Whilst Manchester might not be considered the ultimate foodie Mecca, there are more than a few recently-opened ventures which have certainly helped to place the city on the gastronomic map. Whether it’s the unabashedly arrogant ‘triple nom’ burgers making their way out of the kitchens of Almost Famous or the much-reviewed ox tartare at The French, Manchester excels in catering for everyone, whatever your foodie preference – and budget, writes Anna Tully
At the bottom end of the penny sale, allow me to introduce you to Jaffa (pictured above): a Mediterranean Halal café located on the bustling Rusholme, aka the Curry Mile. Though there’s not a Korma in sight, the lamb shawarma (around £4) is brimming with flavour, and their delicious vegetable mezzes (between £2-3) help keep things feeling healthy. Their daily specials are also worth a taste – look out for the lamb and okra dish (£4.50), served with rice. You’ll leave this place stuffed and still have change for a tenner.
Jaffa, 185 Wilmslow Rd, Manchester M14 5AP (0161 225 0800)
Keeping with the ‘canteen’ style of dining, I Am Pho in Manchester’s Chinatown serves delicious Vietnamese food that’ll keep your hunger locked up longer than Shreddies. Summer rolls with prawns (£4.50) are fresh and tasty, but the real reason we can’t keep away are their hefty bowls of pho: Vietnamese noodles served in a slow-cooked aromatic broth. Choose from a selection of meat – or for an even more filling option, opt for one with Wonton dumplings. All of the soups are served with additional chilli and herbs on the side, allowing you to spice things up as much as you like! Expect to pay around £8 for a main.
I Am Pho, 44 George St, Manchester, M1 4HF (0161 236 1230, Facebook page)
If you want to eat cheaply, but fancy something a bit trendier than the white lino dining of Jaffa and I Am Pho, head on over to the city’s Northern Quarter where cheap eats are on tap – and are usually cheaper than whatever beer is! Common is a laid-back bar with a nod to the Communist era – fortunately with much better food. The burgers (around £6-£7 without sides) are tasty, the chilli cheese fries a hangover-must and their daily specials are always carefully planned: think braised feather of beef with a Porter reduction (£7.50) or a giant curried Scotch egg (£5).
Common, 39 Edge St, Manchester, M4 1HW (0161 832 9245, website)
Meander down the street and you’ll find yourself in the ‘no reservations’ Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn. Specialising in Americanised Mexican food, their menu will have you dribbling before you’re even past the starters. Burritos (all £10 or less) are huge: practically bursting at the seams, though there’s a good chance you’ll find it hard to resist their burgers (£8-£9), topped with all manner of items: from pulled pork to nachos, guacamole to sun-dried tomato aioli.
Luck Lust Liquor & Burn, 100-102 High St, Manchester, M4 1HP (0161 832 8644, website)
[Sam’s Chop House – picture: Adam Bruderer / Flickr / CC]
Whilst Jaffa won’t be offering much of what you’d expect from the Curry Mile, there’s certainly a place that will. Mughli is miles apart from its Middle Eastern neighbours, offering well-rehearsed Indian and Punjabi classics with a modern update: taste Korma (£8) like you’ve never tried it before – or, my personal favourite, the Machli Masala (£11.50), lightly battered pieces of masala fish, atop a bed of karahi sauce, with pickled red onions and fresh spinach leaves. There’s really something for everyone here, as their ‘street food’ menu – that also doubles as a starters section – is filled with delectable tasters of the streets of Lahore: the deconstructed vegetable samosa, samosa chaat (£4), and the pani puri (£4.50) are a must for veggies – and the Kati roll (£5.50) is stuffed with smoky tandoori chicken. It’ll be difficult to leave room for mains.
Mughli, Wilmslow Rd, Manchester, M14 5TQ (0161 248 0900, website)
If the idea of eating smaller plates has taken your fancy, but your tastebuds aren’t ready for the spice of Mughli, check out Cicchetti. Part of the San Carlo group, and housed in House of Fraser (though it’s still accessible once the store closes), it offers small plates of rustic Italian food in a rather swanky setting. Book a table if you fancy being fawned over or grab a seat at the bar and order as you go if you’d rather be left to your own devices. Anything with chicken livers and Marsala will be as rich as it sounds, the carpaccios and tartares expensive and created in front of you, and the mini pizzas are great for filling up on carbs. Expect to pay between £5 – £12 a dish: you’ll need two or three each to fill you up, but you’ll want five or six!
San Carlo Cicchetti, House of Fraser, 98-116 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 2GQ (0161 839 2233; website)
Keeping things classic with a very Northern nod are the chain of Chop Houses within the city. Primarily famed for their corned beef hash (£13) – made in house, over ten days – and available in any of the three venues: the Albert Square Chop House, Sam’s Chop House and Mr Thomas’s Chop House. The latter two fit best within the ‘mid-range’ dining option offering a gastropub sentiment, with mains all in the early teens and starts around the £6 mark. Early evening menus are also offered with three courses at £17 – though unfortunately the homemade corned beef is served as a salad. Hmm. Not sure how Northern that is.
Sam’s Chop House, Back Pool Fold, off Cross Street, Manchester, M2 1HN 0161 834 3210, website)
Albert Square Chop House, 14 Albert Square, Manchester, M2 5PF (0161 834 1866, website)
Mr Thomas’s Chop House, 52 Cross St, Manchester M2 7AR (0161 832 2245, website)
Another taste of Asia to round things off – this time moving towards the East and on to Red N Hot, – a Szechuan Chinese restaurant, located in the middle of Manchester’s Chinatown. The prices are all more than reasonable, and portion sizes generous: it’s likely you’ll be asking for a doggy bag. If you’re happy to try the truly traditional, order homemade Sichuan Spicy Tofu Jelly (£4), or Aubergine with Fermented Black Beans (£6.50), whilst not the most appealing-sounding of dishes, is a must-have: brimming with the depth of umami. If you’re not feeling adventurous, the restaurant also has an excellent seafood selection and less exciting dishes such as chicken in lemon sauce (£7.50). Ignore the latter and be adventurous: as long as you like chilli, that is!
Red N Hot, 56 Faulkner Street, Manchester, M1 4FH (0161-236-2650, website)
[The French by Simon Rogan – picture: Alan Spedding / Flickr / CC]
One for a proper treat – think birthday, anniversary, promotion – The French by Simon Rogan is a fine dining venture brought to Manchester by the two-Michelin starred chef, housed in the grand dining room of the city’s Midland Hotel. There are two tasting menus to choose from – six courses (£59) or ten (£84), though I’d recommend visiting on an empty stomach and going all-out here. The menu undergoes minor changes with the seasons – and every dish will leave you wanting more. Service is friendly and reasonably relaxed for somewhere this fancy, and don’t forget to check out the disco ball.
The Midland Hotel, Peter Street, Manchester, M60 2DS (0161 236 3333, website)
If eating in a hotel restaurant doesn’t float your boat, perhaps eating in a department store does? Harvey Nichol’s Restaurant, situated on the second floor of the luxury goods retailer, offers panoramic views of Manchester accompanied by a stellar wine list and intriguing ingredient combinations. Think Goosnargh duck with fennel yoghurt, or pickled carrots with cream cheese mouse for dessert. There are safer, more classic options too, such as truffle gnocchi and salmon gravadlax. Three courses will set you back £40, or opt for the Menu Gourmand at £55.
Second Floor Restaurant, Harvey Nichols, 21 Cathedral Approach, Manchester, M1 1AD (0161 828 8888, website)
Fancy a trip out of the city? Then head north or south: both directions offer delectable dining experiences in intimate surroundings. Drive 15 minutes north to Prestwich for a taste of Aumbry: run by Mary-Ellen McTague (you may have seen her on Great British Menu), this cosy and familiar restaurant offers comforting yet perfectly executed dishes day in, day out. Nine courses will set you back £75, or six for £60; 12 courses are even available on request. Tuesday nights sees the restaurant offer a pared-down five courser for £25 – amazing value.
Aumbry, 2 Church Ln, Manchester M25 1AJ (0161 798 5841, website)
Heading south now, and into the M20 postcode, West Didsbury’s Burton road is filled with independent boutiques, restaurants and bars – with one standout venture not to be missed. The Rose Garden started out as a venue barely seating 30 but has proved so popular, they’ve added an extension. Dishes are always perfectly balanced and playful: think cauliflower cheese lasagne or wreckless rarebit (the cheese roux is mixed with local beer, Wreckless pale ale). Starters are between £5.95 and £9.95, with mains in the high teens. Not cheap by any means – but certainly worth it, and it’s out-of-city location guarantees you more for your buck.
The Rose Garden, 218 Burton Rd, Manchester, M20 2LW (0161 478 0747; website)
Anna Tully writes for the Manchester Foodies blog. Follow them on Twitter:
Main image: Tim Parkinson / Flickr / CC
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