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!

 

Boast fest! My last 3 months since leaving the BBC. Ok a few shit things have happened too but it’s mainly been good.

I took voluntary redundancy at the end of April, and apart from a brief stint of working in June, I’ve not been doing paid work since and I intend to keep it that way for a few months more so I can properly chill out and lay the ground work for the foodie career I want to build.  I’ve experienced highs and lows since April.  I would say mainly highs, but I want to tell you about some of the stuff I’ve been doing, how I’ve spent my time, what’s gone well and what’s been shit!

Random stuff I’ve been up to

  1. I’ve kind of abandoned housework! You’d think with more time on my hands I might do more?  But I’ve figured I just wanted to get out and about and meet people and get some momentum going.  So housework has been an even lower priority than during my working life! I do look at our front garden which is knee-high in weeds a little regretfully but not enough to spur me into action.

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    Skanky neglected front garden
  2. Insanity.  One of my resolutions on leaving my job was that I’d like to try some new types of exercise.  For the last ten years pretty much all I’ve done exercise-wise is run, walk and cycle.  Which is fine.  But I was bored of it.  So in July  I embarked on a sweaty form of hell called Insanity for a month.  It’s a 40-60 minute high intensity work out (downloaded) that you do nearly every day.  I’m proud that I stuck it out for a month, but when I realised that I was dreading the 5pm work out every day and I couldn’t actually see any difference in the shape of my body, I thought stuff this and packed it in. I find running boring but I never dread it! So I’m back to running for now – but I might give yoga a whirl! But that is the beauty of having some time out – the space to try  new things and then discard them if they don’t work.

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    Dripping with sweat after an Insanity work out
  3. Watching loads of documentaries on the refugee crisis.  When I worked 9-5 I wanted to watch cheery things in my free time to rejuvenate myself from the toil of my job. But with time on my hands I’ve found myself curious and drawn to watch the many brilliant documentaries on iPlayer about the staggering number of people leaving their countries to flee wars and seek safety in Europe.  I usually end up crying as I watch them, but apart from helping me understand what is happening, I’m absolutely inspired by the spirit and bravery of the refugees.  Is it me or are Syrians a particularly lovely, kind and heroic nationality?  Sorry Brits but I can’t imagine us being quite as resilient, smiley and noble in the face of civil war.

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    BBC Two Documentary ‘Exodus: Our Journey to Europe’
  4.  I’ve gone very feminist in my reading and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the following:
    • Letters to my Fanny – Cherry Healy
    • What would Beyonce Do – Luisa Omelian
    • Moranifesto – Caitlin Moran

5. Cooking! I’ve done a shedload of it and it’s been therapeutic and joyful and fun.

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Suprisingly delicious low sugar date muffins

The bad stuff

  1. Taking on a job that was a long term contract that really wasn’t right for me and getting stressed.  I now realise that I was probably a bit panicky having left the corporate world and the security and structure of a job seemed appealing.  I didn’t really scope it out properly and leapt straight in.  When my whole ‘thing’ about taking redundancy was that I wanted to feel out my new career path independently.  Jumping straight into a full-time job was not the best way of letting the new ‘career me’ evolve.  I stuck it out for a month, but I’m so relieved to have my freedom back.

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    Panic!
  2. Britain voting to leave the EU freaked me out.  Political instability and the prospect of a recession felt like a weird place to be when you are starting your brand new freelancing career.  However the country doesn’t seemed to have imploded and things seem to be ploughing forward in a business as usual kind of way for now, so I’m being as confident and positive as I can be.

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    Brexit (Guardian photo)
  3. Putting way too much pressure on myself generally to be ‘productive’.  I’m a girl that likes to feel she’s ticked a few tangible things off her to do list at the end of the day. So I’d get up in the morning and write myself a list and try and tick things off.  If I’m honest it was a bit joyless!  I was getting increasingly wired and tired. Despite it appearing to be a luxury to not be at work I was weirdly more exhausted than when I had a 9-5 job.  Yes stressed about exciting foodie projects but I literally wore myself out by being on my computer and phone 24/7. I have since had to give myself a talking to and I’m deliberately forcing myself to regularly chill out and not think about/do research for my career!  It seems to be working.
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Chillax!

The good stuff

  1. Eating out a lot.  This counts as foodie research.  It’s been a lot of fun testing out cafes, restaurants and supper clubs – I feel like I’ve got a really good feel of some of the best restaurants in the city and it’s given me a lot of creative inspiration.  This could also explain why I lost NO weight doing Insanity.

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    Lovely Art Deco Hawksmoor Restaurant
  2. The best 40th birthday party ever.  I don’t normally enjoy the limelight. But I wanted to go big for my 40th! I’m extremely happy with where my life is right now and I wanted to celebrate big style.  I loved filling my house with friends new and old and putting on a big Spanish feast of food.  It was a glorious way of celebrating my next decade and starting this new chapter of my life.

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    Fortieth!
  3. Freelance friday.  First of all I discovered Ziferblat.  A magical and very chilled out freelancing space in the Northern Quarter where you pay 6p a minute to use the space (and eat their unlimited cake).  Then I found out that freelancers sit together every friday afternoon and pretend to work on their laptops but in fact just chat.  I can’t tell you what a delightful find this has been.  I’ve met a group of like-minded, bright and inspiring freelancers who have given me advice and direction throughout my at times wobbly first few months of going it alone.  Every friday I go home buzzing with ideas and excited to have got to know my new interesting friends better.

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    Freelance Friday Buddies!
  4. I’ve booked a holiday to Goa.  Jamie and I have been talking about this for months.  And finally last week we committed to booking flights in November.  It felt decadent, but it felt good.  Jamie and I haven’t been on a big adventure together and it felt like something we’d really enjoy.

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    Goa
  5. I’ve signed up to a four day food writing course in France in December.  Again this felt highly extravagant, especially in the same week as booking my holiday to Goa.  I saw the course and it just felt like it had my name written on it! An immersive writing course run by two successful food writers and four days of stuffing my face with amazing french food, going to french markets and truffle hunting then figuring out how to write about it. Definitely ‘write’ up my street!

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    Hotel Diderot, Chinon

What now then? Well I’m about to go on holiday for two and a half weeks (Italy, Brecon Beacons and London). So during my holiday I’m officially going to give myself a break from career thoughts and just bloody chill out and enjoy myself.  I’m hoping to return to Manchester in September with gusto.  I’ve got some foodie projects bubbling away which I can pursue on my return when I refreshed and brimming with post holiday creativity.  The past few months have been quite an adventure so I’m curious to see what other exciting things happen in my life in autumn!

 

 

A chatty night at the Drunken Butcher’s veggie supper club

I arrived before any of the other guests to discover a very invitingly laid table and a waitress.  The Drunken Butcher himself was hidden in the kitchen.  I was getting excited already.  I was a bit nervous as I’d decided to rock up alone.  I’d been wanting to go to a Drunken Butcher supper club for ages and I decided to chance it by myself.

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My nerves did take a bit of a spike when the remaining seven guests arrived.  They ALL knew each other and had in fact been friends for about nine years. Sharp intake of breath.  Perhaps this wasn’t going to be so easy. Thankfully they were all delightfully friendly and interesting, so I got stuck into finding out all about them.

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Beetroot and pickled celeriac salad, with blue cheese and walnuts

The starter was a work of art: beetroot and pickled celeriac salad, with blue cheese and walnuts. And it was exquisite.  My favourite item were the walnuts which tasted like they were honey roasted.  Iain achieved this flavour by roasting them then caramelising them with sugar.

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Homemade gnocchi with sage and tomato

Next course was homemade gnocchi with sage and tomato – delicious, squidgy comforting potatoey dumplings in a tasty tomato sauce. And followed up by a main of vegetable terraine and ‘ratatouille’ and crispy shallots.  The resounding favourite element of this dish was without question the crispy shallots which everyone went wild for.  Iain had treated them in the same way you would batter fish.  Soaking the shallot rings in carbonated water for two hours before dipping in flour and deep frying.  Oh yum!  And there was a nifty accompaniment to our meal – a little shot of spicy tomato vodka.  I examined my glass warily – it looked like tomato stock in a glass – not my thing.  But as it happens it was my thing! Effectively a clear version of bloody mary – made from the liquid of sieved tomatoes mixed with vodka and tobasco. Thank you very much Iain!

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Vegetarian terraine and “ratatouille” and crispy shallots
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Iain’s special bloody mary vodka

 

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Grilled pineapple, sour cream sorbet, blueberry sauce

And then came dessert.  A yummy combo of grilled and caramelised pineapples with Iain’s home sour cream sorbet (great idea!) and blueberry sauce.  And how the evening had flown by! I was so busy chatting to my table neighbours that I hadn’t noticed the time.  They were cheeky, challenging, opinionated and funny and I loved chewing the fat with them.  And to me this is the point of supper club.  What a lovely relaxing environment to meet some new people.

And the final treat of the night, was when the Drunken Butcher (Iain Devine) appeared from the kitchen to have a chinwag with us all.  Iain is charming, witty and he really knows his food.  We got the low down on his cooking techniques and life in the food industry.

It felt like a unique night – the doors being opened to me to Iain’s cuisine and house and to a lovely bunch of friends.  It definitely beat a night in front of the telly.  If you want to find out more about the Drunken Butcher’s supper clubs follow him @drunkenbutcher.

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The Drunken Butcher emerges from the kitchen at the end of the night for a chat