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Manchester Eat List
Photograph: The Creameries/scott@bacononthebeech

The 23 best restaurants in Manchester you need to try

A Michelin star has finally put this city on the gourmet map. These are the restaurants in Manchester you shouldn’t miss when lockdown lifts

By Lucy Lovell
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March 2021: Fingers crossed, it won’t be long until Manchester’s restaurants can swing open their doors again. Under the current lockdown exit strategy, UK restaurants will be able to reopen from April 12 at the earliest for outdoor meals and from May 17 indoor dining will be on the cards again, subject to social-distancing rules. In anticipation of being able to eat delicious dishes without having to do the washing up afterwards we’ve updated our list of the best restaurants in Manchester. From Michelin-starred heavyweights and enduring curry houses to new emerging joints and street food spots, here are the hottest tables in Manchester we think you should be booking once lockdown lifts. 

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.

Eaten somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutEatList. You can find out more about how Time Out makes recommendations and reviews restaurants here.

Best restaurants in Manchester

Where The Light Gets In
Photograph: Where The Light Gets In

1. Where The Light Gets In

What is it? A modern airy dining room serving meat-focused small plates. 

Why go? 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. 

Time Out tip: 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. 

Mana
Photograph: Mana

2. Mana

What is it? Avant-garde British fine dining. 

Why go? 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.

Time Out tip: This place is reservation only. 

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The French at The Midland, Manchester
Photograph: The French at The Midland

3. The French at the Midland

Restaurants British

What is it? Intricate, ingenious dishes assembled from the simplest of parts.

Why go? 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. Despite it’s name there’s a distinctly northern English twang to the menu and you’ll experience textural and sensory saturation as you make your way through the captivating courses. 

Hispi
Photograph: Hispi

4. Hispi

Restaurants Bistros

What is it? A neighbourhood bistro with an original menu and a la carte options.

Why go? 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.

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Erst
Photograph: Jordan Michael

5. Erst

What is it? A stylish natural wine bar and restaurant. 

Why go? 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.

Time Out tip: Trust the staff to recommend a bottle of natural wine and settle in for the evening. 

Hawksmoor, Manchester
Toby Keane

6. Hawksmoor

Restaurants Steakhouse

What is it? One of London's best steakhouses sets up shop on Deansgate, cooking up some seriously tasty cow (and more)

Why go? 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.

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Bundobust
Photograph: Bundobust

7. Bundobust

Restaurants Indian

What is it? Indian street food and craft beer: it doesn’t get much better than that. 

Why go? 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 that 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.

Dishoom
Photograph: Courtesy Tripadvisor

8. Dishoom

What is it? Manchester’s new favourite London import.

Why go? 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.

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Kala
Photograph: Natural Selection Design / Dan Burns

9. Kala

What is it? The chef behind neighbourhood favourite Hispi, Kala brings classic, down-to-earth dining to the city centre.

Why go? Everything here is cooked to a tee. Dive into ox heart kebab, crispy smoked haddock and perfectly cooked truffle and parmesan chips.

Time Out tip: The Sunday roast – oh, the Sunday roast.

Baratxuri
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com

10. Baratxuri

What is it? A backstreet Basque joint.

Why go? 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.

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Yuzu, Manchester
Photograph: Yuzu

11. Yuzu

Restaurants Japanese

What is it? A great value enclave of sophisticated Japanese fare hiding out in Chinatown

Why go? Among the buzz of Chinatown lies a single Japanese restaurant, Yuzu. It’s refined and simple, both in terms of décor and food. 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.

Time Out tip: The lunch deal is a proper steal. 

The Creameries
Photograph: scott@bacononthebeech

12. The Creameries

What is it? Established by some of the team behind the Real Junk Food Project, which uses food that would go to waste, this is the latest project from Manchester super chef Mary- Ellen McTague and baker Sophie Yeoman.

Why go? 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 that 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.

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Honest Crust Pizza, Manchester, Altrincham
Photograph: Honest Crust

13. Honest Crust

Restaurants Pizza

What is it? 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.

Why go? 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.

Trove, Manchester
Photograph: Trove

14. Trove

Restaurants Pizza

What is it? Family-run suburban bakery whose wares feature on the menus of some of the classiest cafés in town. 

Why go? 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.

 

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Habesha, Restaurants, Manchester
© Lee Baxter

15. Habesha

Restaurants Ethiopian

What is it? Traditional Ethiopian restaurant where a spongy pancake serves as your plate.

Why go? 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. 

Time Out tip: Finish with a potent in-house roasted coffee.

16. Porta

What is it? An elegant tapas joint. 

Why go? 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.

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63 Degrees
Photograph: 63 Degrees

17. 63 Degrees

Restaurants French

What is it? A slice of the Seine in Manchester - a family-run French restaurant really knows its onions.

Why go? 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.

I Am Pho, Restaurants, Manchester
© Lee Baxter

18. I Am Pho

Restaurants Vietnamese

What is it? A cheerful Vietnamese with a great handle on the classics.

Why go? 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.

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Lily’s Indian Vegetarian Cuisine
Photograph: Courtesy TripAdvisor.com

19. Lily’s Indian Vegetarian Cuisine

Restaurants Indian

What is it? An unassuming restaurant serving, arguably, the finest vegetarian Indian food in the North West. 

Why go? 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.

Time Out tip: Headhunted chefs from Mumbai and Gujarat also expertly prepare a range of delicious sweets.

Chapati Cafe, Manchester
Photograph: Chapati Café

20. Chapati Café

Restaurants Indian

What is it? Manchester loves a curry café, and Chorlton’s Chapati Café is one of the best in the South.

Why go? 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. 

Time Out tip: Load up on the moreish homemade tamarind sauce.

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21. Café Marhaba

Restaurants Indian

What is it? A glorious backstreet curry cafe. 

Why go? 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. It’s well regarded, first and foremost, for its freshness - something that's pretty much guaranteed, given that the full range of curries (and there are more than a few) and chapatis are cooked to order. The decor and atmosphere is basic even by the standards of the local lunchtime curry orbit, but the restaurant melds its own unique variety of table service with excellent value and just some really, really good food. 

Bull & Bear
Photograph: Cristian Barnett

22. The Bull & Bear

What is it? Elevated pub grub directed by a Michelin-starred chef.

Why go? It sounds like the restaurant set-up of dreams at The Bull & Bear, which has the one-and-only 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. 

Time Out tip: The B&B Full English is well worth a try. 

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This & That, Manchester
Photograph: This & That

23. This & That

Restaurants Indian

What is it? Canteen-style Indian restaurant serving rice ‘n’ curry combos for under a fiver. 

Why go? 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.

Time Out tip: Look out for the special Sunday nihari.

After more solid recommendations?

A canal in city-centre Manchester
Photograph: Shutterstock

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