Firstly, let me apologise if I have mis-sold this list to you as it does not necessarily cover what some would consider “the top ten best restaurants in Manchester”, rather than reflect my favourite places to eat.
The restaurants on this list are the places where I eat out most regularly because I feel comfortable there and I like their ethos, and attitudes to food and customers.
They are ranked in no particular order.
1. The French by Simon Rogan – although Simon Rogan is best known for his 2 starred L’Enclume and high profile Fera at Claridge’s, To my mind, the food at The French is also worthy of a Michelin star. The historic room and showpiece chandeliers are another reason to go.
#HossHandyHint: my top Manchester choice for a celebratory meal. Also, forget the French bubbly stuff and treat yourself to a bottle of the Nyetimber (British sparkling wine) too. The service is formal yet casual, please don’t be put off going by thinking it’ll be staid and stuffy.
2. Solita – “Home of the Big Manc” burgers aren’t really my thing but occasionally I get a hankering for one of Solita’s show stopping specials – their sticky lime wings and cheeseburger spring rolls are also favourites. Solita are not all about burgers though, since the opening of Hawksmoor, they have upped their steak game too.
#HossHandyHint: keep an eye on their twitter for the latest specials. Also, I’m more likely to visit the Didsbury branch than the NQ as it’s easier to get a table. Oh, and wear your “eating trousers”. I’ll include a disclaimer before some twat on twitter points out that friends own this place.
3. Mr. Cooper’s House & Garden – the eclectic seasonally changing menu draws on diverse influences and always has something to pique the interest of the modern day globetrotting “foodie”.
#HossHandyHint: arrive early for your table to have some cocktails in the bar; I prefer sitting in “The Study” to the “Garden”. Order the Cumbrian rib steak. The Sunday Roast is great too.
4. Yuzu – a short menu of authentic Japanese cuisine simple surroundings. I love the honesty of this place… and the jazz soundtrack.
#HossHandyHint: always get the gyozas and the kara-age. The set lunch is exceptional value. Keep an eye on the specials for the grilled whole sea bream.
5. Siam Smiles – a café like space in the basement of a Thai grocer/supermarket, serving authentic Thai cuisine. I’ve read and heard many people knocking the décor and service but for me, it’s all part of the charm. I’ve also read and heard many people say the food is the best and most authentic Thai food they’ve eaten outside of Thailand – for me, this is its biggest charm!
#HossHandyHint: if you like spice, go for the Lab Moo or E-san style papaya salad. The E-san sausages are another fave. If having any of the noodle broths, don’t be shy with the condiments provided on the tables. Grab a bag of pork scratchings off the shelf too.
6. Mughli – most would agree that Manchester’s Curry Mile is a shadow of its former self but Mughli is one place that has managed to move with the times – the lack of the usual suspects (korma, vindaloo etc.) on the curry menu attests to their desire to stand out from the crowd. I like the Lamb Nihari or the minced lamb Kulchi. However, for me, it’s the “street food” and “charcoal pit” menus with their ‘Pau Bhaji’, ‘Tamarind Masala Fish’ and excellent ‘Lamb Chops’ that really delights.
#HossHandyHint: don’t worry about the curries, instead choose a selection from the “street food” section of the menu; lamb chops are a must. Also, stick around for a Keralan Coffee after your meal.
7. Sadaf – also on the curry mile, Sadaf is an Afghani “kebab shop” but its comfy booths make eating in enjoyable. The service is friendly and the food is good value, fresh and flavoursome.
#HossHandyHint: if you fancy a kebab, the Koebeda is ther best I’ve had along the “mile”. Personally, I enjoy the grilled fish on rice or Qabli Pilau. A side of hummus with one of their freshly made naans always goes down well too.
8. Volta – a little out of town, in trendy West Didsbury, Volta, owned by superstar DJs, is both effortlessly and achingly hip (but not in an annoying way); for me, there’s always been a kind of Parisienne “je m'en fous” vibe (but not in a bad way)… the place just feels right. The menu, mainly comprises of small plates, is varied and good value.
#HossHandyHint: keep an eye on the specials board.
9. The Easy Fish Restaurant – another place in the suburbs (Heaton Moor), The Easy Fish Co. is both a top quality fishmongers and an excellent fish restaurant.
#HossHandyHint: keep an eye on the specials board for the best of the day’s catch.
10. Hawskmoor – if I wanted a big steak, Solita’s are much better value but I like Hawksmoor, especially the more casual bar area. Steaks aside, the steak tartare, anchovy hollandaise and triple cooked chips are all faves. Service is slick, yet genuine.
#HossHandyHint: if you haven’t got close to £100 to drop on one of the big steaks, get a table in the bar and order from the bar menu. Always get the Poutine.
A few faves that missed out on one of the Top Ten spots…
Manchester House – Chef Aiden Byrne’s big spending bosses (at Living Ventures) made no secret of their desire to create a world class restaurant; so far, ‘the guides” have not fulfilled their dreams but with every visit, classically trained Aiden and his team seem to be getting increasingly to grips with the modernist cuisine and techniques. #HossHandyHint: if you don’t want to splurge on the tasting menu, the set lunch offers great value.
A place I love to go to for drinks and nibbles or with a group of friends for sharesies and good times is, La Bandera – a Spanish restaurant I’d choose over the new and glitzy Ibérica based purely on service and their friendly family run atmosphere. #HossHandyHint: if they are on the daily changing menu order the “wrinkly potatoes” (Papas arrugadas con mojo).
Another great place for a Sunday lunch is Beef & Pudding – I also like their bar area for a drink and a few nibbles after shopping. #HossHandyHint: if you’re particularly carnivorous, give 2hrs notice and order the 7lb “Manchester Meet” rib joint with trimmings (feeds four).
Also, The Northern Quarter Restaurant is a place that I always kick myself for overlooking… the food and atmosphere are great; I don’t know why I don’t go there more! #HossHandyHint: check out the great value express menu.
Another out of town place worth checking out is Heaton Moor’s Brassica Grill #HossHandyHint: the grill menu is good but definitely save room for the Raspberry soufflé.