The best places to eat and drink in Manchester's Northern Quarter
The food in Manchester's Northern Quarter is hands down some of the best we've had in the UK - so we had to share it! Our guide to the best of the Northern Quarter food and drink includes faves like freakshakes at Black Milk, Northern Soul Grilled Cheese, Cottonopolis, and MUCH more!
The look on Mim's face said it all; "That is one of the best things I've ever tasted", she said gleefully, pushing the gloriously large yet somewhat daunting mac and cheese toasty across the table for Mark to taste.
Were we in Manchester, or had we magically teleported back to our hometown of Melbourne for some top quality grub? As Melbournians, we have to admit that we've kinda become food snobs over the years. But when you've got access to so many incredible restaurants on your doorstep, it's hard not to be. But having been in our new home right now, London, for over a year now, the food just hasn't quite cut it. It's not that the food in London is bad; it's that on average, it's just not that good.
So you can imagine our surprise when we visited Manchester recently and discovered it's food scene is not only thriving, it's bloody brilliant, and that the city's famed northern quarter is the epicentre for incredibly simple, tasty, and potentially artery blocking food. Full of American-style diners, Indian street food, Japanese infused eateries, and your standard brunch hotspots, the restaurants in Manchester's Northern Quarter might just be amongst England's best.
Here is our lowdown on the best places to eat (and drink) in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
FROM FREAKSHAKES TO INDIAN STREET FOOD: OUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THE BEST NORTHERN QUARTER FOOD
MANCHESTER'S BEST CHEESE TOASTIES AT NORTHERN SOUL GRILLED CHEESE
We’re massive fans of cheese, and even bigger fans of cheese toasties, and nowhere have we enjoyed the delicious combination of bread and cheese more so than Northern Soul Grilled Cheese.
Located on church st market, the selection of toasties certainly isn’t limited. All toasties are based on sourdough and their secret three cheese blend, with variations including Pestorella (includes fresh tomato, basil pesto), Mac Attack (includes, you guessed it, Mac and Cheese), and for meat lovers, the Cuban Pete (pork, roast ham, swiss cheese, mustard and pickle). We were taken aback by their size, and presentation; each toastie oozed cheese, and was accompanied by a gurken, a clear sign of a good toastie.
Our faves were the Pestorella, which is a pure taste sensation, and the Mac Attack, which Mim proclaimed to be the best thing she’d ever eaten.
Northern Soul Grilled Cheese also sell a huge array of other comfort food, including Mac and Cheese, Nachos, and Milkshakes.
Opening hours | 11:00am - 20:00pm Monday to Wednesday
11:00am - 21:00pm Thursday to Saturday
11:00 am - 18:00 pm Sunday
Location | Northern Soul Grilled Cheese, 10 Church St, Manchester M4 1PN
Cost | £4.50 - £6.50
Reviews | Check out reviews of Northern Soul Grilled Cheese on Tripadvisor here
INDIAN STREET FOOD AT BUNDOBUST, MANCHESTER
Indian street food and craft beers. That’s Bundobust’s jam, and it’s kinda our jam too. Walking into the nondescript dungeon off Piccadilly, our first impression of Bundobust is positive - large, communal tables, bollywood posters, and a large beer menu of mostly foreign craft beers. Above the kitchen is the phrase ‘too much spicy’, which unsettles us a little. To our delight, the food menu contains all our faves - onion bhaji (onion, cauliflower, spinach bhaji), masala dhosa (rice crepe filled with potato and onion dry fry, served with lentils), chole batura (chickpeas cooking in tomato and onion sauce), and paneer and mushroom tikka. Our interest is piqued by the vada pav, Mumbai’s favourite burger. We order it all, and sample each tasty dish, falling into an everlong foodgasm.
The food here is exceptional, and we're happy to state, some of the best Indian we’ve ever had. It’s also not that spicy. You simply MUST order the vada pav, which oozes flavour and subtle spice. The chole batura is another must-eat.
It’d be remiss for us to exclude the beer, and we suggest you start with an IPA - whatever they have (Bundobust change their beer menu regularly).
Opening hours | 12:00 pm - 21:30 pm Monday to Thursday,
12:00pm - 22:00pm Friday and Saturday,
12:00pm - 20:00 pm Sundays
Location | Bundobust, 61 Piccadilly, Manchester M1 2AG
Cost | Single dishes are around £6, a selection for two is £25, a selection of everything is £66
Reviews | See Tripadvisor reviews of Bundobust here
LEARN MORE ABOUT MANCHESTER | TRUE GRIT - DISCOVERING THE GREAT SPIRIT OF MANCHESTER
FREAK SHAKES AND CEREAL AT BLACK MILK, OLDHAM STREET
We’d heard about freak shakes - the high-calorie, mega-milkshake that combines ice cream, chocolate bars and even an entire slice of cake, but we’d never actually HAD one. That all changed in Manchester, and life got a little bit better (or worse, depending on which way you look at it!) after we visited Black Milk in Odlham Street.
Originally a cereal cafe, Black Milk has recently expanded to their Oldham St cafe, which now serves delightfully obnoxious freakshakes. Clearly, we couldn’t try them all, so settled for the Triple Oreo Cheesecake. As the name suggests, it’s full of Oreo glory and completely gluttonous, but totally worth it - especially when you’re burning off calories exploring the city of Manchester.
If you’re not keen on the mega shake, try one of the cereal bowls - basically the cereal bowls you wish your mum would serve you when you were young. Our fave was the OH-LAA-LAA, featuring all types of chocolate cereal topped with toblerone, bueno and molten chocolate. It’s topped off with whole milk and cookie dough ice cream. Nom is an understatement.
Opening hours | 12:00 pm - 20:00 pm Monday to Thursday
12:00 pm - 22:00 pm Friday
11:00 am - 11:00 pm Saturday
11:00 am - 23:00 pm Sunday
Location | Black Milk, 88 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LF
Cost | Freakshakes £7, cereal sundaes £4.90, ice cream sundaes £4.95
Reviews | See what other travellers thought of Black Milk on Tripadvisor now
COMFORT FOOD AT WEST CNR, MANCHESTER
Manchester, with its red brick buildings and external fire escapes, often doubles as New York, so it’s no surprise that American diners are definitely a thing in the city. For good reason too - they serve delicious comfort food, perfect for lazy weekend days, or hung over mornings. Neither of those scenario’s existed for us, but we still decided a visit to West CNR.
A pleasant environment with booths, bar stools and benches, we felt like we’d transported to New York. The menu is full of the usual; burgers, fries, salads and beer, of which we sampled just about everything (minus anything with meat). The burrata and heritage tomato salad blew our socks off, and we couldn’t go past the battered onion rings.
West CNR also does brunch, with the eggs hollandaise their speciality.
Opening hours | 19:30 pm - 12:00am Monday to Wednesday
19:30 pm - 1:00 am Thursday
19:30 pm - 1:30 am Friday
9:00 am - 1:30 am Saturday
9:00 am - 12:00 am Sunday
Location | West CNR, 21 Hilton St, Manchester M1 1JJ
Cost | Mains, burgers, sandwiches and salads £7.50 - £14.50, sides £3 - £8.50
Review | Check out other travellers experiences at West CNR on Tripadvisor now
COCKTAILS AND JAPANESE AT COTTONOPOLIS
A former tailor's studio that's now a swanky bar come restaurant serving delicious asian fusion, Cottonopolis is a Friday night dream. They mix up delightful cocktails created by award winning mixologist Jamie Jones, and import Czech beer weekly (Krusovice), meaning their drinks menu is well stocked for a fun night out. We visited on Sunday afternoon, so while the atmosphere was distinctly quiet, the food and beer was great.
We had the tofu bao and gyoza, two long term favourites of ours, and were suitably impressed. The Krusovice was the perfect afternoon tipple.
Opening hours | 11:30 am - 12:00 am Sunday to Wednesday
11:30 am - 1:00 am Thursday
11:30 am - 2:00 am Friday and Saturday
Location | Cottonopolis, 16 Newton St, Manchester, M1 2AE
Cost | Food ranges from £4 - £20 , beer from £4.50, cocktails from £8
Reviews | Discover what others thought of Cottonopolis on Tripadvisor now
COFFEE DREAMS AT TAKK, MANCHESTER
We mentioned we’re from Melbourne, which means good coffee is seriously important (for Mim at least).
Takk, on the trendy Tariff St, serves brilliant coffee, and literally saved Mim’s life after a morning blighted by an underlying ‘no coffee yet’ grumpiness.
Takk has a weekly changing selection of four single origin coffees brewed by hand, and a beautifully nordic space to hang out in, should you not be like us, and order your coffee to go.
Opening hours | 8:00 am - 18:00 pm Monday to Friday
9:00 am - 18:00 pm Saturday
10:00 am - 17:00 pm Sunday
Location | Takk, 6 Tariff St, Manchester M1 2FF
Cost | £2.70 for a regular coffee
Reviews | Check out Tripadvisor reviews of Takk Coffeehouse now
VEGETARIAN AND COFFEE DREAMS AT FIG AND SPARROW
Sit in the window and watch Manchester go by, while enjoying delicious coffee (a common thread in Manchester), and predominantly vegetarian food, including a seriously good avocado on toast, with chili and walnuts.
They also serve some great vegan treats - our fave was salted caramel slice.
Opening hours | 8:00 am - 19:00 pm Monday to Friday
9:00 am - 19:00 pm Saturday
10:00 am - 19:00 am Sunday
Location | Fig and Sparrow, 20 Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JN
Cost | Brunch £3 - £10, Sweets £3, Coffee £2.50
Need to book accommodation in Manchester?
We stayed at The Lowry Hotel, Manchester's first 5-star hotel. Nestled in a quiet spot on the banks of the River Irwell, it's contemporary, comfortable, and super stylish. We highly recommend splurging for a weekend stay here!
Alternatively, browse HotelsCombined for the best hotel deals for your trip now
If travelling like a local is more your thing, Airbnb might be the way to go! There are plenty of awesome Airbnb's available throughout Manchester - use our Airbnb code to get £27 off your first booking!
Have you enjoyed the delightful food in Manchester's Northern Quarter? Have we missed anywhere? Let us know in the comments below.
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We were hosted in Manchester by Visit Manchester as part of the #WorkerBeeWeekender campaign. A big thank you to the team for making our stay memorable. As always, all views are our own.
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