curried cauliflower with turmeric vegan yoghurt.
It might sound like an urban legend, but if you climb the dodgy-looking steps in the corner of one Manchester kebab shop, you’ll find Habesha, a hidden Ethiopian restaurant frequented by those in the know. Grab your mates and order a big injera flatbread to share, topped with a selection of punchy stews (doro wat is our favourite) and veg. Pair with an Ethiopian beer, and finish on a potent in-house roasted coffee.
Perch on a wooden stool and prop up the bar at this elegant tapas joint where you can taste your way through sunny classics like gooey-centred tortilla and crisp croquettes with an indulgent cheese filling. It can get very busy, but any restaurant that makes us feel like we’re holidaying by the Med is worth queuing for.
Amid the flurry of new restaurants in Manchester, old favourites sometimes don’t get as much press as they should; 63 Degrees is one of the most under-appreciated. Based in the buzzy Northern Quarter, find a little slice of Paris in the shape of this family-run restaurant. The Moreaus left the glamour of their home city to bring a taste of the French capital to Manchester, and we forever thank them for it.
Descend the steps of this low-key basement in Chinatown to discover gigantic bowls of hearty pho, topped with your choice of raw beef, perfectly cooked prawns or tofu and mushrooms. Team with refreshing summer rolls or sticky BBQ pork skewers to share. This Vietnamese café is decidedly no-frills, but that doesn’t matter when you’ve got a full belly for next to nothing.
There’s a well-trodden path to Lily’s from the nearby IKEA, a handy parting gift for hungry shoppers who’ve finally escaped the Scandi maze. But even if you don’t need another Billy bookcase, this humble little Indian restaurant merits its own trip thanks to affordable prices, accomplished flavour combinations and an epic menu of more than 100 dishes.
Manchester loves a curry café, and Chorlton’s Chapati Café is one of the best in the South. Enter the canteen-style joint and pick your faves: chickpeas stewed in spicy tomatoes, tender chicken karahi with green chillis and peppers, or hearty tarka dhal, to name a few. Curries come in a thali tray with freshly made chapati, while beers include craft heroes like Beavertown. Our top tip? Load up on the moreish homemade tamarind sauce.
In the city centre and need a quick, affordable curry fix? Café Marhaba is a charming backstreet canteen where you can get a big ol’ plate of rice ’n’ three (rice topped with three curries of your choice) for just £6. Pair with a pillowy naan and a starter of samosas for a low-cost feast in this Manchester relic.
Elevated pub grub directed by a Michelin-starred chef? It sounds like the restaurant set-up of dreams at The Bull & Bear, which has Tom Kerridge of two-Michelin-starred The Hand and Flowers at the helm. There’s a frankly ridiculous number of flatscreen TVs playing football 24/7; ignore them by burying your head in mussels swimming in an unctuous marinière or the crispy pig’s head with even crispier celeriac remoulade. Finish on paper-thin profiteroles groaning with soured cream and drizzled in chocolate. Back of the net.
This & That has been serving rice ’n’ three to hungry Mancs since 1984 and it’s still going strong. The family-run restaurant was revamped a while back – a controversial move that made it fit in with the trendy cafés surrounding it – but their back-alley diner is still just as popular. Expect no-frills dining and big portions, and look out for the special Sunday nihari.
Does it count as a restaurant if there are only two covers and it’s in a shopping centre? With crab balls like this, we’re going to say yes. Tucked in a tiny unit in Manchester Arndale, the folks behind Holy Crab are madder about seafood than Captain Birdseye and twice as cool. Pop in for a trio of oysters and a mind-blowing crab BLT served in a toasted croissant. Crabsolutely delicious.
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