The Best Restaurants in Manchester
More than just a haven for overpaid footballers, Manchester is home to a food scene that’s capable of giving any city in England a run for its money.
Although Cottonopolis might be better known for its industrial history and brutalist aesthetic than its small plates, things have certainly been picking up steam in Manchester’s restaurant industry. 2019 saw Mana (a place I’ll gush about later in this guide to the best restaurants in Manchester) pick up the city’s first Michelin star since 1977 and if I was a betting man I’d put money on Stockport’s Where The Light Gets In being it's next at some point soon.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re after a steaming portion of doro wot or a dench fried chicken burger, there’s bound to be somewhere in the city that serves a pretty excellent version of that. The best restaurants in Manchester are spread all over the city from its condensed city centre to its sprawling suburbs, so be prepared to travel a bit if you want to eat all these wonderful spots. Which I’d obviously recommend you do. As always, if there’s anywhere that I’ve failed to mention, please do get in touch and I’ll make sure to give it some love (if it’s good) the next time this list gets an update. Until then, these are the best restaurants in Manchester in no particular order.
Currently taking up residency at Ancoats General Store, Bada Bing is a vaguely Sopranos-inspired sandwich joint that specialises in mammoth two-hander hoagies and deli-style sandwiches. The signature sub (‘The Bing’) is composed of a fat stack of gabagool, mortadella, salami napoli, spicy salami, giardiniera, shredded lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, and mayo. It’s the sort of sandwich you’ve got to unhinge your jaw like an anaconda to be able to eat. By which I, of course, mean that it's pretty much the perfect sandwich. Check ‘em out.
Ancoats General Store, 57 Great Ancoats Street, M4 5AB
Where The Light Gets In
Although this restaurant is technically in Stockport (located on the first floor of an old coffee warehouse in Old Town, to be exact) I’m still including it on this list of the best restaurants in Manchester. Why? Because Where The Light Gets In is sublime, and more than worth the extra effort to get there. Chef/owner Sam Buckley has created a unique menu where freshly foraged ingredients; seasonal fish and meat from local suppliers; and produce from the group’s own farm shine bright. You’ll never have the same meal here twice but you’re guaranteed to get a taste of British terroirs every time you dine.
7 Rostron Brow, Stockport, SK1 1JY
If you ever find yourself jonesing for a doughnut and coffee in the Northern Quarter then SiOP SHOP should be your first pitstop. Especially if you want that doughnut and coffee to be, like, really, really fucking nice. Owners Lucy Jackson and Iwan Roberts have created a little homely haven on Tib Street where supremely freshly roasted coffee and freshly baked honey and pistachio twists rule the roost. All of the doughnuts that come out of SiOP SHOP are light, airy, and – phenomenally – not too sweet. Savoury bakes like the focaccia also slap and the sandwiches are excellent munch, too.
53 Tib Street, M4 1LS
Kong’s Chicken Shop
Kong’s Chicken Shop doesn’t have a permanent spot just yet but, considering the quality of their fried chicken, I don’t think it’ll be long before this peripatetic poultry shack gets itself a forever home. After being brined and double dredged in a secret flour mix, Kong’s deep-fried chicken thighs are given a brioche potato bun as a bed and a blanket of pickles, iceberg, burger sauce, chipotle slaw, and crispy chicken skin crackling to keep them warm. The end result of that wonderful sleepover is one of the best fried chicken sandwiches in Manchester and one of the best bites in the city to boot.
Erst is a natural wine bar and restaurant in Ancoats where the small plates on offer change depending on what’s in season but Esrt’s dedication to championing quality local produce remains unwavering. Dry-aged rib eye comes served on the bone with anchovy and bone marrow butter, an umami combination that brings out the sweetness of the meat, and eats especially well alongside a bottle of biodynamic Gamay. Visit Erst with someone who isn’t afraid of dining within close vicinity of Manchester’s hippest flâneurs and you’ll have an excellent time. That’s my promise to you.
9 Murray Street, Ancoats, M4 6HS
Mughli Charcoal Pit
The “Curry Mile” is one of the things that Manchester’s food scene is most well-known for – a stretch of Wilmslow Road, dotted with curry houses and South Asian restaurants, that runs roughshod right through the centre of Rusholme. Unfortunately, the area’s been taken over by fast food joints and disappointing tourist traps over the last couple of years. Fortunately, Mughli is still there holding down the fort. Family-owned and managed since 1991, Mughli is a Manchester institution and one of the best restaurants in Manchester for charcoal-dusted meats cooked on a traditional angithi pit. The lamb chops are a must and so, too, is ordering enough bread to swaddle yourself in for your satiated journey home.
30 Wilmslow Road, Rusholme, M14 5TQ
Habesha is an unassuming Ethiopian restaurant located on the corner of Sackville Street and Richmond Street. Menu highlights include doro wot (fall-apart chicken thigh that’s marinated in lemon, sautéed in seasoned butter, and stewed in red pepper-flavoured with onions ginger and cardamom); yebeg wot (cubes of tender lamb meat cooked with hot pepper and spices); and shiro (powdered chickpeas which are cooked down with onion, garlic, and pepper till they’re a comforting puddle of spice). You won’t leave Habesha hungry.
29-31 Sackville Street, M1 3LZ
Owned and run by wunderkind chef Simon Martin, Mana is – ostensibly – a high-end restaurant that serves a seasonal tasting menu. But it’s so much more than that, really. Mana was the first restaurant in Manchester to be awarded a Michelin Star since 1977 and it’s safe to say that it lives up to its pedigree. This isn’t the sort of place where you can pop in on a whim on Wednesday, mind. Mana offers a dining experience you’re going to want to plan weeks in advance and be mentally prepared for when the time comes; the food here will take you on a gustatory journey you won’t forget any time soon. My recommendation is to hit up Mana for a special occasion. Even if that “special occasion” is nothing but an excuse to eat at one of the best restaurants in Manchester.
42 Blossom Street, M4 6BF
Detroit and Manchester have got a surprising amount in common. Both are northern industrial cities with a strong sense of identity unique from the rest of the countries they inhabit. Both are now, thanks to Ramona, also home to excellent Detroit-style pizza. Set up in a former garage, Ramona is a spot that serves real deal slices of thick Michigan-inspired pizza. You won’t find any thin and dappled crusts here but you will find hefty, cheese-crusted slabs of focaccia topped with tomatoey goodness. At least one slice of the ‘Cali Pepps’ (a pizza dressed with pepperoni, burrata, pecorino, hot honey, and even more cheese) is essential.
40 Swan Street, M4 5JG
Nestled snugly in the suburban sprawl of Didsbury is Hispi – a friendly neighbourhood bistro from the team at Elite Bistros that serves a cracking Sunday lunch. To be honest, Hispi serves cracking food every day of the week. The eponymous roast cabbage (served with smoked potato purée, gremolata, and pumpkin seeds) proves vegetarian cooking doesn’t have to be boring while plates of Blythburgh pork chop are a completely different creature compared to the incinerated chops your in-laws force upon you whenever you go round for tea. Take care to explore Hispi’s wine list whenever you do plan your next visit. It’s really rather good. Sister restaurant KALA is also a good bet if you want to stick closer to the city centre.
1C School Lane, Didsbury, M20 6RD
Located just a brief stroll from Manchester Art Gallery, Mei Dim is a Chinese restaurant that does the Cantonese classic, and does them well. Ask to see the dim sum menu as opposed tot the regular menu and you'll be handsomely rewarded for your efforts. The silky cheung fun; plump har gao; and hot xiaolongbao, fit to burst with scalding pork soup, all star at this Chinatown staple. It’s impossible to get everything on the menu in one sitting so just order a decent amount of dim sum and be prepared to come back soon to try the rest.
45-47 Faulkner Street, M1 4EE
The blackboard’s scrawled with pulse-racing phrases: “fresh mussels”, “Colchester oysters”, “crispy Lamb’s liver”, and “panko-crusted mackerel” all call my name at this self-styled English market diner. Fish is the main focus here with husband and wife duo Kevin and Rachel Choudhary having set out to supply Manchester’s city centre with an honest-to-God hub of honest-to-God seafood when they opened Street Urchin back in summer 2019. The foliage-strewn restaurant has only further mastered its niche since. If you’re after the best seafood restaurant in Manchester, this is it.
72 Great Ancoats Street, M4 5BG
Coffee, pie, and natural wine are three of the things that Idle Hands are experts in. Lucky for them, then, they also happen to be three of the best things on planet Earth. Offering one of the top breakfast and brunch options in Manchester, this Dale Street coffee bar is the perfect place to start your weekend with someone you’ve got the hots for. Order a round of breakfast baps (served in the butteriest brioche in town) and lattes before you and your date both inevitably start making side-eyes at the glossy pies. A slice of pecan pie to-go? It’d be rude not to.
Brunch is very easy to get wrong. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been served a bit of under-toasted bread under a dollop of under-seasoned avocado and been charged £10 for the trouble. Trove, however, is somewhere that gets brunch right. Alongside freshly baked sourdough and delicate pastries are dishes of sausage ragù with poached egg, courgette, lovage, cultured cream and toast or decadent slabs of French toast adorned with labneh, seasonal fruit, honey, and dukkah. The Trove team go above and beyond to ensure every one of their plates is curated with care and it’s that love, that tender affection, which makes it such a worthy destination.
5 Murray Street, Ancoats, M4 6HS
This and That
This and That is the innovator of the “rice and three curries”: a self-explanatory menu system where you can order, get this, a portion of rice and three different curries. The cheapest (rice and three veg) comes in at £4.50 while the most expensive (rice and three meat) tops out at £6.50. Both are incredible value for money and the curries themselves, whether it’s a fragrant daal or rich keema, never disappoint. This family-run restaurant might not look like much from the outside but step inside, inhale a lungful of nose-teasing aromats, and you’ll know immediately that This and That is one of Manchester’s finest places to eat.
3 Soap Street, M4 1EW
As you’d likely have guessed from its name, Seoul Kimchi is a Korean restaurant where you can find plenty of customers enjoying generous portions of its namesake dish. While the kimchi at Seoul Kimchi is good, it’s really the rest of the dishes you should be exploring. Galbi (braised beef ribs) need no persuading to fall from the bone and the range of soups and stews should be enough to see you through the cruellest of northern winters. Although Japanese dishes are available, I’d recommend sticking to the Korean plates if you want a taste of what Seoul Kimchi does best.
275 Upper Brook Street, M13 0HR
Indian Tiffin Room
Indian Tiffin Room specialises in dishes inspired by Indian street food and, having opened up on First Street in 2016, remains one of the better places to dine in Manchester to get a sprawling spread of south Asian eats. Grazing plates like the bhel puri and samosa chaat are must-orders that hum with flavour while mains like the masala dosa and channa batura underline how cooking simple dishes to a high standard is more often than not the secret to success. ITR has a section of its menu dedicated to Indo-Chinese cuisine that features dishes like schezwan [sic] rice and haka [sic] noodles and, though the menu might be large, it’s hard to go wrong with a meal here.
2 Isabella, Old Bank Street, First Street, M15 4RL
Y Sok Woodward is the Cambodian-American chef who you’ve got to thank for bringing dishes like saraman, loc lac, and cha bai to the Manchester masses. Specialising in fresh Cambodian fare, Kambuja boasts a host of delicious eats that ranges from the various iterations of Angkor noodles on offer to nom pout corn fritters. No matter what main takes your fancy, getting a portion of crispy pommes frites on the side is mandatory.
12 Stockport Road, Marple, SK6 6BJ
Manchester is a city that’s home to some brilliant steak restaurants but the best of the lot, in my opinion, is the Hawksmoor. This London import opened up on Deansgate in 2015 and has been captivating diners with its blushing porterhouses and triple-cooked chips ever since. The steaks are unsurprisingly ace but the dark horse of the menu might just be the Hawksmoor hamburger – a riposte to most shoddy “gourmet” burgers that’ll have you contemplating whether you can morally justify ordering two. Which you most certainly can.
184, 186 Deansgate, M3 3WB
I’ve already signposted Bundobust as one of the best places to eat in Liverpool and guess what, MOB? It’s one of the best places to eat in Manchester, too. The vegetarian and vegan menu at Bundobust’s Piccadilly premises doesn’t feel like any sort of compromise has been made in its creation and I guarantee that even the biggest sirloin steak fiend out there will find themselves hard-press to find fault when presented with a stacked bhaji butty and a side order of chole saag. It’s just that good.
61 Piccadilly, M1 2AG
Some restaurants are satisfied with serving food in a pleasant-enough environment; happy to let the waiting staff wade to and fro in a serviceable dining area that “does the job”. Not Australasia. The vibe here is laidback luxe and the ambience at this underground eatery more than matches up to the food every step of the way. It might even, should you order badly, surpass it. The cooking is a mishmash of Indonesian and Southeast Asian influences with Australia’s own strong ties with Japanese cuisine. That might sound a little muddled but the result is a well-spoken menu that’s just as comfortable with saying “black cod roasted in hoba leaf” as it is at whispering “crispy suckling pork belly with pineapple curry”. A definite date night location.
1 The Avenue, Deansgate, M3 3AP
Dust off your umlauts and get yourself to The Spärrows on Cheetham Hill to check out one of the only restaurants in the UK dedicated to spätzle. What is spätzle? It’s an irregularly shaped pasta made with fresh eggs and flour. It’s typically served with heaps of cheese and onion and is hugely popular in its country of origin, Germany. The spätzle at The Spärrows are exemplars of the genre. The guanciale iteration is like a rustic Bavarian carbonara; the butter and sage, a lesson in “less is more”. Get involved in the interesting Alsace-leaning wine list and you’ll come out trumps with a dinner here.
16 Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, M4 4HF
El Gato Negro
Another one of the spots that can claim to be one of the best places to eat in Liverpool and one of the best restaurants in Manchester is El Gato Negro. Chef patron Simon Shaw has ensured that only the very best produce is allowed to pass through the doors at King Street and, should you be lucky enough to pass through those doors yourself, you’ll be suitably charmed by Picos Blue cheese and acorn-fed jamón ibérico de bellota. If you can’t afford a flight to San Sebastián, this might just be the next best thing.
52 King Street, M2 4LY
Salvi’s is a family-run restaurant that’ll make you feel like you’re a close-knit member of the clan and, at worst, like a distant second-cousin or something. Hospitality is all about creating a friendly and amicable atmosphere for you to enjoy a meal in and Salvi’s are kings of doing just that. The food is rustic and comforting – expect hearty bowls of pasta and hulking plates of parmigiana – and the service is always warm and welcoming. Salvi’s will tug at your heartstrings, MOB.
1 The Corn Exchange, Corporation Street, M4 3TR
It’s not often that a restaurant will make you say “holy shit,” before you’ve even sat down to eat but 20 Stories is definitely a restaurant that’s capable of that. The vista that you get dining at a high-rise restaurant like this is one of the best ways to see Manchester, bar none. Combine that almost 360° view of the city with well-prepared dishes of roast skrei cod or olive-crusted lamb rack for a memorable dining experience.
NO. 1, 1 Hardman Square, M3 3EB
Korean barbecue restaurants offer a refreshing eating experience where you can reconnect yourself with man’s primal relationship with fire and come out with slightly singed hair, reeking of smoke. The best Korean barbecue restaurant in Manchester is, without a doubt, Baekdu. Draping slices of ox tongue over a grill and letting that organ get licked for once is something you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the city. Go to Baekdu with a group and be prepared to get the meat sweats.
28-30 Lord Street, Stockport, SK1 3NA
Pollen Bakery is, first and foremost, a sourdough and viennoiserie bakery but it’s also one of the best places in Manchester to grab a quick and satisfying lunch. How does that work? Well, mate, there's a one-word answer for you and that word is: sandwiches. You can grab a sandwich from the counter here during the day but don’t expect to get anything even close to resembling a meal deal – these are proper doorstop sarnies. The chicken, bacon and tomato sandwich, for example, is a happy family of marinated roasted chicken, crisp streaky bacon, tomatoes, mojo verde, and a honking housemade garlic aioli on Pollen’s signature sourdough. It’s a revolution. As are the breakfast buns and grilled cheese sandwiches you’ll also find in attendance.
Cotton Field Wharf, 8 New Union Street, M4 6FQ
The impact that Dishoom’s Manchester outpost has had on the city can perhaps best be defined by its specialty dish: the nalli nihari biryani. This dish, which is exclusive to Manchester, involves a tender shank of lamb getting layered up with rice and caramelised onions before being sealed beneath a pastry blanket and served with kaleji (chicken liver) raita and nihari gravy. Just like Manchester, it’s a dish that doesn’t pull its punches or do things in half measures. Dishoom may not have started its life in Manchester – it’s a London creation, wouldn’t you know – but I think it’s found itself a spiritual home in Cottonopolis.
32 Bridge Street, M3 3BT
Every city needs a top-class pizzeria and Manchester is lucky enough to have two. There’s a Rudy’s Pizza on Cotton Street and a Rudy’s Pizza on Peter Street which means that anyone who’s a fan of Neapolitan pies is spoilt for options. The pizzas at Rudy’s take their cues from the traditions and artistry of pizzerias in Naples, the owners here have done their due diligence and all that homework has certainly been put to good use. All you need is a simple margherita from Rudy’s to understand why people who take pizza seriously make seriously better pizza. In comparison to the bland supermarket ‘zas you’ve been wanging in the oven, it’s like chalk and cheese. Buffalo mozzarella cheese, to be exact.
9 Cotton Street, Ancoats, M4 5BF
Viet Shack started off as just that: a shack selling fresh and fast Vietnamese street food in Arndale Food market. You can still find that stall there today but Viet Shack also opened up a snazzy permanent restaurant on Great Ancoats Street in 2018. That’s the spot I’d suggest hitting up for dinner with your pals. Traditional Viet dishes like goi cuon (summer rolls) and pho bo are on the menu as well as non-traditional dishes like loaded fries and peanut butter chicken burgers. Order whatever takes your fancy, really – all of it is good.
65-67 Great Ancoats Street, Ancoats, M4 5AB
Mowgli is a restaurant that knows what it's doing. Nisha Katona’s Manchester Mowgli was only the second opening from the restaurant group (the O.G. is in Liverpool) and it’s proven to be a slobber knocker hit ever since it opened. The Office Worker’s Tiffin – a riotously fun menu option that nets you for tiers of meat, veg, and carbs chosen by the chef, as it would be in India – sums up Mowgli’s fresh and fun approach to Indian cuisine. Don’t forget to end your meal with Mowgli’s signature chocolate brownie. It’s dense, chewy, chocolatey, and it’ll have you looking something like that heart eyes emoji on your iPhone.
16, Corn Exchange House, 37 Exchange Street, M4 3TR
Tapas is a really simple concept: you walk in, grab a glass of wine, and go to town on a Spanish smorgasbord of meats and cheeses. Despite that simplicity, lots of places still manage to fuck it up. Porta is not one of those places. This is a prime place for filling yourself with lacy tufts of jamón and rediscovering your love for sherry. They also serve the best boquerones in Manchester, and you heard that from me, folks.
216 Chapel Street, Salford, M3 6BY
Cool, calm, and collected, Elencot is one of the best places to eat in Manchester if you’re craving heaps of flavour without any of the unnecessary frills it often comes with. Reading the menu here is like reading a David Nicholls novel after Infinite Jest – and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. It’s refreshing, is what it is. Tell me you don’t feel all warm and fuzzy just reading words like “fava bean butter curry” and “Devon brown crab crumpets”. This neighbourhood restaurant nails comfort eating and, to be honest, I wish more restaurants were like Elencot.
Cutting Room Square, 41 Blossom Street, Ancoats, M4 6AJ
Lily’s Indian Vegetarian Cuisine
Do yourself a favour and avoid sharing a meal with anyone who sneers at vegetarian cooking. You don’t need that kind of energy in your life. Vegetarian food is rich and redolent with flavours and no Manchester restaurant better emphasises the restorative power of the humble veg than Lily’s Indian Vegetarian Cuisine. This cult spot serves a huge range of Indian eats with classics like aloo gobi and muttar paneer cooked to perfection. Ordering a lot here is recommended.
85 Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyne, OL6 7DF
Tast is a restaurant that aims to bring a bit of Barcelona to Manchester through its fun and flavourful Catalonian take on tapas. It’s the tapas dishes and Catalan rice that unsurprisingly shine the brightest but, that being said, there’s also a few rogue options that are worth exploring. The wagyu brisket bao bun, for instance, might sound like something that belongs on the menu of an Asian fusion restaurant in 2011 comes zhuzhed up with a rich fricando sauce that has just enough Spanish swagger to make it work. Tast will surprise you in all the right ways.
20-22 King Street, M2 6AG