Like London, Manchester has a diverse and vibrant food scene, offering everything from traditional English pubs to international eateries that serve dishes from around the world. It's a great city to eat your way through, especially if you like hearty food and good bars. Many visitors come to England hoping to try classics like bangers and mash and fish and chips, both of which can be found all over Manchester, but the Northern city also has a few specialties of its own. Some, like black pudding and Vimto, are best for adventurous eaters, while others, like the famed Manchester tart, will satiate any taste.
During a trip to Manchester be sure to try a few of the local offerings as you explore the city. Whether you want to dig into one of Manchester's mind-blowing burgers, or nibble on an Eccles cake, there's something for everyone.
The English love a delicious baked dessert, and a Manchester tart is a good example of one of these sweet treats. The traditional version of the tart has a shortcrust pastry shell filled with raspberry jam and custard, then it's topped with coconut flakes and a Maraschino cherry. It's an old school dessert, so most restaurants don't typically serve Manchester tarts these days, but you can find some around town if you know where to look. A local bakery is the best bet, so head to Robinson's Bakery (which also sells many other decadent items).
Bury Black Pudding
If you've never tried black pudding, well, you might want to learn more about it before you do. The British specialty is a blood sausage made with pork blood, fat and grains, and it's often included as part of a full English breakfast. In northwest England, there's a specific type of black pudding known as Bury black pudding, which can be purchased directly from the Bury Black Pudding Company or found in local restaurants. Most Manchester restaurants and pubs will offer some form of black pudding, and you can even find a vegetarian version at Greens on their weekend dinner menu.
Vimto can be found all over the U.K. (and actually around the world), but it's truly beloved in Manchester, where it was first created. The soda—which is flavored with grapes, raspberries, and blackcurrants—is over 100 years old and has a serious cult following. There are a few versions of Vimto currently on the market, including both fizzy and still, and there are also Vimto-flavored candies and popsicles to be found. You can buy it at any grocery store or corner off-license, but if you really want to experience the drink in all its glory try a Vimto cocktail at a local bar like The Shack Bar & Grill.
The Eccles cake, a small, turnover-like pastry, was named for the town of Eccles, part of Greater Manchester. The centuries-old pastry is staple in the area, often sold at bakeries around Manchester and Lancashire. It involves flaky pastry dough filled with currents, and it's often topped with a sugary crust. While it is a sweet pastry, the Eccles cake is traditionally eaten with Lancashire cheese, offering a sweet and savory experience. Look for the cakes anywhere around Manchester, including in grocery stores and even high-end restaurants. Try smaller versions during afternoon tea at Mamucium in downtown Manchester if you're feeling particularly fancy.
This might seem obvious since most cities have great burgers, but Manchester really knows how to serve up a memorable burger. One of the best in town is the iconic Big Manc Burger at Solita Bar and Grill—a massive construction of bun, meat, and gooey cheese that gives the Big Mac a run for its money. Other good spots include Almost Famous, which has a menu of seriously extravagant burgers, and Hawksmoor, a U.K. steakhouse that piles up a high-end burger made with quality meat.
Rag pudding, invented in Oldham, is considered a specialty all over Greater Manchester. The savory dish involves ground beef and onion gravy wrapped in suet, and cooked in a piece of muslin (a.k.a. a rag) to give it its distinct shape. It's a heavy, meaty dish with a flavor similar to a meat pie, minus the crust. Jacksons Farm Fayre is the most well-known producer of rag pudding around Manchester. You can get the puddings delivered locally or look for one of the nearby butchers or shops that sell their wares. Many pubs also include rag pudding on their menu, including Middleton Archer.
Each Sunday in England families gather together to eat a traditional Sunday lunch. This lunch, called a Sunday roast, involves a piece of roast meat, roasted vegetables, a Yorkshire pudding, and a smothering of gravy. It's delicious, filling, and comforting. While a roast can be found anywhere in the country, there are some particularly good offerings around Manchester, especially in the city's historic pubs. For something more contemporary, try Elnecot, a neighborhood spot with great roasts, or Hawksmoor, which involves slow-roasted rump meat and bone marrow gravy in their Sunday roasts. You'll want to make a reservation when heading out for a roast as most of the good spots get booked quickly.
A Lancashire Hotpot is sort of like a baked meat pie, except it comes in a small casserole dish rather than a crust. It's traditionally made with lamb or mutton, onions, and stock, and then topped with sliced potatoes, which get really crispy in the oven. It originates in Lancashire, rather than Manchester itself, but the dish has become a popular meal all over northwest England. The dish is usually cooked and eaten at home, but you can find a lamb version at Annie's in Manchester.