As you'd expect with our rapidly changing city, Manchester's restaurant scene is never still for too long, with an almost daily roster of comings and goings.
Compared to just a decade ago, the breadth of cuisines and venues in Manchester is almost staggering, from small family-run African cafes to swanky Michelin-star toting contemporary eateries - every taste, mood and budget are well catered for in the city and its increasingly competitive suburbs.
Recent years have seen a monumental shift for most restaurants to focus on sustainability and locality - championing the UK's world-class producers, ingredients and farms. As the landscape of hospitality looks increasingly bleak amid an impending cost of living crisis, it's this provenance that is helping distinguish the city's best from the rest.
So here's our newly updated list of Manchester's Best Restaurants, a list that will be regularly updated and changed to match the frequency of this ever-changing and evolving landscape…
The Walled Gardens
You'd be forgiven for having never heard of this restaurant - mostly because it's not technically a restaurant, but when you think about it - it actually is. It's complicated. But let me explain...
The Walled Gardens is a supper club and a restaurant - all located within a flat in Whalley Range. Chef Eddie Shepherd has taken his unique style of modern vegetarian cooking and created the most unique dining experience in the whole of Manchester. You'll eat a stunning 12-course plant-based menu - with some truly exceptional creations on there.
It's not just about the food though. It's also about the experience and the atmosphere - something The Walled Gardens has in spades. It's fun and personal, with only 8 diners per night sitting around a large table in Eddie's front room. With BYOB booze too - it's like your very own dining party - but with your own personal chef. Outstanding.
Bar San Juan
Here in Manchester, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to tapas. That being said, San Juan down in Chorlton has to be the best for miles. Hands down. The little interior is decked out in yellow and red tiles, vintage photos and Spanish-inspired curiosities. Honestly, walking into San Juan is like walking into Spain.
As for the menu? Authentic is the only way to describe it. San Juan is smacked full of beautiful Spanish tapas like the Croquetas San Juan, Carrilleras de Ternera (Beef Cheeks) and the Almejas en salsa verde (clams), but you really cannot go wrong with whatever you order.
Same goes for the drink. They have some fantastic Spanish wines, beautiful beers on tap and enough Sangria to fill a bath with. All in all, lazy summer afternoons should be spent in San Juan.
There is something about Hawksmoor that taps into a primal part of your being that is so unbelievably satisfying, and that thing is unadulterated beef. The Manchester Hawksmoor is the first of its kind outside of London and is housed in a late-Victorian courthouse which is full of traditional charm.
Do not let the stunning interior distract you from the fantastic food, however. You might have guessed it but meat, specifically beef, is the aim of the game over at Hawksmoor, and their steak is some of the most succulent you have ever tasted. Oh, and it is all 100% British, grass-fed beef to boot. Think juicy beef burgers, beef short rib nuggets for snacking or a massive Chateaubriand to share.
But they do not just do beef - they are experts in all the more exceptional things like lobster, oysters, fresh native fish and all things British and some say the best roast dinner in the city.
Of course, Mana is on this list. The venue that brought a Michelin star back to the city centre after 42 years is obviously going to be in our selection of top restaurants in Manchester. And you know what – all of their accolades and awards are actually fully deserved.
From the mind of Simon Martin, Mana opened in 2019 with a gastronomic 19-course taster menu, a huge accomplishment that has grown and been adapted over the course of the year to fit in with both a Mancunian audience and their developing team - resulting in a smaller, but certainly much more refined and exciting menu today.
The only problem is that due to the Michelin star win it might be rather difficult to get yourself a table here - especially on an evening sitting. They do have a lunch sitting though that's a smaller, more concise taster of what they can do - so go for that if you're struggling.
Baratxuri & Levanter
This set of restaurants are the flagships for a budding food scene in Ramsbottom, North Manchester. Inspired by the family-run tapas restaurants of the Basque country, these guys are taking Spanish authenticity to a whole new level.
Baratxuri is a pintxo restaurant and bar which serves up a range of delicious ‘things-on-spikes’ (which in case you were wondering, is what the word ‘pintox’ means.) Changing daily, these bite-size morsels are the perfect accompaniment to some delicious drinks in the true Spanish style. Levanter is a proper restaurant- serving up a range of tapas and larger plates.
The menu changes at both venues pretty regularly to suit the seasons, but I will never ever forget about their Tuxleton from Baratxuri. This is a 45-day-aged chunk of rare beef from an old dairy cow, served on the bone with a generous peppering of sea salt. I still dream about it to this day. The suckling pig is pretty righteous too.
Levanter and Baratxuri won ‘Best Casual Dining at Manchester Food and Drink Festival a couple of years back and they also take bookings, you lucky buggers!
Where The Light Gets In
This rustic dining experience held in an unassuming Stockport loft is a real jewel in the crown of the North. Where The Light Gets In is renowned far and wide for its unique concept that was once dubbed ‘Britain’s coolest restaurant’ by American food critic Steve Plotnicki.
You will not find a menu at Where the Light Gets In, only a promise. A promise to bring you a selection of dishes using 'the day's catch, harvest and slaughter'. No two evenings are ever the same.
This restaurant aims to tap back into our island's native ingredients which change with the seasons, often using techniques and methods of preparation that go back hundreds of years. As I said above, there is no menu, and they ask you only to trust them- making this an absolute must for foodies with an unquestioning palate.
Where The Light Gets In can be booked up for almost two months at a time, so be ready to go on midnight the last day of the month to ensure you get a table.
Operating out of what can only be described as a quiet backstreet in Ancoats, ERST introduced a brand-new and exciting food concept in 2019 and we just haven't been able to get enough of it. The idea is centred around simple, sophisticated and seasonal dishes, using the highest quality ingredients.
On top of this their menu changes day-by-day, always dependent on what's fresh, what's in season and sometimes just what they decide they want to make. So, every visit is a brand-new experience - something that similar restaurants in the area are seriously lacking in.
The food isn't just the only thing to be impressed with though - they also offer up a wide, varied range of natural wines - often from such small batch producers that they'll only have one or two bottles available at any given time. But that's what makes ERST so special - it's unique, it's always changing and above all - it's exciting.
Located in an unassuming lot in the Green Quarter, The Spärrows is a modern Central European restaurant offering up a menu of handmade dumplings and pasta from the vast geographical region of South Germany, Switzerland, Alsace, Austria & Sud Tyrol, and Trentino & Alto Adige of Northern Italy.
Everything is handmade from scratch, and the Spätzle and Gnocci come served with a choice of traditional regional sauces, plus Russian Pelemi, Polish Pierogi, Slow-cooked Beef Goulash, freshly baked breads and so much more.
Ever since Observer food critic Jay Rayner reviewed this place back in 2019 it's been talked about, fawned and fussed over by the city's food establishment, but it still manages to retain a hidden element - meaning every visit feels like you're discovering your own little secret. Comforting, indulgent and sophisticated, The Spärrows is a class act all around and fully deserving of all praise and accolades.
Adam Reid at The French
The flagship fine dining restaurant at The Midland Hotel is Manchester’s long-standing answer to Haute cuisine. Now under the Manchester-born chef Adam Reid, winner of the BBC’s prestigious Great British Menu, who has brought The French a new sense of youth.
Despite the name, The French focuses on British food using local ingredients and native flavours such as Beef Dripping, Rhubarb and Lancashire cheese. The menu comes as a Taster, priced at £125 per person Wednesday - Friday, or £140 per person on Saturday.
Each menu comes with an optional wine pairing- which I strongly suggest you do. Sure, it is expensive, but it is The French, and if you are going to go you better do it properly.
The Bull & Bear
Tom Kerridge's first foray into the city, The Bull & Bear launched back in 2019 to high acclaim, located within the stunning former trading floor of the Stock Exchange Hotel. The striking Edwardian Grade II listed building is the perfect setting for Kerridge's menu of indulgent British classic comfort food.
The Bull & Bear champions high-quality local produce throughout its menu of brasserie classics, so you'll find Cornish Crab, Westwalter Park Lamb and Isle of Wight Tomatoes, plus an outstanding Sunday Roast and easily one of the most diverse wine lists in the city thanks to hotel owner Gary Neville.
The kitchen is watched over by recently appointed Head Chef Connor Black, who has worked for Kerridge for over 10 years, previously at two-Michelin starred pub The Hand & Flowers, and later as Head Chef of The Shed. He heads up a young team of very talented chefs keen to push the boundaries and create dishes that allow The Bull & Bear to really stand out in a city with such a high standard of restaurant quality.
If you have never been to Tattu you will be getting Chinese food, but do not let visions of late-night sweet and sour pork and MSG ridden spring rolls put you off- this is Chinese food like you have never had it before. Tattu delivers a contemporary approach to Chinese cuisine which is married with western flavours and techniques.
Tattu wants to take you on a journey from East to West when you dine with them by showcasing a range of excellent dishes which are stylish, delicious and beautifully presented. Think Wagyu Beef Dumplings with kimchi and spring onion, Fois Gras Goyza, Orange Char Sui Iberico Pork or Yuzu Black Cod which is a dish I think about daily.
All this fantastic food is set against the backdrop of their stunning interior which caters for everything from a few after-work cocktails to large private parties.
From the people behind (the also excellent) Tokyo Ramen on Church Street comes District, a Neofuturist BBQ-focused interpretation of Bangkok’s streets, with daring and progressive Thai-inspired dishes that are just one element in a whole multi-sensory tasting experience.
The second you enter District you’re transported into a kitsch Neo-Bangkok eatery, like something out of Blade Runner, complete with video projections, meticulous touches and a huge open kitchen that dominates the space.
The menu takes you on a journey through a great many Far Eastern influences, dishes, flavours, spices and cooking techniques, and easily one of the most interesting and exciting that we’ve seen in the city for a very long time.
French cuisine is widely considered to be the best in the world. Chefs from every corner of the globe flood to Paris to learn all the famous tricks and techniques of Haute cuisine that only the French seem to have the natural finesse for.
If fine French cuisine is your bag, then look no further than 63° Degrees in the Northern Quarter. It is a family-run Parisian style Bistro which brings you a fine-dining experience like no other. Expect French classics like Escargots, Terrine de Foie Gras, Côte de Boeuf and Crème Brûlée.
They also have a pigeon burger on the menu which is like nothing you have ever tasted before- a real culinary experience that any self-proclaimed gastronome should not miss.
There is an excellent wine list at 63° Degrees to - which is heavy on the French wine, naturally. In short, this gorgeous little French brasserie is like stepping back in time to when French food ruled the roost when it came to fine dining. If you are ever at home dreaming of Paris, save on the plane fare and pop down to 63° Degrees.
The Black Friar
Arisen from the flames like a proverbial phoenix, The Black Friar re-opened back in 2021 after 18 years of dereliction, with a swanky new greenhouse and open kitchen addition, plus a huge terrace around the back that's equally perfect for long summer days as it is for cosy winter nights.
The pub has retained its original building and features, with guests transitioning from old to new seamlessly, with a menu to match - featuring pub classics sitting alongside a more diverse choice of modern British creations.
Head Chef Ben Chaplin watches over a gloriously efficient kitchen, which champions fresh, local produce of the very highest quality. With dishes that Jay Rayner called "ambitious, big and bullish", The Black Friar has also recently introduced a new 'Pub Grub' menu adorned with 'Boddingtons Bangers' a Posh Fish Finger Butty and even their own spin on the classic Hunter's Chicken.
Simon Wood's self-named First Street restaurant has managed to impress on every Finest visit over the years, firmly overshadowing Simon's lingering MasterChef legacy and forging ahead with a new one - that of one of Manchester's most dynamic restaurateurs.
WOOD's menus feature frequent influences and nostalgic nods to Simon's Oldham roots, such as his homage to the town's 'Rag Pudding', a deconstructed pie that uses every part of the animal, from the sirloin to the gravy, via dripping-fried bread topped with bone marrow, grated heart, and tongue.
Then there's his Egg Ham and Chips - another traditional dish that's been flipped on its head and elevated with eggs from Crackberry Farm, pork from Todmorden and a juniper and thyme coating that's rendered for 12 hours.
Imaginative, seasonal dishes are presented as either a Lunch or Evening Tasting Menu, which can be paired with a wine flight for that extra gastronomic experience, and an international break from the Greater Manchester focus of the dishes, prepared, poured and explained by master sommelier James Cameron.
Campagna at The Creameries
A complete transformation and subsequent monumental shift occurred at The Creameries this year as it became 'Campagna' - headed up by Chef Mike Thomas and concentrating on Southern European country cooking with a commitment to impeccable seasonal ingredients.
Working with owner Mary-Ellen McTague over the years, Mike has honed his craft and developed a commitment to excellence and a passion for great ingredients - which can be seen throughout the menu at Campagna.
You won't be disappointed with what's on offer - a regularly changing and evolving menu of fresh seasonal salads, homemade pastas and Foccacia, delicious puddings and, on Sundays, a very special Al Forno menu.
Sugo Pasta Kitchen
What can be said about Sugo Pasta Kitchen that hasn’t already been said a million times before by thousands of people? Southern Italian pasta specialist, Sugo draws inspiration from its deep-rooted heritage and the creativity of its expert chefs to provide guests with hearty plates of pasta.
The restaurant began its journey in Altrincham, but has now branched out to Ancoats and, more recently Sale, too, with its diminutive but meticulously considered menu now being devoured by the majority of the city.
We can’t recommend trying the House Sugo enough – it comes with an 8 hour beef shin, pork shoulder and nduja ragu.
An intimate neighbourhood eatery in Chorlton, The Oystercatcher is entirely dedicated to providing us with fresh, seasonal fish, expertly prepared and cooked over coals.
Beginning life back in 2018 with a focus mostly on oysters, the Oystercatcher has become easily one of the best seafood institutions in Greater Manchester, with regularly changing menus that adapt to keep up with seasonality and sustainability.
It's a rare thing for seafood restaurants to succeed here in Manchester, with Oystercatcher leading the way amongst the ruins and legacy of many who have come before; Live Bait, Randall & Aubin and others who just couldn't crack it.
It's a challenge that they're tackling with aplomb though, with good word spreading fast across the region you might struggle to get a table, so make sure you book well in advance.
Remarked as a “place where good things happen” by Jay Rayner during his review of Street Urchin back in 2020, this eatery has enjoyed considerable success and acclaim ever since – and for good reason.
Street Urchin describes themselves as an “English market diner” so expect the very best in local and seasonal produce, with a particular focus on fresh seafood, loveling prepared by husband-and-wife team Kevin and Rachel Choudhary.
The constantly evolving menus are a masterclass in good, honest British cooking, using the very best ingredients available at that particular time of the year. It's not just for seafood lovers either, with meat-eaters and vegans/vegetarians well catered for.
The newest addition to this list and a restaurant that has surprised many with the sheer quality of food on offer - a welcome jolt to the city's food scene that we never saw coming.
Housed within the design-led hotel of the same name, The Alan's restaurant is headed up by Chef Iain Thomas, formerly of Edinburgh Castle in Ancoats, who has created, what Jay Rayner described as a "truly delightful" menu of small plates when he visited in May. It's hard not to be impressed with dishes such as the Littlewoods' sourced Cheshire Beef Tartare, Polyspore Mushrooms and a true Northern icon - the majestic (and oft-forgotten) Barnsley Chop, made using Gatehouse Farm lamb.
The outspoken Observer critic was full of praise for the "tight menu", with an attention to detail that meanders throughout, from the food to the upholstery and the rooms - everything at The Alan is well-thought-out, considered and very, very impressive.
Launching into a rapidly evolving food scene up in Prestwich, OSMA has almost single-handily managed to drag the suburb into the 21st Century - with Michelin aspirations and contemporary Scandinavian leanings, the combination of owners Danielle and Sophie's birthplaces - OSlo and MAnchester.
Throughout the day you'll find breakfast, salads and open sandwiches, replaced in the evening by a menu of frequently changing seasonal sharing plates, with ingredients from local British farms and producers - showcasing them in their purest form by letting each ingredient speak for itself.
With chic, minimalistic interiors, and experiences forged at L'Enclume and Maaemo, you know that you're in good hands at OSMA.
**Updated 15th September 2022