A secret garden, bubbling tanks of beer, and Boujee
There’s nothing we at Confidentials love more than stalking around town looking for signs of life in empty units. Listening for whispers on the grapevine about sneaky new openings, and being general nosey parkers. Isn’t that why we got into journalism in the first place?
Just for a second, let’s ignore the complete demise of British civilisation and instead focus on what new and exciting foodie things have happened in Manchester in 2021.
Here are the most talked-about new openings in Manchester this year:
Manchester is really good at restaurants, like really good. But something we are sorely lacking is some proper French gaffs. The fort has been held for the longest time by the experts at 63 Degrees in the Northern Quarter and Man Bites Frog in Chorlton (both places you should definitely visit, by the way) but that's not many for a county as large as ours so the opening of 10 Tib Lane in July was very welcome indeed.
The founders of two of Manchester’s best-loved venues - Henry C cocktail bar in Chorlton and CBRB in the Northern Quarter - came together on the project which took over the former Bøck Bière site in the city centre. Think low intervention wine, fuss-free interiors and local produce sourced from the likes of Cinderwood Market Garden. Our reviewer gushed over the work of chef Alex Shaw back in August, particularly the seasonal Iberico pork with Tropea onions.
10 Tib Lane 10 Tib Ln, Manchester M2 4JB
Owned by Real Housewives of Cheshire star, Lystra Adams, the frightfully fuchsia Boujee Terrace opened in April as the perfect spot for outdoor dining and drinking while restrictions were in place. It was closely followed, just a couple of doors down, by Boujee inside Manchester Hall with pink plastered on the walls, floors, curtains and menus.
Sushi, sliders and strawberry daiquiris are all on the menu at the indoor venue, and, despite the naysayers initially taking the piss out of the Instagram-ity of it all, Lystra has taken the brand from strength to strength with venues in Chester and Liverpool, as well as a pop up at the Trafford Centre in the summer. Nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of Boujee, baby. You do you, hun.
Boujee Restaurant and Bar Manchester 34 Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BT
Back in July 2020, we reported that chef and restaurateur Aiden Byrne had pulled out of the proposed renovation project on the Black Friar in Salford. Plans went ahead regardless, and Salboy’s £2m investment resulted in the reopening of the iconic pub a year later (not before a fatal traffic collision saw a car crash in to the building days before opening).
Since then all eyes have been on the historic boozer with a flurry of positive reviews for its new gastropub style - “an influencer’s flat” was one way our reviewer described the new look, referring to the gardening centre’s worth of greenery cascading around the place. Chef Ben Chaplin, formerly of 20 Stories, heads up the kitchen taking a bold, seasonal approach to British produce.
The Black Friar 41-43 Blackfriars Rd, Salford M3 7DB
By now we’ve all had a Bundo, haven’t we? It’s the perfect meal for the tired and weary shopper, a veggie destination that doesn’t rub it in your face and a general crowd-pleaser that has migrated across the north of the UK dropping convenient little pots of flavour everywhere it lands.
In Manchester, we’re now lucky enough to have two beer and bhaji palaces right on our doorstep after the hotly anticipated Bundobust Brewery opened in September.
If you haven’t seen our Instagram reel that takes you on a tour of the new space, you might not have heard that the spot on Oxford Street is also a brewery and taproom kicking out pint after pint of pale ale, pilsner and porter for all.
Bundobust Brewery St James's Bldg, Bundobust Brewery, 61-69 Oxford St, Manchester M1 6EQ
Starting life as a humble pizza pop-up two doors down in Levenshulme, Cibus Ristorante (pronounced CHEE-bus) opened in October much to the delight of local residents. Penned as “Levenshulme’s first Italian restaurant,” cibus simply means “food” in Latin and was founded by Venetian-born Giorgio Fontana and his equity partner and head chef Marco Bracchitta.
The focus at the restaurant housed in the former M19 club on Stockport Road is well-sourced Italian ingredients, often shipped in directly from the motherland. Regional delicacies like salted doughnuts as well as seasonal specials grace the purist menu where you’ll also find traditional pasta dishes like orecchiette cime di rapa with Apulian broccoli and fennel and chilli sausage, white-based pizzas with mushrooms and truffle oil and guancette - oxtail braised in red wine.
Cibus Ristorante 847, 849 Stockport Rd, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3PW
Until May this year, you’d be more likely to associate Oldham Street in the NQ with old boozers, charity shops and piercing parlours, but you’ve gotta give it to them, the team at District has really made their mark here. The “new wave Thai” destination has an ethos firmly based around the BBQ - charging £100 a head for a 15-course tasting menu.
You might be familiar with the work of owner Danny Collins if you have eaten at similarly cool ramen joint Tokyo Ramen on Church St, or maybe you’ve visited Australasia, Tattu or now closed Rabbit in the Moon (Michael O'Hare's short-lived, critic-dividing gaff atop Urbis) while head chef Ben Humphreys has been behind the scenes. Either way, the team have taken the twee tuk-tuk Thai theme and batted it well and truly into the future.
District 60 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE
The railway depot turned entertainment destination was arguably trading way before the beginning of 2021. Doors to Escape to Freight Island opened in mid-2020 when outdoor dining was au fait, and this place was perfectly designed for it. But it wasn’t until June this year when the Ticket Hall opened, along with indoor seating that we got to see the sheer size of the place.
What really set chins wagging was the opening of One Star Döner Bar in October, when Birmingham-based Michelin-starred chef Brad Carter burst on to the scene. Escape to Freight Island’s proximity to WHP seemed the perfect spot for the doner kebab spot which has had rave reviews from Mike Skinner himself.
Escape to Freight Island 11 Baring St, Manchester M1 2PZ
The Fountain House
With the iconic Grade II listed 155-year-old Memorial Hall on Albert Square (just around the corner from our office), we were able to watch with bated breath as The Fountain House took shape on our doorstep. Opening its doors in November, the first Metropolitan Pub Co venue north of Watford took the place of Albert Square Chop House and it had big shoes to fill.
Frankly, we were expecting great things as the London-based company is known for its group of high-end gastropubs in London, but promised to keep “a touch of Manchester spirit” in the renovation. We wouldn’t say that the design has Manchester running through its veins - where are the neon Oasis lyrics? - but the menu has certainly peaked our greedy little interest. The beef hash brown with crispy duck egg and horseradish gravy can go straight in my basket.
The Fountain House The Memorial Hall, 14 Albert Square, Manchester M2 5PE
We all know by now that anything owner and chef Simon Shaw touches turns to gold. The “Middle Eastern” wing of his culinary universe opened in June, joining El Gato Negro and Canto in the city centre.
This isn’t the restaurant to visit if you’re after authentic Middle Eastern cookery, with our reviewer feeling less than impressed by the tiny bowls of rice that she was presented with. But somebody must have believed the hype as Habas was indicted into the Michelin Guide just five months after opening.
If you’re a fan of Shaw’s signature small plates and cosy, intimate dining experiences, Habas might be the next place to add to your list.
Habas 43A Brown St, Manchester M2 2JJ
The story of the posh pizzeria starts where any good pizza should - in Naples. The first of the family-run restaurants opened there in 1906, where it gained international notoriety after appearing in Eat Pray Love starring Julia Roberts. Since then the brand has franchised and expanded all over the world, with sites in Dubai, Berlin, London and now little old Manchester too.
If you want the full experience make sure to order the Margherita with double cheese. We were sceptical at first when we saw the blossom trees in the dining room, but it is actually very good pizza indeed.
L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele 53 King St, Manchester M2 4LQ
Out of a derelict piece of land in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, down the arse end of Lever Street where only a couple of indie businesses dared to thrive, MALA appeared as the perfect outdoor spot for a post/pre-pandemic (what year is it again?) social gathering.
The name MALA comes from the Hawaiian word for “garden”, and while the jumble of sheds and chalets does give off Bud vibes, the premise is far from it. Find pornstar martinis, spritzes and now, food delivered right to your table from neighbouring restaurants like Ply and Chakalaka.
Mala - Secret Garden 19 Lever St, Manchester M1 1BY
If there is one thing Heaton Moor was missing, it was a restaurant serving up "alternative British" dishes. So that's what head chef James Hulme created at The Moor, a restaurant lovingly named after the very land it sits on. Apt, of course, because Heaton Moor is exactly what this modern casual dining restaurant celebrates. The historic farming area of Stockport is apparently famed for its black fertile soils.
Our reviewer thought The Moor's menu sounded like actual poetry when she visited in September and feasted on Tatton Park venison, violet artichokes and Isle of Mersea oysters.
The Moor 27 Shaw Rd, Stockport SK4 4AG
As far as pizza in Manchester goes, we’re pretty spoiled for choice but when Ramona shared the first photos on Instagram of its Detroit-style slabs, we fell hook line and sinker for those sexy right angles. Operating as take out only at the start of the year, Ramona slowly evolved into a restaurant with outdoor seating and a smoky fire pit to keep the punters warm. Paired with one of their extremely well-made margaritas, those square pizzas had our hearts.
That is until the old MOT garage adjacent transformed in to The Firehouse. With a stage that hosts ArtHouse and Vogue runway parties, and a menu that revolves around chicken cooked over flame, the newest member of the Swan Street sisterhood has firmly cemented itself as one of the coolest spots in town.
The Real Greek
A surprise addition to Manchester, and an even bigger surprise to this listicle, who knew that a London-based Greek food chain could come up here and cause such a ruckus? To give The Real Greek its dues, a combination of the perfect affordable lunch (£6.45 for a giant souvlaki wrap) and a spot in the iconic Corn Exchange was a match made in heaven.
The Real Greek is part of the Fulham Shore group that brought Franco Manca to town just a couple of years ago and they have said in no uncertain terms that The North is now ripe for their business expansion plan. We already know that a new Franco Manca was on the way on King Street and another is rumoured in Didsbury in the new year - this grill is on fire.
The Real Greek Manchester Corn Exchange, Exchange Sq, Manchester M4 3TR
Food halls are so hot right now, and while Escape to Freight Island is all abuzz with its big Michelin-starred names and enormous capacity, Society opened in the summer with all the quality but criminally fewer of the fireworks. That’s not to say it’s not deserving of them, perhaps the fact it sits next to the Bridgewater Hall rather than WHP makes it the more sensible and grown-up venue?
Here you’ll find a talented and hand-picked selection of some of Manchester’s best street food vendors - Chaat Cart takes up residency serving up South Indian plates, while Manzoku’s Asian-inspired menu delights with sushi and katsu. You’ll also find Dokes, owned by Elnecot’s Michael Clay. These thin and crispy wood-fired pizzas are topped with seasonal ingredients like Wiltshire truffle and Owd Yonner cheese.
Society Basement, 100 Barbirolli Square, Manchester M2 3BD
Track Brewing Co - Brewery & Taproom
Track brewery and taproom opened in September on the unassuming Piccadilly Trading Estate. We’re pretty used to the odd taproom in Manchester with the likes of Cloudwater, Alphabet and Manchester Union Lager in the vicinity, but at 2,000 sq feet and designed by On The Brink Studios and MikeSian Studio, Track is one of the more stylish and comfortable places to sip a pint in the shadow of a giant tank of beer.
Stefan Melbourne, Head of Sales described the transition from the old arch underneath Piccadilly Station to the new spot as “like going from a Fiat Panda to a Mercedes Benz,” when we spoke to him prior to opening. And Track is working on its sustainability too - waste grain goes to a farmer friend to feed his cattle. Catch a steady rotation of local food vendors on the premises and watch out for more initiatives like a community garden coming in the future.
Track Brewing Co - Brewery & Taproom Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP
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