From croissants to Korean, pints to Palestinian - Manchester’s most covetable suburb is bursting with great spots
Ah, Didsbury, Manchester’s most covetable suburb with a burgeoning cafe culture, decent schools, and leafy, tree-lined streets. Once a largely rural area, it is now highly desirable for all of the above, as well as its village-like community vibe that retains something of an independent spirit.
On top of that, it boasts a clutch of lung-cleansing green spaces that city-dwellers are wheezily deprived of. No wonder it’s so expensive to buy property there these days. It also seems to have everything a foodie’s heart could desire: good quality butchers, bakeries and even a cheese shop. Trumpton, eat your heart out.
We gave ourselves the unenviable task of putting together a list of the best cafes, restaurants and bars in the area. A multi-cultural melange of Korean, Palestinian, Spanish, and of course modern British eateries. Breakfast, brunch and coffees spots for days. Plus classy wine bars and craft ale snugs that offer such a variety of weekly events that one wonders how on earth the locals find time to do any work to pay off those eye-watering mortgages. Not that we’re jealous or anything.
Hispi is, quite simply, a great bistro. Fifth in a growing chain of restaurants conceived by Gary Usher, the concept started with Sticky Walnut in Chester (see also Top 100), a neighbourhood operation which made its name off the back of great, simple food, quaffable wine served in beakers, and excellent quality produce. Expect chunky British dishes - such as chicken liver pate and braised featherblade - made with fresh ingredients and great results.
Baity, meaning ‘home’ in Arabic, is fairly new on the Didsbury scene, opening last autumn but already winning locals over to the deep pleasures of Palestinian food. The decor is understated and chic with a bit of a proclivity for beige but boasting a gorgeous nonagenarian olive tree in the corner and some unique pieces of artwork that blend the Mancunian with the Middle Eastern.
A thrilling take on the neighbourhood restaurant format. Volta is owned by Luke ‘Unabomber’ Cowdrey and Justin Crawford. The DJ/restaurateurs are masters of putting creative energy behind a project and their second venture is a grown-up affair, offering luxurious steaks and house aged negronis (and various other cocktails using the likes of lavender syrup, burnt orange peel and sanguinello) in a space that blurs the lines between bar and restaurant. The emphasis is on fun and the interior includes reclaimed vintage details, mixed in with a bare-brick. An old school, NYC grill house vibe.
A stalwart of the Didsbury scene, Greens was way ahead of the game when they opened in 1990 when neither Simon Rimmer nor his partner Simon Connolly had worked in a kitchen before. Unfazed, they set about conjuring up a vegetarian menu and have been ‘terrifying carnivores’ ever since. Fast forward almost 30 years and Rimmer is now a well-established household name.
AHTF is an ecologically-minded coffee shop inspired by coffee culture capital of the world, Melbourne. They are a relative newcomer to the Didsbury scene having moved from their original home on Chapel Street due to problems with their landlord. Coffee is their speciality, after spending several years living in Melbourne where bad coffee is simply not tolerated. They also have a small but carefully crafted menu of breakfasty-stuff like toasted banana bread with maple syrup, mixed berries, toasted walnuts, vanilla mascarpone, raspberry coulis and (pause for breath) violet sugar, that you can order ‘all day’, well, until 3pm.
A wealth of stupendous Spanish eateries have popped up all over the Manchester area over the past few years, putting the tacky chain restaurants of yore to shame. Nacho and Natalia’s Tinto, which is an Asador (or charcoal grill-based restaurant), threatens to smoke the lot of them. While you will find familiar friends like patatas bravas on the tapas menu, it’s dishes like the rabbit-enriched paella and blackened hunks of meat such as Menorcan milk-fed lamb or 45-day aged beef rib that really set Tinto apart.
The restaurant business is a fickle beast, so the fact that The Lime Tree has been going strong now for 30 odd years indicates that they must be doing something right. Their secret seems to be quietly and consistently providing the local community with a reliable go-to quality dinner spot without paying too much attention to chasing trends, there isn’t a lot to please vegans on the menu for example. Carnivores will rejoice though – The Lime Tree have their own farm on the edge of the Peak District.
Proove is Didsbury’s answer to the kind of proper Neopolitan pizza served up successfully by the likes of Rudy’s or Honest Crust. Giant woodburning pizza oven? Check. San Marzano tomatoes, Fior Di Latte mozzarella and Nduja? Check. Neon orange Aperol spritz on the side? Check. All the classics are there, with options for vegan cheese and gluten-free bases too.
A cosy bar offering a wide range of craft beer, they have sixteen taps and 40 odd bottles on offer. There’s plenty to lose yourself in for the evening. To soak up all that booze, there is a seasonally changing menu of creative small plates like beer braised leeks with parmesan truffle and oatmeal crumb, or monkfish in juniper branches with tarragon brown butter.
Founded in 1986 The Great Kathmandu is another Didsbury institution that the locals rave about. Not only the locals though, as it has been showered with awards too, including some from national newspapers, and it’s not unusual to spot Corrie stars tucking in to their authentic Nepalese cuisine.
The suburban offspring of long-standing city-centre classic El Rincon de Rafa. Rafa’s is a no-nonsense tapas joint that focuses on doing the classics really well. So you will find patatas bravas, giant albondigas, and chorizo in red wine executed with the confidence of someone who has been doing this forever.
Conveniently located opposite West Didsbury Metrolink station, Wine and Wallop is a cosy retreat where you can sample an interesting selection of wine, micro-brewed ales and cask ciders, accompanied by a light lunch or a few nibbles. Naturally, they have a good selection of cheese (Blue Monday, Wyfe of Bath…) and bits of charcuterie on offer, but it’s not the food that’s the point. The bar offers themed ‘Wine Flights’ featuring five small glasses of wine. It’s a good opportunity to be adventurous and if you find one you like, you can buy a bottle (or two) to take home.
OKitchen is a stylish and quirky little eatery serving up a mixture of Japanese and Korean dishes. Aficionados of Japanese food will recognise the usual nigiri, hosomaki and sashimi, as well as miso soup, gyoza and teriyaki. But it’s the Korean dishes that really grab the attention.
Long-standing Nepalese and Indian restaurant & takeaway serving up familiar favourites as well as some Nepalese specialities you might not have heard of. Ask the locals where to go for a decent Ruby Murray and Third Eye will invariably come up. You may even spot the odd celebrity in there, members of Take That have been known to frequent its tables. As well as Hollywood actress Eva Mendez… apparently.
A stalwart of the Didsbury brunch scene, Thyme Out has been going strong since 2006. Locals rave about the brunch menu which, despite fierce competition from the wealth of other independent cafes in the area, manages to stand out. Highlights include the purple haze, a symphony of gin and beetroot cured salmon, more magenta than purple, atop a pillow of creme fraiche scrambled eggs on chewy sourdough, ducks eggs florentine, and the Full Didsbury.