Guide

Where chefs and restaurateurs eat in the North

In an age of online reviews, comments and blogs from everyone and their grandma’s dog, there are a lot of opinions to wade through when making the agonising decision of where to go for your tea. For the more discerning diner, there are always the trusted food writers and restaurant critics (eh hem).

But even keen restaurant goers like us are willing to concede that the people with the real inside knowledge, the ones who know good food better than anyone, are the top chefs themselves. That’s why we like to ask them where they go to eat whenever they get the opportunity.

In a guide which we intend to keep updating, we have put together a list of places that our favourite chefs have recommended to us. Some names, such as Moor Hall in Ormskirk, Wreckfish in Liverpool and The Moorcock in Sowerby Bridge come up time and time again. Others may be less well known but all of them come with a solid gold top chef’s tip of the hat. Recommendations don’t come much higher than that.


 

Simon Shaw of El Gato Negro: The French, Albert’s Schloss, Pasta Factory, Mackie Mayor and Noi Quattro.

Stosie Madie of The Parker’s Arms: Hawksmoor, Siam Smiles, Glamorous Chinese, Altrincham Market, Mughli, Al Amar bakery, Syria Sweets in Rusholme, Rudy’s, The Bay Horse and L’Enclume

Tom Parker of The White Swan at Fence: La Locanda, Gisburn and Wood in Manchester.

Adam Reid of The French at The Midland: Moor Hall (and The Barn), Freemasons at Wiswell, The White Swan at Fence, Moorcock Inn, Forest Side. All Gary Usher’s places (e.g. Sticky Walnut, Burnt Truffle, Hispi and Wreckfish), Pollen Bakery and The Parker’s Arms.

Sam Buckley of WTLGI: The Moorcock, Umezushi and Bundobust

Steven Smith of Freemasons: Yu and You, Copster Green and Moor Hall

Marko Husak of Bundobust: The Reliance and Ox Club in Leeds. Maray and Wreckfish in Liverpool. Hawksmoor, El Gato Negro, Rudy’s, The Refuge & Umezushi in Manchester.

Simon Wood of Wood: Northcote, The White Swan at Fence and Moor Hall

Will Beckett of Hawksmoor: Hispi, WTLGI, Sugo Pasta, Mackie Mayor, Wreckfish and Tast.

Here’s the list:

  • 2 Book Now Lancashire

    Moor Hall

    Modern British

    Mark Birchall, ex-head chef at L’Enclume is chef-patron of this outstanding two Michelin star, 5 AA Rosette restaurant with rooms. The large, Grade II-listed manor house in this flat and lush part of the country dates back to the 14th century and its located in acres of ground that takes in a country garden, lake, kitchen gardens and a whole lot more. Birchall’s backers and co-owners, the Bells, haven’t scrimped on the investment – and their head chef is a safe bet. Having trained at the three star El Celler de Can Roca in Girona (twice voted the best restaurant in the world), he went on to win the Roux scholarship in 2011. The Roca brothers have had a big impact on Mark Birchall and Moor Hall is benefiting from the experience.

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  • 19 Book Now Liverpool

    Wreckfish

    Modern British

    Gary Usher’s fourth restaurant, and counting, generates a warmth that somehow manages to radiate down the road. As you approach, past the huddle of no-messing black-clad bouncers and the grim bouquets for a young murder victim, there it is, on the corner of Slater Street, glowing like the farmhouse light that guides the lost on a cold and lonely night. Inside the 19th century watchmaker’s factory it’s all brick and wood, softly lit, homely and hospitable, the old building’s raw materials displayed to their best advantage: solid and reassuring.

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  • 4 Book Now Yorkshire

    The Moorcock

    Modern British

    An astonishing arrival on the Northern culinary scene. This unassuming pub serves foraged and regional ingredients in thrilling configurations, catching the eye of national food critics and diners alike. The menu could include crispy fish skin and tarts of foraged berries, wood-roasted goat, leeks with new season garlic and pickled plums, homemade black pudding, roasted beeswax ice cream and cascades of herbs and leaves that go way beyond plate dressing.

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  • rudys-pizza
    Book Now Manchester

    Rudy’s Pizza

    Italian

    Listed amongst the world’s best pizzerias in international pizza guide, Where To Eat Pizza, Rudy’s has grown from a pop-up pizza project into a full blown word-of-mouth phenomenon. Queues were (and still are) a regular occurrence outside the original, if a little awkward Ancoats branch – opened in 2015. However, a bigger, bolder and meaner site, opened on Peter Street in 2018 following investment by new backers Mission Mars (owners of smash hit Albert’s Schloss next door), mean punters no longer face such an agonising wait for what many believe to be the best pizza in the North West.

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  • 16 Book Now Manchester

    Umezushi

    Japanese

    Nose-to-tail sushi from acclaimed experts in an off-the-beaten track location. This sushi restaurant with simple décor comes up trumps in the food department with a menu that changes according to availability and daily specials. Widely regarded as one of the finest Japanese restaurants in the UK, highlights could include Hamachi (Japanese Amberjack) and toro sashimi (buttery tuna belly) or fresh water eel nigiri. Special mention also goes to the wagyu nigiri.

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  • Book Now Manchester

    Sugo Pasta Kitchen

    Italian

    Another Altrincham success story, this Puglian-inspired restaurant opened on Shaw Road – right by the transformative Market House – in 2015. Their simple and uncompromisingly authentic Southern Italian dishes soon won them fans, as good ole word-of-mouth momentum brought diners piling in from across the region. Accolades and glowing reviews soon followed, as did a second restaurant, in Ancoats, in 2018, which is proving equally popular with local foodies.

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  • 7 Book Now Manchester

    Hawksmoor

    British

    The best steakhouse in the North. Opening on Deansgate in 2015, the first Hawksmoor steakhouse outside of London is a confident affair. Steak and attention to detail have created a branch like no other, whose beef is among the world’s finest. Sourced from Yorkshire’s Ginger Pig, choose from huge sharing cuts such as T-bone, Porterhouse and prime rib, with solo steaks available if you’re not into sharing. Starters such as Caesar salad with airy Doddington shavings, an artisan burrata made in Wiltshire or sticky, rare breed Old Spot belly ribs are meals in themselves, while seafood is a strength. Ethically sourced scallops bath in white port and garlic butter, or try the UK-sourced monkfish, grilled over charcoal. Side orders such as triple-cooked chips, creamed spinach, anchovy hollandaise and bone marrow gravy are reason enough to visit, and the location is lovely.

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  • 6 Book Now Manchester

    Adam Reid at The French

    Modern British

    Culinary rock’n’roll from Simon Rogan’s protege, Adam Reid. Enjoy fine dining in Grade II listed Victorian surrounds – with a side order of Mancunian attitude. The soundtrack (which could include The Beatles and Oasis) is drawn from Reid’s personal playlist and sets a cool scene for pin-sharp creations. The tasting menu could include salt-aged duck with acidic cherry sauce, or soft raw scallops with buttermilk gel and flowers plucked from the roof-top garden.

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  • Book Now Manchester

    Albert’s Schloss

    European

    A Bavarian-inspired fun palace of extraordinary dimensions and clever design. Behind the glistening tiles of the former Manchester and Salford Wesleyan Mission building (est in 1910) you’ll discover a vast bar, real fires, perfectly preserved original plaster, and a wall stuffed generously with flowers by floral artists’ Frog. You’ll also find a stage, DJ booth and network of beer pipes and tanks serving unpasturised Pilsner Urquell to hordes of adoring punters.

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  • Book Now Manchester

    Mughli

    Indian subcontinent

    Confidential readers are likely to be familiar with Mughli; the contemporary, social media embracing, second-generation Curry Mile restaurant that paved the way for the likes of Indian Tiffin Room, Amma’s Canteen and Dishoom. Obviously, this sort of thing is standard now, but Mughli was one of the first Indian restaurants to steam off the flock wallpaper and refresh their menu by adding authentic Indian street food dishes to a menu of British curry house classics.

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  • 1 Book Now Cumbria

    L’Enclume

    Modern British

    One of the UK’s best restaurants. Executive chef Simon Rogan’s simple, imaginative restaurant typically exceeds its formidable reputation, serving florid takes on foraged ingredients and food sourced from the restaurant’s own 12-acre farm. After more than 15 years in the kitchen and a number of changes of direction, the menu, cooked by head chef Paul Burgalières, is a showcase for Rogan’s iconic style. Lunch and dinner menus which include anything from 8 to 16 courses waltz with the seasons.

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  • Book Now Manchester

    Wood

    Modern British

    Simon Wood’s debut modern British restaurant is perfectly pitched. The eponymous restaurant of Simon Wood, MasterChef winner and a local lad from Oldham, is an accomplished affair. Food is cooked by both Wood and head chef, Mike Jennings, formerly of Grenache in Worsley. The décor – muted natural tones in a glass-clad new build – places the focus of any meal on the fine, Italianesque (yet often locally sourced) food and wine on offer.

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  • 11 Book Now Lancashire

    The White Swan at Fence

    British

    Some folk in the village stlll refer to it as “The Mucky Duck’ and you can still order a pint of Timothy Taylor’s at its very pubby bar but over the past three years the Swan has established itself as a destination fine dining spot thanks to 20something chef Tom Parker. From up the road in Burnley, at 16 he begged a start at Michelin-starred Northcote, becoming a protégé of Lisa Allen and scooping a Young Chef of the Year award. That prodigious talent is evident throughout the short menus here, which change daily on the back of produce turning up on his doorstep.

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  • 10 Book Now Lancashire

    The Freemasons at Wiswell

    British

    Cooking goes from strength to strength at this adventurous food pub. Roaring fires, cast-iron fireplaces and pictures of fantastically proportioned livestock lend a cosy vibe to the renovated cottages which make up what’s often been described as the original gastropub. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this is a static operation. Steven Smith’s menu sees powerful flavours handled with ease. Expect something really special.

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  • 13 Book Now Cumbria

    The Forest Side

    Modern British

    Another Rogan protégé comes into his own. This Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel, owned by Lakes hotelier Andrew Wildsmith, is built around the cooking of former L’Enclume forager, Kevin Tickle. The menu is, undoubtedly, “inspired by the Cumbrian landscape”, but there’s plenty more going on here, with aspects of Scandi and Californian chic creeping into the tasting and lunch menus. While adventurous meat eaters are very well catered for, vegetarians are certainly not left out. In fact, ‘garden shenanigans’ are a theme as lovage, anise hyssop, woodruff, lemon verbena all typically feature along with wild garlic capers, elderflower and coastal greens.

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  • Manchester

    Pollen Bakery

    European

    The signature mahogany crust on their sourdough gives it that distinctive chew-factor, and their brownies are fast becoming legendary too. Top all that with fabulous brunch and lunch dishes and great coffee and you can see why they are amassing all those awards. Did we mention they do croissant toast?

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  • 15 Book Now Lancashire

    Parker’s Arms

    European

    Homely pub, serving and baking extraordinary, modern European food. This tastefully renovated pub and restaurant has everything the worldly gourmand could desire, with none of the faff and pretension that usually comes with that title. Wines and beers are plucked from the world’s finest makers while food is served in the clean lines of the restaurant and woody bar. A wonderful place to come and recharge the batteries, in one of the country’s overlooked corners.

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  • Book Now Cheshire

    Sticky Walnut

    European

    Brilliant bistro fare from crowd-funding expert, Gary Usher. Located in Hoole, just outside Chester, this contemporary bistro falls under the Elite Bistros empire of chef-turned-restaurateur, Gary Usher. Having trained at The Chester Grosvenor, Chapter One and Chez Bruce, Usher is a chef with a passion for getting things just so – and he’s hired likeminded talent, Richard Sharples (Aumbry) as co-conspirator and group executive chef.

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  • Book Now Manchester

    Hispi

    European

    Hispi is, quite simply, a great bistro. Fifth in a growing chain of restaurants conceived by Gary Usher, the concept started with Sticky Walnut in Chester (see also Top 100), a neighbourhood operation which made its name off the back of great, simple food, quaffable wine served in beakers, and excellent quality produce. Expect chunky British dishes – such as chicken liver pate and braised featherblade – made with fresh ingredients and great results.

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  • Bundobust food
    23 Book Now Manchester

    Bundobust

    Indian subcontinent

    Veggie Bollywood blockbuster serving small plates and the best in beer. Bundobust is a huge beer hall serving tens of craft beers from a massive bar in the heart of Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens. It also happened to win Restaurant of the Year at the 2017 Manchester Food and Drink Festival awards.

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  • Book Now Lancashire

    Yu Restaurant and Bar

    Chinese

    Established, upscale Chinese restaurant, Yu and You, serves British favourites and house inventions in the heart of the Ribble Valley. Choose from crispy duck pancakes, steamed pak choi with oyster sauce, Singapore vermicelli noodles – and so on – or opt for one of the much-loved house specials. The wok-seared Wagyu beef with sweet soya, lime, garlic and ginger won ‘best Chinese dish’ in Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant TV show in 2011, while Charlie Yu’s 12-hour chicken curry has its own fan base.

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  • 27 Book Now Manchester

    El Gato Negro

    Spanish

    Upmarket Manc-Spanish fusion, that really, really works. Originally from Yorkshire, chef Simon Shaw has created an indulgent, three-storey church to his passion for the best in Spanish food and wine with El Gato Negro. Top floor is a bar and dining, complete with retractable roof, fine wines, bespoke g&ts and cocktails, while wedged in the middle of the upmarket tapas bar on the ground floor is the restaurant proper, complete with open kitchen, exposed brick walls, comfy booths. Be warned however: there’s seldom a spare seat anywhere in the building. Both sexy and moreish, this Spanish restaurant is far greater than the sum of its parts.

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  • Book Now Liverpool

    Maray

    European

    Irresistible Middle Eastern fusion small plates – a slow-burning smash hit. Inspired by (and named after) the Middle-Eastern flavours of Paris’ Marais district, Maray provides an informal, communal dining experience which revolves around excellent falafels, small plates, fine wines and cocktails.

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  • Book Now Leeds

    Ox Club Headrow

    British

    Sumptuous, grill-based cooked from the Belgrave gang. After years of neglect, former textile mill Headrow House has been transformed into a mixed-use arts and events space incorporating three bars, one beer hall, a live room, two roof terraces and a cocktail bar. The Ox Club is the restaurant on the ground floor where the successful team behind Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen, together with chef-proprietor Ben Davy have created a contemporary grill house and kitchen.

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  • Book Now Manchester

    The Refuge

    European

    Winning small plate fusion in an iconic and glamorous setting. Housed in Manchester’s iconic The Refuge Assurance Company dating back to 1858, this DJ-run restaurant and bar is large and sassy. There’s a Winter Garden; an enormous bar; a restaurant; and subterranean ballroom. The venue (as opposed to the wider Principal Hotel, of which it is a part) is run by Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford AKA DJ duo The Unabombers who were given the job on the coattails of their success with West Didsbury bar and restaurant, Volta. The dining room is all soaring ceilings and bright tiles, while service is friendly without being pushy. Food is still a focus though: think Middle East meets Manc via India.

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  • 21 Book Now Lancashire

    Northcote

    Modern British

    This elegant dining room is where chef-patron, Nigel Haworth, earned his stripes as an instigator of contemporary British fine dining. Today, Michelin star chef and one of BBC2’s Great British Menu winners, Lisa Allen, heads up the kitchen. Expect a roving, regional smorgasbord, tempered with classic techniques and contemporary flavours. Things have changed on the looks front and following a huge cash injection, the surroundings are light and sumptuous, which is part of the allure – not least to Michelin inspectors. There’s a private dining room sponsored by Louis Roederer and the cellar, complete with some exceptional New World options, is fit for the pickiest of tasters. Bottles are hand-picked by Northcote co-founder and expert sommelier, Craig Bancroft.

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  • 9 Book Now Manchester

    Where the Light Gets In

    Modern British

    The UK’s most exciting ‘no menu’ restaurant. With no menu, esoteric wines and Michelin star price tag, WTLGI doesn’t adhere to the typical fine dining formula. But it’s been a success for Stockport, thanks to chef-patron Sam Buckley’s belief in doing things his own way. His aim is to create ‘a dining experience from the day’s catch, harvest and slaughter’ and to treat staff ethically and as part of the restaurant’s collective consciousness.

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