Tattu / Modern Chinese
Tattu a fairly new kid on the block having opened its doors in 2015 but its Tattu’s superb take on modern Chinese cuisine has kept them open and that shows no sign of changing. Before you even get to the food you’re overwhelmed by how stunning the environment is with its dark wood, deep set booths and huge anchors hanging overhead. The restaurant is separated into three areas each drawing decorative influence from different styles of body art and the orient, which has always had an enormous influence of the evolution of tattooing and body art. You can even sit under a cherry blossom tree as you tuck into all of the wondrous delights on offer here. Tattu takes both décor and Asian cuisine to the next level offering up a Saffron Miso Black Cod that would knock stripes off a tiger. For the very extravagant there is an indulgent soy glazed wagyu fillet that will set you back £70 (yikes!), whatever you choose you can wash it down with some very refined and exciting cocktails e.g Skull Candy; a concoction of vodka, strawberry, lavender and bubble-gum served in a smoking skull, Butter Wouldn’t Melt; A smooth bourbon cocktail with butterscotch, bourbon, cinnamon bark and black walnut bitters and many others. Tattu is one restaurant that will definitely leave its mark on you.
Manchester House has a star head chef in Aiden Byrne. Head Chef by the tender age of 22, he has worked in many Michelin-Starred establishments including Adlards, Tom Aikens, Pied A Terre and The Commons. Although Manchester House is at the pricier end of the spectrum it would be worth the treating yourself at least once to a meal here. The food is essentially flawless and the experience leaves you feeling like somewhat of a celebrity. The tasting menu is probably the most expensive in the city but comes with all the dry ice theatrics and spheres of sauce you’d expect. On arrival you’re hustled to the 12th floor bar for drinks where you have a magnificent view of the city before heading down to the restaurant. The waiters are knowledgeable and smartly dressed and you are aware from the outset this is a fine dining establishment seeking out that allusive Michelin star (Aiden Byrne was obviously bitten by the bug) so if that’s what you are looking for then Manchester House is the restaurant for you.
On the website the restaurant advertises itself as “Modern Australian cuisine combines Pacific Rim flavours underpinned by European cooking tradition, a blend of Indonesian, Southeast Asian influences and Australia’s strong ties with Japan also help determine the taste and style.” Yowza that’s a lot of influences, and really shouldn’t work but somehow at Australasia it does. I’m not sure if the poetry of having to go ‘down under’ to enjoy a meal here is intended but it’s humorous all the same, the subterranean restaurant is softly lit and welcoming you to an environment that’s more outback Australia than underground Manchester. Prices here are reasonable and there’s a lot to choose from, it does feel however that no expense has been spared when it comes to your dining experience and the wine list is presented to you on an ipad and even the glasses are designer. The Black cod roasted in hoba leaf here is sensational and sustainable making it win/win or try something smaller, the popcorn tempura is a must.
Damson easily delivers excellent food, one of the best wine lists in the country (the menu states “There are 10,000 known grape varieties that can be used to make wine, although the French authorities only list 200 of commercial significance.” Damson offer 74 of these, 19 by the glass) and well informed waiting staff who are efficient and warm. The décor at Damson is slick and cool, an acoustic pop soundtrack featuring the likes of Ed Sheeran and Jason Mraz adds to the ambience while the food is presented stylishly and delicately so your eyes are already preparing your palette for the wonders you are about to taste. The set menu offers fantastic value at two courses for £16.95 or three for £19.95, the roasted rump of lamb (with creamed Jersey Royals, new season asparagus, roasted garlic puree and salsa verde) is out of this world and when pairing any of the delicious options with a wine you can even ask the big boss Steve Pilling for advice as he is only too happy to chat and offer options without pushing the whole I am the boss attitude it’s also clear he gets on very well with the staff too. All in all Damson is a big yes for me and balances perfectly everything a good restaurant should be.
Barton Arcade’s Lunya is a Spanish themed bar, restaurant and deli which puts the accent on Catalan cuisine. Owned by Peter and Elaine Kinsella, this is their second opening (the original stands in Liverpool) and even though Deansgate is hardly Las Ramblas the wave of scents that hit you as you approach could fool you into thinking otherwise. The moment you step inside you are greeted with shelves lined with products sourced from the very best areas in Spain including a mind boggling range of ham, 40 Catalan and Spanish cheeses, Spain’s very best wines, sherries, cavas and spirits. You’d be forgiven for feeling overwhelmed with joy, that joy does not desist once you are seated and are making your selection. The Almejas (clams cooked in Manzanilla sherry with smoked pancetta £8.85) are packed with flavour just make sure you always leave room for the insanely delicious range of cheeses on offer here and the fig compote is not to be sniffed at. You can see why Lunya has been winning awards since it first opened its doors (the Liverpool restaurant is the Good Food Guide North West Restaurant of the Year for two years running (2015 & 2016). And the Manchester restaurant is the winner of the M.E.N City Life Manchester Restaurant of the Year 2015). Perhaps save a visit here for a rainy day as you’ll find yourself instantly transported to the sunny streets of Barcelona.
Evelyns Café and Bar / Vegetarian
Although initially it sounds like Evelyns is some sort of tea room with a beer fridge do not be fooled it could not be farther from that. Evelyn’s has a hint of slacker chic about it, contemporary and stylish ECB delivers bold flavours in abundance. Under the Zanna group umbrella and with Chef Byron Moses who has previously worked with David Gale as executive sous chef at the Hilton and at Spinningfields and American restaurant Southern 11 – the menu is healthy and flavourful without being too Gwynny Paltrow about it . If slipping in for breakfast (served all the way up to 12:30pm) you’ll be faced with a fresh faced start to the morning with the coconut chia pot, with mango, pineapple and pomegranate, a range of pastries and other bright introductions to your day. After that there is a great selection of small plates like the smoked salmon, beetroot, horseradish cream and the tasty lamb & bulgur wheat patty, with mint and toasted almonds. The Sunday menu is the traditional roast with a twist; leg of lamb, rosemary with garlic, anchovies and pine nuts with gravy and the free range chicken, with chilli and garlic with gravy. Not only does the food taste great here but it’s perfect for those who subscribe to nutritious meal (as opposed to me who doesn’t care as long as it’s tasty) and you’ll be pleased to know even the puddings aren’t a devil to your waistline. Just do me one small favour and find out who Evelyn is.
Bakchich / Lebanese
Following on from the success of their Liverpool branch the next logical step for owners Otto Mellouki and Amine Elgueddar was to open a second location in Manchester. These Lebanese street food masterminds have brought the bright, contemporary ambience with them not to mention some rather impressive tiling. Bakchich the restaurant is a very open space as is the kitchen but still offers some privacy with its booths but its openness means you can really take in the visual feast around you including the huge mural across the wall and the afore mentioned tiles (which according to the website originally adorned the mosaic floor of Grandpa’s house in Marrakesh). Eating here feels like being part of the family and every morsel is seemingly created with that sense of love in mind. From the home made flat breads and the cloud consistency like hommos (You’d think that all homos was created equal but I assure you it isn’t) to the Kaseleta (Marinated lamb chops with Lebanese spices) and the divine chicken kofta burger, every mouthful is every bit as vibrant as the décor. Another selling point is this restaurant follow the philosophy of its name (Bakchich means ‘loose change’) and everything here is very affordable in fact the only real downside I can see is Bakchich offers a no alcohol policy however, they do make that up with seemingly infinite list of refreshing soft options.
Albert Schloss / European
Looking for somewhere with great atmosphere and perhaps, just a little bit of Bavarian bohemia? Look no further than Albert Schloss. This place just screams ‘get ready for a good time’ Albert Schloss is basically a Bavarian Disney Land but instead of rides there is amongst other things; four copper barrels filled with 900 pints of the oldest pilsner in the world (brought in from the Czech Republic on a weekly basis that must be drunk in seven days; there’s even a countdown) there are roaring fires, bespoke Alpine wood furniture, racks of vintage magazines, a stage, live music, entertainment nights, a DJ, a ‘shufflepuck’ table (google it) and fabulous food Albert Schloss is an all dancing all singing and they even make their own schnapps in house. Filled to capacity since it opened it’s a guaranteed good time pleasure palace and the menu does not let it down. At Albert Schloss you can tuck into Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle), pork and beef meatballs, house ribs, and classic Bratwurst and Bavarian soured beef but desserts are in no way left behind because this place has, wait for it… its own in-house bakery creating pretzels, cinnamon buns, sourdough loaves, and waffles all day long. Albert Schloss is a grown-ups playground effectively so if you’ve maybe had a bit too much of fine dining and want to let you hair down but not your stomach head here for the time of your life.
Don Marco / Italian
Based on authentic Italy, Don Marco Manchester provides the very best in true Italian dining. In an industry when many restaurants are in danger of being more style than substance it’s refreshing to have a venue that brings things back to basics. The space itself is clean, open and elegant a very white space with red accents here and there the tables though are in eavesdropping range so if you want a little bit more privacy seat yourself in odd little corner seat behind the bar – it’s quite private but you still get a great view of everything that’s happening. The ethos behind Don Marco is that everything that arrives at your table delights you. The ingredients are always fresh and of high quality true to Italian dining. Don Marco recreates the atmosphere of neighbourhood brasseries found in other big cities across the globe like those found in New York for example. San Marco is the perfect place to relax and enjoy and take your time dining the Sicilian way. There’s so much on offer here the Ippoglosso (Pan roasted halibut, crayfish and saffron risotto) maybe one of the pricier things on the menu but at £21.95 but that’s not a lot for the subtle and indulgent flavours this dish that will have you wolfing it down. The Pollo Ruspante (roasted corn fed chicken gnocchi garlic mushrooms and white wine) and is equally as delicious you’ll notice here there’s no pretention here it’s just simple recognisable ingredients carefully balanced and deliciously indulgent. All the wines here too are Italian and only the Champagne is from outside Italia as you would expect. Offering Al Fresco dining Don Marco is also perfect for sipping a cool white wine on a balmy summer evening.
Chaophraya / Thai
The multi-award winning Thai restaurant above Sam’s Chop House, is one of the busiest restaurants in Manchester city centre this isn’t because it’s delightfully authentic and has a Thai chef using Thai ingredients although this is true it’s simply the quality of the food which will take your mouth and stomach on an across the world adventure and remind just what there is out there in terms of the flavours of the world. The range of dishes at Chaophraya isn’t just extensive it’s also relatively inexpensive for the quality that is delivered. The Gaeng Pa (a Thai ‘jungle curry’) gives off enough heat to make your heart sing but not enough to destroy your taste buds or lose the flavours that make this dish so interesting. The menu doesn’t seem to have a miss on it; this is Thai cuisine at its very best and it’s not just the food that’s exotic. The space has many fabulous Thai ornaments and influences it’s eye-catching and certainly the place to impress a date. With large booths traditional Thai sunken seating Chaophraya is very different to anywhere else in town. The open kitchen is entertaining, watching the Chefs smiling as they create the assortment of wonderful dishes is a real pleasure and that warmth also extends to the waiting staff that are equally happy as well as being efficient. If you’re looking for a far flung exciting experience that’s also a travelogue for the taste buds Chaophraya is your first stop.