Launched in 2007 and organised by industry leading title Restaurant magazine, The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards celebrate the brilliance and vibrancy of the UK’s eating out scene, and reward the very best chefs, front of house staff and restaurants the country has to offer.
The UK top 100 list reveals the very best places to dine across the UK, as voted for by an elite academy of chefs, restaurateurs and food writers nationwide.
It’s basically the list of places that should be on your restaurant hit list. And this year, two Manchester restaurants made it into the top 50.
Which Manchester restaurants made the list?
Mana, which came in at number 73 on the list last time, has now risen to number 11.
Chef Simon Martin’s exceptional restaurant won Manchester its first Michelin star in 42 years in 2019 – and with good reason.
“Like its chef-patron, Mana is an understated and confident restaurant with a muted, calm interior of different shades of creams and browns that instantly puts you at ease,” says the National Restaurant Awards review.
“Here is a restaurant happy to stand apart from many of Manchester’s more fancy dining rooms and let the food on the carefully chosen earthenware crockery do the wowing.
“A 16-course meal might start with a warm tea of saccharified biodynamic vegetables and feature just-shucked scallops, raw oysters, garlic cooked for two months and carefully fermented vegetables that bring an intensity of flavour, before ending with a still-hot doughnut accompanied by an Oban whisky custard.
“It’s stirring stuff.”
A new Manchester entry
Mana was the only Manchester restaurant to make the top 100 list last time round – but this year there’s a new entry.
Erst, also in Ancoats, makes number 47 on the list.
From the people behind Trove bakery, whose original site is in Levenshulme as well as a more recent opening on Murray Street, Erst’s focus is on simple seasonal food, natural wines and craft beers.
“Erst takes its food as seriously as it does its wine, with many items cooked over a grill,” says the National Restaurant Awards review.
“Plates are designed to be shared and range from small wine-friendly bites such as various grilled flatbreads with whipped lardo; mackerel tartare with cucumber and green chilli; and ratte potatoes with crème fresh and chives to heartier and more involved plates including grilled pork neck with clams and brined kohlrabi tops; and skate with bone marrow, dill and caper sauce.
“The venue has a smart industrial feel to it with a counter area that seats a handful of diners with many of the other seating allowing views of the small open kitchen.
“In a city known for its nightlife and trendy bars, Erst somehow feels a little bit more grown up – but certainly not in a boring way.”
Which North West restaurants made the top 100?
Beyond Manchester, the North West was also well represented in the top 100 list this year.
Moor Hall in Aughton, Lancashire, which was awarded two Michelin stars within its first two years of opening, took the number one spot on the list for the second time.
Set in a refurbished Grade II-listed 16th-century farmhouse with rooms, Moor Hall is overseen by chef-patron Mark Birchall, who made his name as executive chef at the two Michelin starred L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria.
“It’s impressive stuff from a chef at the top of his game, one that marks Moor Hall out as a true Lancashire gem,” says the National Restaurant Awards review.
Meanwhile, L’Enclume, Simon Rogan’s Cartmel flagship and “a standard bearer for modern, naturalistic cooking”, came in at number five.
The Parkers Arms in Newton-in-Bowland, Lancashire, was awarded position 23.
“With its isolated location commanding stunning views, dining at The Parkers Arms is an experience worth savouring,” says the National Restaurant Awards review.
Ben Wilkinson’s Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms The Cottage in the Wood in the Lake District, which “serves up quietly confident cooking in a captivating setting”, made position 24.
Michelin stars and country pubs
Country house hotel and restaurant, Northcote, came in at number 34.
“The Michelin-starred dining room is elegant, stylish and sophisticated, with views of the garden and distant hills of the beautiful Ribble Valley,” said the awards review about executive chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen’s restaurant, whose menu draws inspiration from the landscape.
“Unpretentious country boozer” The White Swan at Fence, also in Lancashire, came 36th.
The Freemasons at Wiswell, in Clitheroe, made number 38 for its “hearty, elevated pub grub that sees numerous techniques, cuts and preparations married on the plate,” while back in Windermere, Hrishi, where Roux Scholar Hrishikesh Desai cooks “refined French food with an Indian accent”, made position 39.
Fraiche, in Merseyside, came 48th for “unusual flavour combinations, textures and temperatures alongside striking presentation.”
Over in Chester, Gary Usher’s neighbourhood bistro Sticky Walnut made number 62 on the list and “has become a benchmark for neighbourhood restaurants all over the country”.
In Ambleside, James Cross’ Lake Road Kitchen took position 78, described as “one of the best and boldest restaurants in the UK.”
You can see the full top Uk 100 list here.