After spending three years in Manchester I feel I owe it to the city to write about my favourite places to visit. Much can be figured out about a city from its restaurants and cafes; this is how I feel I got to know Manchester. I loved heading into the city or out to the suburbs to escape the Univeristy bubble that surrounds Fallowfield.
Manchester has two notorious loves: music and football. This vibrant mishmash between flashy footballers (a few own restaurants in town), and Morrissey fanatics has come to characterise much of the cities’ culture. This shines through in the centre. Around King Street hales the fabulous Italian restaurant San Carlo. This was the first place my father took me and it remained our favourite place to go and people watch. The menu is huge and there seem to be about fifty waiters running about the place. I’ve enjoyed both large, and loud, dinners here and quiet lunches for two; it has the rare quality of suiting all occasions. I am yet to find a restaurant in London that matches San Carlo for atmosphere although of course being in Manchester is the reason for San Carlo’s unparalleled spirit.
While making my way to King Street I always made sure to walk through St Ann’s Square, a favourite spot, to admire the impressive church’s beautiful windows. Also the spectacular Barton Arcade, Manchester’s own Crystal Palace, squashed between two buildings. It is also worth checking what is on at the Royal Exchange Theatre. It was originally a bank so head inside to see the Great Hall and unique stage that dominates the room.
On the other side of Piccadilly Gardens lies the famed Northern Quarter, home to a more musical-loving rather than football-loving Manchester. It has a village-y New York vibe, full of the city’s creative crowd. Oldham Street has the best vintage, particularly in Oxfam Originals where they shift through the rubbish stuff for you and have a near-perfect selection. I miss nights at the non-pretentious Matt and Phreds listening to jazz and eating pizza. Is there much more you could want from an evening out? Pretty much all the bars are good around Thomas Street and the cake on offer at Teacup is a must. Also don’t fail to be seduced by the inconspicuous Chocolatier on John Street, Bonbon. For a smart meal you can’t fault the delicious food at the Northern Quarter Restaurant, whose simple décor was refreshing amongst some of the vamped up restaurants you find in town.
In first year I made a habit of walking to get the bus to my halls down Canal Street. I simply think it is the prettiest street in Manchester. At night it is covered with fairly lights and down on the canal there are little boats docked where you can have drinks. There is also The Velvet, a camped up boutique hotel and coolest place to stay in town.
Heading towards University territory on the Oxford Road you pass Cornerhouse; a sort of cultural hub. They put on exhibitions and talks yet I lapped up their cinema. I should really have become a member although there didn’t seem much point since you can see matinees for £5. The selection is always brilliant, both indie and mainstream. Screen one is enchanting, almost a throwback to the 1920s with soft lighting and red cushy chairs. It is my favourite space in Manchester and I am rather heartbroken I don’t have it a bus ride away anymore. I never ate at Cornerhouse choosing rather to go to Aardvark Café down the road on campus- honestly the only good food on campus. Such a treat eating here, they have yummy salads, good coffee and lots of places to work or meet tutors.
Past Fallowfield, on the edge of Withington, there is the loveliest pub in Manchester, The Red Lion. I am a big enthusiast of drinking here as it reminded me of the pubs near my school in West Sussex. It even has a bowling green at the back. It is the kind of place where you can settle in for the afternoon and stumble out into the refreshing cold hours later.
Where I lived in Withington there was not much going on so I was very happy to discover the village of West Didsbury, a short walk away, full of little cafes and boutiques. On weekends, my housemates and I, loved to wile away Sunday blues with cake and tea at And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon. You would also often catch us gazing at the wedding dresses at The White Closet, the only wedding dress shop that has ever been appealing.
There is much more I wish I had done and seen in Manchester. Visiting Altringham was on my mind all three years as was trying one of the infamous burgers at Almost Famous. There was also talk of going to see a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music. Discovering the Bridgwater Canals right at the end was disappointing as it would have been lovely to spend a sunny afternoon at the pub there. Of course there will be many chances to visit again, although I know I will feel nostalgic for my student days,
spending afternoons and evenings hanging out at cafes and bars. That’s what being a student is all about really.
Now I bet you wish you had come to visit more,