The Manchester Arndale market has so much going on it’s easy to breeze through and miss out.
From fresh sashimi, big tilapia, strawberry grouper and shark, to local groceries and full butcher counters selling every cut of meat you can imagine, there’s so much to get stuck into here.
But in this piece, we’re here to talk about its street food offering – because this corner of the shopping centre has some real hidden gems you really need to try.
In recent years, the Arndale food market has welcomed some of Manchester’s most exciting and talented chefs, raising the bar for some of the more long-standing traders.
The result? A real mixed bag of street food offerings that far outstrip anything you can get at the food court.
Of course, the events of the past year have brought some changes to the lineup. Favourites like Holy Crab, Blue Caribou, and Intoku are just a few to have upped sticks – but their spaces were quickly filled by some new arrivals.
Still, it’s one of the best places in the city to grab a quick and tasty lunch. Read on to get to grips with what’s what and work out what you’re trying first.
American comfort food with a global twist. If you’re missing Blue Caribou’s poutine, Smoke Shed has their own popular version, loaded with bbq pulled, house-smoked brisket, smoked onion gravy and melting lumps of mozzarella (£6.50). On the burger front, the go-to order is the buttermilk fried chicken burger, but there are plenty of others to choose from.
Salt & Pepper
Opened by artist Chloe Yung and her brother, Salt and Pepper is one of the market’s most popular stalls. The pair grew up working in their grandad’s Chinese takeaway and now they’ve opened their own – with a modern twist. From chicken strips and wings to shredded beef, king prawns and tofu, everything here gets the Cantonese salt and pepper treatment. Order yours with salt and pepper chips, jasmine rice or mini flatbreads.
The vegan (and gluten-free) go-to for dirty burger indulgence, Wholesome Junkies began life on BBC Two’s My Million Pound Menu in 2018. Three years later, it’s still going strong. Burgers and loaded tater tots are a strong pull here, but there’s also hot dogs, mac n’ cheese, corn dogs and plenty more sides to choose from. Finish it all off with a tempting chocolate biscoff cheesecake, if you’ve got room.
South Manny Flavas
The go-to here has to be the fried chicken, especially if you like it saucy. SMF has taken over Blue Caribou’s old spot, dishing up boxes of fried chicken, burgers, sandwiches and chips to the masses. Chicken and waffles is the house signature, but if you’re feeling something different we like the look of their Manny cheese steak, which puts a northern spin on the Philly classic.
The clue’s in the name here: Think classic double smash patty burgers, served with a free pot of gravy for dunking. Opened by the guys behind Viet Shack, it’s a genius concept and definitely helping us get over the loss of Fusion Lab’s spectacular squid ink tacos. The OG burger is more than enough for us, but if you’re up for getting messy they get steadily bigger from hereon out.
The Bahn mi is definitely a favourite of ours here and a great quick lunch order: filled quite traditionally with BBQ meat of your choice, pickled veg, pate and sriracha. When we ask what the most popular dish is we’re hit with a barrage of suggestions. Loaded fries come out as a strong contender (‘quack’, ‘crack’ and ‘shack’ are all on the menu) closely followed in second place by noodle dishes, surf n’ turf and crackling.
With a trip to sample these Portugese custard tarts in their homeland most likely off the cards this summer, it’s good to know we’ve got our own dedicated stall in Manchester. From the team behind Federal Cafe, pastels are baked fresh here daily and start from £2. Do it right and opt for espresso to enjoy alongside.
Swan Street’s brilliant sourdough pizzeria Ciaooo also has a pasta stall in the Arndale. Build your own box from a host of options and, if you eat cheese, definitely order a burrata on top. We’d recommend checking out their deep-fried pasta sides too. Their fried ravioli and lasagne pieces are a winner.
Wings Dai Pai Don
Alongside its tubs of classic Cantonese dishes, Wings has a big selection of steamed, fried and vegetable dim sum filled with everything from char sui to custard. The go-to order here, we’re told, is “anything spicy” – so if that’s your thing, you’ll want to opt for the Wings Szechuan beef or pork.
Part bakery, part deli, Hansfords is one of the Arndale originals and in that time the offering has barely changed. In the bakery business for over a century, its counters are stuffed with pies, cakes, sausage rolls and cheese but it’s the sandwiches that have really got our attention. Opt for a Full English in a Vienna at breakfast, or try their legendary gravy-soaked carvery sandwiches for lunch.
There’s usually a queue here but it’s well worth waiting as everything is cooked to order. A strong contender for Manchester’s favourite Arndale food stall, Hong Thai does delicious food at very generous portions. There’s a good selection of Thai curries on the ever-changing menu, alongside stir frys, Thai salads, and grilled specials like osaka teriyaki chicken served with rice. A must visit.
Pancho’s first began life as a food stall at festivals, but now its Mexican chef Enrique Martinez and his Mancunian wife Colette are a fixture in the Arndale market. Their speciality is massive burritos (honestly, even the medium is too big for us), but they also do tacos, burritos, nachos, enchiladas and quesadillas. £6.80 gets you a medium chicken or pork wrap, with as many toppings as you like for free. Think cheese, guacamole. fresh chillies and charred sweetcorn, plus spicy house sauces like the vegan habanero XXX.
These Greek veterans of the food court have been around forever and do all the classics. Think wraps, gyros, stifado, salads and stuffed vine leaves, all turned around in a speedy enough window so you’re served before you can say tzatziki. There’s also a good selection of traditional mains like keftedes and lamb lentils on offer here. Gyro pittas start at £5.
The home of Afro-Carribbean meals in the Arndale, Onje was reportedly a favourite of former Manchester United player Odion Ighalo during his time at the club. Serving up fried chicken and fish, jerk chicken, curry goat and beef stew alongside jollof rice, patties, plantain, coleslaw and moinmoin, if you steer clear of the more expensive specials you’re looking at paying about £5 here for a very filling meal.
This stall does it all: pizzas, wraps, stew, fish and rice. There are big shouty signs plastered on the counters, advertising lunch deals like rice with chicken leg stew and any 8″ pizza with fries for £5.50. Whilst we’re queueing, we notice one of the other stall holders asks their customer to move whilst he’s waiting because apparently the guys get cross if their signs get knocked. You’ve been warned.
Eat 2 Treat
This little stall is easy to overlook, but it’s worth paying a visit. Much like the stall itself, the menu here is also small but mighty. The counter here is loaded with giant golden fried pakoras and samosas, which can be ordered on their own or in a wrap.
Wraps cost between £2-3 pounds each, making this a tasty, filing option on a budget.
Market Point is another stall trying to do it all. Our top pick would probably be the piri piri wings (£5.90), but if you’re a kebab fan they’ve also got a selection of kobides and sharwarmas here.
Bollywood Dharba is one of the market’s longest standing residents, but has recently expanded its classic offering to include a street food selection. Now, you’ll find snacks like vada pavs, papri chaat and gol gappay alongside curry house favourites chicken tikka masala, chicken madras and lamb balti.
Cafe Greco Signature Baguette
At Cafe Greco the baguettes do look a bit pasty, but they’re very reasonably priced – starting at just £3 for a cheese and tomato sub. More exciting filling options include bolognese, meatballs and fried chicken. Make sure to get it toasted.
A favourite with Arndale food market’s more mature drinkers, you’ll find 2 German beers, 2 Belgian and two Beavertown keg ales constantly on draught here – alongside over 100 bottles and cans in the fridges. They’ve also just added cider on draught, with a choice of six now available. Bottles and cans can also be bought to take away.
The new, cool younger brother to Micro Bar, Can It is owned by the same team but sits on the other side of the food market near to Hong Thai. Packed with colourful cans of craft beer and with some beautiful selections on draught, you can sit in here and eat your meal from another food stall whilst enjoying a proper tipple. It’s very reasonably priced, too, considering the beers on offer.
Kokob Italian Cafe
Here at Kokob, Eritrean and Ethiopean food sits directly alongside Italian pastas. Think lamb, injera and vegetables. There’s also a scrambled egg dish on the menu that catches our eye. Pastas meanwhile include choices like pomodoro and funghi.
With a banner out front that proudly proclaims ‘we’re from Hong Kong’ this stall is not hard to miss, situated on the main walk through into the Arndale from High Street. Here you’ll find food and drink inspired by its owners’ travels with choices like bubble tea, milk foam tea and bubble waffles from £2.50 (cheese, chocolate or matcha) sitting side by side with £2 ice cream scoops and milkshakes.
This stall carries a little bit of everything, but it’s all about the pancakes really – as the name suggests. Think classic crepes, filled with classics like lemon and sugar or white chocolate, salted caramel and Oreo.
This little Japanese street food stall has a massive menu, filled with dishes like katsu curry, spicy karaage with rice, suki yaki and spicy yakisoba noodles. All mains comes with a free drink, too, making this a brilliant lunchtime steal with dishes starting from £5.50.
With over 40 choices on the menu here, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed – so we asked their stall handler what the most popular choices were to get an idea of what to order. The favourites here are the Mango Tango, a mixture of mango and banana topped with pineapple juice, and the energy boost with strawberries, banana and coconut milk apparently. Everything here is also squeezed fresh daily for maximum flavour.
Featured image: Dunkin’ Burgers
Food & Drink
Inside the underground Manchester noodle bar serving Chinatown’s spiciest scrans
Over in Chinatown, there’s a relatively new little noodle bar that’s been making a big, spicy stamp on the city’s dining scene.
Its owner, Wendy Ren, hails from the Chinese province of Sichuan – a region that’s home to giant pandas, traditional Sichuanese opera, and some of the spiciest food going, thanks to its famous Sichuan pepper.
Also known as the Chinese prickly ash, the citrus-like peppercorn leaves a tingly numbness in the mouth and on the lips that you’ll either love or hate.
It’s an acquired taste, by all accounts – but those who love it can’t get enough. In fact, on my visit during a packed-out Wednesday lunch service, Wendy stopped to chat with an Italian family holidaying in Manchester who had been in to eat three days in a row. Now that’s an endorsement if I ever heard one.
She’s opened the restaurant alongside her Cantonese husband, Ken Chen, but the recipes are all hers – and on our visit she laughs with us about how it has taken him some time to get on board with her spicy food, saying: “he found out pretty quickly that he either eats it or he doesn’t eat at all.”
For big fans of spice, this is fast becoming the absolute go-to spot in Chinatown – and for those who aren’t so tough, don’t worry, because Wendy’s put some things on the menu for you too (and possibly, also, for Ken).
Called Noodle Alley, the restaurant is tucked away underground on Faulkner Street and beautifully decked out in red and green with little nods to the famous wide and narrow alleys of Chengdu.
Formerly home to China City, a real old-school Chinatown legacy restaurant, the space has a special place in Wendy’s heart.
She tells me that she and her husband used to come and eat here “all the time” when they first started dating, so the location really means a lot to both of them.
Chinatown restaurants aren’t exactly known for their glamorous interiors, and China City, Wendy jokes, was one such place – with the same old carpet, and the same old tables that had been used for the past twenty years.
Now the space is her own, though, it’s markedly different – lovingly decked out in cheerful colours, with little green windows, hanging lanterns, and bamboo rattan paneling on the walls.
Her story of getting into the restaurant business is something of an unusual one. Prior to opening Noodle Alley, she tells me, she spent nearly two decades working at The Marriott Hotel.
After seventeen years of service and the birth of her second child, she asked to go part-time but her request was refused – so she quit the very next day, and began building her own route to independence.
It was during the Covid lockdown, she says, that she really got into cooking group meals – making meals for her friends and spending hours in the kitchen busying away happily over her stove.
A friend with several restaurants in Chinatown suggested she start her own business, and the rest – as they say – is history.
Dish-wise, her menu spans a mouthwatering selection of dry noodles, soup noodles, street food, and small plates, including the likes of deep-fried wavy potato chips with chilli and Szechuan pepper and steamed beef strips wrapped with chilli paste, numbing Sichuan pepper, and five-spiced rice powder.
Dan Dan noodles, the Sichuan dish we probably all know the best, don’t feature – they’re a bit old news now, apparently, and Wendy has some cooler alternatives for us to try.
One is her Su Jiao Mian, a mixture of minced pork, sesame sauce, and house chilli oil, the other is the Wan Za Mian, a fiery mixture of spices combined with minced pork, soft yellow peas, and more chilli which Wendy says is “one of the most popular noodles in Sichuan.”
Apparently, if you’re eating with the cool kids in Sichuan, you should order this. Not one to argue, I dig in – and it’s safe to say her food is pretty damn exceptional. Almost immediately, I’m planning my next trip back.
Other signature dishes here include Wendy’s steamed beef strips, which can be eaten alone or dipped into one of her noodle soups, and a dish of ‘saliva chicken’ – a crunchy, cold, textural dish with steamed chicken, fresh chillis and ribbons of cucumber that sit swimming in a bath of homemade Sichuan chilli oil, so named because it literally makes your mouth water.
We also opt for a dish of pork knuckle with butter beans in an umami-rich pork bone broth. Not one for the faint-hearted, even Wendy seemed a little cautious to recommend this one, but as fans of ‘the weird stuff’ we insist – and it really ends up being a highlight of the meal.
We end up needing a little help with it. It’s a slippery bugger and I end up wearing a fair bit of the broth. before she returns with a knife and fork to cut it up properly for us.
That broth it’s in, though, is so beautiful I could happily bathe in it. Some might say I did, to be fair. As for the soft, succulent pork meat? When sliced into tiny morsels and dipped into an extra special Sichuan chilli oil she retrieves from the kitchen, is something else entirely.
If this is Sichuan heaven, then I’ll happily stay here forever. From plump hand-made dumplings stuffed generously with flavourful pork and drenched in chilli oil, to chicken giblet soup noodles, there’s so much on the menu I will be coming back for.
And for those who really can’t handle the spice, I guess I’ll be recommending the scallion oil noodles with soy sauce and crispy egg. No matter what you order here, I don’t think you can go too wrong.
Featured image – The Manc Eats
Food & Drink
Top Manchester chef to host special £250 dinner – but vegans aren’t welcome
The French at The Midland Hotel has revealed it will host an exclusive dining experience next month with Hubert de Billy from the esteemed Champagne house Pol Roger – but there won’t be anything on the menu for Manchester’s vegans.
Adam Reid at The French is set to host an exclusive dinner next month as the esteemed chef patron joins forces with one of France’s most luxurious Champagne houses.
Taking place on Friday 6 October, diners will be treated to an indulgent four-course dinner pairing Lancashire lad Adam’s stylish Northern cooking with matching wines.
Due to the specific nature of the vent, however, specific dietary requirements will not be catered to on the evening – so vegans are being warned to stay away.
Wines will be introduced and described by none other than Monsieur de Billy, the fifth generation of the family-owned Champagne house and Pol Roger’s great-great-grandson.
Founded in 1849, Pol Roger is regarded as one of the finest of all the Champagne houses.
Guests will be given the opportunity to taste the prestigious Pol Roger Champagne, a notable favourite of late Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with some snacks on arrival before digging into a sumptuous four-course meal.
At £250 a head, it’s not cheap – but then we are talking about one of Manchester’s most premium restaurants, collaborating with one of France’s most prestigious Champagne houses, so it seems par for the course that you’ll be paying a pretty penny for it.
Starting at 6.30pm, things will kick off with glasses of Champagne and special snacks made by Adam Reid and his team before diners are seated in the plush restaurant for their meal.
Tickets for the event are strictly limited, and due to the nature of this event, specific dietary requirements will not be available to be catered for including vegan and dairy-free diets.
Whilst vegans and dairy-free folk might be feeling a bit left out, for the rest of Manchester it’s an opportunity to dine in one of the city’s most famous restaurants.
For those who don’t know the history of The French, in 1974 it made history as the first Manchester restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star.
Back then, it was Chef Gilbert Lefevre at the helm and it really did what it said on the tin – serving opulent plates of escargots, foie gras, and caviar, even committing right down to the menu itself, half of which was printed en français.
The restaurant retained its star for three years, before losing it in 1977, and would go on to have some ups and downs before coming under the stewardship of Simon Rogan in 2013, with its now-Chef Patron Adam Reid working underneath him as Head Chef.
Rogan – already then a proprietor of the Umbel group including L’Enclume, Fera at Claridge’s, and Rogan & Co – famously ended his five-year contract with the hotel two years early after failing to get a Michelin star.
That same year, local lad Adam took on the top dog role and in 2017 re-positioned the offering to reflect his own style – essentially making everything more relaxed.
He dropped the complicated place settings, brought in music so that diners no longer feared dropping their forks, introduced a new chef station in the restaurant, and revised the menu to pay homage to his Lancashire roots.
Under his stewardship, The French at The Midland typically serves an 11-course tasting menu featuring dishes inspired by picky teas, miniature cheese and onion pies, and steaming cups of beef tea served alongside Pollen ‘French malt’ bread and thick pats of beefy butter.
This special Pol Roger dinner is a one-off at the restaurant. It marks the beginning of a new chapter at Adam Reid at The French with its chef patron and head chef looking to host more collaborative events going forward.