Manchester’s trendiest spots to eat, drink and sleep

Birthplace of the industrial revolution and Emmeline Pankhurst – leader of the suffragette movement – Manchester’s identity is built on a work hard, can-do attitude and the city is famed for its friendly northern spirit.

After a tragic terrorist attack in 2017, Mancunians rallied together, and the city today is more inclusive and welcoming than ever.

Long synonymous with world-class football and a vibrant cultural scene, a wave of new bars, restaurants and fresh places to stay make this Northern Powerhouse even more of a must-visit in 2020.

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Find your bearings

Before you explore the new, it’s worth getting to grips with the city’s history.

Manchester Sightseeing’s “Discover Manchester” walking tour runs daily at 11am, departing from outside the grand Central Library in St Peter’s Square. An hour and a half amble led by a seasoned guide gives an introduction to Cottonopolis’ role (as Manchester was known in Victorian times as a textile industry hub) in the Industrial Revolution, and beyond. Stop offs include the Midland Hotel – where Rolls first met Royce – and The Royal Exchange, once central to the world’s cotton trade.

Tickets £10.

There’s a lot of buzz about Manchester’s Ancoats, a former industrial wasteland, now home to some of the city’s most exciting independent restaurants, including hit pizza joint Rudy’s.

Adding further foodie heat is Mana, a restaurant helmed by Noma-trained chef Simon Martin, which has recently been awarded Manchester’s first Michelin Star in over 40 years. Expect multi-course meals where British ingredients are transformed into culinary masterpieces – sample courses include white truffle on toast with langoustine head and verbena, and pine cone and dark chocolate Æbleskiver. 

Get a culture fix

Ahead of a regeneration project that will create a community park and business spaces at historic former railway yard, Depot Mayfield, Broadwick Live are putting the astonishing 10,000 capacity industrial venue to good use.

A successful run of Warehouse Project club nights in 2019 will continue into 2020. Site-specific artwork by Es Devlin will arrive, and a series of summer concerts in outdoor area, The Yard, are on the cards.

Architecture buffs should head to the Modernist Gallery and Shop, a newly-opened space in the Northern Quarter from the not-for-profit Modernist Society, which celebrates 20th century design through events, exhibitions and literature. Expect gorgeous architecture coffee-table books and cool exhibitions. It’s also the place to get the inside track on Manchester’s most interesting modernist buildings – ask the staff for their favourites as you browse.

Gen up on gin

After meeting over a G&T in Manchester in 2013, Seb Heeley and Jen Wiggins fell in love and realised they were as passionate about gin as they were each other. A micro distillery in their dining room later and Manchester Gin was born. Their signature gin was a hit and scaling-up (100,000 bottles in 2019), accolades and new blends followed.

Their latest venture is a smart gin-focussed bar and restaurant, Three Little Words – hello brunches where citrussy breakfast gin cocktails are paired with nutmeg drop scone pancakes – and the Spirit of Manchester distillery, both housed in a series of Grade II-listed arches in the city centre.

Their distillery masterclass is a rip-roaring ride through the history of Mother’s Ruin and the brand, as well as a tasting session and blend-your-own gin class. Guide James is akin to a Willy Wonka of booze, picking botanicals to suit individual tastes, magicking up measurements, and instructing how to use mini copper stills. It’s the most fun science class you’ll ever take.

Distiller’s Masterclass (2.5 -3 hours, includes two G&Ts, tour, tasting and blend-your-own session, a 500ml bottle of your gin) £85. 

Feast – and sleep – in the former Stock Exchange

Old Trafford legends turned hoteliers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs have transformed the Edwardian-era former Stock Exchange into a swish forty-room hotel. Design, overseen by Autobahn, is nouveau ritz meets heritage glitz. Forest green furnishings and gilded details are set against dark woods, chequerboard floors, lashings of marble and restored stained glass windows. Bedrooms have TVs that whizz up from an end-of-bed cabinet, custom-made nest chairs and tinted vintage snaps from trading days gone by.

On the ground floor is The Bull & Bear, an already-hit restaurant, from king of classic British grub Tom Kerridge. Comforting dishes such as whole stuffed quail with black pudding, steak and blue-cheese demi pie, and beetroot salad with feta and chunky chips are served in the former trading room floor under an astonishing dome. TVs affixed to the rooms’ walls create a casual – if slightly incongruous – foil to the grand surrounds. 

Rooms from £200 per night.

Stay in a home away from home

Of late, aparthotels – which cross self-catering facilities with hotel services – are all the rage.

Just-opened Native Manchester is the UK’s largest to date, spread across eight floors of a Victorian warehouse on Ducie Street, a five minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station. Spacious rooms have exposed barrel brick walls, slick furniture by Conran and a kitchen, ideal for long stays. Many interior features in the Grade II-listed building have been retained, including cast-iron columns and painted features in baby blue and red, which some like to think of as a fortuitous, albeit unintentional, homage to the city’s much-loved football teams. 

On the top level are elegant, two-bedroom split-level apartments with balconies, Dali-inspired cushions on comfy beds, and kitchen-meets-lounges as suitable for hosting business meetings as they are for cocktails and canapés with friends.

Rooms from £95.

Co-work in style

Also inside Ducie Street Warehouse is CULTUREPLEX, a high-ceilinged social lounge meets workspace by David Waddington and Pablo Flack of London’s Bistroteque fame. Here, creative types sip on steaming cups of Ancoats coffee as they laptop-tap at side tables or thumb through independent magazines on cosy central tables.

An outpost of Bistroteque serves up generously portioned dishes, such as farinata topped with garlicky mushrooms, for lunch in the communal area, while at dinner time a smart back section opens. There’s a mini-cinema on-site and an ever-changing events roster – one day a classical quartet might be playing Britney Spears tunes in the lobby, the next a spoken word workshop.

Party at an affordable poshtel

Selina, a Latin American start-up who specialises in boutique poshtels, have chosen Manchester’s lively Northern Quarter for their UK debut, Selina NQ1. Design blends pastel colour pops with tropi-cool murals, and plants hung in macramé cocoons. Rooms range from fuss-free dorm rooms attached to a funky communal kitchen-lounge to swankier private rooms and spacious loft affairs. A global crowd ranges from those on girls’ weekends, to football fans and flashpackers.

Downstairs there’s Wilson’s Social, where rose and raspberry Collins are served with buttermilk chicken burgers and pan-fried halloumi with whipped avocado. Things are particularly lively come evenings, and weekends, when a DJ spins floorfillers in one corner. There’s also basement nightclub Cotton, set inside a former printing factory – it’s an inclusive space that focuses on gender and LGBT+ balanced line ups.

Selina will launch a second Manchester property close by in 2020.

Another new property to watch in the city is Hotel Brooklyn, a classy joint across town on Portland Street with 189 loft-look-inspired rooms, a tenth of which will be fully accessible.

Shared rooms at Selina NQ1 from £15pp per night, loft rooms from £70pp. Rooms at Hotel Brooklyn from £145.

Sip on clever cocktails

In the same building as Selina is dimly-lit speakeasy Double Down, from the team behind popular Speak in Code. Innovative ingredients – think chipotle-infused agave and coconut halva orgeat – are blended to create drinks which are served from a cassette-fronted bar, alongside hip hop beats and vegan hotdogs (Snoop or Big Daddy Kale, anyone?).

Just a five minute walk away is Wolf at the Door, from the talent behind Wilderness Record Store. On the ground floor, impressive modern European cuisine – such as hen of the woods mushroom in lemon thyme broth and addictive grilled sourdough with sweet onion butter – is served alongside natural wines and on-tap mimosas. Upstairs is a zen den of a bar which has a full-size wooden canoe strung above it. The attention to detail on the cocktail list is catnip for adventurous drinkers. For example, the Nebula – barsol pisco, bitter orange, raspberry, lemon, clarified milk and pastis – is inspired by the fact that ethyl formate, which gives raspberries its flavour, was found at the centre of the Milky Way.

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