Let’s explore one of Manchester’s newest and hippest Japanese dining spots together, House of Fu! First started as a pop-up in Leeds, the concept was created by Ben Iley. Ben is a chef with a passion for ramen so strong he lived in Japan for over nine years and was married in the country, too! The pop-up, which had, by this time, won several awards, evolved into a fully-fledged restaurant in 2021. Two years later, House of Fu expanded to the North West, opening its Manchester location in October 2023.
The restaurant brands itself as a “day to night” location, boasting not only the upstairs restaurant, which serves Japanese classics like ramen and rice bowls, including katsu (no vegan tofu katsu, though!) but also the “Hello Music Lounge,” a cocktail bar hosting DJs. It’s open from 5 p.m., Thursday to Saturday every week, and includes non-alcoholic options plus classic cocktails, wines, sake, spirits, and beers.
If you want to have fun with friends after eating, House of Fu also offers karaoke rooms downstairs, open Monday to Saturday. It’s a lively addition that harks back to Japanese culture.
However, I was there for the food. I’m a foodie (and I can’t sing!). So, let’s get into the details! I’ll cover everything from the menu options to my honest opinion on whether the House of Fu ramen lives up to the hype.
House of Fu Manchester Review: The Ambiance
House of Fu claims inspiration from Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland in decor and flavors, but, unlike the exquisite world-building branding of Dishoom Carnaby, the ambiance here doesn’t anchor it to any particular country or decade. Perhaps the only callback to the streets of Tokyo and Hong Kong, glaring neon signs cast a strange glow of orange across the restaurant, and paper lanterns, somewhat reminiscent of children’s birthday party decor.
The building is typical of old Manchester, with high ceilings, exposed brick walls, wooden beams, and industrial exposed pipes with a charming old-world vibe. However, it somewhat contradicts the rest of the vibe, and the white-painted bricks look a little mismatched. The music is loud, throbbing, full of hip-hop beats with far from family-friendly lyrics, and it can be rather headache-inducing — perhaps better in the evening.
Since its first foray into the culinary world in Leeds, House of Fu has collaborated with local artists to produce merchandise. That’s not all; all the dishes arrive in bespoke tableware by Leeds-based Sunken Studios. Meanwhile, the neon signs throughout the restaurant are courtesy of a Wakefield-based designer. I appreciate this commendable support for local artists as it adds a personal touch to the experience. It’s something I’d like to see House of Fu explore more.
In the front dining room, seats are overly cramped. I recommend sitting further back in the restaurant — it’s relatively expansive — to avoid feeling as if you’re intruding on your dining neighbors. This is particularly prudent advice for vegetarians and halal diners; the pork-based ramen bowls smell extremely strong in such proximity.
House of Fu Manchester Review: The Service
I dined at House of Fu during lunch, and the restaurant was reasonably busy — a good sign. It didn’t take long to be seated near the front of the building, along with the bulk of our fellow diners. After some time, a waiter arrived to take my order. Soon after, I asked to move — the draft from the door was rather chilly, and the table directly next to mine was too close for comfort. Notably, the pork smell from my neighbour’s ramen was almost unbearable. They acquiesced, and I was moved to a quieter portion of the restaurant, much further back.
Around 30 minutes after first entering the restaurant, a server came over to announce that there had been an accident in the kitchen. He told me the main dishes would have to be remade, asked if this was okay, and said the wait would be around 20 minutes. Sympathetic and in no rush, I assured him that, yes, this was fine.
Around ten minutes later, the appetizer — House of Fu shiitake and kale gyoza — arrived. Despite a 20-minute wait estimate, it took over 40 minutes for my ramen to arrive after the delay announcement. While hold-ups happen, a timely update would have been appreciated.
Furthermore, I had different servers throughout different parts of the experience. I don’t think I saw the same server twice. Again, it’s understandable, although it’s impossible to build a rapport. Unfortunately, this resulted in a somewhat disjointed experience, as the communication between the kitchen and front-of-house staff was lacking. When it came time to pay the bill, I mentioned the wait. A discount was graciously offered.
House of Fu Manchester Review: The Food
Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten-Free Options
If there’s one thing I can’t fault at this Ramen bar, it’s the vegan and vegetarian selection. Over half of the side dishes are vegan, including legendary dishes like cucumber salad, a kimchi sampling, and crispy cauliflower.
Three of seven ramen dishes are vegetarian, and two are vegan. That’s far more than other Manchester Ramen bars, which typically only offer one choice!
The rice bowls are equally exciting for plant-based diners, with three out of five options showing as vegan. There’s also the roast beetroot “Super Bowl.”
You may be excited to know there’s also a vegan dessert: a chocolate and caramel ice cream sandwich.
However, House of Fu doesn’t have many gluten-free dishes. I would suggest dining somewhere with a more expansive range of choices (almost none of the dishes are marked GF). Allergy information is available on the House of Fu website.
Fu Shiitake and Kale Gyoza
I love dumplings. I’ve made spinach soy chunk dumplings, fried mushroom wontons, and Japanese potstickers. So really, it’s no surprise that I opted for the House of Fu shiitake and kale gyoza. Unfortunately, despite the intense taste of the ingredients, the gyoza lacked distinct flavoring. Instead, the dish was overwhelmed by the umami-packed yet overpoweringly acidic dipping sauce, which dominated the entire appetizer.
The machine-made nature of this gyoza was evident. The thick pastry was unevenly pressed, making it hard to chew in some places and leaving open gaps. Suddenly, I appreciated the mixed vegetable momo from Fatt Pundit more, and my dumplings seemed heavenly in comparison.
While the dish was certainly not disastrous, it wasn’t great either. I’m left wishing the chefs had infused a little more love into the gyoza.
Spicy Miso Tantanmen
There are few places to get a decent bowl of ramen in Manchester. (If you know any, please let me know in the comments below!) So when I saw that House of Fu offers three vegetarian ramen options (two vegan), I couldn’t wait to dig in.
The House of Fu spicy miso tantanmen came complete with chewy Tokyo noodles, a pile of spring onions, plant-based mince, crunchy chili oil, and a lone half of pak choy — all immersed in a miso-shiitake broth.
The shock of fiery spice came my way as soon as I took my first bite. The ramen was eye-watering and nose-runningly spicy — and that means a lot, coming from someone who regularly eats notoriously spicy dishes like misal pav (Maharashtrian beansprout curry). I consider myself to have an above-average spice tolerance by British standards.
Even for me, though, it proved too much. I couldn’t finish my broth, and someone with a lesser spice tolerance would struggle to take even a few slurps from the bowl. Funnily enough, I saw another table was having the same issue, blowing their noses with tissues twice every minute! Even though I love a good dose of heat, this is where the dish lost most of its stars — I recommend the restaurant add a heat rating.
The ramen broth, though, had an incredible depth of flavor; rich in miso, full of umami, perfectly salted, and with a distinctly meaty taste (perhaps from the plant-based mince), it was impressive. The noodles were just short of al-dente, and the plant-based mince paired perfectly with the fiery broth. I did feel the dish was lacking bite; another portion of crunchy pak choy or tenderstem broccoli would have done the trick.
House of Fu Manchester Price Range
House of Fu Manchester charges average prices for a mid-range sit-down restaurant in the city center. As of 2024, the menu includes appetizers ranging from £4 to £8.50, ramen priced between £13.50 and £14, bowls at £13 to £14, and desserts at £6 each.
The restaurant occasionally runs offers, discounting its bowls to around £10 each, and a lunch deal for two is available — a set menu with vegan options priced at £22.50.
House of Fu Manchester Location
Sitting pretty on Portland Street, House of Fu is centrally located. It’s a stone’s throw from the famed Gay Village, a lively and bustling area known for its nightlife and welcoming atmosphere countrywide.
The restaurant is also a five-minute walk from main tourist sites such as the Manchester Art Gallery, St Peter’s Square, Manchester Town Hall, Manchester Central Library, Bridgewater Hall, and the Palace Theatre. In just a 10-minute walk, you can be directly in the main shopping area, within the towering modern skyscrapers of Deansgate, or exploring the arty independent district, The Northern Quater.
The closest train station is Manchester Oxford Road, although many are within walking distance.
House of Fu Manchester Review: The Final Rating
📍Location: Portland Street, Manchester City Center
🍽 Cuisine: Japanese
🌍 Sustainability: No information, but they do support EatWellMCR charity
👨🍳 Owners: Not Asian owned; the owner is white
♿️ Wheelchair friendly: Small flight of steps into the main dining area; email House of Fu for accessibility queries
🐶 Dog friendly: Assistance dogs welcome