Why Spinningfields In Manchester Is A Must Visit For Food Lovers
If there’s one city where the culinary scene is buzzing right now, it’s Manchester.
Restaurants are popping up here at a faster rate than anywhere in the country, while leading London venues such as Hawksmoor and Zetter Townhouse have rushed to secure prime spots in the city centre.
The Michelin Guide may have snubbed the city in last year’s list of one, two and three-star establishments, but one of Europe’s most successful regeneration projects has created an incubator for adventurous restaurateurs in the heart of the city, which is well worth any food lover’s attention.
City guides often tell non-natives that the Northern Quarter is the hub of ‘new’ Manchester, and while it does indeed make for a brilliantly boozy night out, it’s financial and commercial hub Spinningfields that’s fast establishing itself as the city’s culinary quarter.
Here are some of under-the-radar highlights that gastronomes would be silly to miss.
This vast basement bar opened to fanfare in 2011, erecting an ominous Louvre-style glass pyramid entrance on the site of the old Manchester Evening News. It has since failed to make the impact on the food scene that it deserves, thanks to a to-ing and fro-ing of head chefs. The first thing you should know about Australasia, is that it seems to be the place to see and be seen. The decor is notably bling, as is the clientele - but don’t let that put you off. Step away from the footballers and Friday night drinkers at the subterranean cocktail bar (a rather literal take on going ‘down under’) and you’ll find a first class ‘pan-cuisine’ restaurant that serves up Australian fare inspired by Indonesia, Japan and the Pacific Rim.
Australasia’s menu is understandably then, exhaustive, split between sushi, sharing plates and main courses - but it’s not a case of all filler, no killer. The food is consistently good, despite being somewhat of a jack of all trades. The crab tempura is light and zesty, the Cambodian beef skewers are moreishly tender while a plateful of lamb cutlets with a thick peanut sauce packs delicate yet punchy flavours. The black cod is up there with the best of them: a sublimely juicy chunk of sablefish with a sweet honey and soy dip. None of it comes cheap however - think central London prices, but neither should it. The cooking is bold and clever, showing how ingredients from across the globe can come together to create something truly brilliant.
1, The Avenue, Manchester M3 3AP. australasia.uk.com
Aiden Byrne famously became the youngest chef in Britain, at the age of 22, to be awarded a Michelin Star for his menu at Adlard’s in Norwich. After opening a series of establishments across the North West, he’s recently turned his attention to Manchester - opening the eye-watering expensive £3 million Manchester House in 2014. The trendy industrial-style restaurant can be found at the top of what could otherwise be described as a run-of-the-mill office building, with a rooftop bar that has spectacular views over the city.
If you do make a booking, come here hungry: while there is the choice of a la carte, you should make the most of the 10 and 14-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Highlights on the menu include a comforting Lancashire classic: Ribblesdale goat’s cheese and onion soup with Iberico ham jelly, raw scallop in sushi vinegar and a show-stopping suckling pork belly, smoked apple, celeriac and eel. The presentation may be gourmet, but Byrne’s food is refreshingly Northern at heart and the proof is in the pudding - a delicious upmarket take on Manchester Tart (a staple dish on local school dinner menus in the 70s). Its design and food is pretty radical for a city that otherwise isn’t known for its ambitious high-end fare, making it the destination restaurant that the city has long deserved.
18-22 Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BZ. manchesterhouseuk.com
The best of the rest…
It may look like Manchester’s take on the Canary Wharf, but Spinningfields is so much more than a booze and business district. If you’re in town for a week, Australasia is sandwiched by outposts of Gaucho and Hawksmoor, both of which have become popular additions to the neighbourhood. The Alchemist in Aldgate is a staple spot for great cocktails in the capital, but its first and original bar started life in Spinningfields. For less formal bites, there’s Thai street food restaurant Thaikun, bistro-style lunch spot Artisan and South American rodizio Fazenda.
Other foodie highlights include modern Chinese restaurant Tattu, a favourite with the WAG crowd that could give Hakkasan a run for its money and celeb haunt Neighbourhood. Saved some space in your waistband? You could always make the short 10-minute walk to The French at The Midland Hotel, another contender in the star race that’s headed up by Adam Reid and famed for its ox in coal oil.
Even if Messrs Michelin haven’t yet come on board, there are plenty of palette-pleasing reasons to venture out of London next weekend.
A menu of Pacific Rim flavours underpinned by European cooking tradition, an exotic blend of Indonesian and Southeast Asian influences. Australia's strong ties with Japan also help determine taste and style.