It had been an age since I’d last spent any time in Manchester so when an opportunity to visit regular guest quester Frances, who moved there a wee while back, came up I made the arrangements and toddled down the road.
Over the course of the weekend we visited a lot of different places but mostly ate in the sharing platter style so I’m not sure I got a complete sense of most of the places. We were pretty well-oiled most of the time, too.
Upon arrival our first substantive stop was at the super-stylish Piccolino at Caffe Grande. We had some excellent Franciacorta which was neatly matched with some excellent fritto misto.
I got a little tour of the restaurant and it was mighty impressive with a seafood bar, steak a go-go, massive pizza oven and a great selection of Italian meats and cheeses.
The fritto matched the bubbles to good effect. The soft shell crab was a standout but the crisp courgette was also pretty delicious. The bill was about £50 which felt like very decent value.
Next up we went nibbling down the road to the Refuge at the Palace Hotel. This was quite the spectacle and clearly a much-treasured Manchester institution having been phoenixed from the ashes of previous neglect.
The food here was a mixed bag. The hake with black daal was one of the dishes of the weekend and the lamb chops were very good. But the tomato salad was weak and the ceviche mediocre. Still, it’s a place you need to check out when in town. The bill with a couple of cocktails was again around £50. That was us for night one.
On Saturday, I took a wander around the town while Frances caught up with some work. I stopped in at the impressive Pot Kettle Black coffee and the slightly less convincing Ezra & Gil.
I checked out a market where the pies from the Cumbrian Pie Company looked the best bet. Their cheese and onion variety was a good old-fashioned charmer.
With Frances having completed her appointed tasks, we popped round to sample the atmos at the King Street Festival. We munched and supper at popular tapas place El Gato Negro.
Their meat selection was notably good with an excellent range of top quality stuff. The cheese wasn’t quite so spectacular but I was still majorly charmed by the place. A couple of wines and a lot of meats and cheese again cost around £50.
It was onward to Hanging Ditch for some excellent wines and the arrival of Frances’ partner Darren, and first time questers Katy and Luke.
We opened a couple of funky old bottles of 1975 Rioja. Funky. There were some younger and livelier wines, too.
Manchester was introduced to the Disco Paloma at Common, then with a couple of further drink stops under our belt we headed to Chinatown for Thai food at Try Thai.
I think for most of us this is where things got a bit hazy. There were shared starters, then I remember soft shell crab and larb main courses. I think everything was pretty good. It cost around £130 with drinks which was pretty reasonable.
So overall, we ate very well over my weekend in Manchester. Special mention goes to Darren for outstanding sausage sandwiches and to the dogs, Larry, Nina and Phoebe for being routinely joyful.
I think I’ll remember the city’s restaurant most for some considerable swank, for a really positive and accommodating approach to service, and some great morsels that we chewed upon. I look forward to many future visits and further explorations.