Manchester is a city on the rise when it comes to dining out. Last year, according to CGA Peach’s eye-catching figures, the capital of the north saw a 57% increase in food-led businesses. It seems almost too good to be true (London’s comparative growth was 32%), but just goes to show how vibrant the restaurant scene in Manchester has become. Over the last few months The Hawksmoor and Ibérica unveiled plans to open there, while Wahaca, Pho and Vapiano all snapped up venues in Manchester’s Corn Exchange. With so much happening in the city we teamed up with local food writer Simon Binns to take a closer look…
SIMON’S TOP FIVE PICKS
It’s under an arch, behind a train station, in the shadow of a massive arena, and it’s not very big. But this sushi restaurant is a gem and worth the price of a map and compass. It’s sushi only during the day, but after 5pm, there’s a bigger (but not by much) Ã la carte menu. Umezushi also has a wonderfully diverse menu of Oriental ales to choose from too.
Located inside a Thai supermarket in Manchester’s Chinatown, Siam Smiles delivers honest and punchy Asian dishes in an unlikely setting, proving you can do great things in small spaces with a little bit of imagination.
Ibérica might be getting all the attention as the invasion of Spanish restaurants hits the city, but La Bandera has opened to relatively little fanfare whilst still knocking out authentic and charming dishes, off a side street in Manchester’s retail district.
The darling of the Manchester Arndale food market, where you can get all manner of food and drink. Viet Shack puts plenty of flavour into a few great dishes (check out the banh-mi) and all for a few quid a time. One of the best value lunch options in the city.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Simon Rogan – or The Midland Hotel – is all about The French and its fine dining quest for a Michelin star. Mr Cooper’s House & Garden is his more relaxed and fun side project, but is turning out some serious cooking.
AND OUTSIDE THE CITY CENTRE…
You might think you’ve come to the wrong place when you wander into the café of a cash and carry in Tameside. But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with some of the best Indian food around at a value reflected in the warehouse full of jumbo baked beans and birthday cakes in the big shed next door.
Salford can do fine dining, and Grenache is its great white hope at the moment. Chef Mike Jennings has the bit between his teeth and is determined to put the unfashionable suburb of Walkden on the map – and with two AA rosettes under his belt, the Michelin inspectors too.
West Didsbury has become uber-trendy and popular in the last few years, leading to a string on new food and drink operations lining Burton Road. Volta, owned by DJ pair The Unabombers, is the highlight, thanks to its laid back charm, well-priced and thoughtful selection of wines and beers and a menu of small and big plates that is wonderfully eclectic. Plenty of big flavours to enjoy.
Will Beckett and his business partner Huw Gott may just have opened their first Hawksmoor in Manchester but the pair don’t seem to be resting on their laurels. At the Northern Restaurant & Bar (NRB) show at Manchester Central exhibition space this week, Beckett revealed that he wants to open a Foxlow in the city too – their more casual, neighbourhood restaurant brand.
Join perma-tanned baker Paul Hollywood (darling of The Great British Bake-off) and lifestyle guru Gok Wan for a weekend of food at Manchester’s MediaCityUK. The Food Festival will include live cooking demos, cookery masterclasses and food from over 120 different producers and street food vendors. There’s plenty for families, including a free kid’s cookery zone with Cbeebies’ stars Mr Bloom and Katy Ashworth. Even the hipsters have been catered for with a double decker bus that’s been converted into a bar!
The Northern Restaurant & Bar show (NRB) has unveiled the names of the Top 50 operators in the north for 2015 as well as honouring industry figures with achievement awards. Nigel Haworth and Craig Bancroft of Northcote; William Lees Jones of JW Lees brewery; and Jonathan Slater of the Chester Grosvenor were all recognised. Slater will retire this month after more than 30 years as hotel manager and MD of the Chester Grosvenor.
Now in its fifteenth year, the NRB show included speakers like: Nacho Manzana (of Ibérica), Kenny Atkinson (of House of Tides, Newcastle) and Michael O’Hare (of The Man Behind The Curtain, Leeds). Thom Hetherington, CEO of Holden Media, the organiser of NRB, said: “The North has always punched above its weight in terms of food and drink, but it seems that the rest of the world has finally woken up to its strength and potential. Northern operators are thriving, the audience of diners is growing and big names are rushing to embrace the region.”
Just in case you missed it, Hawksmoor Manchester opened last week to serious fanfare. It’s the first time in some years that the city has been graced by the opening of a really hot upmarket restaurant concept straight from the capital. Hawksmoor unveiled plans to open an outpost there last year and since then the Mancunian blogosphere has been in high excitement.
Hawksmoor Manchester occupies a space in the Grade II listed courthouse building, built in 1896, on Deansgate, near the major new Spinningfields development. The old courthouse is currently undergoing a multimillion pound refurbishment with hopes that it will become something of a foodie hub. Restaurants such as the Handmade Burger Company have already opened there, however a new venture from Damson boss Steve Pilling – Mr Pilling’s Roast Restaurant and Oyster Bar – which was set to launch in the basement was cancelled last month. Presumably Mr Pilling didn’t want to go head to head with Hawksmoor?
The menu includes all the old favourites alongside new dishes such as Poutine Barm, a Montreal-meets-Manchester sandwich. On the cocktail list, Fitzpatricks’ Aviation and Deansgate No.2 are among new drinks with links to Bar Manager Richie Lear’s hometown.
Sick of the North being overshadowed by London food trends, the people behind Filthy Cow burgers say they want to ‘change the face of dining in Manchester’. A pretty tall order for a humble junk food – especially considering the fact that so many London and global burger brands are on the march in Manchester already.
But Filthy Cow appear to be up for the challenge and say they have carried out months of ‘covert investigations’ into the existing burger scene. The result, opening next week on Tib Lane, will be a restaurant that indulges burgers connoisseurs’ ‘wildest meat fantasies’ (whatever those might be!). Early birds can catch the soft launch – on now.