Saturday 7 January 2012


"Manchester's got everything except a beach" - Ian Brown

Some 200 miles due North from the capital of England lies Manchester, a city whose streets are paved in sandstone cobble sets, not gold, as cockneys would have you believe London’s are. In the centre of the city, encompassing these streets, are domineering Collyhurst Sandstone historical buildings - some nowadays transformed in to grand hotels. Also mammoth clay, red brick former cotton mills of an erstwhile age have been converted into luxury apartments that fringe the crux. These pitted facade structures have seen and housed many an occurring, factual antiquity event; the growth, the rise, and the fall of the textile trade – include in this the Industrial Revolution - when Manchester was dubbed ‘Cottonopolis’. Manchester had the perfect, moist climate and waterway links for the cotton industries Richard Arkwright’s spinning frames. There’s even an entry in the Domesday Book noting that Manchester was a ‘wool-town.’ Some even say the triggering point of the English Civil War began in the city. Riots also took place on the damp, slippery cobbles during the 18th Century recession over the lack of available food - this saw soup kitchens set up.

Anyhow, that’s enough on the past history of Manchester. Nowadays Manchester is a vibrant city that has got just about everything going for itself, apart from having a beach! For me, being from the North West, it seems to have overtaken Birmingham for resources as the second city of England, and beyond. If shopping for clobber is your forte, there’s an abundance of one offs to shop at with the jewel in the crown being

Oi Polloi . Afflecks is a wondrous palace to browse for something different/quirky/bohemian: be it a boyhood hero poster, a punk or mod badge wore back in the day or, an item of 80s sportswear, if they do have to have it in XXL, that is. Slick, modern architecture like the Beetham Tower (also referred to as the Hilton Tower, a landmark 47-storey skyscraper) sits side-by-side with magnificent structures such as The Midland, which is a 312 bedroom grand hotel. There’s also a opulence of galleries and museums worth a visit within easy reach from the centre either on foot or by tram; with my personal favorite being the People’s History Museum And, three successful football clubs share the city’s’ support: Manchester United, Manchester City plus FC Utd.

The city and surrounding areas has a diverse, cultural population with cuisine on offer from around the world served in a array restaurants, cafes and from takeaways to feed the hunger pangs. But my main reason for a three day stay were, the wide range of traditional alehouses and stylish, urban café bars.
Whatever floats your boat in the drinking stakes is available in Manchester; from original, floorboard back street boozers to futuristic glass fronted establishments. You could pin down seven areas worth whetting your whistle too in the centre: Central, Victoria, Northern Quarter, Piccadilly & The Village, Oxford Road, Deansgate-Castlefield and Salford Central plus two outlaying areas; Chorlton-cum-Hardy and Wilmslow Road.
I graced quite a few lushers with my presence during my stopover so I’ll just skim through the crème de la crème of some of them: Sam’s Chop House is where you can share a pint of fine ale with L S Lowry, or dine on hearty tucker. The City Arms is a cosy, hidden gem with several guest beers on. Dating back to 1552, The Old Wellington, was relocated 120 yards from its foundations following the ’96 IRA – a major feat indeed. The Angel, which had 10 ales dispensing on a Wednesday and a roaring log fire. A Robinson’s tied house, the Castle Hotel, with its brown tiled facade, mosaic floor and mahogany wood bar. The Crown & Kettle has an unique ceiling and wood panelling from the R101 airship. The Marble Arch Inn serves up all its own brewed wide selection of beers from Marble Brewery in a granite fronted building, slopping floored and glazed tiled interior walled gaff. Both the Peveril of the Peak and Britons Protection are traditional pub pubs, where punters chat quietly while drinking cask ales. The Knott Bar nestles in a converted railway arch. And if you want to impress the Missus on a night out you won’t go far wrong if you treat them to a cocktail or half of real cider/perry in the relaxed Port Street Beer House or the splendid Joshua Brooks which had Marble No6 on at £2 a pint – it’s 6% pale ale – and moreish Thai nuts from behind the bar. Joshua Brooks also has a restaurant and night club housed in the building for the perfect night out, for some.

Though my stay in Manchester was only brief, I shall be back again very soon to sample its wares.
Your Northern Monkey correspondent, Bill.

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