The Corn Exchange – Manchester’s best sun-trap for outdoor food and drinks this summer
The perfect al-fresco spot with loads of restaurants to choose from
Manchester’s beautiful Corn Exchange has built itself a reputation as one of the best places to sit and soak in the sunshine in the city centre.
Every summer when the sun beats down on our city, people flock to the Grade II-listed building and its range of brilliant restaurants and bars.
There are terraces perched outside the stunning architecture, perfectly positioned to soak in the sun from every side of the building.
And there’s loads of food on offer, from classic Italian to Greek to Vietnamese, with something to suit all tastes and dietary requirements.
From the Corn Exchange, you’re in a great people-watching spot, watching the bustling city go by with a cocktail or a wine in hand.
You can sit with a view of Exchange Square, or the green spaces of Cathedral Gardens, or even the stunning architecture of the Manchester Cathedral.
The outdoor terraces have plenty of space for socialising in the sunshine, whether you’re looking for a casual lunch, a celebratory dinner, or an after-work gathering.
The best restaurants and bars with outside space at the Corn Exchange in Manchester
This huge, colourful bar, famed for its crowd-pleasing menu and its cocktail happy hour, has one of the biggest and busiest terraces of the lot.
On their massive menu, highlights include the Alpine chicken schnitzel served with house fries; the Revitalise bowl with halloumi, roast butternut squash, red and golden beets, avocado, tomato, roast peppers, quinoa and a superfood dressing; and then wash it down with a fruit bomb, mixing grenadine, cranberry, orange, and fruit jam.
While its interior balcony looking over the atrium is a popular spot year-round, in the summer months you’ve got to visit the Cosy Club’s outdoor space.
Here you can tuck in to dishes like sesame salmon with tamari and ginger teriyaki noodles, or a vegan cheeseburger.
Then they have loads of cocktails and mocktails on offer, like the refreshing Morning Cooler with lemon, elderflower and mint, finished with soda and cucumber.
A crowd favourite for good reason – this Italian restaurant group has delicious summer dishes on offer like hot-smoked salmon and pesto risotto, lentil ragu with sunblush tomatoes and spinach, and amazing sharing boards.
For drinks, they have a new range of coolers, like the Citrus and Pineapple Cooler.
The Real Greek
You’ll feel like you’ve been whisked away to Santorini with a visit to the Real Greek.
Pull up a chair outside, grab a Mythos beer, and dive into a menu of authentic gyros and other Greek dishes.
Highlights include Chicken Monastiraki served with tzatziki, onion and tomatoes, and jackfruit gyros.
A family-run favourite – Salvi’s offers a hearty and authentic taste of Italy.
Top picks here include Pasta Nonna Teresa with pancetta and pistachio pesto, and a mushroom, vegan parmesan and truffle oil risotto.
And how could you possibly refuse an Aperol spritz in the sunshine while you’re here?
The Italian feasts continue in Vapiano, where you can dig in to dishes like Gamberetti e Spinaci (king prawns, onions, cream, Italian hard cheese, nutmeg, fresh spinach, cherry tomatoes and basil pesto) and the classic spicy number Penne All’arrabiata.
Their drink of the summer is a Strawberry and Ginger Crush – Everleaf Mountain aperitif, strawberry and ginger syrup, lime and ginger ale.
Here’s an pizza you’ll be running across to the Corn Exchange for – Pizza Express’s BBQ Burnt Ends Pizza, topped with slow-cooked beef brisket with a hint of chipotle, sweet and smoky BBQ sauce, mozzarella and red onions, topped with roasted tomatoes and parsley.
There’s also a beetroot Buddha Bowl, with mixed grains, roasted and baby tomatoes, spinach, rocket, creamy hummus and spiced toasted seeds.
And if you’re looking for a delicious alcohol-free drink, grab one of their Naturally Pink Apple Juices.
Another favourite of Manchester’s restaurant scene is Tampopo, which celebrates dishes from across south east Asia.
There’s Nasi Goreng Royale (wok-fried rice with chicken, charred green beans and red peppers, flavoured with chilli, garlic, lime leaf & crispy shallots, served with homemade sambal and a fried egg), and a Chilli Lemongrass Stir Fry (red peppers, red chillies, lemongrass and onions).
There are more refreshing coolers on the menu here – order a Lychee and Kiwi Cooler – fresh lychee juice & kiwi topped with sparkling apple, Thai basil and fresh lime.
Sitting outside Riva Blu’s restaurant with a The Peach Thing cocktail (nectarine apéritif, Cocchi Rosa and Martini Bianco with Fever-Tree tonic) in hand is the peak summer vibe in Manchester.
Order yourself a Branzino Alla Scapece – pan-fried sea bass, fried courgette, mint, garlic and lemon sauce – or a Pizza Calabrese Vegana – Roasted pepper pesto, Calabrian chilli ve-du-ya, red onion, vegan mozzarella and fresh basil – and pretend you’re on the Amalfi coast.
Over on Cathedral Street now, and to Sixes, where you can hit balls in the cricket cages inside or soak up the sun from their outside space.
Top picks include the Delhi Smasher (crispy fried Delhi chicken, melted cheese, curry mayo, pickled red onion & smoked yoghurt) and the Sri Lankan Fielder (a vegan Symplicity burger, onion sambal, coronation mayo & vegan cheese).
Mowgli Street Food
We all love Mowgli for its punchy menu of Indian street food and curries, and sitting outside with dishes like their Monkey Wrap – an open roti wrap with tandoori chicken, pomegranate, spinach, mint, and homespun chutneys – just makes it even better.
There’s also the Holy Chow, a vegan showstopper that involves a spiced chickpea, potato, spinach, fresh ginger and mango curry served in a bread loaf.
Sip on a Mango Lassi and see why Indians are obsessed by the soft, rare Kesar Mangoes.
Fancy a trip to Vietnam without the long flight? Get yourself to Pho and its outside restaurant space.
It’s not just hearty noodle soups here – though the Phở Xào tofu and mushroom is special.
There’s also barbecued meats, like the chicken rice bowl, where marinated chicken thigh is served on a bed of rice with loads of vegetables and herbs.
Delhi House Cafe
This inventive Indian restaurant serves one of our favourite curries in Manchester – Mom’s Buttered Chicken Tikka Masala has perfect tandoori-cooked chicken tikka in a rich creamy tomato sauce, served with Butter Naan.
Then there’s the Punjabi Palak Chole – chickpea & spinach simmered in spiced tomato & onion sauce, served with Tandoori Roti.
For drinks, order a Bade Log – mango, mint, lemon & soda.
To see more of what’s on offer at The Corn Exchange Manchester, visit cornexchangemanchester.co.uk.
Featured image: The Manc Group