HERE is our list of the best places to eat and drink with a view in Manchester city centre and the Quays.
These locations may come in handy if you're feeling romantic and want to impress a would-be or existing lover. (In which case forget Carluccio's at Piccadilly Station and, for that matter, Arts Brasserie and Bar.)
Conversely the list may be useful if you can't stand that would-be or existing lover and you want something else to look at rather than their stupid face. (In which case don't forget Carluccio's at Piccadilly Station or, for that matter, Arts Brasserie and Bar.)
Or maybe you want a bit of you, yourself, alone time.
Many of the venues here present fine options for gazing out over a mind-growing vista as you mentally set the world to rights.
A note on the entries below.
We've included a cheapest and most expensive dish option from the menu to add interest. As steaks would invariably be the most expensive main course we've chosen the most expensive dish that isn't a steak. Adds variety.
IMPORTANT: The venues are listed in alphabetical order not in ranking order.
Arts Brasserie and Bar
View direction: North and east
Description: The Mercure Piccadilly Hotel has an insane sixties design that was clearly dreamt up by architects high on magic mushrooms, yet there's something beguiling about the place. It's included here because of the views alone, the range of drinks is poor and the food is average. But the view down to the activity of Piccadilly Gardens, taking in the buses, trams and occasionally working fountain is diverting. Manchester's Starflyer attraction (click here), like a spinning top gone monster, has only added to the scene. Through streets to the north on clear days field walls on distant Pennine fields can be glimpsed. Take a long at the classic 1960s William Mitchell mural on the stairwell on the way out.
Cheapest main: Tagliatelle, mushroom, ricotta, pesto oil, pine kernels (£11.75).
Most Expensive main: Sea bass, chorizo, creamed Savoy cabbage, crispy leeks and Parmentier potatoes (£16.25).
Arts Brasserie and Bar, Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel, Portland St, Piccadilly Plaza, City, M1 4PH. 0844 815 9024
View direction: North and north east.
Description: Flower be-decked, artfully decorated Aubaine on the second floor of Selfridges not only does some of the best food in the city but has a cracking winelist as well. The mille feuille is Manchester's finest. The view takes in Exchange Square, the CIS Tower (a remarkable mirror to sunsets) and the Cathedral area. The way the space is filled with flowers in full blossom, most of them real, makes this viewpoint space perhaps the most pleasant on our list.
Cheapest main: Tarragon gnocchi with sautéed wild mushrooms, poached celery, roasted shallots and mushroom consommé (£12.95).
Most expensive main: Lobster spaghetti with lobster bisque, confit tomato and basil (£22.50).
Aubaine, Selfridges, 1 Exchange Square, Manchester, M3 1BD. 0161 838 0571
View direction: East south east
Description: If you're travelling and hungry and not in a rush but like watching people who are (in otherwords you're a bit odd), then Carluccio's in Piccadilly Station is the place to go. The elegantly designed space has tables and chairs on an internal terrace on the first floor from where you can giggle at the ticket-jugglers below. Carluccio's is also good for trainspotters with a little more cash than those for whom spam sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil and flask of sweet tea is the pinnacle of a dining out.
Cheapest main: Pasta con funghi - egg pappardelle with a mix of shiitake, oyster, porcini and button mushrooms (£7.95).
Most Expensive main: Pan fried sea bass, crushed potatoes, fennel, olives and capers (£14.95).
Carluccio's, Piccadilly Station, Manchester, M1 2PB. 0161 228 2829
View direction: If you move around it's almost 360 degrees.
Description: Cloud 23, twenty-three floors above the city, stands head, shoulders, torso and waist above the rest of the places listed here in terms of height. Try to reserve a table on the north side, the side which looks into the city and to the moors, as that is more dramatic than the still mighty view south across the flat Cheshire Plain. On clear days you can see Snowdonia, a hundred miles west. The cocktails are excellent and of course there's the glass floor bit where you can stare straight down 230ft to the cars on the road below. The decor is comfortable and sharp rather than lush but you won't be looking at it anyway: it's all about the view. This place is understandably popular for Afternoon Tea.
Cheapest alcoholic beverage: A bottle of Estrella Damm (4.90).
Most expensive cocktail: Here's To Baby - Vanilla vodka, galliano and spiced peach and rosemary purée topped up with champagne (£13).
Cloud 23, Manchester Deansgate Hilton, Beetham Tower, 303 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 4LQ. 0161 870 1600
View direction: North west.
Description: There's a timebomb under our most dynamic of viewpoints. Cornerhouse is moving with The Library Theatre to a new joint site behind a railway viaduct and down Whitworth Street West in 2014. The future of this space as a cafe, bar or restaurant is doubtful. This is a shame in many ways, not least for the view. At the prow of Cornerhouse you can sit in an 100 year old building crouched above the busiest and most interesting crossroads in the city where students, residents, office workers, bikers and every type of automotive transport come together. The view is a 24 hour movie with real people as characters. In an art gallery complex, the ballet of daily life being enacted before you seems almost choreographed.
Cheapest main: Napoli-style stone baked pizza - Margherita (£5.95).
Most Expensive main: Lamb Burger - Served in a seeded bun with mayo, tomato-chilli chutney and a bowl of chips (£11.50).
Cornerhouse, 70 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5NH. 0161 200 1500.
View direction: South
Description: The newest of the venues listed here, Damson opened in 2012. It is also the furthest from the city centre at MediaCityUK on The Quays, two and half miles west. Damson provides a plush dining space in smart grey and purples and exemplary Modern British cuisine. The view takes in two major 'monuments' of British architecture of recent years, The Lowry with its two theatres and the Imperial War Museum North. There's also a view of the sweet landscaped area beneath and the trams swishing in and out of the nearby station.
Cheapest main: Cep and rosemary lasagne with grilled artichokes and new season Wye Valley English asparagus, peas, spinach and Parmesan (£12.95).
Most Expensive main: Grilled fillet of halibut with creamed potato, scorched onion, smoked bacon and mushroom persillade, red wine sauce (£22.95).
Damson MediaCityUK, Orange Building, MediaCityUK, Salford, M50 2HF. 0161 751 7020
Great John Street Hotel, Roof Garden
View direction: South and east
Description: The Great John Street Hotel was formerly a school built in 1912 in a densely populated area where space was at a premium. This meant that the boys' playground was located on the roof. When the Manchester based Eclectic Hotels group refurbished and converted the property they utilised the playground as a terrace and roof garden with its own cocktail bar and, of course, an open air jacuzzi. The views take in the Coronation Street set, the lovely nearby St John's Gardens, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the inevitable Beetham Tower having a damned good scratch at the upper atmosphere. Limited public access, available for private hire or residents. If the area isn't being used then guests are allowed to buy drinks and take them on to the roof.
Great John Street Hotel, Great John Street, Manchester, M3 4FD. 0161 831 3211
Harvey Nichols 2nd Floor Restaurant
View direction: North and north east
Description: Harvey Nichols is turning out some of the best food in the city at present so a visit is a worthwhile aside from the views. With the latter you get Exchange Square, the Cathedral and New Cathedral Street. The elevated position allows light to flood in during the day and this in turn contributes to the airy appeal of the venue. Clever lighting at night and the neon of the city outside replicates the sense of comfort when the sun goes down.
Cheapest main: A two-course vegetarian menu including starters such as cheese and pickles - Lincolnshire poacher with quail egg and walnut and main courses such as shallot and thyme polenta with roast carrot and port braised chicory (£27).
Most Expensive main: A six-course tasting menu including dishes such as: pork terrine with piccalilli, black pudding and onion grissini; tuna tartare with wasabi, carrot and ginger; apple soufflé with spiced apple jelly and cider sorbet (£55)
Harvey Nichols 2nd Floor Restaurant, New Cathedral Street, Manchester, M1 1AD. 0161 828 8888.
View direction: Wrap around depending on your seat from North west to north east
Description: The views west across Cathedral Gardens from the fifth and sixth floors of Kaleido to Winter Hill above Bolton are exceptional, as are the views straight down Corporation Street towards the Town Hall. The decor on the inside is concrete and glass, adorned by drapes and multi-coloured hanging bits and bobs. Shame the orginal design for the striking building which now houses the National Footbal Museum dictated a striated green glass which doesn't always allow the best views. The fifth floor is the restaurant by the way and the sixth is the bar, the latter an excellent place to get away from it all.
Cheapest main: Baked goats’ cheesecake with beetroot, fennel, anise and orange (£11.50).
Most Expensive main: Parmesan crusted halibut, curried cauliflower, coriander and coconut (£17.50).
Kaleido, National Football Museum, Urbis, Cathedral Gardens, Manchester, M4 3BG. 0161 871 8160
Restaurant Bar and Grill Terrace
View direction: A tree to the west
Description: Well it's certainly elevated. But this venue just scrapes in because of a tree...and the fact it's very comfortable. RBG needed a game changer in 2012 to help it catch up with Grill on the Alley over the road, the terrace provided this. Future plans include a roof garden so the views might improve as RBG grows taller. At the moment aside from goodly drinks and a good mid-range menu people can enjoy a view of Adolfo Dominguez's handbags in the display windows opposite and an absolutely splendid tree, a London Plane by the look of it - in the squarelet beneath. Taller buildings crowd in too close to really get a distance on the vistas, but the terrace is pleasant enough.
Cheapest main: Mushroom risotto, cheese wafer and truffle oil (£11.95)
Most Expensive main: Rack of English Lamb (tandoori style), rice chilli, yoghurt and garlic (£23)
Restaurant Bar And Grill, John Dalton Street, 14 John Dalton Street, Manchester, M2 6JR. 0161 839 1999
View direction: South and south west
Description: A generous sweep of terrace makes for a good suntrap on summer afternoons. You can easily lose a couple of hours here. Maybe four. The situation is remarkably peaceful with the rowers sharing the River Irwell with swans, ducks and that grey squirrel of birdlife, Canada Geese. In bad weather the adjacent bar and restaurant provide a suitably opulent retreat into one of the city centre's two five star hotels.
Cheapest main: Butternut squash gnocchi with seasonal vegetables and a herb butter sauce (£12).
Most Expensive main: Loin of lamb, fondant potato, spinach purée, semi dried tomatoes and lamb jus (£24.50).
River Restaurant, The Lowry Hotel, 50 Dearmans Place, Chapel Wharf, Manchester, M3 5LH. 0161 827 4041
View direction: South and south west
Description: Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. This magnificent former gentleman's club (Venetian Gothic style, 1871, architect Edward Salomans) has Room Restaurant at first floor level. It is a truly magnificent space with views that look out on the other fine architecture of Manchester's 'half square mile' (the latter was the old nickname for Manchester's central business district, aping the capital's 'Square Mile'). The play of light across the Midland Bank (now Jamie Oliver's restaurant) is lovely to watch. The balcony in the centre of the building has held speakers of the calibre of William Gladstone, Lloyd George and Winston Churchill (prime ministers all), holding forth to crowds below. Room is fabulous: it just needs to turn down the music on Fridays and Saturdays.
Cheapest main: Roast winter vegetables with toasted quinoa, carrot purée and Blacksticks Blue cheese (£14.50).
Most Expensive main: Beef wellington with beef fillet, braised shin wellington and mushroom purée (£24.50).
Room Restaurant, 81 King St, Manchester, M2 4AH. 0161 839 2005
View direction: South, north and west
Description: This is the second highest viewpoint on the list, spreading generously over the 11th floor of the Doubletree at Hilton hotel over the road from Piccadilly Station. The views are very good, and the design of the space comfortable. Skylounge is high but not too high, still grounded in the city, part of the urban landscape. A scattering of older towers and more recent skyscrapers are much taller but because you look up to them and down to the rest of the buildings Skylounge remains part of the action. The only downside to the upside views is that the room is only available for private hire, a real special occasion place.
Cheapest main (in City Cafe on the ground floor): Mushroom pithivier, savoy cabbage, carrot purée and beetroot (£12.95).
Most Expensive main (in City Cafe on the ground floor): Roasted duck breast, confit duck leg, braised baby gem, galette potato and plum jelly (£17.95).
Skylounge, Doubletree at Hilton, One, Piccadilly Place, 1 Auburn St, Manchester, M1 3DG. 0161 242 1000
There are several other elevated viewpoints where you can sup and munch across the central areas of the city.
One recommendation from a reader was Burger King in Piccadilly. No really. Apparently it has an upstairs room for massive munchies. Applying the same criteria as the other choices above then the cheapest meal is the Hamburger at £1.89 and the most expensive the Triple Whopper at £6.29. Lynda Moyo braved the venue to take the pictures here.
The Lowry from IWMNMore sensibly you could try the cafes at the the Imperial War Museum North and the Lowry both of which provide cracking views across the headwaters of Manchester Ship Canal but poor food.
Looking to the future Manchester House on Bridge Street will provide fine dining lower down but a bar on the top floor later this year.
Whitworth Art Gallery is presently incorporating a top floor restaurant in its extension with a terrace at tree level in Whitworth Park.
Oh and there's always the Arndale Food Hall. If you're sixteen. Or broke.