Restaurant and Bar Reviews

Vicky and I love to go out for something nice to eat and drink. Here are a few great places that we have been to recently and liked a lot!

Bistro 341 (Egerton, Bolton)

Well what do you know…a good restaurant “in” Bolton (Egerton, about 4 miles out of Bolton town centre…) Set price menu, with extra cost blackboard items. Wine list OK and reasonably priced.

Brewski Bar (Manchester)

A recent find for us, Brewski Bar is THE place for brunch.

Peggy’s Bar, Manchester

Peggy’s Bar is closed!! A hard to find fist floor cocktail bar, not far from the Lowry Hotel. Very basic decor, so not the place to go to impress if smart is your thing. That being said, I can’t remember the last time I was stunned to silence by a drink of any kind. The cocktail list changes each week, and features genuinely original creations.

Hawksmoor, Manchester

OK, so this isn’t the cheapest place in Manchester to get a steak, but it is the best. On the way to the dining room(s), you pass through the bar. STOP! Sit down and have one of the best cocktails you will ever taste. Prices are about what you would expect, mixology is top notch, and the service is polite, friendly, and knowledgeable. Ask for any classic cocktail (even the hard to find Sazerac), or choose one of their own creations. The dining rooms are just lovely…and the steaks are as big as you like!

Gorilla (Manchester)

Update (01/07/18) Went for food (and cocktails) last Friday evening. Attentive, friendly service and really very decent food. the char grilled chicken was served on a massive bed of beans, veg, and sauce. I just couldn’t finish it! (very unusual for me)

Cocktails at £5 (Monday – Friday, 5pm – 8pm) in the centre of Manchester. They have food as well (not tried that yet). Great atmosphere, busy and fun, a good place to start the evening off (may I suggest the “Grounds for divorce” cocktail, a sort of superhero version of the Margarita).

Indian Tiffin Room (Manchester)

Just across from Home in the centre of Manchester, this is our new favorite Indian restaurant (sorry Asha’s…). Super fresh tasting food, surprisingly inexpensive given the quality, and polite, attentive service. The quirky interior is spacious and clean (smells nice too!). We had a good view of the open kitchen – efficient, calm and well ordered, without any shouting of “SERVICE!” Have some grilled kebabs (about £7 each), and finish off with a vibrant curry (about £9). Then off to Home to catch a film…? Update – our second visit was just as good, and we had Indian wine, which was surprisingly good!

Update…our third visit and…oh dear :-( The meat quality and seasonings were not as good as on previous visits. Not rubbish at all, but where are we going to go for our Tandoori fix?

Locanda Locatelli (London)

This was the first Michelin starred restaurant we visited. Still one of the best places in London. Exceptional levels of service, fantastic wine list, fab food. Whenever we visit London, we find it difficult not to go here! If you are in London, and want the full treatment (!) try this place – I would be VERY surprised if you didn’t agree with us!

YMING (Soho, London)

If you find yourself in London’s Chinatown, take a short walk to Soho and eat here instead! Small, good service, proper cooking. (So the opposite of what you might get in Chinatown?)

500 (London)

Small independent Italian restaurant, near Archway Station. Incredible quality food, good service, simple decor – the opposite to the tourist traps! Passed the Tiramisu test with flying colours! (“Should we get one to share?” “No, get one each…and perhaps another one to share!”)

Camino, (King’s Cross, London)

Great Tapas and wonderful service, in a large, open restaurant. Set in a lovely courtyard just a few minutes from king’s Cross station. There is a small sherry bar opposite (Par Pepito), owned by the same group.

Roc and Rye (Manchester)

Brand new cocktail bar at the top end of King Street. Buzzing atmosphere, superb cocktails made and served by ex-Midlands Hotel staff. They also serve fantastic coffee – it’s about the same price as Starbucks etc, but you get table service, much better coffee in a nice cup. Why go anywhere else?

UPDATE (July 2018) Unfortunately some of the better staff have moved on, and the quality has suffered – come on guys, try harder!

Gino D’Acampo Manchester

I usually avoid the celebrity restaurants…this is one of the exceptions! Great service, proper food, decent wine list (go for the PASSO DEL BRICCO if you like Barolo on a budget!) The Tiramisu! The decor is very nice, and you will smile when you get the bill.

Arcane Bar (Manchester)

Tricky to find, but well worth it! Great vibe, cool music, great staff, proper drinks.

Blacklock (London)

Massive steaks, cooked to perfection (I asked for “burnt on the outside, raw in the middle”, and that’s exactly what I got!). House cocktails for a fiver, proper chips, and funky sides. Friendly and not for posers.

Hakkasan Hanway Place (London)

A Michelin starred Chinese restaurant, in a quiet tucked away street just off Oxford Street. As you would expect, it’s very posh, with a proper grown up cocktail bar to start things off. Very high staff to customer ratio means that you are never kept waiting for that extra drink, or indeed the bill! Truly gob-smacking food quality, and a well designed, relatively short menu. Don’t expect your usual Chinese favorites (no prawn crackers, sweet and sour pork, beef in black bean etc).Do expect taste sensations such as roast duck with black truffles, Mongolian venison, clay pot Poussin, and the cleanest tasting chicken soup ever. OK, so it’s very expensive, but you’re only going to go once (perhaps…?), and the only negative is that your local place isn’t going to be as much of a treat the next time you go.

Mowgli (Manchester)

Indian street and home style food. You choose several small plates each (so it’s a bit like tapas…) Everything we had was good (especially the “Angry Bird”). It’s located in the Corn Exchange, which also houses several other restaurants (Byron, Gino, Wahaca, etc), so if you don’t fancy the menu, you have lots of other options.

Asha’s Manchester 

I’ve always liked the idea of fine dining, Indian style (in other words Indian food, made from top quality ingredients, and cooked perfectly). We have been to a few restaurants in London offering this kind of thing, but Asha’s has taken it up a notch. If you like tandoori meat and fish dishes, then you will probably rate this place very highly. Unusually for an Indian restaurant (in my experience), service is excellent. Just go and see for yourself! Currently our “best restaurant in Manchester” award winner – it really is that good! We have dined here three times now, and the food and service have always been spot on every time.

Update (July 2018) This one is showing the usual signs of a downhill trend…

Iberica (Manchester)

This is quite a posh Spanish restaurant and wine bar, with a really excellent wine list. In contrast to most places, many of the wines are available by the glass or half bottle, which makes trying a few different ones easier. If you like cured meats, then try the Iberico hams (£10 gets you enough to go with a couple of glasses of wine.) Tapas are really good, but you have to try the Paella, which is very good value at £10 – £14 per person. We had Iberico ham, Anchovies, Bean stew with Hare (!), Venison meatballs, Duck with beetroot, and Seafood Paella. We washed all this lot down with the Torremayor Reserva. If you like the idea of Tapas, but feel let down by those miserable little terracotta dishes full of oily bits, then get the antidote here!

Australasia (Manchester)

They say “Modern Australian cuisine combines Pacific Rim flavours, underpinned by European cooking tradition, a blend of Indonesian, Southeast Asian influences and Australia’s strong ties with Japan also help determine the taste and style.” I agree! The staff are very friendly (and most are not exactly unpleasant to look at either!) There is a small cocktail bar in the main basement restaurant, if you have arrived before your table is ready. There is also a much larger bar on the ground floor called Grand Pacific. The food is very high quality, though the portions are not massive. It’s the sort of place to go to for a wide variety of flavours, rather than to stuff yourself with stodge. You must have the lamb cutlets and the seared teriyaki beef!

Mr Coopers House & Garden (Manchester)

Part of the Midland Hotel, this has a smart restaurant, and a “proper” bar, serving great cocktails and wine.  The restaurant is perfect for a romantic lunch. The bar is open till 1am most of the week, so if you are still standing, and want something fancy to drink, then go here!

Update (July 2018) though still wonderfully comfortable and calm, the quality of the cocktails has been reduced, due to their best mixologists moving on (to Hawksmoor and Peggy,s bar).



And some we didn’t like so much…

Swadesh, (Manchester)

This used to be one of the best Indian restaurants in Manchester, with better quality food, and a decent wine list, though the service was painfully slow. Everything good about it has gone. The once fresh tasting Tandoori dishes remind me of the dry tasteless offerings served in your cheap local take-away. The wine list has become the generic one seen in many budget places…and the service is just as slow as ever! Avoid!

Rosso (Manchester)

Set in a fabulous building at the top end of King Street, this is one of those places where the quality of the food and service fall short of the promises made by the setting. Having said that, if you want cocktails, the bar area is very good indeed. The food…what can I say? Think Bella Italia, and you will be close.

The Bank (Vaults, Bolton)

What a shame…waited an hour for food, and when it came it was pretty poor. Dry chicken, cold chips (could have done with another 10 seconds in the microwave?) The waitress was apologetic and polite, but the bill still came (after another long wait) and no reduction was offered. (It was a family meal, so didn’t want to cause a fuss) Just go to Nando’s instead – better food, quicker service, cheaper prices.