10 Great Places to Eat in Manchester

I’ve been doing A LOT of eating in Manchester this year.  Jamie and I made it our mission to eat in as many of the best restaurants, supper clubs and cafes in Manchester as we could.

Here’s a little countdown of some of our faves from 2016 in no particular order:

1. Yazu, Chinatown

This is a tiny, very homely and simple restaurant that sells beautiful honest Japense food. We had stunning sashimi and tempura, and the atmosphere was delightfully low key and pleasant.

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Sashimi and veg tempura

2. Rudy’s Pizzas, Ancoats

Do incredible stonebaked pizzas.   The white pizza below called Ancozzese, with wild broccoli and tuscan sausage, was sensational.  Rudy’s is a gorgeous and effortlessly trendy glass fronted venue in a pretty square in Ancoats.  The staff were lovely and the venue was buzzing.

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Ancozzese pizza on left, and jolly Jim the owner on the right

3. Hawksmoor, Deansgate

This is a glamourous art deco venue and they serve fabulous meat – steaks are the focus although other options are available.  The service is impeccable and it feels like a treat being there.

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Steak and chips!

4. Trove, Levenshulme

I love going to Trove just for a coffee or lunch.  But they also do brilliant supper clubs.  We recently went to the Maple supper club – every dish had maple syrup in it.  It was mouth wateringly good food.  In the photo below, on the left are homemade pittas, falafels, pickles and courgette salad and on the right is lemon almond tart with balsamic strawberries.  I didn’t want the food or the evening to end.

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Falafels, pitta and pickles and the best lemon almond tart

5. The Buttery, Levenshulme

I met Neil Buttery when he was running a pastry class with Cracking Good Food.  As he was such an ace pastry chef I wanted to try his new restaurant, the Buttery.  It’s an intimate venue, with arty vibes and a welcoming atmosphere and just damn good pies, beers and wines and all at very good prices.

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Jamie downing some top notch ale at The Buttery

6. El Gato Negro, King Street

This classy new venue opened at the beginning of the year.  The interior is elegant and stylish and their tapas is equally excellent.  Along with some other wonderful dishes, I ate the best tortilla of my life – moist, rich and herby.

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El Gato Negro – it’s just classy

7. Lunya, Deansgate

We popped in here for a cheeseboard one evening.  Lunya feels so spanish.  Sitting up at the bar (which is next to their deli), Lunya felt alive with hustle and bustle, and the cheeseboard was divine.  We came back a few days later to try their restaurant upstairs, but the atmosphere just wasn’t the same as the buzzy excitement of the bar area.

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More cheese please!

8. The Walled Garden Vegetarian Supper Club, Whalley Range

In May I went to Eddie Shepherd’s supper club for the second time.  He’s a charming host and his 14 courses of experimental and delicious vegetarian food were just as good as the first time.

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Eddie’s experimental vegetarian cooking

9. Brassica Grill, Heaton Moor

On hearing that Brassica Grill had been nominated for a Manchester Food and Drink Festival Award , we were keen to try it out.  Whilst my starter and main were good, they weren’t memorable, what stood out was the delightfully relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the restaurant and the staff were adorable.  AND most importantly my pudding was off the scale: raspberry souffle and lemon thyme ice-cream.

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A raspberry souffle to die for

10. The Allotment Vegan Restaurant, Stockport Old Town

The recently opened Allotment vegan restaurant is one of the best meals I’ve had this year. Taking vegan food to another level.  It’s high end food, I’d say on a parr with the quality of food served at the French.  The shiitake terrine with berries blew my mind, the creamy rich pate complemented by the sweet sharpness of the berries.  And the aubergine chargrilled ‘steak’ was so beautifully seasoned it would give any meat steak a run for it’s money.

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Shiitake terrine and aubergine steak

And ten of the places I still want to eat (I could easily make this a list of 30 if I wanted to – there’s too many good restaurants!)

  1. Grafene, King Street
  2. The Refuge at the Palace Hotel, Oxford Road
  3. The Hearth of the Ram, Ramsbottom
  4. The White Hart, Saddleworth
  5. Where the Light Gets in, Stockport (due to open soon)
  6. Hispi, Didsbury Village
  7. San Juan, Chorlton
  8. Grays Larder, Chorlton
  9. El Rincon, Deansgate
  10. Manchester House, Spinningfields

What are your favourite places to eat in Manchester? Please comment below so I can add them to my wish list!

 

Madrid relived in rainy Marple Bridge

This saturday amidst some weird rain/hail blizzard, Jamie and I headed up to pretty Marple Bridge for a bit of sunshine food.  Yes, yet again I’m talking about tapas!  I think I might be obsessed.  This time we were testing out Libby’s.  By day a bakery and cafe, by night a tapas bar.

Due to it’s popularity we could only book at table at 5.30pm.  We tipped up bang on time and the place was empty.  I was disappointed.  I don’t mind eating early but not in a deserted place!  However, my worries were washed away (not by the crazy rain) but by the swarm of people that literally filled out the place within the next ten minutes.  This is clearly the place to be in Marple Bridge.

The menu instantly got us excited!  A nice combo of traditional tapas with some interesting twists thrown in.  We ordered and waited.  As I’ve waxed lyrical before on this blog – there is something very pleasing in ordering food, forgetting about it and the dishes appearing at different stages of the evening.  I like the suspense and surprise.

First up manchego frito with apple and pear chutney.  Deep fried cheese basically, but a bit classier! This was wolfed down by us. Crunchy coating, gooey cheese, tangy chutney. Winner!

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Manchego frito with apple and pear chutney

Then came the succession of other courses: wild mushroom and tarragon gnocchi – this came in a rich creamy sauce – the mushroom had a lovely intense flavour and the tarragon lifted the whole dish.  Next up – chilli and garlic king prawns – everything you’d expect a fine spanish version of this dish taste of – sweet, warming, tomatoey and delicious (shame about the prawn shells).  And then the true favourite –  slow braised beef cheeks – super sweet, flavourful and melt in the mouth. I’ll gloss over  the duck lasagne which didn’t live up to the rest of the fab dishes – just a bit non descript.  And finally parsnip and sweet potato pancakes – which were quite like bhajis!  They tasted of curry – that is not a criticism though – these were crispy, spicy and sensational.

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Wild mushroom and tarragon gnocchi

 

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Chilli and garlic king prawns
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Slow braised beef cheeks
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Parsnip and sweet potato pancakes

And to top the night off, once we paid the bill our waitress offered us some free bread on the way out.  There was a big shelf of loaves in the corridor that hadn’t been sold during the day.  We greedily helped ourselves to an enormous loaf of sourdough (I’ve been eating it today – so good!).

If you get the chance, do check Libby’s out.  It’s a delightful buzzy little venue, the staff are superb and the food (duck lasagne aside) is exceptional.

Sunday afternoon tapas at Manchester’s El Gato Negro

It wasn’t out of choice.  We did actually want to go on Saturday evening, but El Gato Negro is so popular that we had to opt for a 2.30pm slot on Sunday. This award winning restaurant originally based in Rippendon launched in Manchester’s King Street on 22nd February is booked up for weeks on Fridays and Saturdays.

But actually, what a great time to eat – we felt pretty chilled and sophisticated as we leisurely tucked into our elegant tapas dishes in the simple and classy surroundings of this restaurant.

So I’ll cut to the chase.  The highlight for me without a doubt was the tortilla with white onions and potato served with aioli.  I wasn’t over the moon when Jamie ordered it as my experience is of something dry, bland and a bit pointless really.  But OMG – when this tortilla arrived, I forgot about everything else on the table.  It was just so light,  fluffy, moist and flavourful – stuffed to the gills with some kind of fresh herbs (no idea what – I was too busy eating it).  Go to El Gato for the tortilla alone.

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The other food was also excellent – charcuterie; freshly grilled sardines with lemon, garlic and parsley butter; lamb skewers with spiced chickpea puree and harissa (Jamie’s favourite).  But again it was something more ordinary that captured my imagination: a tiny bowl of celeriac remoulade (aka coleslaw) with the meats.  Oh yes!  This stuff hit the spot – just creamy, nutty and sweet.  I could have polished off a big bowl of that.

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Another unexpected delight was the Navarrico chickpeas with butternut squash, chilli, garlic and caramelised cauliflower.  Obviously with those ingredients the dish was bound to look a bit beige – but the flavour – my! This spicy treat was a fabulous accompaniment to all the dishes – however El Gato’s chefs made some magic that elevated the dish to special status.

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There was something classy and uncomplicated about the whole afternoon, helped by the staff being attentive and friendly (and a lot of them seemed to be Spanish).  And what I love about tapas is it feels like Christmas to me.  You order a load of stuff and then it keeps appearing one dish after another each like a brand new surprise.  And being surrounded by lots of nibbly tasty things is officially the best way to eat.

It’s worth giving this place a whirl – it’s beautifully and simply decorated and above all the food is authentic and brilliantly executed. Cost-wise – our meal came to £68  – including wine, beer, five tapas dishes and bread. Apart from the restaurant – we had a good sneak around and there’s a lovely looking bar on the ground floor (pictured below) where you could just go in for some simple cold tapas.  Even better, tucked away on the top floor  is a cocktail bar with delightful views of the city and a retractable roof! I’ll so be there in summer.

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Have you been to El Gato Negro? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And I’m keen to know about any other great tapas experiences to be had in the North West.