For literal decades, Manchester went without receiving a single Michelin star. Hundreds of chefs had tried and failed, and it felt like this place had a curse. Not so: in October 2019, the glamorous Mana – run by Noma alumnus Simon Martin – became the city’s first restaurant to receive the gong since 1977. It was well deserved, and symbolic of just how much Manchester’s culinary scene has changed over the past 40 years.
Because once upon a time, Bury black pudding and rice ‘n’ three really were about as exciting as it came here. But following an exciting slew of indie openings and a peppering of first-rate fine-dining establishments, things have very much changed. Thanks to Mana, the absolute best restaurants in Manchester have now been catapulted on to the global stage. From cutting-edge dining that’ll dazzle your taste buds to street food and curry cafés that’ll warm the heart, Greater Manchester’s got it all.
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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.
With dark, wood-panelled rooms and frosted windows, Hawksmoor Manchester is the first branch of the upscale steakhouse to make its delicious mark outside of London. Yet like its southern brethren, it’s a place to blur day with night over ginger cocktails and the country’s finest meat.
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 boundary-pushing menu won’t be everyone’s cup of corn, but any restaurant that makes moss taste utterly delicious deserves a place in this list.
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 in south Manchester, 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 or a fancy Sunday roast. Be warned: the custard tart is addictive.
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.
This backstreet Basque joint features a cosy bar where diners can pull up a stool and help themselves to a tempting line-up of pintxos, cheese and wine. 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.
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, though we reckon even the most hard-headed meat-eater wouldn’t notice.
Among the colour and noise 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. Now, reservations are harder to come by, particularly at peak times, but they’re worth the wait.
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.
Amid the flurry of new restaurants in Manchester, old favourites sometimes don’t get as much press as they should and 63 Degrees is one of the most under-appreciated. Based in the hip ‘n’ happening Northern Quarter, you can find a little slice of Paris in the shape of this family-run restaurant. The Moreaus have left the glamour of their home city to bring a taste of the French capital to Manchester, and we forever thank them for it.
The trendy suburb of Chorlton has plenty of top places to eat but none quite match the ambition of The Creameries. Headed by a trio that includes much-lauded local chef Mary-Ellen McTague, the bakery and kitchen serve inventive dishes from breakfast through to dinner, with fresh sourdough loaves to take away. Look out for the occasional baking class and kitchen takeover, too.
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, well, top quality – think things like San Marzano tomatoes and locally made fennel sausage.
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.
This & That has been serving the speciality rice ’n’ three (rice topped with three curries of your choice) 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 hearty portions, and look out for the special Sunday nihari.
After more solid recommendations
It may be best known for its musical legacy, having gifted the world the likes of the Stone Roses, the Smiths and (however temporarily) legendary club the Hacienda. But don’t get hung up on the past – our pick of the best things to do in Manchester right now shows this city’s evolving at a staggering pace.