A series looking at the best dining options within walking distance (1 mile) of city landmarks worldwide. Here, we offer our 5 IDEAL restaurants close to Manchester’s Picadilly Station.
Talk of Manchester’s food scene has been dominated by one familiar refrain for years; just when will the city boast a Michelin starred restaurant? Well, now that the dust has settled on Restaurant Mana finally being bestowed with that coveted, controversial honour, we can put the speculation to bed and finally appreciate the city for what it is; a thriving, thrilling place to get fed.
Yep, a foodie revolution is afoot. With trains taking just two hours from London Euston, and plenty of great restaurants just minutes from the city’s main station Manchester Piccadilly, there really is no excuse not to get stuck into the UK’s latest restaurant destination. With that in mind, here are 5 of the best restaurants near Manchester Piccadilly.
ERST (600 metres)
Just a year old, Erst is predominantly a natural wine bar, but one which happens to serve some downright delicious food. You’ll know from the empty bottles which line the windowsill, and from the soundtrack of clinking glasses and good cheer which meets you in arrival. Dingy gentleman’s club, smelling of stale cigars and chauvinism this isn’t; the facade of huge windows both lets the light in and beckons you in from the street, arms wide open.
The food is anything but an afterthought. It’s a small plates affair with a vaguely Mediterranean bent. Expect to see the ubiquitous flatbreads and ferments, nduja and bitter leaves…you know the score. But Erst happens to do these things very, very well indeed.
On a recent visit, their boudin noir (black pudding, ish) with a sharp, garlicky sauce was sensational, and a dish of gnudi and grilled leeks deeply comforting in the depths of a chilly Mancunian winter’s day. Following a glowing national review in The Times recently, Erst only looks set to get more popular; get in there while you can.
HO’S BAKERY (500 metres)
Nestled in Manchester’s Chinatown is Ho’s Bakery, a city institution now over a quarter of a century old. They must be doing something right.
Greggs, this ain’t. Instead, from their humble shop in appearance only, it’s delicious Chinese sweet and savoury pastries freshly baked daily and available for a pittance. From the latter selection, roast pork buns, striking just the right balance between sweet and salty, are incredible, and from the sweet section, the pandan cake, all luminous green and light as a feather, is the perfect afternoon snack. If you really want to feel like you’ve eaten dessert, go for the custard tarts, baked simply in the Macanese style. Heaven.
KALA (700 metres)
We won’t bother with all the obligatory intro, of a combative Twitter personality and a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign; you know all that already, right? But Gary Usher’s newest venture in a string of affordable, perfectly pitched modern bistros has well and truly found its home on King Street, just a 15 minute stroll from the station. True to the consistency and confidence of the cooking which defines all six restaurants which fall under the Elite Bistro’s umbrella, there’s superb, affordable food to be found here, and an experience made warm and welcoming by capable, charming service.
A class act from the moment you walk through the door to your final farewell, it’s obvious every detail has been considered and accounted for. The focaccia is an early hit, warm, crispy and just the right level of rich. The signature braised beef (here, feather blade) with truffle and parmesan chips is as good as it sounds, as in, bloody good, but vegetarians are equally well catered for; an excellent Middle Eastern style roast cauliflower is given pep via green chilli and cured lemon. Although it’s only been open for just under a year, Kala is already one of those places you trust to feed and look after you brilliantly, regardless of what you order. We love a restaurant which gives us that kind of confidence.
EL GATO NEGRO (700 metres)
We think it’s safe to say that the superb tapas bar El Gato Negro, on Manchester’s King Street, was a success story from the start. Rammed from the very first night, it quickly racked up the accolades, including a Big Gourmand from that Manchester loathing Michelin man.
It’s a gorgeous place to settle into for an evening, with three floors of fun and frivolity. Take a stool leaning on their lengthy bar to watch the action go down on the first floor, or the chef’s table which overlooks an open kitchen on the second, but perhaps best of all is the gorgeous terrace on the top floor, with banquette seating and plenty of boisterous cheer when the weather’s right.
With such a splendid setting, the food needs to be damn good to match, and it doesn’t disappoint; it’s a menu of all the good stuff done just right. So, patatas bravas are a proper size, rather than the dice you increasingly find, with the perfect mix of punchy aioli and an angry tomato sauce, pimenton all present and correct. The house tortilla oozes just the right amount of egg, and is given complexity with lightly caramelised onions. But it’s the seafood that’s the real star of the show here, with the grill doing most of the hard work and simplicity quite rightly favoured. The chargrilled bream, if on the menu, is a must order.
THE ALLOTMENT VEGAN EATERY (800 metres)
Proving very much that vegan food needn’t sacrifice on flavour, or dare we say, indulgence, is the Allotment. The vibe here on Lloyd Street is 100% plant based, with clever use of ingredients meaning a meal here will have you wondering if you’ll ever go back to meat again.
There’s a pan Asian bent to proceedings, with a tofu laksa sweet and soothing through coconut milk but with that crucial slick of chilli oil very much in the mix. A simple kale and edamame manages to handle both grassy and zingy ginger notes deftly. Dishes are all thoughtfully presented, and desserts way more decadent than you might expect. Who said vegan food couldn’t be fun?