Manchester was the weekend destination for my friend, Louise’s birthday, and located 90 minutes away on a direct train from Milton Keynes it was surprisingly quick and easy to reach. Isn’t the train a dream when it all runs smoothly?!
The Hotel – Mercure Piccadilly
We stayed at the Mercure Piccadilly as it was ideally located within walking distance to the train station, shopping centre and Northern Quarter and we didn’t need any transport around Manchester at all over the weekend. It suited our needs, but as it was near the bus station too which seemed to be an area where groups congregated at night I would look at somewhere located closer to the shopping centre next time.
With just two nights away we had lots of food to cram in over the weekend and we gave it a good go, but we didn’t end up eating lunch on Sunday before heading home as no one felt the need to! This guide therefore is only a short guide to eating gluten free in the city but hopefully will give you a good starting point for your trip!
Home Sweet Home was one of the most recommended places on Instagram to eat whilst in Manchester so I was glad we got the chance to visit this diner. It was busy with friendly staff and a cool vibe, with an impressive cake counter on display. As always I asked for a gluten free menu to be given an allergy folder that listed the gluten free options and was asked whether I was Coeliac. It’s always so promising when staff ask that and actually know that there is a difference and the member of staff went on to explain that they have allergy pans and separate preparation areas.
Having been told all this without any prompting I was feeling confident and went on to order the Cali eggs as something a little different to the norm. This came with toast so I asked if it was toasted in a different toaster to normal bread, probably more out of habit than feeling concerned having been told all the information before ordering about allergy pans, so I was really shocked to then be told that they only had one toaster and used this all the time whilst serving coeliacs without complaint. Say what??! I asked at this point for my bread to be grilled instead and was told that they don’t advise that as having done that before the bread just falls apart and they get complaints. I then decided just to change my order to not include toast when the member of staff came back to tell me that at this restaurant they do have two toasters (the other branch doesn’t and she’s just transferred) so I could order the Cali eggs if I wished. I went ahead and did this but the information I was told was really concerning especially if that does happen in the other branch. If you come to Manchester and are recommended Home Sweet Home as I’m sure you will be, please be careful!
However, I wasn’t sick eating here and I loved my Cali eggs – basically the same as Louise’s avo toast that is topped with a poached egg, but with the addition of smoked salmon, hollandaise and chipotle mayo which was a twist to the dish that I loved! They did lose marks though for the poached egg not being runny, which was the same for all four of us!
After the Cali eggs, I couldn’t not order a slice of the gluten free mallow cake. The intention was to share this beautiful cake but in reality it was too sickly sweet for anyone’s else’s palate to cope with and even my very sweet tooth struggled. I did like the cake but the slice was far too big to manage on my own after everyone else had a bite declaring it too sweet. I personally liked the texture and the taste of the cake, but as the only gluten free flavour I don’t recommend ordering it unless there’s a couple of you with a sweet tooth to share the indulgence.
With Louise being vegetarian I was researching for restaurants that catered well for her as well as those with Coeliac. This led us to Nibble for brunch, a menu with lots of vegetarian and vegan options.
When I asked about gluten free options for brunch I was told that they had veggie gluten free sausages and if I told them what I wanted they could work something out for me. I just chose the veggie breakfast which had sausages (that tasted kind of like stuffing), halloumi, smokey beans, tomato and garlic mushrooms with a slice of gluten free toast. They said that the toast and sausages were grilled separately too.
Afterwards Louise and I shared the raspberry and amaretto brownie, a flavour combination that was divine! I definitely want to recreate this. I was hesitant at first as the brownies were stored on a shelf with normal options but they were on wide individual serving boards that were big enough to catch the crumbs and I picked the option with gluten free either side too. I also watched them serve it up with clean cutlery so I went ahead and ate it but you’ll need to decide the risk for yourself if you do visit here.
I had read about Bagel Nash having gluten free bagels, but they didn’t have any when I went.
As Bagel Nash didn’t have any bagels we headed out to find some other lunch. This turned out to be great for us in the end as it meant we stumbled upon Wahaca, a chain I love from London. This meant we all happily munched down tacos and nachos for lunch instead, aided by some cheeky margaritas.
If you are new to Wahaca they have a full gluten free menu that clearly labels items safe for those with Coeliac and those that are gluten free but at risk from cross contamination due to shared fryers. Whilst it always frustrates me that there is a lot of gluten free options that become unsuitable due to this, I am grateful for a menu that shows understanding. Their new nachos are a very welcome and tasty menu addition and I will certainly be ordering them every time I come! I also love their tacos, except their steak and cheese tacos this time. They used to come like the other tacos, served as a three but this time they were served as two bigger tacos and we found them very dry and tasteless. This was so disappointing as they had been one of my favourite menu items, but I’ll be sticking to the chicken or pork tacos from now on which are far better.
As this was a lunch time trip I just shared the tacos and nachos, but if you’re going for a larger meal I’ve also enjoyed their enchiladas in the past.
Pieminster pies are loved in my house with gluten free options of chicken, beef or a goats cheese and sweet potato veggie option being sold in supermarkets along with the glutenful versions. However, they are even better when eaten in their restaurants as they get the pastry so crispy.
They didn’t have the chicken pie on this occasion so I opted for the beef having tried the veggie option on my last visit to their restaurant when I was in their home town of Bristol. The meal came with pie, mash and gravy and was identical (apart from a slight difference in pastry) to the normal version. It was hearty, comforting meal on a cold wintery night in Manchester and everyone loved it!
We hadn’t booked a table and waited about ten minutes for a table on Saturday night. This gave us a chance to peruse the menu which included gluten free peroni and pork scratchings. Sadly it didn’t look like any of the desserts were safe, but I didn’t feel like I needed one after all the pie and mash!
For anyone that has been gluten free for a while, chances are you’ve heard of Sweet Mandarin in Manchester as it isn’t often you come across a Chinese restaurant that can cater so well for those with Coeliac. They also make the Sweet Mandarin sauces that are available in supermarkets and have won best local Chinese restaurant on Gordon Ramsey’s F word so if you haven’t heard of them, look them up and make sure you visit. I was so excited to have a chance to visit this restaurant, and with a large gluten free menu it was difficult to know what to choose!
I love starters at Chinese restaurants and could eat loads of starters and skip the mains! In the end we ordered gluten free hot and sticky ribs, salt and pepper squid and vegetarian spring rolls. Louise who is veggie but not gluten free added normal salt and pepper tofu and the boys who aren’t gluten free or veggie added some gluteney hot chicken wings. We absolutely loved it all, eaten alongside some prawn crackers with the Sweet Mandarin sweet chilli sauce.
For mains Louise ordered a veggie dish that she loved that was aubergine based. The other three of us ordered everything gluten free which I was grateful for as I could try a bit of everything – we ordered sweet and sour chicken, garlic and ginger prawns, volcano beef (which was far too hot for me to eat!!) and some duck fried rice.
I loved and savoured every delicious mouthful of food at this restaurant and would tell you not to miss it on a trip to Manchester!
Around the corner to our hotel was the cocktail bar The Alchemist. As some of the cocktails were quite extravagant I asked which ones were gluten free to be given an allergen guide which showed only five cocktails contained gluten.
I selected the battenburg cocktail that come topped with foam that tasted just like battenburg cake! The cocktail was pretty strong though and quite large, I enjoyed it for a while but the flavour got too much and I didn’t drink the whole glass. I would recommend The Alchemist overall though for a fun cocktail stop!
*Pho – Vietnamese restaurant – having tried Pho in London and Birmingham I love this restaurant which caters so well for gluten free, dairy free, vegan and vegetarian diets.
*Dough – a highly recommended pizza restaurant for gluten free that I was gutted to miss out on this weekend but we just couldn’t eat any more!
*Ply – pizza restaurant – recommended on instagram.
*The Pasta Factory – recommended on Instagram.
*The Mowgli – Indian Street Food – I am yet to try this chain that seems to be a hit on social media for gluten free.
*If you are visiting from outside the UK or not used to eating at some of the chains, most of which I think I saw in Manchester then read my blog post of chains accredited by Coeliac UK for more information on where to try!
Sightseeing in Manchester
We spent the weekend eating, drinking, shopping and wandering the Christmas Markets. We visited the ice cavern which was £10 each and saw a series of ice sculptures. Afterwards, we warmed up with some Gluhwien with added amaretto at the Christmas Markets and it went down a treat!
We ate macarons from a gluten free stall at the market, but I didn’t get the name of it. Definitely one to keep an eye out for! We randomly selected all green ones – pistachio, green tea and white chocolate.
We stopped for a coffee (I had peppermint tea). Everyone got a sweet treat and I was happy to be able to get a gluten free and dairy free chocolate cookie, that was until I bit into it and I didn’t enjoy it all. A bit tasteless with a kind of stale texture I wouldn’t recommend these if you spot them!
The most fun we had over the weekend was completing The Vacancy Escape Room at Breakout Manchester. With a hour to breakout I am very happy to report that we managed to do so, and had a lot of fun trying! We all agreed that we would do another escape room in the future when away on city breaks.
So there you have it, my short weekend guide to Manchester. I’m sure all the local instagrammers can give you lots more recommendations with a special thank you to #glutenfreemcr who suggested a lot of the places I tried – we certainly ate well over the two days and look forward to a return trip to try even more!
What are your favourite restaurants in Manchester? Let me know in the comments and hopefully I will get to try them on a future trip.