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Dec 11, 2012 05:59 AM

Manchester City Centre

I'm heading back down to my old stomping ground next week for a couple of days and we're staying in the city centre near Piccadilly train station. I'm pretty sure that nothing has changed in the upper echelons of fine dining in not much exists and if I'm honest, I'm not overly fussed. We're off to Northcote and The Box Tree over the next week so I just want to have decent food recs in the city centre with no fuss over genre. We're just going to relax, shop and soak up the ambiance a bit and would welcome any suggestions of food to match. No doubt I’ll sample some time and beers in Sam’s Chop house!

Ones on my list already are Tampopo, Wings, Ban di Bul, Middle Kingdom, Red Chilli, Red & Hot and Akbars.

I've seen a couple of references to East z East but don't know how it compares to Akbars (which I have been to before). In addition I saw that Jay Rayner was bigging up San Carlo Chichetti but I'll be honest that their menu didn't fill me with any great confidence, it looks more style over substance with the money spent on the glitzing things up rather than spending it on food.

I used to go to El Rincon but don't see much written about it. There also used to be a Persian place that I went to in the Great Northern Warehouse area but I think that went many years ago!

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  1. You've possibly seen my report-backs on city centre dining, so I havnt really got too much to add to your picks.

    If it's beers you're after , then you'll be better off at Mr Thomas' Chop House which is more pubby than Sams. Same ownership and pretty much same food.

    We do not do "fine dining" that well in the city but, if you were wanting to lurch that way, my recc would always be the French at the Midland Hotel. Classic, old school posh. I love it (and truly despair at the current rumours that Simon Rogan is going to take it over - no criticism implied of SR. It's just that the city will lose it's "grand old lady").

    For the Sichuan, I like Middle Kingdom and Red & Hot and reckon both edge it over the much touted Red Chilli. Similarly EastzEast (the Princess St one) edges it over Akbars most times I think about it - but not always.

    Hmmm. San Carlo and SC Cichetti are very footballers wives territory. We ate at Cichetti in October - can't recall if it was before or after Rayner. Either way, I'd agree with his view. This was damn good food - really enjoyable.

    There's certainly no Persian in the city centre these days and I've never been to El Ricon de Rafa - dunno why, just never really fancied it.

    Make time to have a wander round the Xmas market and do some heavy snacking at the various European food stalls in Albert Square. Fecking expensive, of course - and every stall seems to be crewed by East Europeans, so not necessarily any authenticity. But good fun for a wander round.

    Look forward to hearing about Northcote - one of my fave places in the region.

    1. And a couple of lunch opportunities at both ends of the spectrum. First up, the grazing menu at the Michael Caines restaurant at the Abode hotel. An absolute belter of a deal.

      And if this old stomping ground, then I've probably no need to remind you of the bargain "rice & three curries" at several of the Northern Quarter curry cafes. But I will. The "This & That" on Soap St is best known, but I prefer the tiny Aladdin almost opposite . The game curries at Hunters BBQ are rightly the stuff of legends.

      9 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        That's brilliant Harters, thanks a lot. I had indeed picked through your posts to help form my ideas for where to go but it helps getting your take on Red Chilli and Akbars being the weaker of the restaurants. We're definitely going to spend time around the market - they're fantastic in Manchester - and will no doubt tuck into some food and drink even if I balk at the price!

        I'll maybe bear San C in mind although I'm thinking that mood may come into it particularly at this time of year with all the festive party events going on. Unfortunately that seems to have done for the Michael C grazing menu but I'll maybe wander by and see if I can see it advertised.

        Cheers for the recommendation on the curry cafes as well. We're after food for 2 days which since I refuse to pay the £20 each for each day for breakfast will mean enjoying food out and about!

        Really looking forward to Northcote after reading your review earlier this year and then going on and looking at their menu as well. Will definitely let you know how it goes.

        1. re: AWaiting

          Ah. Seeing as you're staying near the station, you may want to risk brekkie at Antonio's, on the station approach road. It's a Manc institution - the place that put the grease into greasy spoon.

          1. re: Harters

            Or take a short walk to Fyg on Tib St.

            1. re: johnlevon

              There's a nice cafe (not a greasy spoon), round the corner from Tib Street, on Thomas St (?). Can't recall it's name (any idea, John?) - I popped in for a brew some weeks back while I was waiting for the Craft Centre to open.

                1. re: johnlevon

                  Teacup. That's it!

                  Decent coffee and, IIRC, a good selection of "posh" teas.

                  1. re: Harters

                    Yes. North Tea Power on Tib St would be my tip for best coffee around there, though.

                    1. re: johnlevon

                      Thank you for the details guys and apologies for my tardiness in updating this upon my return.

                      In order of where we went.

                      Tampopo – I was really surpised by the quality of the food in this place considering that it was in the middle of the Trafford centre. I ate through lots of dishes whilst my wife engaged in the female hobby of shopping! Yes, this is probably a sanitised of how the dishes are authentically meant to be served but I’d still highly recommend it. Stand out dishes were a Korean beef with kim chi and a papaya salad (and I never highlight salads!).

                      Red chilli – This was enjoyable enough but I think that we may have caught them at a bad time. It was gone ten and we were the only non asian people there as the place was winding down. We tried to ask for recommendations but none were forth coming so just picked from the huge menu and I think that may have let us down a bit.

                      This and That – I’d never heard of this prior to your recommendation and we went here only because we found it before Aladdin. Fantastic. Loved the fact that it looks like a greasy spoon but serves you great curry at bargain prices whilst the staff were also so friendly. Will definitely be back and have recommended it to other friends already.

                      Middle Kingdom – I hadn’t realised that it was part of the same group as Red Chilli but the experience here was much better than Red Chilli. After the waiter had persuaded me that a starter of chicken gizzards may not be the best for my western palate he offered to bring me out one to try along side my starter. He was right, it’s a bit of an acquired taste! The short rib starters were everything that you’d expect of good ribs and my main of pigs trotters with chilli I’m guessing is a Szechuan classic and I loved it. Sweet gelatinous trotter with sharp fiery chilli was perfect.

                      As you can see we had no need for breakfast!

                      Northcote was perfect as a pre- Xmas visit with the fire and Xmas tree and great service. I was slightly disappointed with the food and I think that may come down to 2 things. 1) timing – it was Xmas so there was an Xmas slant to the menu 2) Lisa’s experimenting. I came expecting some fine Northern dishes but given fine dining twist. My mouth had been salivating at the menu’s online in advance and as soon as the menu was put down to me this day it didn’t do this. I’d love to attach a photo of one dish as it looks like it’s taken straight out of a L’Enclume type restaurant but without having the skill to pull it off. It used water bathed rabbit (which was dry), carrot puree, dehydrated carrot and a sugar coated hazel nut. It just didn’t work. In comparison the next dish of beef and shallots was divine and to me this is the type of dish I expect of Northcote. One thing I should also say was that the wine pairing throughout was fantastic. Really interesting and slightly unconventional. I’d love to pay another visit and hope that the menu was a glitch as we had a very relaxed afternoon

                      1. re: AWaiting

                        Good to hear you enjoyed your trip to the Rainy City.

                        Must admit, I didnt know Middle Kingdom & Red Chilli were connected. Next time, try Red & Hot (as upthread) in Chinatown. Better than RC, not as good as MK, (IMO).