Eating (and drinking) in Manchester

I've just moved out of Manchester and back to the family homestead in southwest London, and I think the things I'm going to miss the most are all my favourite bars and restaurants up north.  The night before driving back down here, my mum and I went for dinner in Try Thai at the edge of Chinatown, which I'd heard good things about and really delivered on the deliciousness (beef red curry is my go-to for Thai food but Mum was a big fan of her stir-fry).  Another favourite is a restaurant that specialises in South Chinese cuisine: we were lead there by some Chinese friends who swore it was the best place in town, leading us up some stairs over another Thai restaurant, and even picking out every meal.  They were bang on the money, because literally everything was excellent, even a pork mince dish I would have been very wary of.  I didn't catch the name when we were taken there, like an idiot: I just remember the food was placed on a lazy susan which facilitated easy sharing, and some sort of tea was served as accompaniment.

Living right on top of the Gay Village as I did, I became partial to going for a drink out on Canal Street when the weather was nice - grabbing a beer to go from Via to take into Sackville Gardens, or a pitcher of Pimms from Velvet (which is what I actually ended up doing with my entire family after my graduation).  The true shining star of the Village for me, though, is The Molly House.  Tucked away on Richmond Street, a skinny little back alley common to industrial cities like Manchester, you wouldn't even know it's there.  And it's tiny, one room with the kitchen occupying the corner.  But as a bar, it's buzzy and sophisticated - and as a tapas restaurant, it is to die for.  Get the albondigas and patatas bravas.

Drinking Jade Dragon tea at Teacup
But the real treasure chest is the Northern Quarter, where you're spoilt for choice.  On Thomas Street you can find Trof, which specialises in bourbon cocktails but does a very nice tequila mai tai; Teacup, which sometimes at lunch has queues out the doors, but has a lovely selection of tea and cakes (if somewhat pricey by student standards); and Odd Bar, which is one of three of a chain in the Manchester area.  Odd does excellent sandwiches and good seasonal drinks (a hot cider around Christmas time springs to mind), while their counterpart Odder on Oxford Road has a great deal for pizza and a beer.  Now, I'm not one to put a place down without reason but I will call out Dry Bar on Oldham Road for the worst round of cocktails I've ever had, and on my last day in Manchester too.  Perhaps it was a newbie bartender, and the happy hour deal two for £7 is not to be snubbed, but my margarita room temperature, had hardly any tequila, and there was sugar on the rim!  I was grumbling for hours.

Honestly though, one of the fantastic things about Manchester is that there is such a wealth and variety of restaurants, cafes, coffee shops, bars, pubs and tea rooms that you're bound to stumble on something good.  Even The Waterhouse (pictured on the left here), which is a bloody Wetherspoons, proved to have a decent ambience at a certain time.  Other decent pubs include The Circus Tavern which is about the width of the largest bedroom in your average 1930s semi, squeezed in between a couple of take-aways on Portland Street; Joshua Brookes, smarter than your average student pub on the corner of Princess and Charles St, which always has some decent guest ales and becomes a pretty good club at night; and The Briton's Protection off Lower Moseley St for something a bit more traditional.  But I say, if you've got some time in Manchester, challenge yourself.  You can definitely avoid the big chain restaurants and breweries.  And do try to make it down to the Curry Mile for some shisha and quality Indian food, something I'm still kicking myself for never getting round to.

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