Hospitality praises Manchester's dining scene after criticism from footballer's wife

07 October 2022 by
Hospitality praises Manchester's dining scene after criticism from footballer's wife

The hospitality industry has defended Manchester's "thriving" dining scene after a footballer's wife described the city's food as "horrible".

Sara Arfaoui, who is married to Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundogan, wrote on Instagram that the city had "horrible food everywhere" without "a real Italian [restaurant] or good sushi or just fresh food".

She added: "Restaurants here focus on making money with drinks and shot[s] like nightclubs, not quality food. Maybe in London but in Manchester, nothing - I'm sorry."

Her comments, which made the front page of the Sun on Wednesday (5 October), triggered an outpouring of criticism on social media from critics and chefs.

Speaking to The Caterer, Simon Wood (pictured), 2015 MasterChef champion and owner of Wood Manchester, said: "To blanket comment that an entire city has got nothing nice to eat is ridiculous. The food scene in Manchester is absolutely thriving. It might not be as busy as we like it, but there's so much.

"You can go out every night of the week and every lunchtime and get something different of a great standard, from a really nice simple burger to a great Michelin star menu."

He added: "[Arfaoui] is more than welcome to come into Wood. We do get frequently some of the City players."

Thom Hetherington, hospitality consultant and chief executive of the Northern Restaurant & Bar exhibition, was vocal in his defence of Manchester's food scene.

He said: "[My initial reaction was] disappointment that people still think such things; frustration at the impact it would have on local hospitality businesses already facing a brutal economic environment; and a sense of curiosity as to how we could possibly stop such a thing happening again.

"I felt Sara's original statement was uninformed and incorrect and that needed to be challenged. That said, I think the clapback has been so loud and emphatic that if anything it has left Manchester's gastronomic reputation better than it was before, so that's a win!"

In response to the Sun's article, the Observer's Jay Rayner tweeted: "This is splash? Blimey. You'll be relieved to know that I'm quoted somewhere in this story branding it ridiculous etc."

Even the Michelin Guide UK on Twitter pointedly shared an article entitled ‘Are There Any Michelin Star Restaurants in Manchester?'. There are 16 Greater Manchester restaurants recommended in the 2023 edition. Chef Simon Martin's Mana holds one star while tapas bar El Gato Negro has a Bib Gourmand.

The Times also published its own response to the row, which said: "Sara Arfaoui … is plain wrong to bemoan the absence of eating out options in the north-west. Not only is her view that local eateries serve only "horrible … frozen food" ungracious, it is also preposterously out of date."

Restaurant recommendations

In response to Arfaoui's comments Hetherington shared some of his Manchester restaurant picks with The Caterer.

He said: "[I recommend] Yuzu in Chinatown, which I reviewed with Jay Rayner some years ago and still return to now. I also have to flag up Umezushi for their excellent sushi. For pasta I can't look past the ethereal carbs knocked out by Franco Concli in the Sparrow, I've not had better anywhere in the UK."

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