Emerald Street’s gone regional, and the place on the top of our list was Manchester. How could we resist? It’s the city of music, creativity, and a rapidly booming food and drink scene, as well as friendly locals (smiling at each other on public transport – who knew?)
When Emerald Street Manchester launched last October, we promised that our daily email would contain something completely different every day for the residents of this fine city. And boy have we written about some weird stuff. Sign up and say hello!
For now, whether you live in Manchester or not (and you should, because we firmly believe it’s the best city in the world), these are some of the best things you could get up to over the course of a weekend.
The Principal Hotel/The Refuge
If you’re visiting from outside the city, you need somewhere to sleep, obviously. Locals may grumble a bit about the name change (the neon red “Palace” sign on the clock tower was something of a local icon) but when The Principal opened late last year we all conceded that, yes, it’s actually rather beautiful. This grand Victorian hotel is within walking distance of the city’s main attractions and transport links. It’s also home to The Refuge - easily one of the most striking bar and restaurant spaces to be found anywhere in the North West - so if you arrive late in the evening you won’t even need to step outside to get a decent cocktail.
Hands up who overdid it on the cocktails last night? It’s alright, we won’t judge, but we will gently steer you in the direction of Gorilla. Popped away beneath the railway arches, this gig venue/restaurant/gin parlour serves arguably the best brunches in the city. The kitchen have mastered the art of the perfectly poached egg, and of the perfectly smooth hollandaise, so just order any variation of those on bread. Having said that, the royal breakfast is so huge that you’ll have to rearrange your place settings to fit it on the table, and we do tend to lean towards the hearty shakshouka with sourdough.
A short bus ride up Oxford Road is one of our finest cultural institutions – The Whitworth art gallery. After a £15 million development, the gallery reopened in 2015 at double the size and with plenty of fanfare. It was voted Museum of the Year by the Art Fund in 2015, and has already allowed hundreds of artists to fill the huge exhibition spaces with ambitious and creative projects. On a sunny day (we do have them), the surrounding Whitworth Park is ideal for a wander and a picnic. The gallery’s even got the Juan Mata seal of approval, weirdly, if that sways your opinion in any way whatsoever.
The John Rylands Library hasn’t needed to employ an angrily ‘shushing’ librarian to keep the peace – the architecture does that for them. There are very few places that are impressive enough to render us speechless, but this is one of them. It’s quite a treat stepping away from the glitz of Spinningfields, or the angry black cabs on Deansgate, and finding yourself in such a genuinely gorgeous building. Tuck yourself away among the tomes, ogle at the frankly terrifying medical records (wooden birthing stool, anyone?) or just wander the quiet dusty pink sandstone halls. Even the toilets in here are something special.
The obsession with Rudy’s has become something of a running joke amongst the Emerald Street staff - it seems to get shoehorned it in to almost every feature and it was the very first review to run in Emerald Street Manchester. We may laugh about our infatuation, but the food here is no laughing matter. This is alarmingly good pizza, consistently voted amongst the best in the UK. There’s always competition for tables, so get here early in the evening, stick your name down, then retreat to the Crown & Kettle pub around the corner while you wait. We *promise* it’s worth it.
“What a strange looking pub!” you’re probably thinking when you stand in Sadler’s Yard gazing up at, essentially, a big wooden shed. If you think the décor’s unconventional, wait until we tell you about the building process… Rather than calling in a load of builders and to throw everything together in a matter of weeks, The Pilcrow was built over the course of several months by complete amateurs in a series of workshops (with guidance, don’t worry. It is structurally sound.) The end result is a proper community pub, where punters proudly point out lampshades and carved beer taps and tell their companions, “I made that.” It’s the perfect spot for a few drinks.
There aren’t many places where you can dance on the tables without an unhappy bouncer coming to tell you off – but this is one of them. A bohemian bier palace serving alpine-inspired food by day, and then a live music venue and heaving bar by night, Albert’s Schloss draws a lovely varied crowd. This is where beer-lovers meet with blow-dried beauties while burlesque dancers balance along the bar. It’s where you can let your debaucherous side have a little play – mingle around the open fire, climb atop a wooden table, or grab a seat and prod the ‘push for prosecco’ button (they will actually bring you bubbles if you push it, it’s great.)
This has got to be one of the most heavily-Instagrammed cafes in the country, and with good reason. Federal doesn’t rely on gimmicks for its success – no unicorns, no pink lattes, no unconventional crockery – choosing instead to channel lots of energy into producing wholesome, simple food. Its menu has obviously travelled from the Southern Hemisphere (thank you, New Zealand and Australia for giving us a lesson in correct brunch technique) and it’s marvellous. They even top their food with actual heaping piles of avocado rather than a thin, sad scraping of green. The portions are generous and fairly priced, so it’s perfect for setting you up for a morning spent wandering the Northern Quarter.
Riding the Metrolink to the end of the line might be pretty low down on your agenda for the weekend, but if you knew what was waiting for you in Altrincham, you might change your mind. There’s the historical Market House - where vendors such as Honest Crust, Tender Cow, Little Window, and Reserve Wines chuck food and drink out to the communal dining space - while market stalls selling everything from pottery to pies fill the streets outside. It’s a real hub for the community of Altrincham, and draws in visitors from all over Greater Manchester (sometimes too many visitors – you’ll have to fight pretty hard for a table on a Friday night.) On Sundays, there’s a fantastic wholesome atmosphere that’ll keep you here all day.