The Sparrows Continental Pasta & Spätzle

Ian Jones, Food and Drink Editor
The Sparrows

Oh, Sparrows. Most venues would pay through the nose for the kind of hype that this unassuming venue in the Green Quarter (read: edge of Cheetham Hill) has had over the past few years. Is it deserved or all part of some deep-state psyops courtesy of Big Dumpling?

It’s the kind of place you wouldn’t look twice at if you didn’t know about it. Tucked away under a train arch, it’s basically a metal box. Until you step inside. The Sparrows chiefs have somehow transformed it into one of the most relaxing and eye-catching dining spaces around – flawless lighting, towering shelves of wine and expertly placed tables and chairs. 

The clientele is decidedly genteel and there’s a healthy number of solo diners, intriguingly. But then, it’s that kind of place – comfortable and relaxed. No one’s flustered or rushing you along, it’s a dining oasis in a sea of hard sells.  

We’re told that people come back again and again for the sage and butter gnocchi. As a dedicated fan of food-related bells and whistles, I’m dubious about this simple-sounding three-part dish. I’m wrong. It’s a revelation – a showcase for quality ingredients with a pitch-perfect balance of flavours. 

Also from the starters section, there’s the cured pork cheek sauce, which we team with spätzle. Again, it’s an eye-rollingly simple but decadent dish, consisting of roughly-hewn teardrop-shaped pasta smothered in a pancetta-flecked creamy sauce. Award for the world’s most comforting comfort food? Sparrows’s spätzle. 

Sparrows is famed for its dumplings – just ask the Michelin Guide – so the pelmeni is a must. These are little East-European-style fried beauties (packed with nicely seasoned beef and pork in this case), covered in garlic breadcrumbs and with a hearty dollop of sour cream on the side. Wonderful. 

Before the mains, a special mention for the sides. The tomato salad is a towering pile of thick tomato and pickled red onion, steeped in apple vinegar. Similarly, the green salad is a few robust leaves, sprinkled with ‘Alpine herbs salt’. Yet somehow, both are more delicious than pretty much any other salad options in Manchester.

The smoked sausage is presented artfully on a wooden plinth. Almost too artfully, in fact. Under this light, it looks like something from a Caravaggio painting, albeit Caravaggio in his epicurean years. 

Then there’s the bigos, otherwise known as Polish hunters stew. Not as pretty but just as delicious, it’s a bowl of fiercely smokey meats (pork ribs and beef), plus tangy white cabbage, buttery soft new potatoes and a a dash of dill. Both dishes have a timeless feel – you can imagine some lucky 16th-century peasant tucking in. 

And that’s Sparrows in a nutshell. These are dishes centuries in the making, cherry-picking the best of Europe and discovering that Italian and East European concepts are a match made in heaven. Sparrows is one of Manchester’s true greats and it won’t remain under a railway arch for much longer. Make haste.

16 Red Bank, Cheetham HillManchesterM4 4HF View map
Telephone: 07711300116 Visit Now

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday5:00pm - 11:00pm
  • Wednesday5:00pm - 11:00pm
  • Thursday5:00pm - 11:00pm
  • Friday5:00pm - 11:00pm
  • Saturday12:00pm - 11:00pm
  • Sunday12:00pm - 10:00pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

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