Whether you’re in a rush, or you’d just prefer to customise your meal to your own tastes, self-service dining offers both convenience and flexibility.
From street food and vegan casseroles to curries, freshly-grilled meat and fluffy bao buns, here are ten Manchester restaurants and dining spaces where you can choose your own menu.
There are five steps to healthy eating heaven at Kettlebell Kitchen in the Northern Quarter and on First Street.
Step 1. Choose your portion size. Step 2. Choose your protein. Step 3. Choose your base. Step 4. Choose your veg. Step 5. Choose a home made sauce.
Eat clean focuses on high protein and low calories for those sticking to a strict regime whilst cheat clean offers something a little naughtier but still with a fresh healthy spin. And don’t worry if you can’t quite manage to finish it all off. Food is served in handy boxes you just close up and take home.
This & That
A longstanding family-run Indian dining room, the Northern Quarter’s This & That is arguably the home of the rice’n’three concept. All food is homemade and prepared using fresh whole spices, with a daily-changing menu which could include lamb keema, spiced chicken tikka, fish or daal. Join the queue, choose three curries (including vegetarian options) which the owners ladle generously on to your rice, and then top it with raw onion, coriander and green chillies.
A collaboration between ex-Manchester House chef Brice Moor and Viet Shack’s Nelson Lam, Fusion Lab is well worth the lunchtime queue. Watch while your dish is prepared and customised as desired in the busy kitchen, with seating at the Arndale Food Market tables or a take-away option available. The menu takes inspiration from Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and Malaysia and gives it a modern spin, with dishes including squid ink tacos, fluffy bao buns, or sous vide feather blade with pak-choi.
This award-winning canteen, bar and music venue located in the Northern Quarter offers a changing menu of seasonal soups, sandwiches, salads and mains. Dishes such as jerk chicken, soup with Irish ale, potato and cheddar, or smoked mackerel pate and baby spinach sandwiches, are made from scratch each day using ingredients from local suppliers, and are served in a relaxed, self-service canteen style.
At Brazilian restaurant Fazenda, gaúcho chefs roast meat the way it has been done for centuries. Start with the self-service salad bar offering vegetables, breads, cured meats, cheeses and hot dishes including feijoada (bean stew with meat). Back at the table, flip your card to green to signal that you would like freshly-grilled meat carved straight onto your plate. With up to fifteen different cuts – from picanha to pork belly – you can eat as many, and as much, as you like. Turn the card to red when you’ve had your fill.
Breakfast at the Refuge
The Refuge, curated by DJs-turned-restaurateurs, Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford of the award-winning Volta, offers an all-day drinking and dining menu. Fans of hotel buffet breakfasts can enjoy a self-service breakfast served in the restaurant from 6.30am. The expansive buffet includes fresh berries, Bircher muesli, granola, pastries and muffins, plus cooked items including bacon, sausages and eggs.
The subterranean Earth Café and juice bar beneath a Buddhist meditation centre in the Northern Quarter offers a seasonal spread of vegan dishes cooked daily from scratch, complemented by a juice bar, organic teas and coffees, and dairy-free cake. Choose a seasonal special at the counter, where dishes might include black-eyed pea and sweet potato pie, Cajun bean stew with spelt dumplings, or tofu and mushroom rending.
GRUB Food Fair at The Mayfield
Anchored by GRUB, formerly derelict train station the Mayfield Depot is home to a weekly food market hosting street food from popular local names and traders from across the UK alongside a bar offering local Manchester ales. Every Friday and Saturday sees a different mix of traders, while plant-powered Sundays bring some of the finest 100% vegan street food traders alongside a vegan-friendly bar.
The 8th Day
The 8th Day Co-operative health food store and café on Oxford Road offers the largest selection of veggie, vegan, organic and Fairtrade food in the north west. The café’s dishes are freshly prepared from scratch in-house, including stews (from traditional casseroles to herby Mediterranean delights) and daily-changing vegetarian and vegan mains. Help yourself to the salad bar offering beans, potatoes, pasta, grains, mushrooms and raw vegetables with home-made dressings.
The team behind Market House Altrincham (which feeds nearly 10,000 people per week) is opening a new larger site in the Grade II listed Mackie Mayor building. Traders at the two-storey market space, which holds 400 people, include Little Window (the offspring of Honest Crust Pizza), Fin Fish Bar (run by Altrincham Market’s Tender Cow), Wolfhouse Kitchen, and French rotisserie chicken specialists Nationale 7. Mackie Mayor opens later this month, and diners will be able to pick dishes from their traders of choice to eat at shared tables.