Small plates in Manchester

Ian Jones, Food and Drink Editor

Everywhere you turn in Manchester, you’ll stumble across yet another restaurant offering small plates. But what are they? If you’re greedy, like me, it’s a fine way to try out a variety of dishes, plus if you’re simply not that hungry, it’s a decent way to save a few quid and still enjoy an evening out. Plus, it’s a great way to take a punt on something you haven’t tried before, without risking being lumped with a big plate of unappealing slop.

A great way to take a punt on something you haven’t tried before

Small plates are also called ‘tapas-style’ dishes, but whereas tapas is most often associated with Spanish food, small plates can apply to all kinds of cuisine, and indeed, some of Manchester’s best are from further afield (or even closer to home). Of course, classic tapas makes an appearance, thanks to the always-excellent Lunya, off Deansgate, and of course El Gato Negro Tapas on King Street (the name should have been a clue) but in our expert guide you’ll also find offerings from Portgual in Canto, locally-sourced food at Erst and much more.

Classic tapas makes an appearance, thanks to the always-excellent Lunya, off Deansgate, and of course El Gato Negro Tapas

Strictly speaking, practically every restaurant in Manchester could be done ‘small-plates-style’ – just work your way through the ‘starters’ section and ignore the big imposing mains. It may seem a bit unusual to do this though, and rather than risk the wrath of an eyebrow-raising maître d’ (we jest, the Manchester restaurant scene is lucky enough to have a notable lack of snooty waiting staff, god bless it) you might prefer to go to a venue that specialises in smaller, less-pricey options.

And this is our list of the best. Variety is the spice of life, so try them all, and try all on offer at them all while you’re at it.

Here are our picks

  • 1. Erst


    Erst, 9 Murray St, Manchester, M4 5BN - Visit now

    The entire menu at Erst is a treat, full of post-Nordic creations that are both simple and endlessly fascinating.

  • 2. Lunya Manchester

    Image by Martin Kevill

    Lunya Manchester, Barton Arcade, Deansgate, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M3 2BB - Visit now

    With a menu packed with Catalan flavour and a deli with more hidden treats than the Sagrada Familia, this place is more Catalan than Catalonia. If you’re looking for some winter sun this year, you’re probably best heading to Lunya.

  • 3. El Gato Negro Tapas

    El Gato Negro Tapas
    Image courtesy of Marketing Manchester

    El Gato Negro Tapas, 52 King Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 4LY - Visit now

    Being fed and watered in between El Gato’s walls can feel like a decadent treat, full of rich, deep, flavours presented delicately but with the food very much front and centre and it rarely fails to come good on such promises.

  • 4. The Bull & Bear Manchester

    The Bull and Bear
    Ian Jones

    The Bull & Bear Manchester, 4 Norfolk St,, Manchester, M2 1DW - Visit now

    The Bull & Bear is Tom’s first restaurant in the North of England, and judging by the food on offer, we’re incredibly lucky to have him. Whether you’re a red or a blue, the United Illuminati have done well with this one.

  • 5. Canto

    Ian Jones

    Canto, Fairbairn Unit A, Fairbairn Building, Henry Street, Manchester, M4 5DH - Visit now

    Canto has a well-deserved place in the city’s small plates line-up. The food has been adapted and refined since its launch, bringing the quality up several notches. It’s something of a bargain too – the portions are generally huge and the prices low.

  • 6. Bundobust Manchester

    Bundobust Manchester
    Ian Jones

    Bundobust Manchester, 61 Piccadilly, Manchester, M1 2AG - Visit now

    Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, or a group meal out, Bundobust can’t be beat. In fact, they offer every item on the menu for a mere £80, enough to feed six to eight people. Do your friends a favour, drag them out for this, weather be damned.

  • 7. Peru Perdu

    Peru Perdu

    Peru Perdu, The Cotton Factory, 74 Princess St, Manchester, M1 6JD, Manchester, M1 6JD - Visit now

    Peru Perdu is the latest restaurant to take over at The Cotton Factory. Specialising in South American cuisine, the focus is on fresh ingredients, seasonal produce and big bold flavours.