Harley Young soaks in the atmosphere on Stevenson Square


Where: 9 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DB

Food/ Drink type: Asian inspired street food and signature cocktails

When: Monday to Thursday: 4pm - 12am, Friday: 4pm - 1am, Saturday: 12pm - 3am, Sunday: 12pm - 12am

Independent or chain: Independent

2024 04 11 Public Outside
Outside PUBLIC on Stevenson Square Image: Confidentials


Step into PUBLIC off Stevenson Square, located in the heart of the Northern Quarter (a neighbourhood which still holds the fort as one of Manchester’s trendiest), and you’ll be hit by this overwhelming wave of authenticity and belonging. 

It’s got its edge, but not the sort that makes you feel queasy and uncomfortable like you don’t belong. There’s none of that Mean Girls "We're cooler than you" vibe in here, and I really like that about the place; especially as a late-twenty-something goth trying desperately to keep up with her younger, hipper counterparts in the city. 

It subserviently follows the trendy outlook that its NQ brothers and sisters have, but with its own air of charm. It’s stripped back yet full of character and quirk in every corner. Tables and chairs are a mishmash of colours and materials; stone on steel, wood on leather, you name it. 

The drinks list is pretty comprehensive, covering everything from house lager to fancy wines and of course a substantial cocktail menu with a handful of non alcoholic serves. Dave went for an old fashioned with a honey twist while I chose the non alcoholic version of a daiquiri - it was sweet, tangy and certainly looked the part. 

2024 04 11 Public Cocktails
Cocktails; alcoholic and non-alcoholic Image: Confidentials

The Main Event

The 10-item menu (plus a couple of bar snacks if you’re not feeling as peckish as we were) is concise yet spans a broad spectrum of American and Asian-inspired dishes, ticking off everything from burgers with American cheese to smacked cucumbers to gun gun noodles. 

We decided to go for a mixture of flavours, opting for the ribs (£7.90), sando (£11), ‘noods’ (£8.50), burger (£11) and fries (£4.50). All of which were reasonably priced and didn’t take long at all to arrive. 

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Noodles + ribs + fries + sando + burger = a winning combo. Image: Confidentials

The baby back ribs were slathered in gochujang for that salty, spicy, sweet and savoury flavour that pairs so well with a crisp refreshing pint. Served with a handful of spring onions and a portion of pickled ginger poised atop, this dish tasted as good as it looked. The ribs had plenty of meat on them and certainly did the job at getting our mouths watering. 

2024 04 11 Public Ribs
A close-up of the ribs Image: Confidentials

We each took a bite out of the sando (buttermilk chicken breast in a brioche bun served with iceberg lettuce, sriracha mayo, sesame, pepper mayo, gochugaru and disco pickles) and the burger (beef on brioche with white onion, American cheese, burger sauce, disco pickles and house ketchup) and compared notes. The sando won the battle of the burgers hands down. 

That’s not to say the beef burger wasn’t any good. It was. Juicy too. But the sando had all the right flavours and textures in all the right places. The sweetness of the bun and buttermilk coating melded with the fiery gochugaru before being extinguished by the creamy pepper mayo. I’ve thought about it at least once daily since and I’ll be back soon for round two. 

The ‘noods’ (hot oil gun gun noodles seasoned with spring onion, ginger, garlic, dark soy, morning glory and crispy chilli oil) were served in a characterful takeaway container, absolutely full to the brim and bursting at the seams with scran. Loved it. 

2024 04 11 Public Noodles
Plenty of noods Image: Confidentials

A word to the wise, though: this dish was full of flavour but quite oily so it’s worth sharing around the table as it can sit pretty heavy in your stomach if you’ve had a few pints beforehand. 

Judgement Day 

On Instagram, PUBLIC describes itself as ‘your new local’ and I can totally see why. Even on a rogue Tuesday evening (and an early one at that), the place was full of character. A trendy European disco playlist, the audible hum of chatter from after work catch-ups, first dates and long lost mates, accompanied by the timely shaking of cocktail tins and the buzzing atmosphere is infectious.

In under a year PUBLIC has firmly solidified itself as one of the Northern Quarter’s coolest bars and eateries. And I think I speak for many when I say I’m really chuffed that it has. 

PUBLIC, 9 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DB

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by Confidentials.comand completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 7/10

    Ribs 7, Sando 8, Noods 6.5, burger 7, fries, 6

  • Service 4/5

  • Ambience 4/5