Manchester likes to keep its best bits hidden. It really isn’t the easiest place to get to know. Oddly this is one of the most appealing things about the city. Some of my favourite spots really aren’t that obvious, and it has taken me over a decade to suss them out. Sadly there is very little hope for those dropping in for a weekend. Perhaps that’s the point. Does Manchester selfishly prefer not to shout about some of the things that make it so special?
Let’s start with food. My favourite eateries are all tucked away. El Rincon for example, the ridiculously authentic tapas bar that makes you feel you’ve stepped onto Spanish soil the moment you enter, or Choice, the stylish canal-side restaurant under Middle Warehouse in Castlefield. I also love the front-room feel of the Market Restaurant, which has watched the Northern Quarter grow around it.
Now summer’s here I can revisit some of Manchester’s best outdoor spaces, those harder to find beer gardens that are perfect if you want to avoid the crowds at Dukes 92. The terrace at the back of Atlas Bar has to be my favourite but others worth a mention include the roof top gardens at the Bridge and Deansgate pubs, the terrace at the City Inn, the tables outside Beluga and the sunny patio outside Lava bar in Castlefield
My favourite street has got to be Tib Street with its eclectic mix of boutique style shops, cafes and bars. It’s like Manchester’s equivalent of Penny Lane with the laid-back bustle of people going about their day but never too busy to stop and chat. I particularly love Northern Flower florist, Matt and Phred’s jazz bar and the flirty French hairdresser, Olivier Morosini at the top. And I’ll miss the iconic Rags to Bitches vintage clothes shop, forced on-line by rising business rates.
The same elusiveness is true of the Manchester music scene. Some of the best bands seem to be kept a closely guarded secret for years. How long did it take for Elbow to become a recognised name outside the city? Even today locally grown talent like The Jessie Rose Trip, Exit Calm and I am Kloot are plugging away without realising the level of attention they truly deserve. Although the recent Mercury nomination for the latter may at least address that one.
Perhaps Manchester should be better at sharing its hidden treasures but because it doesn’t, you can’t help feeling a tad smug when you’re let into another secret and discover another gem.