A weekend break in Manchester
Mooch around Manchester’s Northern Quarter and adjoining trendy Ancoats neighbourhood for the weekend. Start at antipodean-style Federal, and brunch on French toast laden with summer berry compote or corn fritters piled high with toppings. Work your way through the Northern Quarter’s network of shops, cafés and bars – Beermoth is jam-packed with local brews. Amble over to Ancoats’s New Islington Arena to scandi-cool Pollen Bakery to enjoy canalside Manchester tart cruffins and cuddles with Maru the chow chow. For dinner, Rudy’s is the local go-to for Neapolitan pizza and refreshing aperitivo with pals.
The next day, head over to The Feel Good Club for crumpets with thick lashings of butter and jam, or Mackie Mayor for a less traditional nacho brunch beneath the high glass ceilings of the former Smithfield market, built in 1852. For something sweet, pass Siop Shop to grab an artisan doughnut before venturing down to the newly opened Mayfield Park, circling back to visit Escape to Freight Island’s self-contained deck courtyard lit by strings of festoon lights for wiling away long afternoons with Pomona Island craft brews and plates from its restaurants within. For a whistle-stop tour of Manchester’s cultural and foodie history on foot and more meals than you can fit in, try a bespoke Scranchester Food Tour.
Where to stay
Converted textile warehouse Native Manchester is part of the Grade II listed Ducie Street complex of serviced apartments under five minutes walk from Piccadilly station. Each apartment comes kitted out with a well-equipped kitchen, living room and super comfy bedrooms, plus the lobby doubles up as a restaurant, bar and all-day deli. There are also classes available at BLOCK gym in the basement. Studio doubles from £119 per night, check availability at booking.com
Where to eat and drink in Manchester: the full list
Rudy’s – for pizza
Rudy’s is an unanimous favourite among Manchester’s foodies. With its original site in up-and-coming Ancoats and a newly opened branch on Peter Street, it’s a go-to place for pizza and cocktails with your pals.
Pizza dough is made on site twice a day and cooked for no longer than a minute to produce a springy base. Choose from toppings including classic margherita with buffalo mozzarella, spicy nduja sausage with tomato and fior di latte, or white pizza with smoked mozzarella, Tuscan sausage and wild broccoli.
The aperitivo list uses some of our favourite Italian brands to create great twists on classic cocktails – gin fizz is spiked with Cynar (a bittersweet artichoke leaf liqueur) and Disaronno is mixed with limoncello, lemon juice and fresh basil for a refreshing amaretto sour. Otherwise, go for a creamy Dolci Colline prosecco, a bright and citrusy Sicilian white or forest-fruity Puglian red. Rudyspizza.co.uk
The Feel Good Club – for relaxed & friendly brunches
Kiera and Aime, the wives behind Feel Good Club, are on a mission to make spaces where people feel comfortable, safe and good about themselves. Their flagship coffee house in Manchester opened mid-pandemic from a simple aim to make one person each day feel less alone or give them a reason to smile. It also has a full bar and brunch menu with our favourite, classic crumpets on offer.
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Each Friday, they book out the long communal tables for freelancers and solo-workers. Look up their weekly events, you might catch anything from Plant Club, Karaoke, Juno’s Pup Club or even Miss Chief Cabaret. feelgoodclub.co
Ginger’s Comfort Emporium at Afflecks – for small batch ice cream surrounded by curiosities
Google Afflecks and you’ll find it described as an ‘emporium of eclecticism, a totem of indie culture in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.’ Iconic for its family of 60+ independent traders that make up the indoor market, it’s a seamless side-step into Ginger’s Comfort Emporium.
Tucked in a bright corner of the first floor, it’s home to deliciously innovative real dairy, vegan ice cream and sorbet flavours you likely won’t have tried anywhere before. Chef and former food stylist Claire Kelsey has several British Street Food Awards and a recipe book, MELT under their belt, thanks to an idea she had in 2010 to refurbish an old ice cream van.
Original ice cream flavours, including marmalade on toast and olive oil & sea salt, remain on the menu today. Toasted ice cream sandwiches, shakes and changing specials are also up for grabs. The mint stracciatella, flavoured with fresh mint leaves, was a perfectly sweet refresher. gingerscomfortemporium.com
Mackie Mayor – for global food against a historical backdrop
This 1852 Grade II listed market building is the only one remaining fully intact in the city’s historic Smithfield Market and is now home to 10 independent bars and kitchens. Its high window-lined ceiling means the space is always flooded with natural light and even when it’s busy, doesn’t feel overcrowded.
It’s a great brunch spot for sharing a tray of Pico’s breakfast nachos layered with salsa roja or verde, queso fresco and topped with a runny fried egg. You don’t need to book, plus it’s dog friendly. instagram.com/mackiemayor
Escape to Freight Island – for social street food, live music and rollerskating
Just five minutes from Manchester’s Piccadilly station is one of the city’s latest examples of urban regeneration: a new food hall in the footprint of what was formerly a freight depot, now a vibrant centre for eating and socialising. The space is packed with multi-level terraces, long benches and tables for trying diverse eats from the variety of street food joints, but there are quiet spots dotted around if you’re after a more relaxed date-night.
Try Madre’s fried chicken tacos (gluten free) with a cocktail. The watermelon number is icily fresh with all the zest of grapefruit minus any bitterness.
Venture past the live music stage and you’ll find Street Life Skates. The entrance is just next to Mayfield Park, the new green space, which opened in September 2022 as Manchester’s first new city park in 100 years. It’s 6.5 acres big, perfect for mooching around to walk off your food. escapetofreightisland.com
Siop Shop – for alternative artisan doughnuts
Coffee and doughnuts are the specialties here, but whatever you’re imagining, it’s better. Siop is the Welsh word for shop and this is just one of many personal, creative touches that owners, Iwan Roberts and Lucy Jackson of Blawd Bakery have curated to create a relaxed and welcoming pit stop on Tib Street.
The doughnut menu changes regularly. During the Manchester Coffee Festival in November, we tried the brand’s limited edition coffee bean, ‘48hr cold proofed carbonic macerated thermal shock brioche with coffee creme diplomat injection’ doughnut.
For firework night, they developed an apple compote-filled number with a toffee glaze on a lollipop stick. This is fun, delicious food. siopshop.co
Wash House speakeasy – for satisfyingly secret cocktails
Before Covid descended, the password to this speakeasy on Shudehill Street was reportedly, ‘I’d like to put a wash on.’ Now you book in advance, but the concept remains the same. Laundrette on the outside, cocktail bar within, the Wash House is inconspicuous to those not in the know and for those who do, an adventurous cocktail menu awaits combining a liquid alchemy full of surprises. washhousemcr.com
MUSU — for contemporary Japanese
Chef patron Michael Shaw (previously at Le Manoir) heads up this contemporary space, hosting Japanese tasting menus that intertwine the finest ingredients from Japan with fresh UK produce. There’s also an omakase experience at head sushi chef Andre Aguiar’s six-seat counter, along with premium sake and Japanese whisky pairings. musumcr.com
Campagna at The Creameries – for Southern European snacks and pasta
When The Creameries owner, chef Mary-Ellen McTague, stepped away from the business earlier this year (partly to focus on her Eat Well charity), she wanted it to reset as a neighbourhood hang-out.
In February, this modish space relaunched as Campagna, with head chef Mike Thomas given rein to develop a Southern European menu of cool, snacky starters (£3-£7); seasonal salads utilising exceptional regional produce; and handmade pasta dishes, such as wild rabbit or beef shin ragu (£10- £15). A low-intervention wine list and Sunday’s menu of Italian classics (lasagne, tiramisu, £30pp), complete this overture to the food lovers of Chorlton, Manchester’s most boho suburb. thecreameries.co.uk
The Vurger Co – for plant-based junk food
Created in 2016 after founders Rachel Hugh and Neil Potts took a life-changing trip to California – then the epicentre of a burgeoning plant-based food revolution – The Vurger Co has grown from a small market stall to four branches based in London, Brighton and Manchester.
Along the journey, Rachel and Neil have worked with some of the meat-free industry’s sharpest minds – including chef Gaz Oakley, also know as the Avant-Garde Vegan – to help shape a brand that, in its spicy Auburger (£8.45) or Beyond Meat patty New York Melt (£9.95), promises ‘vegan fast food to feed your soul’.
Plus, all of The Vurger Co’s packaging is also made from plants and fully compostable. Rachel and Neil are dedicated to waste management and guarantee that nothing goes to landfill. thevurgerco.com
Bundobust – for Indian street food and craft beers
Bundobust is many things (craft beer haunt, Indian street food hangout, veggie restaurant) but it sells itself as a ‘beer and Indian joint’. The basement bar is filled with casual, communal tables that encourage interaction with fellow punters, and has a relaxed order-at-the-bar system that keeps the crowd mingling.
The food menu is all about vegetarian Indian street food. We suggest opting for one of the combos that arrive on wooden trays – a modern twist on the thali. Plant-based are filled with paneer and mushroom tikka skewers marinated in yogurt curd, crisp onion, broccoli and kale bhajis spiced with fennel, and tarka lentil dhal to mop up with deep fried bhatura flatbread. Our highlight was the bundo chat – layers of crisp samosa, sweet-and-sour tamarind and frilly little crunchy bits on top.
Beers include collaborations with Leeds brewery Northern Monk and several Manchester breweries (see some of the best in the Beermoth section below). There’s simple house chai for a booze-free option, though you can add a dash of bourbon or cognac if you’re after more of a kick. bundobust.com
Pollen Bakery – for bakes by the canal
If you’re in search of comfort then head to this canalside bakery for indulgent brownies and stay for cuddles with Maru the chow chow (aka lion dog).
The light and bright space beside New Islington Marina is kitted out with sleek scandi furnishings (concrete, pale wood, muted tones). Behind a counter heaving with freshly baked loaves and cakes there’s a huge area dedicated to baking. Pollen is famous for its sourdough loaves (try the Pollen rye, oat porridge, five-seed sour) and Manchester tart cruffins, but don’t miss the moist and zesty lemon and poppy seed cake and the decadent salted caramel brownie topped with cocoa nibs.
The owners support small foodie entrepreneurs with supper clubs and pop ups, so check out the website for Asian food from Pippy Eats and more… pollenbakery.com
Federal – for leisurely brunch
This popular antipodean cafe drags loyal Northern Quarter locals out of bed at the weekend for its epic brunches. Emily’s homemade banana bread is treacly and dark, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg with a fragrant vanilla mascarpone. If you’re really hungry, the hefty French toast is very popular, laden with homemade summer berry compote, almonds, whipped vanilla mascarpone and salted caramel; while corn fritters with a choice of toppings make a worthy savoury choice.
Federal’s owners are committed to excellent sourcing, with sourdough bread brought in from Lovingly Artisan in the Lake District, and coffee carted up from London’s Ozone Coffee Roasters (try a signature espresso martini made with vanilla infused vodka and Ozone espresso).
It’s a lovely spot to spend a few hours – above wooden floorboards mustard banquettes hug two sides of the almost triangular corner room, and lush green plants spill out of tiny hanging pots. Federalcafe.co.uk
Hatch – for hipster street food
This trendy foodie outlet sits under the flyover near Manchester Met and Manchester University. Strings of exposed light bulbs cast a hipster twinkle over the self-contained courtyard, and there’s a sun-soaked garden filled with long wooden tables where you can while away summer afternoons.
Peruse the artisan beers on tap and by the bottle at ÖL nanobrewery. Try one of their own brews or go for the local Cloudwater IPA, brewed under the railway arches around the corner. Otherwise sit in the shipping container above Takk coffee and sip espressos or iced lattes from sleek black bamboo cups.
The rotating street food offering showcases Manchester’s up-and-coming vendors. We tried Firebird Hope chicken sandwiches – the crunchiest outer shell covering extremely succulent pieces of chicken thigh with Koji mayo and green slaw. hatchmcr.com
Takk – for Scandi-style coffee
With the main space in the Northern Quarter and a funky outpost in one of Hatch’s shipping containers, this sleek coffee shop is an ode to Scandinavia. The owners are obsessed with all things Nordic (particularly Reykjavik), so opened this ode to the region complete with the house Nordic Style espresso (roasted by Clifton Coffee in Bristol), cosy ‘hygge’ vibes and trendy baristas.
At the Oxford Road shop, there’s a more contemporary Scandinavian them, with a turquoise coffee machine, plenty of blonde wood and funky grey tiles create a calm backdrop to enjoy your coffee, or purchase one of the handy reusable cups and get an iced coffee to take away. takkmcr.com
El Gato Negro – for stylish small plates
This upmarket tapas restaurant opened in 2016 and has quickly gained a reputation as Manchester’s go-to spot for a splash-out dinner.
Set over three storeys of a converted townhouse, there are plenty of choices when it comes to seating – a ground floor bar framed with shiny black tiles and seats that spill out onto the pavement, and red leather stools overlooking the open kitchen on the first floor, allowing punters to inhale aromas from the Josper grill. Then there’s el Gato Negro’s trump card, a swish rooftop dining area, complete with sliding roof, where you can enjoy a glass of fresh and fruity Albariño wine from Galicia.
The restaurant’s small plates menu sees chefs adding modern twists to traditional tapas dishes. Though we thought some additions weren’t needed (Galician octopus, for example, was so soft and beautifully finished on the Josper grill that it didn’t need the punchy pickled shallots), other dishes really shone – long, slim heritage carrots were drenched in walnut pesto, miso and aubergine purée, while croquettas entailed an extra cheesy béchamel encased in crisp breadcrumbs. elgatonegrotapas.com
Beermoth – for craft beers by the bottle
This small shop on buzzy Tib Street is jam-packed with bottles, cans and kegs of beers from Manchester, as well as from the UK and across the globe.
Brews from the inner city include neon-packaged Runaway Brewery (smoked porter, summer saison, American brown ale), Track Brewing Co. (visit its weekly brew tap events under the arches of Picadilly), and Cloudwater (which has gained a global reputation over the past few of years).
The friendly staff sure know their porters from their DIPAs, so make sure you pick their brains. We came across a fab new favourite from Northern Ireland after describing our preferences. beermoth.co.uk
Adam Reid at The French – for fine dining
Hidden behind a curtain in a corner of the grand lobby of the Midland Hotel, there’s more than a feel of Alice in Wonderland as you are transported through mirrored doors into the dining room of The French. Soft grey and sage green tones give everything a muted luxurious feel and there are two huge cylindrical chandeliers which throw light back and forth via the mirrored panelling around the room.
Chef Adam Reid’s cooking is inventive and playful but executed with real precision and flair. (He’s the bold chef that took over the helm after Simon Rogan left at the end of 2016.) A nibble of the creamiest smoked cod roe with puffy squid ink wafers kicked the six-course tasting menu off in style. Crispy pig’s trotter to start, proper came as fall-apart meat slowly braised in a rich deep umami soy base then breadcrumbed and deep fried into a crisp nugget, with pickled onion purée. Courses to follow include corned beef and potato hash, brill with silky artichoke and basil purée and suckling pig belly served with fermented cabbage and punchy cherry sauce.
Reid won the Great British menu in 2016 with his Empire apple dessert – a blown sugar apple filled with a meadowsweet custard mousse – and our incredibly pretty pud is a take on that, this time a shiny orange clementine sugar shell filled with airy white chocolate mousse. It’s a little piece of cooking wizardry which perfectly reflects the rest of the menu at this magical place. adam-reid.co.uk
The Bagel Shop by Eat New York – for bagels
This Northern Quarter newcomer is the latest hangout for hip young Mancunians. There are screens indoors to enjoy the footie, or grab a bagel or burger to takeaway. Bagels are top-notch – tempura-battered aubergine is meltingly soft and really holds itself up to the doughy bagel base. For something more classic, go for the homemade salt beef or pastrami smoked for 15 hours in ‘Old Buddy’ the smoker. eatnewyork.co.uk
Yuzu – for Japanese tapas
Yui Nagami of Manchester’s Yuzu restaurant says the reason it stands out from the crowd is the freshness and the fact everything is made from scratch. “The uniqueness of our food is that we make everything on site, including the soy sauce-based sauce that comes with all the sashimi dishes, the teriyaki sauce and the ponzu that accompanies the karaage. The fish is delivered every day and meat is marinated at least several hours before serving – the prep is the most important part of our operation.”
As well as claiming to serve the freshest sashimi in the city, dishes such as teriyaki salmon served over Japanese rice in a donburi bowl and traditional chicken katsu has helped Yuzu retain its place in the 2020 edition of The Good Food Guide. yuzumanchester.co.uk
Mana – for progressive fine dining
Progressive, sustainable, creative – all words that have been bandied around concerning Simon Martin’s new restaurant. The 28-year-old Shropshire chef worked at Noma and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay before opening Mana, his first restaurant, in October 2018. With an aim to be “casual”, “accessible” and celebrate the “best of our island’s produce”, the restaurant serves a seven- or 14-course set menu (£65 or £105) in just 1 hour 45 minutes.
Little-known ingredients have raised eyebrows among foodies – from dessicated spruce and bark to reindeer moss and lacto-fermented barley – and there’s the option to go for juice, beer or wine pairing. Eight-metre-high ceilings make this minimalist, modern space feel bigger than its 28 seats. Dark wooden floors, grey walls, cream leather, wood-framed chairs and statement drop lighting provide the backdrop for the main attraction – a £300,000 bespoke open kitchen, with compressed stone surfaces, and the brigade of chefs who double up as servers. The ever-evolving winter menu (served until the end of this month) focusses on shellfish, fish and winter greens, and is available four days a week. manarestaurant.co.uk
TAST – for Catalonian cuisine
Executive chef Paco Pérez, who holds five Michelin stars across seven restaurants around the world, is behind the Catalonian menu, which starts with three types of bread and tomato, cheese and charcuterie, and canapé-like tramuntanades, including toasted cheese and truffle sandwiches.
‘Tastets’ are similar in size to tapas, and beg to be matched with the all-Spanish wine list, Catalan gins and out-there cocktails (try vodka with apple, black garlic and basil oil). Order a couple of tastets each – whether Iberian ham or roasted chicken croquettes, or plates from the ‘garden’, ‘sea’ or ‘mountain’ – then move on to shared rice platters, or the likes of Iberian pork presa and bone-in sirloin steak cooked in a charcoal oven. Can’t decide? Let Paco choose, with a £40 menu of his favourites.
With space for 120 covers across three dining areas (the private Enxaneta on the second floor, main dining room Folre, and Pinya bar), the décor is slick but understated, with plenty of natural light. tastcatala.com
20 Stories – for modern British with a view
D&D London group’s all-day restaurant, bar and grill, 20 Stories, on the 19th floor of the No1 Spinningfields building in central Manchester.
The modern British menu in the main restaurant showcases local produce, with the majority sourced within a 50-mile radius of the city. Herdwick lamb sits on potato gnocchi and chanterelle mushrooms, poached John Dory is served with a smart langoustine velouté and white asparagus, and butter-poached salsify is topped with burnt leeks and parsnip purée. There’s also a more casual brasserie focussing on the grill, serving the likes of Yorkshire beef steaks, grilled heritage beetroot salad, and bone marrow burgers topped with beef cheek, mushroom and an onion ring.
With 360-degree views, the swish space also brings the outside in with glamorous interiors inspired by nature (plenty of wood, hanging plants, stone features). The bar and outdoor terrace is dedicated to cocktails, including the signature 20 Stories cocktail made with Tanqueray gin, vermouth, honey and herb cordial, and grapes shaken with fresh lemon. 20stories.co.uk
WOOD – for casual fine dining
Fine dining made casual with a modern spin on British classics, in the shiny First Street development just outside Manchester’s city centre.
High ceilings tower over dark wood and teal furnishings, with cosy booths and dim lighting. An open kitchen gives diners a view of the MasterChef at work.
There are four menus to order from, to reflect the different ways you might like to dine here. A tasting menu is kept as a surprise for the night you visit, they call it a mystery tour. The lounge menu focuses on the Josper grill with flat-iron steak, smoked gnocchi, rocket parmesan pesto and leaves on offer, while the low-key theatre menu is restricted in choice, but expansive in flavour, with the likes of belly pork, cider, granny smith apple, and sage and onion popping up as a starter. woodrestaurantgroup.com/manchester
Australasia – for Australian fusion
Australasia (1 The Avenue), a glam subterranean bar-restaurant goes on late and gets busy. Visit pre-dinner to enjoy a rose and lychee martini. australasia.uk.com
Salut – for wine by the glass
“Salut aims to be the place where you want to break bread and drink wine with your pals,” says Sara Saunby, co-founder of Salut Wines, which she opened with husband Jon in 2014. With the help of an Italian Enomatic wine preservation and serving system, Salut offers around 60 wines by the glass as well as a large range of craft beers and spirits. Salut.co.uk
Porta – for inventive tapas
Founded by brothers Ben and Joe Wright, there are now three Porta wine and tapas bars spread across the north-west, the latest of which opened in Salford at the end of 2018. The Iberian-influenced tapas – staples of jamón, croquetas and patatas bravas but also slow-roasted ox cheek, pickled walnuts and purple sprouting broccoli with romesco sauce – is complemented by a carefully curated selection of Spanish wines, cava, beer, sherries and vermouth. portatapas.co.uk
Words by Alex Crossley, Tony Naylor and Mark Taylor
Trust olive Food and arts journalist Tony Naylor was born, lives and works in Manchester. olive’s digital editor Alex Crossley has family in Manchester and visits regularly.
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