Revised and updated on Tuesday 2 September 2014.
LET’S kick off with the rules of breakfast.
The ones we are looking at are full English, Irish or Scottish in the city centre, there'll be another for the suburbs, shires and towns coming along soon. This isn't a list of ‘continental’ breakfasts either. Any full English that is served in a buffet style are also excluded.
A 98 per cent pure pork is the same as grabbing all the worst bits of pig that need long, slow cooking and slamming them on the heat for six minutes having wrapped them in a plastic tube. Not good my friends. Not good.
As for the raw materials then sausages need filler, by the way, well seasoned. A 98 per cent pure pork is the same as grabbing all the worst bits of pig that need long, slow cooking and slamming them on the heat for six minutes having wrapped them in a plastic tube. Not good my friends. Not good. Especially when Gordo can identify ear cartilage in one specimen offered.
Black pudding. Hmm. We ain’t bleeding Scottish. We are, in the main, from Lancashire. Even people in Cheshire are just Lancastrians who made a few bob. So we require strong, robust, ballsy black puddings.
Eggs. Fresh, large, free range ideally. Fried, poached or scrambled. But, they must be large, not the tiny variety used all over the kitchen - you Dickensian misers.
Heinz Beans very acceptable. Heinz Beans livened up with a tablespoon of Heinz Tomato Sauce and a porn-star sized splash of Worcester, terrific.
Hash browns, maybe, but oh dear, we all know they are usually out of that plastic packet from the freezer. Just think, chef, of proper bubble and squeak well made.
Mushrooms? Are you one of those chefs who serve them warm and wet? Put your hands up. And now stick them in the industrial juicer please.
Firstly people, it has to have flavour. Blimey, there’s a thing. It needs to be on the well done side, with lots of crispy fat, ideally a mixture of back and streaky. It can be smoked, it can be plain. But it can’t be crap. And, crap my friends is what you will get in a five kilo vac-packed sloppy pale quivering mass coming off the back of a wholesaler's van.
You have some of the finest bacon in the world within twenty miles of you. So sort it.
Tomatoes if you must, but please, let’s have a few different varieties and cook the buggers all the way through.
And now breathe.
And dive in.
Here’s our list of the places that get it right. Please let us know of your favourites in the city centre and across the region so we can take a look.
Albert's Chop House
You can prop your day up perfectly with this magnificent beauty of a belly buster. Excellent bacon, lovely homemade black pudding, cracking juicy mushroom, a slowly roasted herb crusted tomato and toast saturated with melted butter - these all flirt with the eyes, these all seduce the gob. I wrote a poem to the eggs they were so good. There are papers to read, space to stretch out and good coffee. In Albert's breakfast becomes a full-on leisure activity. It's a personal fave. £8.50. (JS)
Albert's Chop House, Albert Square, M2 5PF. 0161 834 1866.
A new addition that brings good runny eggs, fine steaky bacon, proper toast although it gets messy as it’s stuffed under the food. The black pudding is a bit weak, needs to go the Lancashire route, with big textures and big flavour but it was decently crispy. The mushrooms were up to scratch, the fried spuds excellent and the juice is enormous but welcome. The interior of Bill’s is cluttered but colourful and the service is with a smile, good that in the morning when nursing a big one. There’s even a big out-of-the-way terrace round the back for those who like it al fresco and quiet. £11.75 with all the trimmings. £7.95 without black pudding, beans and spuds. (G)
Bill's Restaurant, 8-12 John Dalton St, M2 6JP. 0161 834 2756
Charles Heathcoate's splendid former Parrs Bank (1902), an Edwardian Baroque red sandstone number with such an opulent green marble and rich mahogany belly that you're in real danger of forgetting the whole breakfast episode and instead just stroll around stroking things (not the servers, they don't like that). The traditional breakfast here is 'decent' with a lone sausage and rasher ringed by eggs cooked to order, a duo of sturdy and slightly wet mushrooms, black pudding and a couple of sweet grilled tommies and toast. Decent. But Brown's makes the Best Of purely for the glorious surroundings. A place where Mum can 'put her face on' and go for brunch. Fancy. £9 for traditional breakfast (weekdays is two for one on the full works breakfasts). (DB)
Browns, 1 York Street, M2 2AW. 0161 819 1055.
Cicchetti has given all kudos to the Brits for its ‘Great Cicchetti breakfast’, humbly admitting that when it comes to serving up bountiful brekkies the English are ‘the best in the world’. In turn the English respectively tip their hats to all the wonders Italians do with pasta. The Great Cicchetti breakfast steers firmly away from a continental style with two voluptuous and full flavoured pork and leek sausages, sauteed mushrooms, hash brown, tomato, black pudding and bacon. Baked beans weren't missed. All for £7.95 with tea or coffee. (LB)
House of Fraser, 98-116 Deansgate, M3 2QC. 0161 839 2233.
Chains such as Giraffe aren’t usually good at breakfasts, but this one was. Special mention for the eggs, crisp underneath, sprinkled with chopped fresh chives on top. Excellent, grilled sourdough toast, good butter. An underlying whiff of a Kentucky wood fire adds a super layer of experience not expected. Liked it enormously. Big mugs for the tea please. £8.50, tea £1.95. (G)
Hardman Square, off Deansgate, M3 3AB. 0161 839 0009.
Seems fitting, that for a venue named after the world’s largest primate, this bar-cum-diner-cum-club should serve up a breakfast with the potential to burst one. Scooping ‘Bar of the Year’ at the Manchester Food and Drink Awards 2013, Gorilla has quickly established itself as one of Manchester’s finest destination bars. Still, come dayspring and it may not even cross your mind for brekkie. You do yourself an injustice. Here are two reasons why: the Royal Breakfast is not only fit for a King (a fat one), it’d feed the jesters too. With double everything, the hash browns are arguably the city’s best, the only misfire being undergrilled tomatoes. Secondly, this savvy lot keep breakfast rolling until 4pm so you needn’t get rolling till late. Sleep it off. £11. (DB)
Gorilla, 54-56 Whitworth Street West, M1 5WW. 0161 407 0301.
Great John Street Hotel
Fabulous tea in a fabulous pot. The Irish breakfast is phenomenal, with white pudding as well as black, which felt, even if it wasn’t, homemade. Sausages full of flavour, right amount of filling. Loads of toast, jam and marmalade (particularly good). The setting is class. Mushroom needs a mention, as does the remarkable service. Still, for the price you'd hope so. £18 for a full breakfast, you can also dive into the breakfast bar as well (G)
Great John Street, M3 4FD. 0161 831 3211.
Hansfords, Arndale Markets
This bakery and delicatessen in the Arndale Food Markets makes the cut as it's the only entry on this list where you can get as full as a fat lady's sock for less than a fiver. Ok the breakfast isn't going to win any gold rosettes, it's a canteen breakfast pulled from hot school dinner trays, but show me anywhere else in the city centre where you can score seven breakfast items and a builder's tea for £4.50 and I'll show you the nads of a Nandi Bear. £4.50 for seven breakfast items and a drink. (DB)
Arndale Food Markets, Arndale Shopping Centre, City Centre, M4 3AD.
Home Sweet Home
Northern Quarter’s best café is not solely resigned to forcing so much cake down your gullet (400kg a week) that your nipples pop off only to be replaced by two little cherries. No Sir. Amongst all the other plates, HSH does a cracking propa’ English breakfast with two frisbees of black pudding, perfectly-browned breakfast potatoes, a locally-sourced sausage as thick as Big Foot’s dangler and a rugged mattress of home baked sourdough bread to mop up all the eggy, beany, mushroomy flotsam. Lovely. A great NQ fill for £7.50. (DB)
Home Sweet Home, 49-51 Edge Street, M4 1HW. 0161 244 9424.
Very good, workman-like caff in the Northern Quarter, specialises in men with beards and pale women with dyed red hair and thick black tights. Gordo has been going for five years and is now on nodding terms with Rio Ferdinand as well as Elbow and their 3,568 best mates. Great tea, in mugs. Perfect egg, beans a bit runny, low rent sausage (well tasty though) but bacon needs a step up, sometimes slightly soapy. Magic for hangovers. Everyone loves you on a Sunday morning, but leave Tuesdays alone. £6 for the breakfast with tea and toast. (G)
21 Hilton Street, Stevenson Square, City, M1 1JJ.
Legendary food and booze hotel that always puts on a great breakfast. Gordo has even eaten off the buffet here. This includes the German wet muesli stuff that you can throw prunes on to ensure the end of ten pint Guinness blockages don't ruin the day. Eggs always good, but the black puddings are from across Hadrian's Wall and thus weak little fools. The bacon is finished on the griddle and is riddled with big, chunky flavour. Great coffee as well. Steep at £15.95 for the full breakfast. (G)
1 Gore Street, City, M1 3AQ. 0161 278 1001.
Probably the best MCR breakfast spot you've never been to. It’s such a good ‘un that we had to bend the rules somewhat to squeeze it in (by creating our own English breakfast from the Mighty Moose house favourite by adding chipolata sausages and a tomato). Moose breakfast fare is unashamedly American, with portions so mighty you need karabiners to come out on top. The mound of homemade potato hash with garlic, onion and Dijon mustard with over-easy eggs coupled with delicious refried beans (better than baked, really) on toast is dreamy, and heavier than the celestial sphere of Atlas. Top drawer. £10.50 (due to additional items). (DB)
Moose Coffee, 20 York Street, M2 3BB. 0161 228 7994.
The Superstore’s super breakfast is biblical. Much like Noah’s ark, the animals (and the non-meat) come in two-by-two. Two sausages, two bacon rashers, two eggs, two hash browns, two grilled tomatoes, two slices of toast and two field mushrooms that’d probably achieve a good 60m in the discus throw, such is their span. The only issue is that the teensy cute cup of beans doesn’t possess the necessary spill to deal with the plate’s bravado. Beans, beans, good for the heart, thrice more beans I say, and it’ll be a work of art. Oh and breakfast ends at midday? Come on now. We're all grown-ups here. £9.50 (includes tea, coffee or juice). (DB)
Superstore Grocer & Kitchen, Smithfield Building, Tib Street, M4 1NB. 0161 834 3303.
Our fourth NQ breakfast entry, suggested below by a reader - gold star for you - is only a sausage throw away from the other three in what Quarter-buffs (the lot behind MCR's St Peter's Quarter, St John's Quarter and Civic Quarter) are now calling the 'Breakfast Quarter'. Speaking of sausages, Terrace's duo of bangers are thicker than Santiago's thumb, and a whole lot tastier. The black pudding was a marvel, dark, sturdy and ever so sweet, the eggs were poached to perfection (I prefer an option on the eggs, mind) and the hash brown put up a crunchy resistance on the outside with lovely white fluffy innards. The only disappointment were the rashers, which were tasty but tough and dry. The tommies probably needed longer. Still, a cracking start to the day, or in this case 2.50pm (they serve brekkie till 3pm) with toast and tea for under a tenner. Full works is £9.50, smaller brekkie is £7.50.
Terrace, 43 Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, M4 1NA. 0161 819 2345.
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We repeat, please let us know of your favourites in the city centre and across the region so we can test them out.
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