Manchester’s best pre-theatre dining options

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An evening theatre booking often means an early dinner before the performance, and luckily that can mean taking advantage of some great early-bird offers.

These ten Manchester restaurants offer good value early evening dining options, from set meals to sharing plates.

Asha’s

Named after co-owner and Bollywood star Asha Bhosle, Asha’s offers high-end contemporary Indian dishes in an opulent setting in a Grade II listed building.  An excellent value all-day menu, served until 7pm, offers two courses for £16.95 or three for £20.95, including a glass of wine or beer.

Try a speciality meat or vegetarian kebab platter, followed by mains such as lamb rogan josh, chicken jalfrezi or organic Scottish salmon tikka salad, all served with naan bread, pomegranate raita and basmati rice or salad. Desserts include New York style cheesecake, crème brulee, and chilli chocolate tart.

Gaucho

A majestic, multi-level restaurant and cocktail bar set inside an old Methodist church, Gaucho offers a pre-theatre menu, including their famous Argentine beef, at £25 for two courses, or three for £30.

Starters include marinated tenderloin carpaccio with provolone and baby kale, chicory salad or humita empanada, while mains include churrasco cuadril steak marinated for 48 hours in garlic, parsley and olive oil and served with chips, or grilled skewered Argentine prawns. Desserts include rich dulce de leche cheesecake with toasted marshmallows.

Wood Manchester

Simon Wood

A new fine dining restaurant from former MasterChef winner Simon Wood in the flourishing First Street development, Wood Manchester offers a theatre menu with two courses for £20 (or three for £25), served between 5pm – 6.30pm Tuesday – Thursday, and until 6pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Starters might include squash veloute with truffle, gnocchi and honey or mackerel with goat’s curd, beetroot and watercress, while mains include a hearty pork chop seared with flavour from the Josper grill, served with buttery champ mash and sweet cider jus. Desserts include a glossy, rich dark chocolate tart with sour cherries.

Indian Tiffin Room

Huge, modern and airy, Indian Tiffin Room on First Street, opposite arts centre HOME, serves authentic street food inspired by the bustling streets of India. A pre-theatre menu, available from 5pm to 7pm Monday to Thursday, offers two courses for £15 or three for £18.

Starters include fried homemade cottage cheese served with mint chutney or sheek kebab cooked in the charcoal tandoor, while mains include Kerala fish curry, butter chicken, or black lentils and kidney beans cooked with spices and cream. Desserts include fragrant, syrupy deep-fried milk dumplings flavoured with rose.

The Rivals

Named after the first production at the theatre back in 1976, The Rivals at the Royal Exchange Theatre serves dinner from 5pm – 10pm, ideal for either pre- or post-theatre dining, while a more casual bar menu offers focaccia bread pizzas (£6), snacks and pre-ordered interval drinks.

Starters (around £5 – £7) include bourbon glazed pork belly with parsnip puree and crispy kale, followed by mains (£14 – £18) such as braised featherblade of beef with potato dauphinoise and seasonal greens. Leave room for puddings such as blackberry posset with vanilla shortbread.

Lunya

Situated over two floors in the beautiful Barton Arcade, Lunya’s bar offers an array of Spanish gins while the upstairs restaurant focuses on Catalan style tapas dishes. For an early evening bite, their lunch menu is served until 6pm (except Saturdays), with two tapas for £8.95 or three for £12.95.

Cold dishes include new potatoes with chilli, garlic and olive oil dressing, tortilla or a platter of cured meats, while hot dishes include Catalan hotpot with morcilla sausage and chorizo, calamari in beer batter, or woodland mushrooms with asparagus and Serrano ham. Add dishes such as pan-fried duck breast with vanilla-infused pear and raspberry sauce for a small supplement.

Mowgli

A bustling space in the Corn Exchange, Mowgli boasts lots of options for gluten-free and vegan diners and a short but fun cocktail list, making it a good option for groups looking for fast, fresh Indian street food – ideal for pre-theatre sharing.

Crowd-pleasing dishes (around the £4 – £8 mark) such as Himalayan cheese toast spiked with hot green chilli, chicken wings sticky with spiced molasses and dark rum, grilled lamb chops, and velvety smooth paneer cheese with spiced tomatoes and spinach, make an inexpensive and satisfying feast.

Hawksmoor

Located in a late Victorian courthouse on Deansgate, classy steak restaurant Hawksmoor offers an express menu served from 5pm – 6pm and from 10pm onwards, perfect for pre- or post-theatre reservations, offering two courses for £25 or three for £28.

Starters include potted mackerel, bone marrow with onions or chargrilled heritage courgettes, followed by a rump steak, house-cured salmon or beetroot salad with a side of fries, greens or salad. Desserts include sticky toffee pudding, plum pie, or strawberry and white chocolate cheesecake with toasted cobnuts.

The French

Following Simon Rogan’s departure, head chef Adam Reid has reinvented The French to impart his own signature style and contemporary direction, without any of the stuffiness often associated with fine dining. A lighter four-course menu, available Tuesday – Thursday from 5.30pm – 6.45pm, is £45.

Seasonal small plates such as prawn with fermented tomato or courgette fried in nut oil with shrimp sauce are followed by a choice which might include sea trout with pickled elderflower hollandaise or Cumbrian lamb with peas, lettuce and ransom juices. Finish with a dessert of strawberries with white chocolate.

The Refuge

Formerly The Refuge Assurance Company, and next to the Palace Theatre, The Principal Manchester is home to an all-day drinking and dining destination from DJs-turned-restaurateurs Justin Crawford and Luke Cowdrey. The Refuge Introduction menu, served until 6.45pm and designed for two to share, offers a selection of six Voltini small plates and a 375ml carafe of wine for £45.

The chef’s choice of globe-trotting small plates might include fire-roasted Padrón peppers with Maldon salt, braised short rib arancini with tomato ragù, crispy lamb shawarma slow-cooked with fiery harissa, yoghurt and coriander, or chargrilled cauliflower with caraway and pomegranate.

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