With a history stemming from industry in more recent times the city of Manchester has become synonymous with two things: Football and northern soul music. Without a single Michelin Starred restaurant to boast, this northern England destination has been one that’s usually reserved for Stag or Hens parties for us Irish.
But with flights from Dublin to Manchester costing less than a train to Cork, it’s time that we reassess our thinking of the city as a frugal and easy weekend trip away. With a flight time of forty minutes and direct trains from the airport right to the city centre, this is the kind of trip that can be done at the drop of a hat and also on a budget.
Federal Café is an independent Australian/New Zealand café. Federal is a lively spot with a great atmosphere and even better food. The super friendly staff keep the tables turning over quick but in a relaxed atmosphere. The choice of brunch options are exceptional with the only problem being that you can’t order one of everything.
Taking heavy influence for the ‘New York diner’ breakfast and brunch scene, Moose Coffee is known for doing great sweet dishes but also offering hearty savoury egg options. This is quite a busy spot just off the main shopping streets. Be prepared to wait up to an hour for a table at peak times.
For something a little less hectic, North Tea Power serves all day breakfast/brunch in a cosy and home-y setting. With great coffee and tea to boot, this is a prime stop when in need of refuelling while taking in the surrounding area.
Once food is taken care of you may want to explore in and around the side streets and back alleys to see what makes this area the creative hub of Manchester. With many independently run design shops, walk-in pottery studios and even a Cat café there is plenty to sustain an entire afternoon.
Affleck’s market is one not to be missed. An unassuming building on the outside, it transforms in to a four-floor wonderland of all things kitsch and trendy. It even has its very own cereal café, Black Milk, if you fancy dabbling in one of the most conspicuous hipster trends to pop up in London in recent years.
Within the northern quarter alone there are a number of neighbourhood eateries serving to a very high standard. One such option is TNQ restaurant. A modern and stylish room, the staff are charming and the menu boasts well thought out and innovative cooking. Expect seasonal cooking such as ‘Seared Wood Pigeon with Chicory, Gingerbread and Rhubarb’ or ‘Twice Baked Shorrocks Bomb and Wild Garlic Soufflé’.
If you are looking for something slightly more on the lavish side, then look no further than Manchester House. Here, Chef Patron Aiden Byrne produces high-end plates that are simultaneously quintessential traditional British cooking and daringly modern, all catered to in a stunning setting on Bridge Street.
For a rather unique slice of down-under cuisine in the heart of Manchester, check out the subterranean restaurant, Australasia. With an entrance reminiscent of the Lourve in Paris, this is a fantastic spot for a evening meal or even just a drink on the terrace bar.
If you are looking for something different than why not check out one of the many Asian restaurants located in the city’s China town. These offer up some fantastic food at great value if travelling on a budget. Check out Yuzu for a particularly authentic experience.
For any looking for the traditional British pub experience, look no further than The Smithfield Market Tavern. Located on the periphery of the northern quarter, this long-standing watering hole offers its punters everything you’d come to expect from a proper with a sideboard piano, dartboard and a billiards table. This bar also has a fantastic range of craft beers both on tap and cask.
Where the Smithfield pays homage to the great British boozer, BeerMoth in Spring Gardens, dares to show what the future may have in store for British bar culture. A sharply stylish interior with an excessive beer menu, this bar embodies what craft beer bars on the American west coast have been moving towards for years.
Meandering our way back to the northern quarter, every side street buzzes with the atmosphere of a lively Saturday night. Every corner turned leads to a new discovery and another decision on where to venture for a tipple. Thomas Street in particular is a whirlwind of activity with friendly crowds enjoying their drinks street side in front of their chosen destinations for the night.
Looking for somewhere both comfortable and lively, 57 Thomas Street is the perfect option. Small and stylish with a selection of beers brewed in their own brewery just a stone’s throw away, this is the perfect launching pad for any weekend antics.
Once the night is well under way then Bluu Bar is the place to be. A large 1920’s styled room with a great selection of drinks and a loud, fun atmosphere, this is the type of place you could easily spend the whole night in if you are lucky enough to grab one of the more comfortable seating options.
Having previously devoted every ounce of his spare time to music, Tony is more commonly found these days in a kitchen than on a stage. With experience in writing on festivals and shows around the country he has recently turned his pen to more culinary exposés. With a particular penchant for craft beer he can often be spotted travelling from one bar to another in search of the latest brew to hit the market.