Erst, Murray Street, Ancoats, Manchester

Erst is the epitome of assured, confident cooking, the type that happens when you’ve got both killer ingredients and the know-how to show them off to their best. That means you get golden olive oil-drenched wedges of mozzarella and Cantabrian anchovies alongside plump Carlingford oysters and a rich spiced lamb shoulder, courgette and farro dish made for autumn in the North West. Both the tomato flatbread and the deeply funky beef fat and fermented onion flatbread; and the vegan beetroot with ajo blanco that had us dipping spoons back into the sauce several times, were particular highlights on our visit. Wine is just as central to the Erst operation as the food, with a cracking list of around 40 bottles, mostly low-intervention wines from Europe. If you’re anywhere in the Manchester area, do yourself a favour and stop by.

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Pollen Bakery - KAMPUS, Aytoun Street, Manchester

Having started out in a railway arch underneath Manchester Piccadilly station in 2017, Pollen moved to a new cafe space in New Islington Marina in 2018, and then opened a second cafe at the centrally located KAMPUS building in 2022 in order to meet the growing demand. All Pollen’s sourdough loaves use naturally occurring yeasts and are slow fermented over 28 hours, allowing flavour and nutrients to develop – it’s a damn fine loaf. There’s lots of delicious things on toast, as well as sublime bacon rolls, and of course a an amazing display of pastries that’ll have you pressing your face up to the glass like a small child. Don’t miss the cinnamon roll or the weekly-changing cruffin line up.


Dakota Manchester, Ducie Street, Manchester

Located about 5 minutes round the corner from Manchester Picadilly station, The Dakota is a massively convenient choice if you’re arriving by train. A sleek, black block situated on the canal, The Dakota is dark and moody inside, with a monolithic fireplace and lounge area at the entrance that leads back to a smart bar and restaurant, the Dakota Grill. There’s also a canal-side terrace which has a retractable roof so you can be out there whatever the famous Manchester weather brings. Rooms are comfy and luxurious with big beds, bathtubs and huge rainforest showers, plus all the mod cons you might need – all in all very decent value too, with rooms starting at £126 a night.


6 Tariff Street, Manchester M1 2FF


Takk is a Scandi-inspired cafe/creative space that focuses on brewing up top notch coffee. As well as serving their own North Projekt Nordic-style espresso, they have a rotating selection of guest roasters, so you can sip on some of the best coffee the continent has to offer. The changing brunch menu is just as good too, with all classic eggs and bacon being joined by some more unusual ingredients. Definitely worth a pit stop.


61 Church Street, Manchester M4 1PD


Cow has always been one of the better vintage stores in Manchester, even when it was located behind the buses in Piccadilly Gardens, but it makes much more sense in its new Northern Quarter home. Whilst they have their own design team reworking items for their own range, most of the clothes at Cow are second-hand and they’ve actually organised them in a way that makes sense…easy browsing should not be underestimated. And if you can’t find anything on the rails, the interiors, courtesy of Peter Masters, are defo worth a look.


55 Thomas Street, Manchester M4 1NA


Sometimes all you want in life is a cup of tea and a slice of cake. When those times strike, get yourself down to Teacup. They’ve got one of the best selection of brews in the city, and whilst they’ve got great lunch options on their menu, you don’t want to fill up too soon because a Teacup portion of cake is BIG.


10 Tariff St, Manchester M1 2FF


Kosmonaut is one of the stalwarts of the NQ, and although the industrial exposed bricks and pipes decor has spread like wildfire, it’s still a good looking and lively spot to drink in. There’s a simple but effective cocktail list, handily divvied up into ‘fresh’, ‘bold’ and ‘serious’, and a rotating selection of guest beers. The food has also been taken up a notch too thanks to the Hip Hop Chip Shop residency…Shell L Cool J Burger anyone?


Smithfield Buildings, 44 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LA


With its exposed brick, hanging plants and open kitchen, Evelyn’s looks super cool but feels super relaxed…just what you want from a neighbourhood joint. The menu is a mix of Asian and European influences and is broken up into small and large plates, sandwiches and salads. Don’t miss the fiery Korean fried chicken and the hazelnut, basil and tomato tagliatelle…even die-hard carnivores will love this one. Evelyn’s also does brunch AND roasts on Sunday, which you can actually book for! Plan ahead because you’ll get nowhere without a ressie.


63 Thomas St, Manchester M4 1LQ


If you’re after menswear in Manchester, Oi Polloi should be your first stop. The local institution stocks strictly the coolest brands, from Beams Plus to Our Legacy to Universal Works, and if you’re just window shopping, they’ve always got good graphics going on.


100-102 High St, Manchester M4 1HP


Almost Famous do the best burgers in town. And they’re not just any burgers, they’re big burger monsters piled high with toppings. This is not a place to count calories, so go all out with a Jonny Mac (cheese, streaky bacon, trailer trash onions, Cool Doritos, Million Island sauce, and a mac & cheese ball) and Bacon Bacon fries…they come with bacon mayo AND bacon rain. They’ve also got a second joint in the Great Northern, meaning you’re never too far from an Almost Famous burger. That’s a good thing.


52 Church Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1PW


Afflecks is quite simply a Manchester icon. Whether you’re after fancy dress, a new tattoo, a packet of fudge, a piercing, some vinyl, Star Wars memorabilia, you can find it in Afflecks…it sells virtually everything under the sun. There’s A LOT to explore, so set aside a chunk of time and go get lost in there.


The Avenue Courtyard Spinningfields Crown Square Manchester M3 3AY


With exposed brick, wood and giant barrels, The Oast House is definitely different to the rest of the bars in Spinningfields. And it’s all about the beer, with a strong selection of ales and lagers on tap. It’s great for al fresco boozing in the summer but The Oast House really comes into its own in the winter, with two giant teepees complete with brass bands, open fires, fairy lights and fur rugs pop up in the courtyard. Get in and get cosy.


53 Oldham St, Manchester M1 1JR


Established in 1978 and in its current NQ location since 1997, Piccadilly Records really knows what it’s doing. Consistently voted one of the best record stores in the country, even the world, the selection is unsurprisingly excellent, with everything from indie to house to disco and any other genre you can think of. And the staff really, really know their stuff. If you need records, this is where you come.


5a Stevenson Square, Northern Quarter, Manchester M1 1DN


If you’re a vinyl purist and into electronic music, Eastern Bloc is the record shop for you. They’ve been breaking dance music since the late 80s and their selection covers the spectrum from deep house to drum & bass. Plus they’ve got a cafe in the front so you can enjoy a cuppa and some cake whilst you’re having a browse. The party continues after dark with a late-night bar and regular in-store DJ sessions and flowing booze after dark.


25 Swan St, Manchester M4 5JZ


Band On The Wall turned from pub to jazz club in the mid-seventies and, aside from a brief closure and refurb, has never looked back. Live music, particularly jazz, is still at the heart of the venue…if you get a chance to see local band Riot Jazz live here, do it….but it also hosts club nights and gigs ranging from drum & bass to folk to world music, so the sound system always gets a workout.


64 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LW


Another local institution, Matt & Phred’s hosts gigs six nights a week so you’ll never be short of live music, and in such an intimate space it’s a real treat. Matt & Phred’s is mainly known for jazz but the shows span electro, ska, folk and world music, and with free entry Monday to Thursday, it’s well worth dropping in…you never know who you might discover.


54-56 Whitworth St W, Manchester M1 5WW


We find railway arches always make great venues and Gorilla, tucked underneath the Whitworth Street West tracks, is no exception. The 700-capacity performance space holds everything from live gigs to club nights to film screenings and everyone from Bill Ryder-Jones to Pete Tong to The Grinch. It’s even got old BBC gear from the Oxford Road site on the walls. And because doing just one thing is boring, Gorilla is also home to an all-day restaurant and a Gin Parlour, so you can eat, drink and party all under one roof.


27 Peter St, City Centre, Manchester M2 5QR


Formerly a Methodist chapel, now a live music venue, the Grade-II listed Albert Hall…pipe organ and stained-glass windows intact…has to be one of the most beautiful concert spaces in the city. The Trof team who resurrected the place have certainly made the most of it with a diverse musical programme that spans indie icons, Ibiza club nights, and a whole load of good stuff in between. If you’ve not got a ticket for a show, fun can still be had on the ground floor in Albert’s Schloss.


135 Grosvenor St, Manchester M1 7HE


Another Grade-II listed rescue job from Trof, The Deaf Institute is a three-floor one-stop shop…basement drinking den downstairs, a vegan-heavy kitchen and main bar on the ground floor, and music hall, complete with disco ball and tiered seating (which can get a little tricky to navigate after a few bevs), up top. The Deaf Institute is where hip-hop night Gold Teeth started and it’s still going strong, as is the live programme, which has featured the likes of Lewis Del Mar, RY X, Honeyblood and Gengahr.


31-33 Spear St, Manchester M1 1DF


If you want to see the buzziest new acts in a basement, head to Soup Kitchen. It’s a canteen and bar by day but it’s what happens after dark that has made this place famous with DJs, local indie bands, international acts and more all passing through. It’s busy but it’s one of the best spots in town.


108 High Street, Manchester M4 1HQ


TNQ is has been doing its thing for a while but it’s definitely still going strong. It’s much more classic in feel to some of the newer joints in the area but it’s relaxed, friendly and the food is fab…modern British, seasonal and full of local produce, and the veggie options here are more than a match for the meaty plates. If you needed more convincing, on Mondays and Thursdays, TNQ does three courses and UNLIMITED house wine for under £30.


10 Newton St, Manchester M1 2AN


Alabama’s All American Eatery does exactly what it says on the tin, authentic American brekkie and brunch. You can get your classic eggs and waffles as well as the less common Philly Cheesesteaks, Monte Cristo sandwiches and Cajun Étouffée. You’ll need a fair bit of patience to get in as this place is both small and permanently busy, but look at those pancakes…it’s worth the wait.


9 Cotton Street, Ancoats, M4 5BF


Just how Almost Famous does the best burgers in town, Rudy’s does the best pizza. Double-fermented dough for that authentic Neapolitan texture and quality Italian toppings like Tuscan sausage, friarielli & smoked mozzarella, and fior di latte, basil and n’duja….trust us, you don’t need anything else. Rudy’s is another one with no bookings and it can get seriously busy, so you’ll have to wait but once your chewing on that amazing crust, you’ll forget all about it.


49 -51 Thomas Street, Manchester M4 1NA


You get three for the price of one with Cane & Grain as each of the three floors have their own distinct personality. The first floor pays homage to the 80s skate scene with industrial decor (again), decks on the walls, and American beers and ribs on the menu. Up one is the First Floor Bar where it’s all about dark wood, antique glassware and cocktails. And on the next floor up is the tiki-inspired The Liar’s Lounge, where the only drink you need is the Zombie aka rum, jungle juice and fire.


16 Newton Street, Manchester M1 2AE


Whilst it has the same industrial design elements as most of the other bars in the Northen Qaurter, plus a lot of copper, Cottonopolis still manages to feel slick. It’s a great size – not so massive that it feels empty but big enough that you won’t have to queue outside – so it’s always feels lively, and the drinks list is strong. They do spirits particularly well here, especially gin…around 20 different types and they put grapefruit and juniper berries in the G&Ts.


1 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DN


Dusk Til Pawn is supposed to be secret but seeing as we’ve given you the location, it’s not gonna be that hard to find. There’s no sign on the door though, you’ll have to look out for an old-fashioned pawn shop with guitars and TVs in the window. Inside it’s a cosy speakeasy-style bar and where it’s all about the cocktails. They’ve got a rotation selection of inventions but if you can’t find anything you like, the barmen can easily knock something up. There’s even a free jukebox if you have the urge to play DJ.


27 Peter St, Manchester M2 5QR


Located underneath the Albert Hall music venue is Bavarian-themed bier palace, cook haus and all-around party place Albert’s Schloss. As well as a huge bar, it’s got roaring fires, communal wooden benches, a shufflepuck table and giant copper tankers filled with pints of Czech Pilsner…it’s the perfect place if you like beer and bratwurst or you just want to get sloshed.


21-23 Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JG


Blue Rinse is always absolutely packed with stock, so if you’re into vintage it’s well worth having a dig around. They also have their own line, Re-Made In England, which is made out of surplus fabric and unusable clothes, so can pick up items that are a little more trend-led without having to head to the high street. Some of the stock can be overpriced, but they do have regular samples if you really want to bag a bargain.


74-76 High St, Manchester M4 1ES


Packed with all manner of colourful stationary, accessories, gifts and homeware, Oklahoma prides itself on its eclectic product selection. If you’re kitting out your flat, hit this palace up for those finishing touches, although you’ll probs end up leaving with things you don’t actually need but suddenly can’t live without.


100 King St, Manchester M2 4WU


Hotel Gotham, not to be confused with the home where a retired Batman decided to spend the rest of his days, is a glorious bit of architecture set over seven floors, with some pretty special views of the city. The former bank is home to 60 rooms and is art deco all the way.. dark polished woods, luxurious leather, velvet, faux fur and geometric carpets. The in-house restaurant Honey turns out a modern menu and the top-floor Club Brass is a member’s (and guests) only Prohibition-style speakeasy. Hotel Gotham is housed in one of the city’s grandest properties and is without doubt one of the best boutique hotels in Manchester.


First Street, Manchester M15 4FN


HOME is basically a giant one-stop culture shop…it’s got two theatre spaces, five cinema screens, a gallery space AND a bookshop, plus a restaurant, cafe and bar. Whether you want to take in a bold new play or dance piece, watch a new release or cult classic, catch some contemporary art, or just grab a coffee, you can do it here.


Royal Mills, Redhill St, Manchester M4 6JG


Castlefield Market is still run by the Castlefield Events team but is now held in Ancoats and has (sort of) had a name change to Royal Mills Market…confusing but we’ll get there. Held on the first Saturday of every month, the market is now indoors, which is a very good thing given the Manchester weather. You can browse craft, furniture and vintage stalls, chow down on street food and even shimmy along to the in-house DJ.


17 Oak St, Manchester M4 5JD


The Manchester Craft and Design Centre is a studio space/gallery/cafe hybrid that sits on the site of the city’s old fish market. Designers actually work in the studio spaces, so you can have a little nosey as you wander round, and the centre also holds regular events and exhibitions. If you’re after a handmade gift, and can’t make anything yourself, this is the place to pick one up.


Market Buildings, Thomas Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1EU


The CFCCA is the best place to explore contemporary Chinese art in the whole country, so seize the chance and step on in. The exhibitions change regularly and they also run artist-in-residency programmes, so it’s a really dynamic gallery. Don’t leave without a spin round the gift shop, it’s got some great craft and jewellery pieces for sale.


Liverpool Road, Manchester, M3 4FP


Manchester is known for its industrial history, so it makes total sense for a museum dedicated to that very topic to be here, in the world’s oldest railway station no less. The Power Hall is home to working steam engines, check out triplanes in the Air and Space Hall, and see the machines that made Manchester famous in the Textiles Gallery. It may be family friendly, but it’s defo not just for kids.


70 Oxford St, Manchester M1 5NH


First it was the Refuge Assurance HQ, then it was The Palace hotel, now it’s The Principal Manchester. The Grade II-listed building has had a pretty significant revamp since being taken over by Principal and now has spacious rooms and vast all-day space The Refuge, run by the team behind Didsbury’s successful Volta restaurant. This really is the main attraction…it’s a bar, restaurant, workspace, cocktail garden and billiards room all rolled into one, and it’s a nice throwback to the original incarnation of this landmark building.


Great John Street, Manchester M3 4FD


The Great John Street Hotel was a Victorian school in another life and thankfully that character has not been lost. All five styles of rooms have original period features mixed with rich design, creating a real sense of luxury. With deep sofas and a fire burning stove, both the Oyster Bar and the Library both scream comfort and cosiness, so you might find it tough to get yourself outside, but the hotel also has a whopping great roof terrace for you to take in the city.


16 Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS


If you want a little old-school luxury, The Midland is the place for you. The hotel has been around for over 100 years, and has played host to all manner of rock stars and royalty…it’s even where Mr Rolls met Mr Royce. As well as the building itself being iconic, it’s got both Mr Cooper’s House & Garden and Adam Reid at The French under its roof, plus 312 bedrooms and suites, a spa and the famous Octagon lounge.


49-41 Edge Street, Manchester M4 1HW


Home Sweet Home is all about American comfort food and it’s one of our go-to places for a hangover fix. With waffles, bennies, fried chicken, burgers and nachos on the menu, they’ll cure whatever ails you, although if you’re a veggie you might struggle as meat creeps into a lot of the dishes. The cakes are absolute monsters though, so you can always go for a sugar rush.


Back Pool Fold, Manchester M2 1HN


Serving up the best of British and standing for over 140 years, Sam’s Chop House is the definition of traditional. As a chop house, it’s all about quality drinks and hearty food…don’t come here if you’re on a diet, because then you wouldn’t be able to enjoy fish & chips, steak & kidney pudding or their famous (and bloody delish) corned beef hash. If it’s good enough for LS Lowry, it’s more than good enough for us.


42 King St W, Manchester M3 2WY


Yes it’s known for having celebs and footballers in, and it’s got photos of famous people all over the walls, but even if you don’t care about any of that, San Carlo is still one of the best Italian restaurants in Manchester. The menu, like the place itself, is huge, so you’ve got a lot to choose from but splash that cash and get the lobster spaghetti, it’s bloody good.


35 Radium Street, Manchester M4 6AD


Quality coffee, homemade cakes and tasty sarnies, all served up in a Scandi-inspired canalside spot…Cafe Cotton may keep it simple, but they sure do know what they’re doing. If you’re up early you can’t go wrong with a breakfast bagel but the sandwiches (plus the bread they come in) really are the best…rare roast beef, peppercorn mayo, seeded baguette, HELLO.