Manchester’s restaurant scene is sprawling and diverse, harbouring offerings from nearly every cuisine, even Ethiopian and Russian. I see no reason why, armed with a student loan and three years, anyone would still consider Nando’s their restaurant of choice. Manchester can give you so much more for your money than chicken with a range of chilli sauces. The recommendations below are all loved and frequented places, categorised by your student needs.
A fair share…
El Rincon de Rafa in Deansgate is an incredible underground Spanish tapas bar with a very unassuming exterior. This is the place for sociable eating, so forget British politeness and share a few dishes with your fellows. Try the chorizo, or lobster bisque if you feel luxurious.
…an even fairer share
If sharing isn’t your style, you’re starving and low on cash, Red Hot Buffet is most certainly the best choice. It is a self-help canteen of unbounded avarice, situated in the centre of town, comprising unlimited food of all different cuisines. The quality isn’t half bad and prices are even cheaper at lunchtime. However, there are many more buffets in Manchester. It would be unfair not to mention Bem Brasil, ‘where the five metre long barbeque provides an everlasting supply of steak’ – an extensive range of meats are grilled at your command. It’s a bit more expensive, but the quality is worth it.
Post-lash quest for meat
Krunchy Fried Chicken in Fallowfield has acquired a cult status of hedonism among my friends. We’re even getting them to cater for my housemate’s birthday next year. This chicken is the good stuff – unprocessed, great hunks of chicken breast, battered abundantly and baptised in oil.
While I opt for the humble chicken, many others hunt for the delicate pleasures of the sacred kebab. I am reliably informed that Sanaam’s in Fallowfield is the king of kebabs – go for the grilled lamb.
Dreaming of your mum’s Sunday dinners? Trof’s version is a worthy compromise. The roasts are delicious, inexpensive and look a lot better than anything Wetherspoon’s calls a roast. There are several Trof bars out there, the nearest are on Oxford Road (Deaf Institute) and in Fallowfield.
If you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket (when you’re not paying), try The Metropolitan in West Didsbury. It has open fires, big sofas and Sunday roasts with massive Yorkshire puddings that look like cumulonimbus clouds.
… or out of the comfort zone
Habesha is Ethiopian restaurant on Sackville Street where the diner is armed with injeera (a type of pancakey flatbread) instead of knives and forks. Be ambitious – the food is amazing; the menu offers mostly meat and spices, and this is most certainly not your usual cup of tea. Alternately, go for Kyotoya in Withington for sushi, cheap set menus, huge portions, exceedingly polite waiters and a bit of Japanese pop music for good measure.
Kosmos is a Greek restaurant perfectly situated opposite Owen’s Park in Fallowfield. The food is delicious and authentic; the homemade tzatziki tastes nothing like its supermarket counterpart and the fried aubergines from Kosmos really are out of this world. The £8.50 student deal includes a starter, main and a glass of wine. However, all of these components are considerably smaller than the dishes à la carte, so next time I’m just going to pay a bit more and have the adult-size portions.
Green’s restaurant in West Didsbury started its life as a modest veggie caff and has evolved into an elegant vegetarian restaurant. Its co-owner is none other than Simon Rimmer of Sunday Brunch, who is passionate in particular about the crispy oyster mushroom starter which has been on the menu since the restaurant opened. The rest of the menu presents beautiful combinations of ingredients with its inspiration from many cuisines.
In a hurry for a curry
Mughli Restaurant and Charcoal Pit tops my Facebook poll for best Indian. The student deal is either bring your own booze or get 15% off the bill. Without doubt, their Lamb Karahi with extra garlic and chilli is the best curry I’ve ever had.
The Parent Trap
Your parents are in town and you’ve had one pizza too many, so you march them off to the best restaurant, smuggle in some friends, eat more than your fill of fine food and make them pay for it all.
In terms of fine dining, Manchester hasn’t quite caught up with the likes of London. While the lack of Michelin stars is no finite stamp of poor quality, there does seem to be a dearth of independent high fliers. However, Albert’s Shed is certainly a contender and a very popular choice in Manchester. The excellent food ranges from rabbit gnocchi to monkfish and scallop curry. Other classy restaurants are Michael Caines’ ABode, Harvey Nichol’s Second Floor Restaurant and Hilton’s restaurant Podium, which is reliably posh and delicious. For the latter, however, it’s probably worth saving your money to hike a few floors up to Cloud 23 for afternoon tea or evening cocktails. Here you’ll discover an amazing, heady view of the city, somehow made even more poetic by Manchester’s dismally grey weather.