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Manchester Restaurant Makes Sunday Times List

Jonathan Schofield takes a look as the North West does 'ok'

Written by . Published on November 3rd 2013.

Manchester Restaurant Makes Sunday Times List

THE North West is home to seven of Britain’s best restaurants according to The Sunday Times Food List. 

Fraiche on Merseyside is particularly interesting because it's run by Marc Wilkinson, a one man team. 

The list of the top 100 restaurants is compiled by The Sunday Times in association with Harden’s. Now in its fourth year, it is based on 80,000 reviews from 9,000 consumers, 2,000 of which are Sunday Times readers. 

Manchester has a restaurant in The Sunday Times Food List for the first time since its inception in 2010 with The French, at The Midland Hotel featuring in the top 100. It is the third of head chef Simon Rogan’s restaurants to have featured on The Food List, following London-based Roganic in 2012, and L’Enclume in Cumbria, a mainstay since 2010. 

Another new entry is The Freemason’s Arms, in Wiswell, Lancashire – one of the cheapest eateries on the list, at £54 per head. There are also two re-entries to the top 100: Holbeck Ghyll in Windermere, Cumbria, and Fraiche in Oxton, which ranked 46 in 2011, and has broken into the top ten on its return this year – by far the highest ranked of all the re-entries. 

Completing the list of the North West’s best restaurants are Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor, and Northcote in Langho, Lancashire.

Fraiche on Merseyside is particularly interesting because it's run by Marc Wilkinson, a one man team, with just three front of house staff. For him to be ahead of L'Enclume in the list is a massive achievement. 

North West restaurants in The Sunday Times Food List

The prices quoted below are for the typical cost, per person, of a three-course dinner with half a bottle of house wine, coffee, service and VAT. The number in brackets above is the position in the overall list.




Price per head

The Freemason's Arms (83)

Wiswell, Lancashire

Modern British


Northcote (44)

Langho, Lancashire

Modern British


The French (68)


Modern British


Fraiche (6)

Oxton, Cheshire

Modern British


Holbeck Ghyll (66)

Windermere, Cumbria



Simon Radley at The Chester Grosvenor (27)


Modern British


L'Enclume (9)

Cartmel, Cumbria

Modern British



Numbers, Problems and Realities

A quick examination of this Sunday Times top 100 is instructive.

Or depressing.

Or representative of The Sunday Times core readership and even that of the remarkable Harden guides

According to the list London has 51 of the top 100 restaurants. Can a city region with around 13% of the UK population really have 51% of the best restaurants?


Or maybe there's something else going on.

Anybody who listens to Radio 5 Live or even Radio 4 can't help but notice the exponentially larger number of stories emanating from the North West now the BBC has so many people in MediaCity.

It's what people call in footy terms, 'home advantage'. Or in the BBC's case journalistic inertia, if a story can be represented by something you drive past every morning then why bother looking elsewhere? 

Both The Sunday Times and Harden's are based in London - I'm not saying that in a Northern chip on the shoulder way, just simply as fact.

It would be interesting for the organisers of this list to give a regional breakdown of their 9,000 reviewers. If the majority are based in London then we may have another reason for the disparity. 

For further comparison let's have a look at the distribution of the other restaurants on the list.

The largest number come from the South East with ten restaurants. Then it's the Midlands and the South West with eight each. Then the North West with seven. Then the whole of Scotland with six. The East of England has three mentions. Yorkshire and the North East is only represented by one restaurant out of 100 nationally. Really. One.

And finally there's poor old Wales represented in The Sunday Times List with nada, zilch, the big zero. Northern Ireland for reasons unknown is not included in this UK compilation.

Of course this breakdown might just, as stated, reflect the stark reality of the UK, how that famous money bias unbalances the country. That isn't going to change anytime soon, so the rest of us have to get on with it and work harder.

But with reference to home advantage, it is curious the further we get from the capital (with the exception of the East of England) the fewer restaurants are represented in the regions - as though the energy slackens the greater the distance from the gastronomic magnet of the south east.

Confidential isn't sure this is really the case.

There is one light at the end of the tunnel for the regions.

Out of the top ten restaurants on The Sunday Times list there is only one capital city venue.

Top spot is claimed by Gidleigh Park in Devon (Michael Caines' place with that happy connection to Manchester at Abode Hotel) and there are two North West representatives with L'Enclume and Fraiche. Over in Yorkshire, not too far away, is The Yorke Arms at Ramsgill in the Dales.

So the good news is we still have plenty to chew over up here. 

Jonathan Schofield

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousNovember 3rd 2013.

You either bang on about London bias and make you, this website and our city look utterly small time. Or you take off the manc tinted spectacles and start taking the lack of recognised TOP/world class restaurants in our city seriously.

Mark R Garner PublisherNovember 4th 2013.

The Sunday Times did a very lazy thing with Harderns; they wanted to do a top 100, but didn't have the man power, or the expertise to do it. Rather than start from cold, they have picked up Harderns as a partner. Bit like a tiger putting a nice fluffy lamb on its knee. The Hardern boys are a delight, I've had lunch with them a couple of times; their network of trusted people is remarkable and quite intuitive. But they are mainly middle class and very southern. They are also melting away out of the capital as they downsize taking the dosh from the Spanish, French Italian and Greek! peeps running away from the looming financial disasters they are in, or about to be. This publisher will be solving this problem in the North West soon, by publishing our very own NWTOP100 shortly, if the techies can pull their fingers out of their arses that is. You guys listening? Your publisher loves ya!

Richard HardenNovember 4th 2013.

Jonathan - congrats on taking what was pretty unambiguously a good news story for the NW, and making it a bit ambiguous! Of course the weight of top(pish) restaurants follows the world-city bias towards London, and its many very affluent residents, tourists and business visitors. But the NW did really well this year, and Fraiche's success was spectacular. (How about a bit of credit for putting the spotlight on the little guy?) Mark - there was nothing 'lazy' about what the ST did. They teamed up with the UK's leading – well, only – specialist ini crowd-driven independent restaurant reviews. (Editorialised reviews, not stream-of-consciousness à la Tripadvisor.) Look forward, of course, to seeing the NWTOP100. Imitation, as they say…

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldNovember 4th 2013.

Richard, I just went through the numbers. I liked the list and I have picked out Fraiche because it is remarkable what Mr Wilkinson has achieved. Further my piece was not a whinge, more of a musing on a theme. I don't know the geographical spread of the 9,000 reviewers but it got me thinking about how the imbalance may have been accentuated. By the way love the guides and keep up the indie good work. We know how difficult it can be.

Richard HardenNovember 4th 2013.

Thanks for that clarification, Jonathan. Manchester (which I have known for, ahem, half a century, and visit at least annually) has frankly been a laggard until recently, and that's got nothing to do with London bias, blah blah. There are hints, though, that there may - still early to be definite - have been quite a sea change.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 4th 2013.

how does one become a Harden trusted person?

AnonymousNovember 4th 2013.

Love your name R x

Richard HardenNovember 4th 2013.

Would-be trusted people should apply at www.hardens.com…

bellel7November 4th 2013.

Isn't it a shame that whilst Im a foodie-at-heart, I'm most likely never going to be wealthy and perhaps uneconomical(?) enough to blow £118 for a full meal at the NW highest entry L'Enclume (9) in Cartmel anyway so can't weigh in on this story...#AusterityMeasuresRuinMyDayOnceMore... Aah well irrespective of that: 'Numbers, Problems and Realities' by Mr.Schofield was SPOT ON. Loved it. L x

1 Response: Reply To This...
crisbyNovember 4th 2013.

Wasn't L'Enclume recently rated number 1 by, dare I say it, a more highly regarded guide? Next time you're in Cartmel Bellel, you might try Rogan's other restaurant there (where you can eat much more cheaply and choose whatever you like rather than be stuck with the 'tasting menu').

crisbyNovember 4th 2013.

It's a London paper, relying on input from its predominantly SE-based readership, co-operating with a not very highly regarded guide. We can get over that can't we? I seem to manage to eat well in Manchester, whatever the guides might say.

Manci DoodleDecember 16th 2013.

Yes London does have a large proportion of the best restaurants in this country. Manchester does not have as many as you would expect in a large city with plenty of affluent diners. In fact Mcr's humiliation is best illustrated not by comparison with London but Lake District and Merseyside which rank higher in Michelin terms. Even Ludlow in Shropshire ranks higher. Michelin is not perfect or by any means the whole story but it comes from outside of this country and cannot be accused of bias to a London base. I can tell you that of this Mancunian's top 10 favourite eating holes about half are in London and only one is in Mcr (it is Aumbry). The French is not a proper restaurant in my view - it is part of a hotel which is different and they only do very fancy tasting menus. If only Mcr had a restaurant like Ledbury, or Chez Bruce or Cafe Anglaise.....

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