Last weekend I popped my Manchester cherry and ventured there for the first time so it seemed only fitting that a city review was in order. This will be useful if you are a) visiting Manchester soon and b) have a passing interest in food, alcohol, architecture or shopping. If none of those appeal feel free to check out another blog or this is going to get rather tedious for you!
Lets start with one of the most important aspects of any city - the alcohol. Craft beer fans should venture to Brew Dog in Peter St. or The Marble Arch in Rochdale Road. The Marble Arch has a slopped floor and makes you feel more than a little inebriated on your first trip to the bar but that soon wears off. Whilst personally I think craft beers taste like mouldy, sour, perfumed flower water, I’m told if your taste buds bend that way you’ll be in your element.
Talking of elements Spinning Fields is the place to be if you like fancy cocktails. Long Bar, The Lawn Club and The Alchemist are all within spitting - or spinning - distance of each other. The Alchemist has a serious drinks selection and uses all sorts of chemistry contraptions to make their cocktails. Some of the more pricey drinks come complete with dry ice or orchids frozen in cubes, however be warned, arriving after 7pm means you’ll wait around 20 mins for your drinks order. Luckily this is a great place for people watching and the atmosphere and quirky cocktails make for interesting facebook photo updates if nothing else.
Sorry, but if you don’t like alcohol at all I have nothing for you...
The food scene in Manchester borders, and the bowls right over, to the ridiculous.
The Oast House also in Spinning Fields would be a great place for dinner if they took bookings for tables under 6 people. As it is if you’re in a small group I recommend heading down there around 4pm and setting up camp as otherwise you'll have a snowball's chance of getting fed should you decide to leave it any longer.
When we were looking Artisan had no bookings for a Saturday night before 10.15pm (although it was massive didn’t look to be all that busy) so Reds, a BBQ restaurant with a serious reputation was another place we tried. Unfortunately in the queue, which fell out the door, we met people that had booked a table for 6.45pm. As this was around 7.45 we moved on. Recommendation: If you can book do, or eat before you go out.
If architecture floats your boat the new Library looked amazing. Or so I imagined it would from the crack in the cast iron metal doors that I peeked through. Alas it’s shut on Sundays and so this is as much as I can tell you, the outside was pretty impressive though!
The Town Hall on the other hand was ridiculously grand – set at the edge of Albert Square (not that one!) complete with seating area and a fountain this is a great summertime hangout. The hall itself is at least partially open to the public, however when I was visiting it was being used for a wedding. While I missed seeing a few ball rooms and sculptured busts it's easy to see why this is such a popular venue in which to get hitched, MTH puts all others I've seen to shame.
Manchester is like a more compact London in the shopping sense. It has Selfridges and Harvey Nicks, though both are smaller and less impressive as their counterparts in the capital, no offence meant to Manchester fashionistas. However it does have some very cute independent galleries and a whole road of vinyl stores along Old St which was easily accessed round the corner from the larger shopping centres.
All in all a lovely place to visit, just don't try to leave when there are roadworks as it turns into that village in The Returned...