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Manchester suggestions please!

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I'll be in Manchester for just a few days at the beginning of February. It's my second time. Last time I went to Michael Caines for the tasting menu so I don't need to go again. I've made note of:

The Mark Addy
Mr Coopers House and Garden
Albert Square Chophouse
This Is Gorilla
Panchos Burritos (for slumming or bringing back to the hotel for a lazy evening but I'm a real Mexican food afficionado from spending mucho time in LA, so will I find it dreadful?)

One word about the Chophouse - I went to the famous one in Leeds and was really disappointed. We are very adventurous eaters and like a nice, clean environment, not too stuffy or bland. On the other hand, when we travel we like to experience really local offerings so will be looking for things like black pudding, etc. We'll be staying central, at the MacDonald Hotel.

Thanks, guys!

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  1. I didn't even realise there was one in Leeds, it must only be a few years old. Obviously expanding over the Pennines. I think 'famous' is the brand name rather than a description of its authenticity. If you go back to Leeds, you need to go to Whitelocks

    Harters posted recently that Mark Addy's restaurant is closing.

    Look, I know you can do so much better than Panchos Burritos. You owe it to chowhounds everywhere. Where are you staying? In the same area as the Arndale, you have the whole of the northern quarter to choose from - most Indians there will have you fed in 15 mins if you are short on time - as well as the Marble Arch on Rochdale Road.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Sams has a Leeds branch. Was hoping for good Yorkshire grub but I don't think there was any. I ordered steak and kidney pudding but it was heavy. Entirely ordiary and disappointing, as I had hoped it would be a 'special' night for my anniversary. I have yet to see a Yorkshire pudding on the menu in Yorkshire! Not that I have much experience of the area but...I really want to taste the real deal.

      Sorry about Mark Addy. Shall I catch it before it closes or move on?

      As for the Mexican warning, thanks! Had a feeling that might be the case. As for Indian, I'm really unsure. I eat it so often in London and go to Brick Lane all the time as well as having personal connections with that culture. Would I really benefit from trying it there? (Although must admit the Birmingham experience was quite unique so who knows.)

    2. Mark Addy has closed. Havnt yet tried Mr Coopers but, seeing it is under Simon Rogan's direction, I'm looking forward to going.

      Chophouse reviews here:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8958...

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9307...

      You might also like the idea of Mr Thomas' Chop House which is the pubby one of the three in the city centre but it's too long since I tried it that any comments would be invalid.

      I havnt heard of the other two places mentioned in the OP.

      Other places I like in the city centre (and have posted reviews about) : Akbars, Choice, EastzEast, Glamorous, Manchester House, Simon Rogan at the Midland French, Middle Kingdom, Northern Quarter Restaurant and Red Chilli.

      Several of the places I mention are "ethnic", so will not have local stuff. The chophouses, Northern Quarter Restaurant, Manchester House and Choice may well do - look out for interesting use of black pudding (say, combined with scallops), local cheeses (Blacksticks Blue crops up on menus fairly often) and desserts such as Manchester Tart or the very fashionable Eccles Cake (originally just a cake and, to my mind, better as such - the ones you can easily buy in the supermarket are still all handmade at the bakery in Ardwick.

      )

      Depending on your daytime committments, may I also recommend a lunch visit to one of the "curry cafes" in the Northern Quarter. There's half a dozen or so. Originally set up almost "works canteens" for the garment industry workers, they now mainly feed Anglos. You'll get rice and three different curries for around four quid - one of the rare real bargains in the city.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Harters

        Re Indian in the NQ, see my reply to mr_gimlet and I'd appreciate your response. Will check all those things. My partner loves Eccles cakes so I have it on my list. Unusual black pudding pairings well received here! Intrigued about the cheese and the tart. Research continues!

        1. re: Calam1ty

          Regarding Indian, I understand Brick Lane isnt what it might once have been and that much of the food is now of the "high street curry house" standard. Not a bad thing, as such. The Manchester equivalent is the "Curry Mile" in the Rusholme area, just to the south of the city. Personally I think our local version does the "shabby glitz" better than Brick Lane and you might fancy a bit of a tourist trip one evening to compare. With one or two exceptions, the food will be no great shakes. One of my recent "finds" (although its been there for ages) is Mughli and I would certainly recommend giving it a try if you're in the area - http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/960874

          The two places I mentioned in the city centre, Akbars and EastzEast, are mid-ranged. Not as upscale as some of the London frontrunners, such as Moti Mahal, but well above the quality of your bog standard curry house.
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8975...
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9094...

          1. re: Harters

            A sneaky side-note. I don't eat on Brick Lane :P (too fussy for that!), I eat OFF Brick Lane. Will look at the Manchester offerings but not sure I will go for Chinese or Indian. Always good to have something in my back pocket, though! Thanks.

      2. Do not attempt Mexican in Manchester...

        1 Reply
        1. re: johnlevon

          I'm definitely staying away. Thanks, guys!

        2. Albert Square Chophouse - good, modern atmosphere. Nice stuff but of an entirely different stripe in both ambience and style of cooking from Sam's Chop House and Mr. Thomas' Chop House (the latter 2 under the same ownership).

          Sam's and Mr. Thomas' are about as good as you'll get for truly traditional local offerings, and the style is also traditional all round.

          Albert Square is more like a modernised English style, along similar lines to but perhaps slightly less ambitious than the Northern Quarter, which is also very nice indeed. Sometimes the service at the Northern Quarter though is a bit scatterbrained, although they're very nice.

          Near the Northern Quarter (the restaurant, that is), Teacup is a lovely place to go for a lunch or tea, and the cakes are the best in the city. Plan ahead for it, it gets frenetically busy; this might be the busiest restaurant in Manchester. It's very informal - a genuine cafe but with clearly more attention in the kitchen.

          Yang Sing is excellent for Chinese. I realise that some will be tempted to slap it with an "overrated" tag because it's one of the most Known Quantities in the city - everyone's aware of it and has probably been there, so you're not going to get anything revolutionary or that amounts to any sort of "discovery", but the quality is still superlative.

          Another place worth looking into for an informal meal is Bakerie. Their breads are actually making an effort, and they have proper meals here too which are really hearty (ideal for the depths of winter) and nicely made. Nothing here that's revelatory, but excellent value for money.

          Speaking of bread, if you happen to be here on a Thursday, stop into the 8th Day Cooperative and get some of the Bread Connections bread they get in that day. It's easily one of the best bakeries operating in the UK at the moment; all the breads are of an entirely different standard even from most artisan bakeries.

          7 Replies
          1. re: AlexRast

            Yes, I'd be one considering the Yang Sing to be overrated in style and just not that good in food quality. It was great back in the 70s and 80s when it was regarded as one of the leading Cantonese restaurants in Europe. But its years past its "best before" date.
            We had a very disappointing meal there in 2010 - it seemed very Westernised food (my notes say that one of the dishes wouldnt have been out of place in Vienna) and just wasnt very good. We've not been back when there are now other good places.

            For Cantonese, I'd be recommended Wings for good food and an upmarket feel (that once might have been applied to the Yang Sing) or Glamorous for probably better and more "authentic" food but its cavernous interior is less refined.

            1. re: Harters

              Yes, I'm with Harters on Yang Sing. It was great in the 80s when it was exotic and it was a real HK-style restaurant with uncompromising dishes, but now it is a lazy, mediocre pan-Chinese with faded decor and waitstaff with a barely disguised hostility to paying customers. I regularly get roped in to group dinners there when in Manchester, and I don't enjoy it.

              1. re: mr_gimlet

                Little Yang Sing is better imho.

            2. re: AlexRast

              Teacup noted. I travel with a cake gobbler! Chinese? It needs to be Sichuan or Fukien since spice is key for me. :)

              The bread sounds good so will check it out and, if there's a fridge in my hotel room, I will consider bringing it home.

              Scatterbrained service? That will get a lift of the eyebrow from the cake gobbler! Food needn't be Michelin-star but service and hygiene - definitely!

              Will have to think hard about which chophouse, especially since Sams in Leeds was so disappointing. Votes, please!!!

              1. re: Calam1ty

                Chophouse vote - fence sitting - Mr Thomas' for pub feel; Sams for more restaurant feel. I tend to go to Sam's over recent years. Between you have the corned beef hash and the cheese & onion pie as mains. Eccles cake for dessert. Your call on starters

                Sichuan - I've recently ceased to recommend my long time favourite, Red & Hot, on hygiene grounds (very manky toilets). That will leave you with Red Chilli and Middle Kingdom. RC always gets the mentions and I understand why - I like it there. MK is off many people's radar as it is just on the fringe of the city centre (and is usually packed with young Chinese folk - we've been and been the only Anglos in the place - and old enough to have everyone's grandparents). I like it there as well. You might also want to consider the Hunan which serves, erm, Hunanese food - similar style and chilli levels to Sichuan food.

                1. re: Harters

                  I went to Middle Kingdom the other day - thought it was very good, better than Red Chilli. Our waitress was charming and we had enough food to feed a (Red) Army for £25 each with a couple of drinks. In fact, our friend took quite a bit away with him - enough for another two meals, probably!

                  1. re: greedygirl

                    we would have happily taken the food away with us had we had a fridge in the hotel. Oh well! Glad you enjoyed it - what did you have @greedygirl

            3. Have I said thank you properly? I've made a big list. Like most times, it's hit or miss which places I will end up at. I like the Midland Hotel offerings but my guy is turning up his nose at them! Shrug. It will come down to how much it rains, how much I walk, how lazy I feel, and where I happen to be when I'm hungry! But I have lots of Xs on my map now and will keep looking to see if other ideas come up.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Calam1ty

                If you can get a table at the main restaurant at the Midland - "Simon Rogan at the Midland French" - you'd have an interesting tasting menu experience from the region's best and most creative chef. You may struggle to get a reservation even if you can persuade your guy.

                The other restaurant, Mr Coopers, is also under Rogan's supervision and I think is acting as "Rogan & Co" does for L'Enclume - a more relaxed,affair with simpler cooking. I havnt been yet but am looking forward to doing so in the coming weeks.

                Have a great trip to the Rainy City - I hope that we feed you well.

                1. re: Harters

                  Harters, we're at the Palace Theatre for a matinee the day after Valentines. Where would be your personal pick for an early, nearby dinner afterwards? Sadly Mr Cooper's is full...

                  1. re: helen b

                    Red Chilli for Sichuan.

                    Or, Albert Square Chop House.

                    Or, if needing quick eats, then Tampopo also in Albert Square is a mini-chain serving up offerings of east asian food. No idea how "authentic" it might, but I always enjoy it.

                    1. re: Harters

                      Albert Square booked. Ta muchly :)

              2. First restaurant visited and a Fickr set with descriptions for Middle Kingdom --
                http://www.flickr.com/photos/jan1ce/s...
                Thanks, Harters, and others who suggested it. One comment - they sure give huge portions in Manchester. We're used to London servings - small and expensive! We had too much food. Woah!

                1 Reply
                1. re: Calam1ty

                  We did too. See above.

                2. Next review is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jan1ce/s... - for you to see. It's Sam's Chophouse.

                  We were a bit full from lunch. We really enjoyed Sam's and had only two complaints. We waited a while for the servers each time but, to be fair, we were sitting in the bar and the restaurant area was busy. I was disappointed a little bit - but not Sam's fault....I asked my partner to choose the main (since he would eat most of it) and one starter, one dessert and he chose none of the traditional favourites I had hoped for. So no steak and kidney pudding, no hotpot and no cheese and onion pie for me!

                  1. OK. Back in London and just uploaded my photos. Here are the rest:

                    Teacup disappointed me and I'm sad about that. I did buy a piece of pistachio and rose cake that turned out to be dry. However, it wasn't awful, nor was the lunch. I should have gone for tea as I'd hoped but dinner was looming! See http://www.flickr.com/photos/jan1ce/1...
                    for what I ate

                    Try as I may, I couldn't persuade my partner to try the Northern Quarter Restaurant but he was quite interested in the Market Restaurant next door. We got two starters and one main - it was very nicely done.. Not outstanding but we were more than happy. See http://www.flickr.com/photos/jan1ce/s... for those photos and descriptions

                    Finally, I wanted to take @Harters' recommendation for Choice but when we finally found it, the menu was nothing like I'd found online. I'd set myself for a lovely stew, something Northern and nourishing after three rainy, cold days. There was none of it so we opted to leave and find some pasta. We found ourselves at Don Marco and decided to go in. It was getting quite late and we had a train to catch! It was a very lovely meal and our two starters and two pasta mains were the same price as the Market Restaurant. With apologies for the lighting, the set is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/jan1ce/s...

                    Thanks, everyone, for those recommendations and I hope this helps others. I would say MK and DM were the two standouts for me. (Feel like some MK right now!)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Calam1ty

                      Pleased to here that you enjoyed your trip to the Rainy City and that our weather matched its reputation (for myself, I've been in Tenerife for 3 weeks where it was shorts and T shirt weather).

                      The Market Restaurant is one of the City's oddities. It's changed hands over the years, sometimes for the better, sometimes not . I think it's in a farily recent reincarnation and I havn't tried it for a while.

                      John