Today, “freedom” is technically upon us. But for Manchester’s bars and restaurants, things feel less “free” than ever – with the industry caught up in the midst of what’s being referred to as a ‘pingdemic’.
With many hospitality staff forced to isolate even with negative tests and no symptoms, questions are being asked if there’s a better way to run things – especially as other guidance is being dropped and new test programmes are piloted as an alternative to isolation.
This week, pub giant Greene King has had to close thirteen sites due to staff shortages.
But amid the chaos, there is a silver lining, at least. From today, you’ll be able to go to the bar with no need to sign in at venues or order via an app. And there’s some good news close to home, too.
Gary Usher’s Kala is finally reopening its doors after a prolonged period of closure – and we’ve tipped the restaurant as one of our places to go this week for that very reason. They’ve recently launched a fab new bar menu, but haven’t really been able to serve it much yet.
Keep reading to find out more about what they’ve got going on, plus our other top picks for this week.
A Northern Quarter record store that moonlights as a bar
A new craft beer and wine bar in the Northern Quarter that also sells records? Or a record store selling booze? Either way, we’re here for it.
Recently opened by the duo behind Manchester record label Small Moves Records (including Jez Kerr, of A Certain Ratio fame), the drinks selection here is actually pretty extensive with European breweries like Paulaner, Siren and House Party on draught, plus some rarified craft bottles and a decent wine and Japanese whiskey collection.
Find Movement Bar at 84 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LG, open Wednesday to Saturday.
King Street favourite Kala emerges from isolation
Gary Usher’s Kala has been beset with track and trace problems of late, having to close repeatedly – or so it feels.
As of this Wednesday, the team is back with all the usual menu favourites – plus a new bar snack menu that includes some mouthwatering additions, like £10 peppered feather blade steak sandwiches served inside a sesame roll.
If you visit, make sure to get the pistachio and raspberry Bakewell tart too. It’s a revelation.
Find Kala at 55 King St, Manchester M2 4LQ. from midday on Wednesday 21 July
Black forest gateaux martinis and sexy charcuterie from the Alvarium team
Brand new opening The Mews comes from the team behind the popular NQ spot Alvarium. They are collaborating with The Crafty Cheese Man, aka Jonathan Pearcey, to produce some super sexy charcuterie and cheese boards – creating a new killer food and drink combo in this often forgotten section of town.
Think nibbly treats like whipped goats cheese and mascarpone with chilli jam, served alongside top-quality seasonal cocktails like black forest gateaux martinis and a Japanese ‘forest bathing’ inspired Old Fashioned with Nikka and fennel syrup, plus a banging wine list and beer selection.
Tucked away on Deansgate Mews (on the elevated walkway between Deansgate and the GNW), if you’re looking for a chilled spot to enjoy a few quality drinks in the sun you can’t go wrong here.
Find The Mews at The Mews Bar and Charcuterie, Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN.
A natural wine pop-up from the team behind Higher Ground
Flawd Wine is a new concept from the team behind Higher Ground. Serving low-intervention wines and small plates of British cheese as well as charcuterie and ferments from the award-winning Curing Rebels based in Brighton, it is set to open a new home in New Islington this September.
Ahead of that, though, the team – which includes Joseph Otway, formerly Head Chef of Where The Light Gets In – is running a series of pop-up events at Pollen throughout July and August to give the neighbourhood a taste of what’s to come.
Find Flawd popping up at Pollen every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 23 July until 15 August, before they open their own space in September.
A new Tex Mex bar in the former Walrus site
Named by the owner’s daughter, Man With Fish is influenced by America’s southern saloons and is being opened inside what was formerly Walrus.
Brought to Manchester by the same team that brought us Quarter House on Stevenson Square, think Tex Mex-style food with a big BBQ pull courtesy of charcoal grill nerd Jason Latham, plus a whopping 17 different beers on tap.
Find Man With Fish at 78-88 High St, Manchester M4 1ES from July 19 at 5pm.
Food & Drink
Romantic restaurants in Manchester that are perfect for Valentine’s Day 2023
With Valentine’s Day in Manchester fast approaching, the city’s restaurants and bars are gearing up to welcome couples wanting to celebrate the day.
With so many great restaurants in Manchester, if you’re looking to take your other half out to eat you are quite literally spoilt for choice.
For those lost in a sea of menus and wondering where to book, we thought we’d help make things a little bit easier by recommending some of our favourite romantic restaurants and a few other popular date night spots to help get you started.
Keep reading to discover our top picks for where to take your date in Manchester this Valentine’s Day.
Not many London brands successfully make the move up to Manchester, but one that has done it with aplomb is high-end steakhouse Hawksmoor.
It’s pricey but worth it, with a stunning wood-paneled cocktail bar (and bar menu) available next to the restaurant to help you get your date off to a flying start.
As a steakhouse, it’s not particularly great for vegetarians or vegans – although there are some nice fish dishes to be found on the menu. The meat here is chargrilled in the josper, whilst sides typically come laden with rich cheese, nutmeg and cream.
The aforementioned cocktail list is excellent, as is the wine list. One of the owner’s mums is actually a wine critic for The Guardian and her at-home cooking style, taking simple dishes and executing them very well, was one of the inspirations for the Hawksmoor menu today.
One of the best restaurants in Manchester by a long shot, it is run by a married couple – with Polish-born Kasia Hitchcock positioned out front and her chef-partner Franco Concli working away making dumplings in the back.
Spatzle (pictured above) is the house specialty, said to mirror sparrows in flight – hence the restaurant’s name. It’s best eaten with a simple sauce of butter and sage, but there are numerous sauce options – plus countless European dumplings, a fine sake selection and an organic wine list.
The hushed, sleek interiors, meanwhile, will have you convinced you’re somewhere in New York – not on the back streets of the Green Quarter – as well as fostering a sense of intimacy between you and your dining partner.
A visit to The Oystercatcher requires a trip out to Chorlton, but it’s well worth it to taste some of the best fish on offer in the city – often chargrilled in the josper oven for added flavour.
Getting a good seafood menu together is challenging in a city as landlocked as Manchester, and the lists change weekly at the restaurant in reflection of this.
Oysters dressed with shallot mignonette tend to be a mainstay, whilst a sample menu lists the likes of black sea bream, scallops, monkfish, seabass, sea trout, mussels and crab.
Sides are ordered separately, with choices like fennel gratin, chargrilled broccoli, hispi cabbage, triple cooked chips and more.
The Perfect Match
A charming little 26-cover bistro in the south Manchester neighbourhood of Sale, it’s not just the name that makes this spot a perfect choice for a romantic date.
Serving up some critically acclaimed British and European food with a beautiful hand-picked selection of wines, find rich and comforting dishes like lamb ragu gnocchi, baked bone marrow with truffle, and 32-day dry-aged red Hereford beef on its regularly-changing a la carte menu.
As for pudding? Tuck into the likes of popcorn and white chocolate posset with salted caramel, or enjoy a peanut butter pie with candied peanuts and a warming glass of Pedro Ximinez.
10 Tib Lane
With sultry low lighting, quality cocktails, £1 oysters and plenty of tucked-away seating spread over three floors, 10 Tib Lane could’ve been made for date night.
Serving a tantalising small plates menu alongside some beautiful low-intervention wines, its Cumbrae oysters with mignonette are a must-order to get your night going.
Followed up with the likes of steak tartare, lamb sweetbreads, duck in port sauce, bone marrow and pommes anna, and charred hispi cabbage in shallot sauce, foodies should be in absolute heaven.
Another award-winning, Michelin-recommended eatery, this time from the team behind the Levenshulme (and now also Ancoats) bakeries, Trove.
Open Tuesday to Saturday, with its concrete floors and relatively sparse settings, it’s the food here more than the decor that makes Erst so romantic.
A love of fermentation and pickling has clearly passed from one sibling’s kitchen into another. Plates here are ordered to share, with a list of 10 to choose from.
Each designed simply to showcase the natural flavours of the produce, order as many as you can muster then tuck in with a good bottle of natural wine on the side.
Home to some of the best pasta in Greater Manchester, you do have to schlep all the way out to Denton for it – but if incredible Italian food is part of your partner’s love language then trust us, it’ll be worth it.
By day, Ornella’s is very much a tiny deli cafe with room for just 12 diners at once. By night, the combination of the small space, low lighting and mouthwatering dishes make it a pasta lover’s paradise.
Dish-wise, think plump lobster ravioli, butter-drenched crispy sage and hazelnut spinach ricotta ravioli, and carbonara bucatini liberally doused in pepper and egg yolk, with crisp flecks of guanciale on top – all freshly made on-site by hand that day.
Opened by the team behind the Michelin-recommended Corvena in Chester just before Christmas, it boasts a stunning wine list (the name nods to the importance of weather in creating incredible wines) as well as some reportedly ‘genius’ dishes on its menu.
Serving a mixture of small and large plates, it also has one of the best panoramic views of the city skyline – looking down across Manchester from its perch on Blackfriars.
It feels like this Spinningfields rooftop restaurant needs no introduction at this point, but we’re going to do it anyway.
A glamourous restaurant and bar with a huge, heated outdoor terrace, it sits right at the top of the No.1 Spinningfields building overlooking the swanky glass towers of the business district from its position on high.
Long favoured for date night thanks to its breathtaking views of the skyline, its menu is not to be sniffed at either with a selection of delicious modern British dishes on offer.
Part of Gary Usher’s Elite Bistros group, this charming neighbourhood eatery in Didsbury Village is a wonderful spot for a romantic date.
The custard tart here is legendary, with an unctuous wobble that defies you to dare leave without ordering a slice.
Known for taking bistro classics and executing them to an exceptionally high standard, at Hispi you can expect a relaxed dining experience erring on the casual side.
Another laid-back eatery with a casual setting, Evelyn’s offers a mixed menu of small plates that can be ordered to share or larger ones to enjoy alone.
A popular cafe by day, at night it comes alive in a whole new way – lit up romantically with plants trailing down from hangers above your head.
Evelyn’s also boasts a ‘secret’ bar below, The Daisy, where you can sneak off with your date afterward to enjoy a few cocktails (or wines) in a romantic setting.
El Gato Negro
This AA Rosette and Michelin-recommended restaurant on King Street is a fail-safe date option in our (humble) opinion.
Serving up a mix of tapas dishes split into sections like fish and shellfish, meat, charcuterie, vegetables and para picar, tuck into the likes of Catalan bread, Padron peppers, salt cod croquettas and Morcilla scotch eggs.
Alongside a great wine and cocktail list, El Gato is also known for its sherry and vermouth selection – and both make a great complement to this style of dining.
For an ultra-romantic twist, if you love the idea of having a bit of theatre whilst you eat you can opt to sit at the chef’s table which faces directly into the kitchen.
If you ask us, romance doesn’t have to be all white tablecloths and rose petals – sometimes it’s more fun to get stuck in and share a curry with your loved one.
Since it opened in Manchester with queues out the door, Dishoom has remained one of the city’s most popular curry houses whilst maintaining an elusive, sultry feel – thanks, in part, to its setting within the city’s stunning former Masonic Hall.
Nestle up in one of its many beautiful corners on Valentine’s Day, with walk-ins always welcome.
A pub in Manchester is going above and beyond for its locals, giving back to its community by serving up pay-as-you-feel roast dinners every month.
Specifically designed to be a safe space for the community, The Old Abbey Taphouse in Hulme brings together chefs in its community to cook up delicious meals from scratch on the last Sunday of the month.
Neighbours are invited to come, eat and pay only what they can afford in return (be that a little or a lot), with giant Sunday roasts served from 7pm until the kitchen runs out.
Past community feasts have included a choice of honey mustard silverside beef top joint, chicken supreme, cauliflower cheese pie, or homemade vegan sausage roll.
Trimmings, meanwhile, span the likes of beef dripping potatoes, tenderstem broccoli, honey roast rainbow carrots, boiled cabbage, giant fluffy Yorkshire puddings, and apricot and walnut stuffing.
All of Old Abbey Taphouse’s meals are made from scratch with love by community catering company Heart & Soul, which is comprised of chefs in the local community all wanting to give something back.
Its community cooking first began at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic with what was called ‘Taphouse TV dinners’.