The Insider's Guide to ManchesterDate: 18 Sep 2018
The low-down from Ben Brown of Manchester's Finest.
Manchester may not have as many famous 'must-see' attractions as the likes of London and Liverpool, but when you live here you come to truly appreciate its vibracy. Working for Manchester's Finest, you could consider me an ‘expert’ on what Manchester really has to offer. I’m aware of all of the newest and flashiest places in which to be seen, as well as the city's best and favourite establishments.
I've lived here on and off for 14 years, and my tastes have evolved with the development of the City. Many big businesses have come and gone. Some establishments are in the process of leaving, and others are more frantically preparing their local arrival.
So, here's my take on the city's current situation. Including my favourite places, and where you might see me during your visit. If we do bump heads… I’ll take a Campari Soda (double).
Food and Drink
Nowadays, most places don't really classify themselves as just a bar or restaurant. They just serve up bevvies and food together and get on with it. Most of my suggestions offer both exceptional food and drinks - ticking all the necessary boxes.
My absolute favourite place, and somewhere that’s held that crown for a while, is Cottonopolis - located in the Northern Quarter. It's a strange mix of Japanese and Mancunian inspirations, offering some of the city's most spectacular dishes and cocktails. This is all contained in an almost-too-trendy space.
Their bottomless brunch is exceptional, and if you only eat one thing during your visit to Manchester it should be their Duck Full English Breakfast. It comes complete with duck sausages, duck bacon some crispy fried duck eggs.
Further into the Northern Quarter you'll find possibly the city's best cocktails, hidden behind a door in rib joint Cane & Grain. Head up the steps and you'll find yourself in Science & Industry. I consider it one of Manchester's best kept secrets, and home to a full laboratory where the staff mix, boil and render some truly stunning drinks. You'll never have cocktails like this anywhere else - I assure you.
Another firm favourite is Big Grillie Style, located in Joshua Brooks just down the road from Whitworth Locke. This bar hosts many of the city's best club nights, but it's their burgers which elevate a visit to the upper echelons of greatness. Big Grillie have been bashing out burgers for years now, and they've become true experts at it - utilising some serious meat and cheese science to create truly spectacular (and naughty) dishes.
If you're looking for something quick, tasty and cheap I can highly recommend the Arndale Market, located round the back of the shopping centre and home to a dazzling array of excellent eateries. There's authentic Mexican at Pancho's Burrito, Mediterranean at Zorba's and the best Vietnamese street food ever at Viet Shack. You can even grab yourself a frosty pint of local ale at the Micro Bar if you need a break from all of the shopping and eating.
You'll also find various food and drink vendors all under one roof down at Mackie Mayor, somewhere you can easily see a few hours disappear as you eat and drink to your heart's content.
Another (more open) experience would be at Hatch down on Oxford Road, a small complex of coffee, beer, performance and street food made up of old shipping containers. They have a frequently rotating selection of food vendors, as well as regular live music, spoken word and generally rather exciting parties going on.
Just nearby you will also find Bunny Jackson's on First Street, a New Orleans dive bar where the tunes are always loud, the drinks always strong and the chicken wings always 10p. Open until 3am, I've had many a hazy night in here, with live music, free pool and probably the best party atmosphere anywhere in the city. I'll guarantee you a top night.
Another end of town where you can always expect to have a good time, whether it's 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon or 4am on a Monday night, is Canal Street. The heart of the city's LGBT+ community, the area is packed with some brilliant venues and offers something for everyone any time of the day. I'm a particular fan of Via and Kiki, as well as the obligatory endless karaoke that takes place at the New Union.
Talking of music, the city is regularly awash with big name performers all year round, with plenty of great live music venues. The biggest acts typically head towards the Manchester Arena but down on Whitworth Street you'll find both Gorilla and The Ritz who almost always have something brilliant on their calendar. Gorilla has played home to the likes of Martha Reeves, The Cribs, Lee Fields and even a recent intimate gig with Kylie Minogue.
If smaller, more local venues are your bag then you can't go wrong with the many venues in the Northern Quarter including The Whiskey Jar, The Peer Hat, Night and Day and Gullivers - all of which are pretty much packed every night of the week with people watching guitars getting riffed and microphones getting shouted at.
If you're looking for something a bit more cultural, Manchester is always here to help. Our Science & Industry Museum is pretty much world renowned for its exhibitions and displays, one of which is the world's first computer - The Baby - made right here in Manchester. They also typically have an amazing dedicated exhibition up on the top floor, including last year's excellent 'Robots' or the equally nerdy 'Power Up' retro games display.
For something more historical, the Manchester Museum down at Manchester University is home to a vast array of artefacts from all over the natural and cultural world. Here you'll find mummies, dinosaurs, crockery, frogs, planets, whales and fashions. Too many to start listing here, you’ll just have to visit.
One of the city's most exciting venues is surely HOME down on First Street (near Bunny Jackson's). A vast space which incorporates galleries, cinema screens, performance space and a restaurant, HOME always has something going on; from Latin film festivals to workshops and exhibitions. If you can't find something to see or do at HOME, you truly are lost.
So, as you’d expect, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of where to go and what’s going on in the city. For a much more comprehensive look at the city, head on over to Manchester’s Finest for all of the latest goings on.