It’s that time again, and this time we’re cramming two seasons of festive cheer into one and we simply refuse to feel guilty or even think about the ramifications of daily turkey dinners and Christmas cocktails. Until January at least. But right now, the focus is on having as much fun as possible, with the people we care most about. That includes friends, family and workmates – get them all out for food and drinks and general partying. Responsibilities be damned.
Having said that, do play safe with your health. Get jabbed, get a booster and if you’re feeling under the weather, take some time out. And be considerate of other people who might need a little more space, and especially staff working in bars and restaurants who are under pressure more now than offer. Tip often and tip big and prepare for a few minor delays – no matter what, it’ll be better than Christmas 2020.
The recent weeks have seen some superb meals and drink-fuelled nights out in and around the North, some Christmassy, some not. Spoiler alert: the next guide will be wall-to-wall festive cheer and any grinches will be given short shrift. Sure, the evenings are darker earlier and it’s pretty chilly outside, but we’ve found some superb spots to warm up. There’s a new winter garden space in Ancoats, thanks to Ramona, an exciting supper club at Ducie Street Warehouse, the long-awaited return of the Christmas Markets (this time in Piccadilly Gardens, which is an, umm, interesting choice) and the launch of new menus all across Manchester and beyond.
As ever, this guide is just a sample of what Manchester and the North have to offer when it comes to food and drink. If you’re looking for more Christmas-themed ideas for your December nights out, do check out our Christmas Food and Drink guide too.
Here are our picks
The Dressing Room Cafe Bar, The Edge Theatre & Arts Centre, Manchester Rd, Manchester, M21 9JG - Visit now
The Dressing Room isn’t just a cute little cafe and bar – though it certainly ticks that box – this is the kind of venue that defines the soul of a neighbourhood. Throw a raved-about environmentally-conscious food menu and a great drinks selection into the mix, and you’ve got your new favourite place to hang out in Chorlton.
Nam Manchester, Unit 2, 33 Blossom St, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AJ - Visit now
Whether you’re interested in grabbing a satisfying bite to eat or experiencing some pitch-perfect sounds curated by Manchester’s best DJs in the forward-thinking downstairs space, Nam does the lot, and does it very, very well.
Embankment Kitchen Restaurant & Bar, 16 Chapel St, Salford, M3 7NH - Visit now
The Embankment Kitchen is one of the jewels in Salford’s crown, and their festive menu is looking to be one of the standout options for the upcoming season. Whether you’re looking for a group meal, a romantic date or even a solo outing, the level of skill and expertise, both front and back of house, means that when January rolls around, this time, you’ll have very fond memories of the Christmas just gone.
Dakota Bar & Grill Manchester, 29 Ducie St, Manchester, M1 2JL - Visit now
Christmas is about excess, and Dakota do it beautifully, in terms of eye-poppingly good cocktails and hearty, heavy, hot food. If you’re looking for a special festive night out in one of the city’s smartest looking venues, the Dakota Bar & Grill can’t be recommended enough.
Ramona and The Firehouse, 40 Swan St, Manchester, M4 5JG - Visit now
As Manchester gears up for the festive season, Ramona is partnering with its neighbour venue The Firehouse to provide something special for the people of Manchester: the new winter village with signature firepits to keep you and your friends warm and set the mood. Bordering the Northern Quarter, Ramona is a must-visit location to celebrate the run-up to Christmas with great food, drink and company.
Manchester Union Brewery, 96D North Western Street, Manchester, M12 6JL - Visit now
Manchester Union Brewery’s latest supper club was a resounding success, proving yet again that beer is a perfect accompaniment to a good meal. Their latest excursion, the ‘Ferments and Flowers’ menu highlighted the power of fermentation at the table, with no expense spared.
Piccolino Caffe Grande, 8 Clarence St, Manchester, M2 4DW - Visit now
As Christmas market stalls open and the streets become a steady stream of smiling faces, you’ll want to rest your weary legs after a day of shopping and preparing for the festive season. So why not take a break to enjoy Piccolino Cafe Grande’s new festive menu.
Piccadilly Gardens takes pride of place this year, as the hub of all things Christmas and market-y. It features a family-friendly Winter Gardens, right in the heart of the city, transforming the gardens into a labyrinth of yuletide bars selling locally-brewed ales, food stalls, craft sellers and, for the first time, a stage featuring live music and DJs throughout the festive season.
Take a culinary tour of Ancoats, the world’s first industrial suburb where an award-winning chip shop (which pays homage to hip-hop) sits alongside a Michelin starred fine dining restaurant.
Join Craft Beer Tour Manchester for a journey through some of the cities best local breweries and artisanal beer serving bars. Discover the personality of Manchester’s beer through a diverse range of pints.
The Manchester Christmas Markets 2021 are back, with many dozens of stalls in front of the town hall, and hundreds of traders spread across city-centre squares.
Local drinks company The Public Spirit has organised a must-go festive trail with twelve of the city’s best independent bars, featuring twelve unique drinks and all to support one great cause.