13 must-try neighbourhood gems in Manchester

Expect polished British dishes at Hispi, a neighbourhood gem in Didsbury. Credit: Hispi

Manchester is a cultural hotbed, fluent in football, music, theatre, and the visual arts. That dynamic vibe extends to the city’s cosmopolitan restaurant scene, a mixed bag of markets, bistros, and fine-dining spots that have scooped up a loyal following for transportive fare. 

Venezuelan and Cantonese fusion lures locals to an industrial-chic restaurant in Ancoats. Southern Italian flavours and live music keep residents returning to an exceptional spot in Spring Gardens. In Chorlton, a perpetually packed tapas joint channels the streets of Madrid. 

These places are adored by Mancunians and deliver the cosmopolitan charisma the northwestern English city is known for. Read on for a guide to 13 top neighbourhood restaurants to visit right now.

 

Ducie Street Warehouse (Northern Quarter)

Ducie Street Warehouse is a Northern Quarter bastion. The sprawling modern British venue occupies the site of the former Cultureplex (a stylish multi-purpose space that included a hotel and gym) and is considered a Manchester treasure. Families come for film screenings in the mini theatre, while revellers adore Ducie Street’s disco brunches, complete with lively DJ takeovers. Catch up over coffee in the lounge or sip cocktails at the bar before migrating to the dining room for shareable global fare such as mini fondue with sourdough bread sticks and sesame and peanut gochujang chicken wings. Throw in engaging pop-up events—art classes, lo-fi nights—and dedicated spaces for larger-scale celebrations, and you’ve got a versatile and locally loved space.

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Schofield’s Bar (Deansgate)

A green and red Art Deco-style door and balcony mark the entrance to Schofields Bar in Manchester.

The ornate entrance to Schofield’s Bar evokes Art Deco glamour. Credit: Schofield’s Bar

Schofield’s is part neighbourhood watering hole and part opulent 1930s-inspired escape. The beloved haunt is set in the iconic Art Deco Sunlight House and traces its roots to a winning 2021 pop-up. Manchester’s cocktail fans come for inventive riffs on bloody marys and old fashioneds, plus original concoctions such as the Trick Shot (Scotch, gooseberry-flavoured aperitif, chocolate port, vanilla, and anise) and the tequila-forward Medicina Latina. The drinks are masterminded by brothers and founders Joe and Daniel Schoefield, who draw on their experiences from working in some of the world’s best bars. The bar’s sumptuous charcuterie and cheese boards and signature bloody mary tartare, made with Isle of Wight tomatoes and bloody mary seasoning, also keep the crowds coming.

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Evelyn’s Cafe Bar (Northern Quarter)

Evelyn’s is an easygoing globally influenced spot with live-fire cooking at its core. Locals can’t get enough of smoky dishes cooked on the charcoal oven, including sumac chicken with red cabbage and date syrup and grilled octopus with new potatoes, saffron aioli, and pimento. For the extra ravenous, there’s a show-stopping whole-grilled sea bream marinated in rose harissa and lime. Enjoy it all in a cosy exposed brick setting studded with plants.

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Blue Eyed Panda (Ancoats)

Carolina Ho and Miguel Hung, the married couple behind Ancoats institution Panda Chinese Takeaway, launched Blue Eyed Panda in 2019. Their second act attracts regulars for its relaxed atmosphere and hearty Cantonese fare. Expect expertly prepared traditional dishes such as aromatic roast meats, juicy dumplings, and hot poached beef in chile oil with glass noodles. But don’t skip the limited edition dishes—Ho frequently experiments with Venezuelan fusion, weaving in flavours from the country she grew up in. Simple interiors, including brushed concrete floors and colourful chairs, let the duo’s innovative food take centre stage at this friendly neighbourhood gem.

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Kala (King Street)

Chefs work in an open kitchen near tables that are laid for dinner at Kala Bistro in Manchester.

At Kala Bistro, diners can feast on seasonal dishes while taking in the action from the open kitchen. Credit: Kala Bistro

Kala Bistro broke a world record before it even opened in 2019, becoming the fastest Kickstarter project to raise £100,000 in the history of the crowdfunding platform. The locally loved restaurant specialises in modern British cooking and is spearheaded by chef Gary Usher and his Elite Bistros group (of other well-regarded area spots including Merseyside’s Pinion and Sticky Walnut in Chester). From Monday to Thursday, Mancunians flock here for The Great Bistro menu—two or three dinner courses featuring mackerel Caesar salad and signature fried chicken thighs. Worthy à la carte options include house-braised meats, such as red wine and port beef or grilled pork ribeye with salsa macha butter.

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Escape to Freight Island (Depot Mayfield)

Manchester’s revellers flock to this eclectic cultural hub for its street food, happy hours, and live entertainment lineup. Choose from 18 vendors slinging everything from Indian-inspired pies and Venezuelan arepas to cheesecake on a stick. Consider a drink at one of the seven onsite bars—every glass of sparkling wine comes with free oysters at bistro-like Forever Changes. Enjoy it all against a soundscape of DJ sets (or the occasional comedy night) and you’ll see why locals consider this one of Manchester’s most energetic hangout spots.

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Menagerie Restaurant (Salford)

 A table surrounded by teal velvet banquette seats and a chandelier, adorned with white flowers at Menagerie in Manchester

Lush floral arrangements dial up the opulence at Menagerie Restaurant. Credit: Menagerie Restaurant

Manchester’s diners are drawn to Menagerie’s secret garden-like atmosphere and spectacular live performances. Statement-making interiors, such as walls with botanical prints and foliage, exposed stonework, and leather booths fuel the design-forward vibes—as does the main bar, decked with a winged statue and hundreds of origami doves dangling from the ceiling. But regulars also flock here for Menagerie’s many menus, which include afternoon tea, express lunch, bottomless brunch, and cocktails (must-order drinks include the Play it Cool with orange gin, apple vodka, vermouth, and prosecco). If you’re here to sip and snack, consider New American options such as duck croquettes and tempura king prawns. For a heartier meal, dig into maple-glazed pork chops and grilled miso aubergine with balsamic tofu.

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Pinwei Chinese Restaurant (Chinatown)

Pinwei’s central location—it’s a stone’s throw from Manchester’s town hall—makes it a lodestar for locals. Soft yellow furnishings and eye-catching flower arrangements create a cheerful atmosphere and the spacious restaurant is always filled with diners looking to sample the vast modern Chinese menu. Area residents can’t get enough of Anglo-Chinese favourites and dishes from Beijing, Canton, and Sichuan, including fragrant hotpots and standout stir-fries, such as tender poached beef in chile oil. Those in the know come for Pinwei’s top-notch dim sum deal (three Cantonese dishes for £12, offered daily from 12 pm to 4 pm) and pile their plates high with translucent siu mai stuffed with minced pork and prawn and delicate chicken and spinach parcels.

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WOOD Manchester (King Street)

Masterchef 2015 winner Simon Wood’s flagship restaurant in the city centre is all about fine dining in a sleek setting. Chef Wood is known to regularly emerge from the kitchen and greet diners, and that accessibility has scored the restaurant a loyal local following. The classic British—read: rich—tasting menu is filled with Manchester favourites including hen’s egg with truffled chips and ham and spring lamb with buttered leeks, cabbage, and bacon (a vegetarian selection is available). Pair them with seasonal or “iconic” wine flights—the latter showcases some of the best vintages in the restaurant. For an even more immersive experience, Mancunians book the chef’s table, which lets them watch their meal being plated, right before their eyes.

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Peru Perdu at The Cotton Factory (Gay Village)

Peru Perdu has a solid reputation for its vibrant atmosphere and some of the city’s best Peruvian food. From the neon lights and pink walls to the arthouse liquor prints on the walls, the vibe here is undeniably playful. But the dishes don’t mess around: Get the tiger milk chicken, curried cauliflower, and steak, which comes with a choice of three sauces and sides of eggs, blue cheese crumbs, onion rings, or prawns. Add a two-for-one pisco sour happy hour on weekdays and you’ve got a winning formula for a prized Gay Village gem.

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Hispi (Didsbury)

A plate of braised beef sits on top of peas and seasonal greens at Hispi in Manchester.

Hispi’s specialities include a lineup of braised meat dishes. Credit: Hispi

This Didsbury star is another hard hitter from Gary Usher and churns out the polished British food that the area’s residents have come to expect from the Elite Bistros group. Hispi’s casual chic charm surfaces in dishes such as goat cheese and pink peppercorn ravioli and maple-cured salmon with caramelised lemon and mustard yoghurt. The mains make great companions to a glass from Hispi’s large wine list (servers are well-equipped to recommend pairings). The restaurant’s popular Sunday roasts can get extremely busy, so booking in advance is practically mandatory.

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BAR SAN JUAN (Chorlton)

This popular no-reservations tapas joint regularly racks up long queues (come for lunch or early dinner to avoid the crowds). But locals insist the wait is part of the charm at this snug hotspot. Grab a stool and sip on sangria until your table is ready. Then devour a cavalcade of shareable dishes such as anchovies topped with olives, meaty chorizo cooked in Gallaecian hand-crafted cider, and spinach with chickpeas, potatoes, and hummus and black olives. Wash it all down with an encore sangria or a pick from the thoughtful Spanish beer selection and raise a toast to this beloved local darling.

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Volta (Didsbury) 

Volta brings Paris’s brasserie culture to Didsbury via an outdoor covered terrace and twinkling festoon lights. The restaurant’s small plates menu is inspired by the owner’s international travels, as is the varied wine, craft beer, and cocktail selection. Go before 5:30 pm on weekdays and you’ll be treated to three dishes for £15. Later in the evening, Volta morphs into a lively local bar. Grab an al fresco perch, order a spiced pear daiquiri and the roasted aubergine and beetroot dip with flatbread as you contemplate the main course, and you’ll quickly see why this quaint charmer is a Manchester must.

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Shekha Vyas is a London-based reporter, writing about business, lifestyle, and food. Follow her on Instagram at @shekhav or on TikTok at @tastingbritain.