**AD** This post “24 hours in Manchester” is in collaboration with National Express and includes gifted coach tickets and payment
2019 is very much a year of UK travel and staycations for A Brummie Home and Abroad. I’ve visited Manchester for work in a previous role, and been to gigs at LCCC but never explored the city properly. So when I had the chance to collaborate with National Express on a city break to Manchester, I jumped at the chance!
With just 24 hours to eat, drink and be merry in Manchester, I turned to bloggers and Twitter for recommendations. It became apparently obvious that, with our love of independents, street art and craft beer, the Northern Quarter would be the perfect base. And the lovely Emma of MissPond.com gave me more food and drink suggestions than we could ever hope to get through in one weekend. She knows her beer. And her burgers.
I’ve also previously eaten my way around other cities – make sure you check out the blogs A Day in Food: A Brummie Home and Abroad Guide to Eating Out in Birmingham and 6 great places to eat and drink in Liverpool.
The Northern Quarter is a bit like our very own Digbeth. A bit grungy, a bit grimy, a bit hipster. And a bit cool. Unlike A Brummie Home and Abroad. See above pic.
There are vintage shops with colourful clothes spilling from racks (although the denim jackets are still younger than my 26 year old battered classic). A labyrinth of side streets and alleyways which are home to quirky and diverse independents. Stores which sell – well, it’s hard to define what they sell really, such is the range of vintage homeware and unusual knickknacks. The eclectic Afflecks – a department store with a twist. There’s an arty, bohemian vibe exuding from every corner. And on Sunday morning we stumbled upon the monthly Makers Market, with artists, creators, designers and bakers all jostling for our pennies. I had to walk around the perimeter to stop myself from buying an armful of brownies and samosas.
It’s been hours since breakfast back home so it’s only sensible that our first stop (after a beer of course) is for lunch. And it’s chicken on my mind. Yard and Coop on Edge Street is top of the list for fowl food. On a busy Saturday afternoon there’s a 25 minute wait but we get ourselves a drink and wait to be seated.
As expected, it’s a chicken heavy menu with various options available – burgers, wraps, wings and “just” chicken. Mr Fletche opts for buttermilk fried chicken thighs with a blue cheese dip and upgrades to sweet potato fries. Always easily swayed by a fun name, I choose the Yakety Wrap – buttermilk fried chicken, avocado, bacon and a chilli mayo sauce.
I’d put Yard and Coop slightly above Brum’s Rebel Chicken, but slightly below Bonehead in the pecking order of chicken restaurants. Pecking order. See what I did there?
Not only one of Emma’s recommendations, but The Refuge popped up on loads of Manchester foodie blogs. It’s technically not in the Northern Quarter but we were willing to walk for 20 minutes for good food. We had a 9pm reservation, but surprisingly it wasn’t too busy when we arrived. I’d definitely recommend booking a table though just in case.
The first wow factor is the building. It’s corner location doesn’t give anything away from the outside, but once inside you’re struck by the beautiful high ceilings, tiled walls and pure opulence of this bar and dining room. Yet it’s not stuffy in the slightest. I feel just as at home in my maxi skirt and pumps as those girls dressed up to the nines in LBD and six inch stilettos.
It’s a sharing plate kind of place. They recommend 3-4 dishes (voltini) per customer, but we know our limits. Especially after all that chicken earlier. So we opt for two each from the meat and fish menu, and a further plant-based option. The fish dishes come out first. A dish full of mussels with lemon, harissa and parsley. A plate piled high with lightly breaded whitebait with a wonderfully tangy aioli dip. The lady on the table next to us sends back her whitebait – I don’t think she likes fish with a face.
Next up is a spiced lamb flatbread, topped with pomegranate and mint. Then a delicious Gloucester Old Spot pork belly, complete with apple sauce and an oriental flavour provided by the Thai seven spice. Finally, there are beetroot pakoras, complemented by a tamarind ketchup. The blob on the second photo below is a beetroot pakora. Trust me on that. Every mouthful of every dish is a joy, but the pork belly is the standout choice.
We (I) still have room for pudding. Mr Fletche insists on sharing my choice, the salted caramel panna cotta with biscotti. It’s a wonderful combination of sweet and salty, and definitely tickles my tastebuds. At just over £50, it’s not a bank-busting meal and definitely a great choice for a Saturday night meal.
The not quite breakfast/not quite lunch phenomenon is one of my favourites. There were a plethora of options on our doorstep in the Northern Quarter, including Common, Sugar Junction and Teacup Kitchen. In the end, we opted for the twee sounding Home Sweet Home on Edge Street. At 10:15 on a Sunday morning we were seated immediately, but not long after we arrived, the place was full. They do take reservations, so make sure you book if you don’t want to miss out. We saw a number of disgruntled looking hen parties being turned away, hangover hunger lining grey faces still etched with last night’s make-up.
Mr Fletche goes for the Bennie Macho – house hash, tomato, cheese, bacon, chorizo, peppers and onions on toasted muffins, topped with perfectly poached eggs, hollandaise and chipotle sour cream. I opt for the Texan Breakfast Skillet – essentially a full English fried up with peppers and onions. No eggs for me. It’s a thing of beauty and easily my favourite meal of the trip.
Of course we manage to squeeze in a drink or two. Our hotel room is not quite ready on arrival so we retrace our footsteps back to Thomas Street and to the Marble Beer House. It’s the perfect venue to welcome us to Manchester, with an exciting and diverse beer board. Mr Fletche chooses the 3.9% Marble Pint session pale, and I go for the 4.2% North South petite IPA. Neither of us go for the 13.1% Imperial Marshmallow Mild. Not before lunch anyway.
Marble also does cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. 20 types of cheese. We’re tempted by the Artisan Cheese Plank (from £3.95-£22.95) but as much as Mr Fletche loves cheese, cheese does not love Mr Fletche. Hence the decision to eat chicken instead.
In our final hour in Manchester, we stop for a quick drink at the Port Street Beer House. In an unusual turn of events, I do not photograph the beer, nor do I remember what we drank. Must do better next time.
With just 24 hours in Manchester, we did a shameful lack of sightseeing outside of the Northern Quarter. We did wander down through the glittering skyscrapers of Spinningfields to the canal – there’s lots of development going on over the far side on the right bank. And on Saturday evening we visited Albert Square, temporarily rebranded Festival Square for the 2019 Manchester International Festival. Nursing a beer – woefully served in plastic glasses – we watched an “interesting” set from Stealing Sheep before happily stumbling on a takeover by Deptford Northern Soul Club.
There’s so much more to see that we’ll just have to go back!
We spent the night at the Abel Heywood, a boutique hotel and pub on Turner Street in the heart of the Northern Quarter. It’s a lot snazzier than our usual budget chain or Airbnb affairs. The pub is all faux 19th-century decor with dark wood and leather seating but the rooms have all the modcons – including impressive soundproofing considering the Saturday night crowd congregating downstairs. I booked via Booking.com (referral link) and paid £135 thanks to my Genius loyalty discount.
We had a fabulous weekend in Manchester, even if our visit was too short! I’m a big advocate of filling weekends with food, drink, culture and travel, and a UK city break is the perfect way to do it. Thank you National Express for the opportunity!
Mr Fletche and I travelled from Digbeth Coach Station to Manchester in under three hours on a National Express Coach. Ticket prices start at just £9.50 return per adult, although on this occasion our tickets were kindly gifted to us. The seats are comfy, there’s a handy loo on board and there’s onboard WiFi to catch up with all your blogging and social media needs. They even have their own entertainment app offering films, TV and magazines! There are also USB sockets available to keep your devices full of juice. If you’re staying somewhere longer than 24 hours, National Express has a generous allowance of two 20kg suitcases. And a full coach is much friendlier to the environment than car travel.
This post is written in collaboration with National Express, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Coach travel with National Express is easy, cheap and an opportunity to sit back and watch the world go by whilst someone else does the driving! Check out the website to find out how easy it is for you to travel from your closest National Express hub!