Industrial Bite: Eating Out in Ancoats, Manchester, with the Duo Behind Erst

Industrial Bite: Eating Out in Ancoats, Manchester, with the Duo Behind Erst

The duo behind Manchester’s ultra-cool small plates spot, Erst, take us on a tour of the buzzy Ancoats neighbourhood, with stops at natural wine bars, supper clubs and late-night joints

Tuck into more food-focused stories in Volume 38:

in Manchester serves the best scran? Ancoats, of course –
the industrial suburb that fringes the city’s edgy Northern
Quarter. Known for its red-brick buildings, sprawling warehouses,
canalside streets and a dining scene that has everyone, including
Michelin inspectors, talking, this up-and-coming district is the
city’s new dining room. If you’re heading out for lunch, breakfast
or just a cup of coffee and a natter, it’s odds-on that you’ll be
making tracks to Ancoats.

No wonder, then, that city natives Patrick Withington and Will
Sutton picked the neighbourhood as the setting for their natural
wine bar and small plates restaurant, Erst. Keen to
open in the kind of place they’d want to hang out in on a day off,
they had a premonition that good things were on the cards for
Ancoats’ cobbled streets. They were right. Since opening in 2019,
Erst – a slick but unshowy dining destination that serves a menu of
punchy small plates – has become a pillar of the area’s fresh-faced
food scene. Pitch up on a Saturday evening and you’ll be tucking
into escabeche-bathed mussels served under a blanket of lardo, cold
roast beef with tonnato, and baby artichokes scattered between
plump butter beans, doused in sunshine-yellow olive oil. Once,
Ancoats was famed for its bell-bottom-trousered,
brass-tipped-clog-wearing scuttler gangs – criminal enterprises
that stalked the canalside streets in the 19th century. Your fellow
dinners are likely to be just as nattily dressed these days, but
they’re gangs of creatives rather than felons, French bulldogs at
their feet.

Patrick Withington, left, and dishes from the Erst

If you’re heading to Manchester, swing by Erst for a taste of
the city’s new food scene – it would be criminal not to. And when
you’ve finished dining, Patrick and Will have plenty of
recommendations for where to go in this happening Manchester
neighbourhood, from a favourite boutique hotel to the late-night joints worth
staying up for.

A food-focused guide to Ancoats, Manchester

What is the Ancoats vibe?

Ancoats has gone through a massive regeneration over the past 10
years. It’s now full of young creatives living in former cotton
mills and the surrounding flats. It’s important to remember its
history, though; there are still a lot of families that have lived
here for generations, which is great. Lots of young people have
moved into the area, too, and they really embrace new bars, pubs
and restaurants. Compared to when we first opened, there’s now a
real buzz.

Sommelier Will Sutton pours wine into a glass
The interiors of Erst, Manchester

Will Sutton, left, and the airy dining room at Erst

We’ve heard it’s the centre of Manchester’s food scene…

It’s probably the newest place on the scene. You’ve got Mana, which was
awarded a Michelin star in October 2019. Then, there are Manchester
institutions like Rudy’s Pizza and Sugo Pasta
. The guys at Flawd, on the marina, are offering up some really
interesting small plates and excellent wine, too. Each venue brings
something different but demonstrates the same passion for creating
a unique experience.

Where should we stay in the area?

We often invite chefs to do takeovers in the restaurant and
always book them into Cow Hollow – a small, boutique hotel on the
edge of Ancoats.

A bed in a hotel room
A sunlit hallway

Moody interiors at Cow Hollow boutique hotel

Where’s best for breakfast?

For the best baked goods and sandwiches, head to Pollen, on the
marina, or Trove, near Erst. If you need to sort out a fuzzy
head, Glamorous, a Chinese restaurant above speciality
supermarket Wing Yip, opens at 11.30am daily and does amazing dim

We’re having dinner at Erst, of course. What do you

Start with a flatbread, some Cantabrian anchovies and Northern
Cure charcuterie, with an Ayinger Helles lager. Then, move to a
bottle of Vinyes Tortuga Doolittle, a light but intense barbera
from Catalunya, as you work your way through the menu. We’ll always
have cured or pickled fish on there as well as larger fish cooked
on the grill or a slow-braised meat dish.

Patrick, you started your cooking career at supper clubs. Are
there any new ones on the scene we should know about?

Our sous chef, Anna, and former sommelier, Kim, have started a
supper club called Suppher, which raises money for women’s charities.
They work with a different local chef for each event, so the
offering is always changing.

Give us a run-down on the local bar scene.

Jane Eyre Neighbourhood Bar
is great for a cocktail, or you
could head to Cask for a beer in the sunshine. Kerb has some
brilliant natural wines to take away or enjoy in situ.

A round dining table in an airy dining room
A dish from Mana, Manchester

The dining space at Mana, left, and a dish from the
restaurant’s menu

What about a night out?

Ancoats is a residential area, so late-night licences are thin
on the ground. You’ll need to venture out of Ancoats. Soup, in the
Northern Quarter, is one of Manchester’s best independent clubs,
and it’s just a five-minute walk from Erst.

Any recommendations for late-night food stops?

There’s a place on the other side of Great Ancoats Street, at
the top of the Northern Quarter, called Cocktail, Beer, Ramen &
, which does exactly what it says on the tin – until

How should we spend a weekend in the neighbourhood?

Check out the artists, producers and shops packed into converted
shipping containers at Meanwhile Creative’s Pollard
, then book tickets to see a play at Hope Mill
. Finish off the night at Peste bar, opened by the people behind The White
Hotel, an experimental club on the outskirts of Salford.

We’re heading for a pint – where are we meeting you?

The Marble Arch. There are lots of great beers brewed
by Marble itself and poured in a traditional pub space. The food is
superb, too.

A street in Ancoats at dusk
The shop floor at Flawd

Ancoats at dusk, left, and Flawd natural wine bar

Any independent shops we should check out?

By day, Peste is a great stop for records, books and art.
There’s also a market at Cutting Room Square that happens once a
month. Loads of independent makers take part.

What’s a suitable album to load up for a walk around

Everyone knows all the great Manchester bands going back decades
– this city has an unequalled musical heritage – but there are also
many new acts making great music right now. We’d put Honest Labour by Space Afrika on, which represents the
new music scene well. They launched their album at Erst earlier
this year.

Discover more stories from the Flavour issue here.
Main photo credit: Eugene Regis /

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City Guide: Manchester