We've been waiting too long to get back into these wonderful Manchester venues. Let us in!
Escape to Freight Island
Quite possibly the best food and entertainment venue in the world at the moment, Freight Island were in the early stages of launching their HUGE new Ticket Hall expansion back in October when we were put on national lockdown for a second time, and since then the space has sadly, remained under-utilised and empty. The vision for Freight Island is as ambitious as it is exciting, with a whole host of new food and drink vendors, including the brilliant Baratuxri and Ancoats’ Jane Eyre. With plans for more entertainment and live music, and even rotating Michelin-starred takeovers – 2021 is going to be massive for this place.
Currently bashing out his outstanding Sunday Roasts for collection on the weekend, lockdowns and tiers have also given co-owner and Head Chef of Elnecot – Michael Clay – the chance to experiment, refine and improve on his menus – and we can’t wait to get down to Ancoats to see what he’s come up with. His championing of seasonal British produce and traditional dishes with an eccentric twist have impressed us for years, and will continue to do so far into the future. Anywhere that can put Lambs Testicles on the menu and make them delightful definitely deserves a visit.
Quite possibly the greatest party bar in the city, the sights and sounds of Bunny Jackson’s have been in darkness for way too long now – all we want to do is go there, get hammered, listen to some live music, eat wings and get kicked out at 3am! Is that too much to ask?! Well, of course it is at the moment, but as soon as they open again – we’ll be there with empty stomachs and livers ready for a pounding. Fireball’s all round!
The Walled Gardens
Eddie Shepherd’s The Walled Gardens is a truly innovative and exciting experience, one which sees you travel to his flat in Whalley Range to taste and devour his menu of ground-breaking vegetarian dishes whilst sat around his dinner table with a bunch of people that you’ve never met before. It’s a dinner party and it’s a restaurant experience – and it’s truly outstanding. Of course, COVID put the whole concept to bed, but we simply can’t wait until we can get back out there and get back to Eddie’s gaff.
Home to Manchester’s longest running club night – Funkademia – no weekend in the Northern Quarter was complete without a visit to Mint Lounge on Oldham Street – and so it shall be once more post-pandemic! Mint Lounge is also noted as being a venue that has helped launch the careers of many a Manchester music legend, as well as hosting some of the city’s best club nights, from Hit & Run to Clique to Back by Dope Demand – they’ve all been here and we can’t wait to get back.
We absolutely adore Tattu here in the Finest office, with frequent visits to sit under the Cherry Blossom tree and tuck into whatever new Chinese delights that they’ve added to the menu. Tattu delivers a contemporary approach to Chinese cuisine which is married with western flavours and techniques, taking you on a journey with their supremely stylish, delicious and beautifully presented dishes.
The Bay Horse Tavern
What can I say about The Bay Horse that hasn’t already been said? It’s undoubtedly one of the best boozers in Manchester, with an always impressive selection of ales, some cracking pub grub, endless bags of crisps, a brilliant weekly pub quiz, handsome and sexy staff, breakfast until 3pm, darts and plenty more to keep anybody entertained. A firm favourite in the Finest office – we really, really miss this one.
It was with immense delight that we welcomed the city’s first Michelin star in 42 years, as Simon Martin’s Mana picked up the famed award back in 2019. Since then, he’s pushed the boundaries of seasonal British produce, re-inventing his tasting menu and introducing a new lunch menu (which certainly helped with the increased demand). Actually, they’ve just announced a move into burger takeaways – so be prepared for the best burger of your life!
The Liars Club
Whilst sat here thinking of my most favourite late-night bars, there’s no shaking off the brilliance of The Liars Club and my word – I miss it. Everything about Liars represents everything that we are currently unable to do, from dancing around on a tiny dancefloor to some cracking tunes, to sinking countless flaming Zombies well into the night – this is a pure party bar and one that we will love forever. They even started selling slices from Pedro’s upstairs recently too – something I hope they continue when they re-open.
One of the city’s oldest and most frequented music venues, pretty much everyone you’ve ever heard of has played at Manchester Academy at some point, and they’re still hosting some of the world’s biggest, best (and weirdest) acts to this day. My one eternal memory of Academy will be of watching Prince here back in 2014 – a truly momentous occasion and the best gig I have ever, and will ever, go to.
Sugo Pasta Kitchen
Never before have I really thought to order pasta in a restaurant, primarily due to spending 3 years at university cooking the stuff for breakfast, dinner and my tea. That was until I went to Sugo in Ancoats, caught in the whirlwind of positive reviews that emanated from their original Altrincham location. Almost instantly my prejudices against pasta were destroyed, helped by Sugo’s simple but truly magnificent House Sugo – a flavour-packed combination of fresh orecchiette pasta with a slow cooked beef shin, pork shoulder and nduja ragu. Game changing stuff.
The Briton’s Protection
Riding my bike past here twice a day takes all of my internal willpower to not just stop and nip in for a few pints and one of their approximately 350 whiskies as a chaser. In fact, most of the time, after a hard day’s graft – that willpower disappears like a fart in the wind and I find myself perched up in the Briton’s Protection, chatting away to a regular over a few bevvies. I REALLY miss pubs and this place is a true Manchester institution.
Just before we ended up traversing our second ‘peak’, Dog Bowl re-opened with a brand-new look – helped considerably by a significant take over by Northern Quarter arcade gaff NQ64. That meant that instead of just bowling you could also spend hours killing zombies or beating the shit out of Death Adder as a dwarf – all interjected with some pretty special burgers and a new list of strong cocktails. Just being able to go somewhere like Dog Bowl, not worry about cleaning things and have some good, honest FUN – yeah, we’re really missing it.
Hidden down a tiny little street just off Stevenson Square, BAB serve up gourmet kebabs and is easily one of the most exciting places to eat in the Northern Quarter. With a menu that changes with delightful regularity, there’s always something new to try, be it one of their huge kebabs such as their Flat Iron Steak stuffed with whipped blue cheese and truffle and walnuts, or their selection of Mezze including Honey Glazed Pork Belly, King Prawn Skewers, and a wicked Grilled Feta Cheese Skillet that still frequents my dreams to this day.
A class act through and through, Hawksmoor is up there as one of the best restaurants in the city, both in terms of the food and the atmosphere – oh, and let’s not forget those brand-new cocktails either. If you want the best steak in the city – head here. If you want lobster – head here. Oysters? You know the score. Oh, and Hawksmoor is home to some of the most indulgent sides imaginable, with Mac & Cheese and Tunworth Mash that will blow your bloody socks off. Sure, they’re offering Hawksmoor at Home at the moment but nothing beats a visit to the restaurant.
Where the Light Gets In
A true Stockport gem, Where the Light Gets In has managed to almost single-handedly drag Stockers into the 21st Century, and as a result there’s been a truly impressive influx in recent years of independent bars, restaurants and cafes in the area. Where The Light Gets In is set in an unassuming loft, renowned far and wide for its unique concept that does away with menus and provides only a promise – to bring you a selection of dishes using “the day’s catch, harvest and slaughter” ensuring no two evenings are ever the same.
Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun
Winners of countless awards since opening a few years back, CBRB does everything that it says it will – but just really, really good. Their cocktails are confident, modern and well thought out, their Bao Buns are some of the best in the city, and the ramen? Well, there’s a reason why it was packed out pretty much every single night of the week. With everything made from scratch, their mouth-watering Nagoya is a sure-fire winner; made with a spicy gochujang broth with pork belly, crackling, minced pork, spring onion and chilli oil for a hot experience that I just can’t wait to get back to.
A Chorlton institution, hell, it’s a Manchester institution now, and known far and wide as serving up the most authentic and delicious tapas that money can buy. It’s not just the food that makes San Juan special though, it’s the whole package, a venue that takes everything that makes the traditional Spanish cantina so good, and plonks it down in the middle of suburban England. This place is tiny, which makes it all the better, and an afternoon drinking Sangria in here has certainly been missed.
Bursting onto the restaurant scene back in 2018 was Mary-Ellen McTague’s The Creameries, a neighbourhood eatery the likes you won’t find anywhere else in Manchester. Fiercely faithful to its founding principles of championing locality, The Creameries quickly became a hot foodie spot, and a favourite place for many of the Finest team to while away a few hours on a Saturday afternoon. With a frequently changing seasonal menu, no two visits to The Creameries are the same, except for the fact that you can always expect outstanding food, delicious wines and the best homemade bar snacks you’ll ever taste.