What a year it’s been for hospitality. The pandemic has not been kind to Manchester’s restaurant and bar industry, and yet, a number of operators have not just survived but thrived this year – bringing some fantastic new additions to the city’s dining scene.
Some places on this list were conceived through lockdown; others were in the back of people’s minds for years but it wasn’t until they were put onto furlough that they finally had the opportunity (and time) to make them a reality.
The great thing about this year, however, is that the domination of the takeaway format has given opportunities to some brilliant new openings that would never have got the chance to launch if they were opening in ‘normal’ conditions.
We’re so proud of how Manchester’s restaurant scene has flourished in the most difficult of times. Keep reading to discover our picks of the best new openings to land in Manchester this year.
Lazy Tony’s Lasagneria
Five-layer lasagnas from one of the city’s best-known bartenders? It was always going to be a winner.
Danny ‘Keko’ Smith launched his Lazy Tony’s concept mid lockdown promising numerous flavours of lasagne plus Italian-inspired sides and sweets – all painstakingly made from scratch.
This year saw him open not one but two sit-down spots as well as keeping collections running from his Radium street dark kitchen. Now he’s on the hunt for a new space.
Kong’s Chicken Shop
Former CBRB bar manager Tom Potts introduced Manchester to his hench chicken sandwiches via pop-up Kong’s Chicken Shop this year – and we haven’t looked back since trying his extra game-changing layer of fried chicken skin, or chicken ‘crackling’.
Kong’s has also now launched a side project, Meat and Three, which is proving just as popular with Manchester foodies.
Launched first as a pop-up at neighbouring haunt Pollen before moving into its own unit on the Ancoats Marina, Flawd comes from the team behind Higher Ground and uses organic, local produce – some of which they’ve even grown themselves at their market garden in Cheshire.
Think inventive small plates, created by Joseph Otway, and a staggeringly good selection of craft beers and natural wines.
The home of the two-fisted hoagie, BadaBagin first made headlines with its soprano-inspired sandwiches during lockdown – but has stayed the course thanks to an ability to actually deliver the goods.
One of Manchester’s biggest lockdown success stories, they began slinging sandwiches out of a hatch on Back Piccadilly but can now be found at Ancoats General Store.
10 Tib Lane
Bock Biere Cafe was one of the earliest hospitality casualties to suffer at the start of the pandemic, so when the news finally broke that the former fondue favourite was being replaced with a new concept from the teams behind CBRB and Henry C it was very well received indeed.
Now known as 10 Tib Lane, the three-story townhouse has had quite a transformation – migrating from Belgium to France as it takes on a whole new team and cultural identity.
Gone are the fondue platters and frothy beers, in their place a new menu of small plates designed by Volta’s Alex Shaw and some serious-sounding cocktails. Think milk-washed ‘whiskey and soda’ made with two types of Chivas, burnt caramel vanilla and citric acid.
The Black Friar
Opened with great fanfare following two decades of closure, The Black Friar has received some rave reviews from locals in Manchester and those further afield – most recently being showered with praise by The Guardian‘s food critic Jay Rayner.
Mixing classic pub grub with some fancier fare too, this old Salford boozer has been magnificently brought back to life. From its stunning outdoor terrace to cosy interiors, it’s not cheap – but you get what you pay for.
Schofield’s Bar and Atomeca
Bury’s infamous Schofield brothers opened not one but two great bars in Manchester this year. First came Schofield’s Bar, opening inside landmark Mancunian boozer The Old Grapes, followed later by Atomeca on Deansgate Square.
Both new openings bring the brothers’ extensive experience of global hospitality to Manchester with some inventive but serious serves that are a far cry from the ‘party drinks’ seen in some quarters nowadays.
Ramona and The Firehouse
This year, Ramona has to be one of the biggest openings to land in the city. In transforming a disused garage in Ancoats into a super cool Detroit-style pizza spot, the team behind Trof, Gorilla and Albert Hall have really out done themselves we think it’s fair to say.
Not content with that, though, they also opened The Firehouse – bringing a whole new offering to the space and somehow making a desolate patch on Swan street one of the coolest new destinations of 2021.
Coming from humble beginnings cooking in a flat kitchen in 2019, to opening a new plant-based kitchen on Piccadilly Gardens, Vegan Shack has to be one of 2021’s biggest indie success stories.
Dimeji and Saffron have come a long way from spending their last £30 on food for their dark kitchen concept, now their loaded fries, kebab creations, wraps, shakes and more can be found right in the centre of town.
The owner of Affleck’s zero waste store, Earth Friendly Rocker, opened a new zero-waste cafe at the top of the NQ market hall this summer serving a menu focused on northern classics.
Aiming to be as sustainable as the shop that proceeds it, Potion uses locally-sourced ingredients to minimise its carbon footprint and has plenty of vegan dishes on the menu.
One Star Doner Bar
Michelin starred Brummy chef Brad Carter, behind restaurant Carters of Moseley, launched his kebab shop in lockdown – taking meat from his existing suppliers and repurposing them into fancy doners.
It’s since also landed in Manchester, at Escape to Freight Island – bringing some top-shelf doner tackle to the city.
Having started life in a remodeled horsebox and remained mobile for years, vegan street food favourite Herbivorous finally launched its first bricks and mortar site in Withington in 2021.
Serving up wings, burgers, loaded fries and more, its owners even went one step further – sourcing an entirely vegan list of spirits, wines and beers from local suppliers to boot.
Combining homemade sourdough bagels and schmears with hand-tied bouquets of flowers, Bread Flower’s unique brunch concept was a quite hit in lockdown.
Its owners have since moved into KAMPUS, opening their own pop-up cafe in the bungalow over the festive period.
First launched in Leeds two years ago in a basement on George Street, Pixel Bar has a fully themed drinks menu inspired by games like Pokemon and Super Mario.
Think 18 different gaming-themed cocktails, plus consoles, arcade games, high-spec PCs, and a downstairs club room playing early 00s pop-punk until the early hours on the weekends.
Following some delays caused by the pandemic, Bundobust opened its second restaurant and brewhouse on Oxford road this year – and boy, is she a beauty.
Kitted out with all the equipment you could possibly need to create top-notch craft beer, the new restaurant means Bundobust can now produce its own bespoke range as well as serving up all its vegetarian street food favourites.
Slice had to get a shout out for its Phoenix-like return to Manchester after disappearing from Stevenson Square (and our lives) for the best part of two years. It’s technically not a restaurant anymore, more of a hatch down at Oxford Road station with a few tables outside.
That said, if the headlines are to be believed, this may well be the definition of a restaurant come the start of 2022.
Birria Brothers Tacos
A roaring success, this concept by the Koffee Pot absolutely smashed it out of the park this year – causing queues to run up and down Oldham Street as Mancunians jostled in line to get their hands on these infamous gravy tacos.
Once again, the Birria craze proved that Mancs really will do anything for a good pot of gravy.
Deep dish Chicago pies were something that Manchester’s restaurant scene was sorely lacking – until American Pies came along.
Opened this year by the team behind Brewski, they went viral this year with their giant pizza burrito – and we expect many more good things to come in 2022.
This adorable little icecream and waffle shop in the Northern Quarter has provided a firm favourite, even through the winter months.
Alongside the classic serves, you’ll also find the likes of Bingsoo, a Korean shaved ice dessert, on the menu here alongside bubble teas, vegan sorbets and more.
The little brother to its main site on First Street, Junior Jacksons was one of the biggest bar opening to land in Manchester this year – serving burger sliders down to guests through a shoot and bringing all the raucous, dive bar antics its big brother is known for down to Oldham street.
Slightly hidden behind a florist shop, Lost Cat probably hasn’t got all the recognition it deserves this year – but it’s a great new bar addition to Manchester nonetheless.
Previously Eat New York, the site was rebranded following new involvement from Cane and Grain owner Lyndon Higginson and now slings cocktails and sandwiches across three floors.
The Smithfield Social
Taking over the former Teacup unit with great fanfare, thanks to the involvement of Courteeners’ Liam Fray.
Opened in partnership with Manchester hospitality heavyweights Jobe Ferguson and Anthony Fielden, it’s developed a reputation for its weekly ‘rice and three’ curry nights and small plates, such as the Massimo Bottura-inspired crunchy lasagne dish.
The Blues Kitchen
A big London beast arrived in Manchester this year, taking over the former Walkabout site with banging plates of BBQ and a roster of impressive music lineups that have showcased a host of local Mancunian talent this year.
Not just a great restaurant and bar addition, The Blues Kitchen also deserves a shout out as one of Manchester’s best new music venues.
After being kicked out of their Northern Quarter home, Jimmy’s spent some time looking for a new unit – and this year they finally opened over in Ancoats on Cutting Room square.
Bringing a succulent new menu along with it, this new opening is a great addition to Manchester’s dining scene – and that’s without talking about all the great underground gigs they host here too.
Opened by chef Simon Shaw, Habas is the third concept he has launched in Manchester. Less than six months after opening, the new middle eastern small plates concept joint the likes of his other restaurants, El Gato Negro and Canto, on the Michelin Guide. Need we say any more?
This Bangkok-inspired BBQ restaurant brands itself as Thai new wave fusion, and serves not just a menu but an ‘experience’. Not the place to pop into for a quick bite, here you’re served a choice of one of two menus – My First Crush (£40) or The Full Experience (£65).
Opened by the team behind Tokyo Ramen, it brings a futuristic vision of Bangkok’s fire- and- barbecue-lined streets to Manchester.
The giant sports bar that came over from Leeds, BOX deserves a shout-out for the sheer size of the place – plus the fact you can get espresso and pornstar martinis here on tap.
As well as screening all the big sports fixtures, BOX also serves some giant 2l sharer cocktails in steins, beer towers during matches, and is well known for its pizzas, many of which come with wacky toppings.
The Real Housewives of Cheshire star Lystra opened three pink palaces in the region this year, one in Manchester, one in Liverpool and one in Cheshire. Whilst Boujee may have made headlines for its 1-star hygiene rating and be considered amongst some to be a bit of a pink eyesore, its Barbie box Instagram traps have made it exceedingly popular with the city’s glitterati crowd.