A mini-guide to Manchester's Northern Quarter
With its slightly shabby chic, its Parisian-style cafes, chocolate shops, bespoke design and galleries, Manchester's Northern Quarter is shaping up to be a Boho gem.
If there is one area of Manchester city centre worth getting excited about it is the Northern Quarter.
It may be just off the main shopping thoroughfare of Market Street, but its original style is in direct contrast to the chain stores and coffee shops that are the hallmark of every big city.
The Northern Quarter is Manchester’s answer to the Marais in Paris: a warren of atmospheric streets that has been transformed into a Boho enclave packed with independent shops, bars and restaurants. It’s a hang-out for musicians and actors and its cobbled streets and Victorian warehouses have formed the backdrop for films such as Captain America, Alfie starring Jude Law, and the Robert Downey Jnr movie Sherlock Holmes.
Admittedly, it hasn’t quite discarded its edgy past – especially along Oldham Street which has retained some of its old style clientele as well as the old style pubs - but that means it is never boring.
Affleck’s Palace, the original Bohemian shopping centre where people like design guru Wayne Hemingway and Urban Splash entrepreneur Tom Bloxham started their careers, still stands in spite of threats a few years ago to transform it into apartments. Still here, too, is Dry Bar, bought by the band New Order as part of their Hacienda empire.
And this is a part of Manchester where it is still possible to do anything from open an artisan bakery to throw a party in a deserted warehouse. The Northern Quarter has managed to resist the influx of chain stores and big-name coffee shops, and this has resulted in a diversity of businesses that embody the hard work and cherished dreams of their entrepreneurial owners.
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Here are some of our favourite places. We reckon you’ll like them too.
Sugar Junction Tea Rooms 60 Tib Street 0161 839 1444 Sugar Junction lives up to its name – it’s just so sweet! Perfect for a relaxing afternoon taking tea and cakes and cooing over delights like the mismatched vintage china and pretty chandeliers. Take a bunch of friends for an afternoon tea party.
Home Sweet Home 49-51 Edge Street 0161 833 1248 How could we resist home-made chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven? These are one of the star attractions of this comfy cafe, which really is a home from home. There are even board games and books to keep customers amused right through the evening.
Blue Daisy Cafe 36 Oldham Street Bags of atmosphere are crammed into this small kitschy decorated cafe, with quirky chalkboard messages and chintzy china. It’s a great place to pop in for a delicious piece of quiche, or a cake and a coffee – and surprisingly affordable too. 0753 144 1725
BARS AND BISTROS
Blue Pig 69 High Street, 0161 832 0630 The Marais comes to Manchester in the guise of the Blue Pig - an atmospheric addition to the bar empire which began with Odd. The Blue Pig is a place to indulge in a French fantasy of freshly baked croissants for breakfast and charcuterie from the deli and a glass of red for lunch. A regularly changing menu keeps things interesting too.
Dough 75-77 High Street 0161 834 9411 Pizza joint with pizzazz. It’s styled as a pizza kitchen and the ambience is contemporary, busy and the wine flows. A fine place for a gathering.
This & That 3 Soap Street 0161 832 4971 This place almost has cult status. It’s been here years and is a legendary lunchtime venue and a favourite with curry connoisseurs. The no-frills cafe is where to find homemade authentic Indian dishes. If it’s hard to make a choice there’s always the Rice and Three – three curries and rice option.
Northern Quarter Restaurant 108 High Street 0161 8327115 The Northern Quarter does posh dining thanks to the ambitions of this Manchester gem. Gutsy, thought-provoking menus using local ingredients and a smartly turned out appearance all add up to a unique gastronomic experience. A good place for a Sunday lunch too.
Sweet Mandarin 19 Copperas Street 0161 832 8848 Manchester has a fantastic heritage when it comes to Chinese food and Sweet Mandarin has augmented that reputation. It was recently voted Gordon Ramsay’s Best Local Chinese Restaurant in the UK and has an AA Rosette for 2013. They also cater for those on a gluten-free diet and have launched a range of vegan and gluten-free sauces following an appearance on Dragon’s Den.
Market Restaurant 104 High Street 0161 8343743 This is the original Northern Quarter restaurant and its longevity is testament to how much affection there is for it. A cosy cottage feel, modern British menu, and a monthly wine and food matching, wins over customers every time.
MUSIC AND NIGHTLIFE
Black Dog Ballroom 43 Oldham Street 0161 839 0664 Watch Coronation Street and somewhere in the background near the knicker factory there’s a poster for Manchester’s very own speakeasy – Black Dog Ballroom. Ken and Deirdre wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. It’s a place to drink cocktails into the early hours. A bit of an after-hours celebrity haunt too.
Hula 11 Stevenson Square 0161 2287421 A basement bar that’s a passport to 1950s tropical kitsch. The sand and palm tree wallpaper, stone fronted bar and Tiki-inspired artefacts are the ideal antidote to a grey, drizzly Manchester day.
Band on the Wall 25 Swan Street 0845 2 500 500 BOTW was once an edgy nightclub where it was possible to catch an up-and-coming band or a legendary performer, now it is a not-for-profit music venue with an education programme, but it still continues to stage some amazing gigs by famous names from many musical genre.
BOUTIQUES AND SHOPS
Kiku 100 Tib Street, 0161 819 5031 The art of corsetry lives at Kiku, so whether a bride is looking to perfect an hourglass shape with a bespoke waspie, or the desire is to unleash one’s inner Dita Von Teese this is the place to start. As well as made to order there are also off-the-peg pieces to suit all shapes and sizes.
Manchester Craft Centre 17 Oak Street 0161 832 4274 From artisan pottery to pretty hand-crafted jewellery this is a wonderful place to browse some of the best independent crafts around – and maybe even track down a unique gift for someone special.
Richard Goodall Gallery 59 Thomas Street 0161 834 3330 A fantastic gallery which specialises in photography but also showcases original art, movie posters, editioned prints and sculpture. Very worth a visit.
Chinese Arts Centre 13 Thomas Street 0161 832 7271 A leading organisation for the promotion of Chinese contemporary art in the UK, this is a cultural hub and anyone interested in exploring the cutting edge of modern art should visit. Check out the workshops, catch an exhibition, or buy a poster from the gallery shop.
Kraak Stevenson Square www.kraak.co A multi-purpose and low-cost space for art, music, exhibitions and photography, Kraak gallery is a former derelict textile cutting room in a basement. Ideals of collaboration and open expression were its original goals when it opened in 2009 and now it is recognised as a creative space for Manchester’s underground arts scene.