It was our friend Adam’s birthday, so we decided to head up north to visit him in Manchester on this special occasion. Manchester is a cool city in the north of England that is one square mile by one square mile and famous for great pubs and clubs, a foodie culture, beautiful architecture and lots of university students and homeless people. We spent a great weekend hanging about here and finished our trip with a gorgeous nature walk at Alderley Edge.
Eating and Drinking
Manchester is a very social place. The streets are always full of people and people like to go out for a bite to eat or few drinks. The best meal we had whilst we were here was breakfast. On our first day, Adam took us to Gorilla near Manchester Oxford Street station. If you go here, you must order one of the milkshakes as they come topped with whipped cream and cocoa powder and taste amazing! Edgar ordered the waffles with streaky bacon from the brunch menu and I had a crunchy fried buttermilk chicken sandwich with pickles and shredded lettuce.
Breakfast on our second day was equally good when we stopped at Common in the Northern Quarter. The coffee was fantastic and I ate smashed avocado on toast with two fried eggs which hit the spot.
However not all of our culinary experiences in Manchester were good. There is a huge Chinese community in Manchester so with the best of intentions we headed down to China Town for what we expected to be an authentic meal at Yang Sing. The service was so terrible, it prompted our friend to post a poor review on Trip Advisor with one star rating. This is what the review read:
I had friends visiting from London and thought we would go to a nice Chinese restaurant. Big mistake.
The starters were above average and pleasant
1 hour wait between starters and main course
The beef in the main was chewy/fatty/inedible
We ordered noodles with the mains that did not arrive
We had to ask twice for Chinese tea
Despite repeated complaints about the slow service, it did not improve
There were 4 of us and we ordered the £30 banquet, along with a bottle of wine and other drinks. It was not cheap, the service was atrocious and it blighted an otherwise perfect weekend for my friends. Avoid at all costs, I have never experienced service like it.
In addition to eating we also enjoyed quite a few drinks out. The coolest place we went was the Fab Cafe, a retro themed bar based with old arcade games and Sci-Fi TV & Movie memorabilia. The tables where we sat were transformed TV sets with pacmac playing and we had a few goes of old-school pinball machines whilst drinking cider. For those who are really young at heart, they also sell old fashioned sweets and chocolates at the bar here.
Browns at Manchester is a more fancy affair for a drink, as it has been converted from an old bank building and still has an officious feel to it. We only stopped for one drink here. In general, alcohol is super cheap in Manchester (well compared to London) so nights out can be really fun.
City Culture & Attractions
Music and performance are the lifeblood of Manchester. Aside from being the birthplace of such famous musical talents as Simply Red, the Hollies, Take That, the Stone Roses and many more, you are apt to hear a lot of busking and outdoor performances on the streets there can be nothing easier than catching a live gig at some bar. I was most impressed to come across the Piccadilly Rats. These guys seem pretty old to be in a band and even too old to be outside busking, but their energy was fantastic. Passersby stopped to listen to their songs and they even had their own backup dancer who was attracting a lot of notice. If you are as intrigued as I was to find out more about this up and coming band, you can read a candid interview with them here.
The buildings of Manchester feel like they are from a bygone era as they are old and beautiful. Manchester used to be one of the wealthiest cities of the UK due to the boom in textile manufacture here during the industrial revolution. Whilst there is still a lot of activity and business generated from the nearby Manchester University, it has generally been in decline since WW2. Most visitors will particularly notice a lot of homeless people on the streets. It is difficult to say whether it is because the area has become so impoverished or its due to Manchester City being so small and concentrated it gives the perception of there being a lot of homelessness.
One of the highlights was a visit to the Hat Museum in Stockport. There was once a thriving hatting industry in the area and the museum is converted from a former factory where hats were hand crafted for some of the wealthiest people in Europe. Today you can still see some of the old machines that were used to measure heads for the perfect hat width as well as the tools used to shape felt and fashion materials into unique designs. There is also a stunning collection of hats featuring designs from throughout the ages and various cultures. My favourite design was the Cauliflower hat by Deirdre Hawken made using hand dyed silk velvet with glass beads and quills.
Nature Walk at Alderley Edge
After some fun in the city we headed out to do a walking trail at Alderley Edge, which begins at the Alderley Edge rail station and is just 12 km south of the city. We set out amid gorgeous Cheshire farmland passing some quaint cottages and farmhouses on the way.
Halfway through the walk we came upon an archaeological site where Bronze Age miners used to dig for for treasure, as the earth is rich in copper ore. Modern archaeologists have been able to piece together clues about this ancient civilisation through the historical remains found at this site.
We continued our walk amid old Scots pines and beech woodlands until we reached the actual Aldereley Edge where we saw beautiful views of the English countryside.
On the way back home we drove through Redditch and dined at The Forest at Feckenham gastro pub for dinner. The good quality food, creative menu options and friendly staff were a welcome surprise. I ordered the pan fried sea bass with tempura langoustines and butter beans salad. My husband Edgar had the Forest duck supper house special, which was a feast of pan fried duck breast, confit duck leg bon bons, sautéed duck liver, pommes mousseline, seasonal greens and sticky orange jus. We finished our meal with a modest cheese cracker and coffee, and were delighted to be served a complimentary glass of port to go with it. The meal was enjoyable and the experience very memorable.