One weekend in Manchester is all you need to prove the north is far from grim – the city’s wonderfully welcoming, with a legendary soundtrack and spirited nightlife. So, crank up your old Happy Mondays albums and reprise your best psy-trance dance moves and…
*dramatic record scratch*
Scandi-style cafés? Small-batch beers? Barmen dabbling in dry ice? Add to that luxury boutique hotels, like the brilliantly central King Street Townhouse and the elegantly old-school (literally) Great John Street, and it’s clear that our favourite northern city has gone a little Williamsburg since its warehouse-rave days. To celebrate Manchester’s evolution, we’ve picked the best spots for restorative brunching, top-drawer dining and scoping out the city’s as-vital-as-ever music scene.
BREAKFASTING AND BRUNCHING
Manchester’s AM dining complements its late-night revelry; as such, it’s phenomenal. Want a fry-up but fear ‘salt of the earth’ Mancunians laughing at your facial hair? Head to the North Quarter’s Koffee Pot, where hearty breakfasts hail from all corners of the UK. Its vinyl booths say ‘caff’, but the graffiti mural says ‘no, we’re not judging your bow-tie’.
Despite their largely Canadian emblem, Moose is famous for its US-style brunch. The menu runs as long as deathless Manc soap Coronation Street, with eight styles of pancake, eggs every way, hotdogs, hashes, burritos and even the mythical doughnut burger. If leaving bed before noon isn’t an option, King Street Townhouse can send a full English, eggs Benedict or other goodies to your door.
The locals love Evelyn’s Café & Bar in the Smithfield Building on Tib Street, where brunch branches out: shakshuka, Korean chicken and egg rolls, fruity chia pots – we die. Recommended by Beki at Kosmonaut.
Take a slug of ‘joe’ and try to keep up: Takk MCR, in the Northern Quarter, is an Icelandic-inspired coffee shop serving up Nordic-style espresso from Bristol, single-origin coffee from the Barn in Berlin and recyclable sacks of heirloom beans from Ethiopia and Colombia. In short, this achingly hip melting pot bubbles away with a damn fine brew.
If you like your leaves a little looser, North Tea Power serves an aromatic array of blends in a friendly communal setting. Exposed girders and hefty timber furnishings give it a rugged edge, and they approach a grilled cheese like they would a steak, frying it in brown butter till the sourdough’s crispy. Just in case you didn’t catch that: grilled cheese, fried like a steak.
The locals love Ginger’s Comfort Emporium (various locations, +44 (0)7980 628868), a roving ice-cream truck for adults. Menus are seasonal, but sweet sophistication is evergreen; highlights include Chorlton Crack (salted caramel and peanut butter) and the French Elvis ice-cream sandwich, a chilly PB & J. Here, Heart & Graft coffee beans are served affogato style or infused into a creamy scoop. Recommended by Tony from Afflecks.
EXCEEDINGLY FINE DINING
You enter Australasia (+44 (0)161 831 0288) via a sci-fi-esque glass prism and descend into a cream-hued space with bleached brick walls and bare-limbed trees. Its artfully plated fare hails from Australia and the Pacific Rim. For more interior flora, head to Tattu (+44 (0)161 819 2060), where beef and foie gras gyoza and lobster prawn toasts are served under a flowering cherry blossom.
Mr Cooper’s House & Garden (+44 (0)161 932 4198) at the Midland Hotel has, um, another interior tree (what’s going on, Manchester?) and chef Simon Rogan’s tempting seasonal dishes. For chandeliers, an art deco-style dining room and tasting menus with avant garde flavours (oxalis, sweet cicely and sea asters abound), The French awaits (+44 (0)161 932 4198). No trees though, we’re afraid.
The locals love Umezushi (+44 (0)871 8118877) on Mirabel Street. Menu highlights include 35-day-aged Welsh wagyu, deep-fried frog’s legs and Japanese koshu wines. Recommended by Beki at Kosmonaut.
A CRAFTY PINT
Manchester’s punters are no longer sated with a pint of Boddingtons; a convivial community of indie brewers are bringing cult suds to the city’s pubs. The Marble Arch is one of the best, and most attractive, with original Victorian tiling and a chequerboard floor to challenge tipsy guests. It’s the home of Marble Beers, and house-brew taps line the bar, but the guest porters and IPAs are excellent, too.
The Oast House, a reclaimed 16th-century drinkery amid the gleaming towers of Spinningfields, is charmingly offbeat. Their beer-tasting packages (for groups of six or more) start from £15 and cover Brit, European and historic brews. Pick up souvenirs at Beermoth your one-stop shop for all things craftily alcoholic, where staff are impressively informed.
The locals love Odd Bar, a hybrid art space, club and bar has a sturdy list of international beers, We also like the colourful decor and their long list of Bloody Odd Bloody Marys. Recommended by Jim from Eastern Bloc Records.
Manchester nightlife caters to everyone’s MO, often all at once, with multi-purpose arts venues. Gorilla hosts niche musical acts, comedy nights, art shows, plays, a gin parlour and a well-regarded burger joint. Home Cinema is another entertainment polymath, with arthouse and blockbuster film screenings, high drama and intriguing art shows.
Despite its name, the Deaf Institute is the venue for rock and indie gigs, while Band On the Wall champions live jazz and world music. The mixologists at The Alchemist in Spinningfields experiment fearlessly; drinks change colour and flavour, and emit smoke – exciting stuff. Kosmonaut has less smoke and mirrors, but a ping-pong table, arts programme and laid-back air make it equally magical.
The locals love Trof is a handsome, brick-and-timber-lined North Quarter bar. Its impressive local following is due to a classic cocktail list, dedicated bourbon bar and staunchly local food. Recommended by Jim from Eastern Bloc Records.
Featured image via The Marble Arch