Manchester has its fair share of great places to eat – from the winding streets of the ever-expanding Northern Quarter to Season’s Eatings’ regular (and excellent) supper club at Trove in Levenshulme. OK, so we’re talking Greater Manchester here, and using a fairly loose definition of the term “restaurant”. But this guide is really about food – the best, the most inventive and hands-down most delicious to be found in Manchester and its surrounds. Starting from low-key spots where the décor is chilled and the cost is little, we work our way up to the shiny (and rather more expensive) stars in the city’s culinary firmament.
Here are our picks
With a Masterchef pro among its alumni, it’s clear that the Marble Arch pub is a rung above many other boozers when it comes to cooking. The kitchen has caught on to the fact that it’s the food, not the booze, that keeps taverns in business these days – though the menu is cleverly split between sophisticated plates and more straightforward “bar food”. It’s rich, filling and seasonal – so if this is a place you fall in foodie-love with, you can go back fairly regularly without fear of being bored. Oh, and the beer’s good, too.
This is the Indian restaurant that shone light on the cobwebs hanging from our attitude towards the Curry Mile: it’s helmed by Haz Arshad, a man determined to bring this garish stretch of Manchester back up to scratch, and to prove it isn’t just shisha and sloppy kormas. Mughli has led the way back towards the kind of cooking that you can’t wait to tell your friends about; order from its lengthy menu and beautifully spiced dishes of vegetables, meat and rice will appear in little copper pots at your table.
El Gato Negro Tapas upped sticks from the Pennine village of Ripponden in December 2014, bringing its awards and accolades to Manchester city centre. It now lives in a rather stunning historic building on King Street. El Gato specialises in high end tapas, with luxurious Spanish ingredients and flavours making up the backbone of the menu – we can very highly recommend it.
The perfect stop if you’re headed to The Quays, Damson is a step up from The Lowry’s hit and miss restaurant – and definitely from Nando’s nearby. The décor might be a bit odd (fairy lights on the ceiling and a massive, random picture of a pumpkin, anyone?) but the food at Damson is sublime. The black olive gnocci had us speechless – and that’s saying something.
Manchester House has the kind of menu that requires a small army of chefs to pull off. It’s a bit over the top at times (as is the lighting), but the food has serious finesse. We can recommend the twelve course tasting menu, where the vegetarian version is as good, if not better, as the other. Bring someone you want to impress – and a healthy wallet.