If I had to pick one of my favourite cities, it would hands down be Manchester (closely followed by York, my other true love). There’s something about the place that just feels like home, even though I live a good 40 minute drive away. When Dan and I first got together we would spend a lot of time there as he hails from those parts, so I would hop on a train and spend lazy weekends with him, browsing our favourite shops in the Northern Quarter and finding nice spots to have a bite to eat, and to be completely honest, not much has changed!
Last week we headed in to the city to celebrate Dan’s birthday, and spent a full twenty four hours exploring, visiting places we know and love, and some places that we’ve never been to before, and it was so much fun! A lot of you probably know and love Manchester as well as we do, maybe even more so, but for those of you who aren’t too familiar with the place or are planning a visit and want some inspiration, I thought I’d share with you where we went and what we got up to whilst we were there!
THE REFUGE, Oxford Street, Manchester M60 7HA
Once we’d arrived late in the afternoon and checked in to our hotel (more on that shortly), we changed in to some slightly more fancy outfits than trainers and hoodies and headed out for some drinks. This was our first time visiting The Refuge, and it definitely won’t be our last! This place has been on my radar for a while and is somewhere that’s been recommended to me countless times, and now I can see why! Those of you that know me well will know how much of a sucker I am for great interiors and delicious cocktails, and this ticks both those boxes.
As far as I’m aware its a fairly new addition to Manchester’s restaurant and bar scene, and its unlike anywhere I’ve been before. With high ceilings, grand architecture, incredible interior design and a dreamy drinks menu, this place has to be one of my favourite places I’ve been in the city and I’m already hoping to visit again soon to try out their food. There’s a Manchester Kebab on the menu that combines Yorkshire pudding with lamb shawarma and Vimto Sriracha, and I’m itching to try it!
If you’re heading out for drinks in the city, I’d also highly recommend The Washhouse which is a super cool, secret bar which looks like a laundrette from the outside. Unless you know its there, you’d walk past completely unaware as to what’s inside! Booking is essential as there are only a small number of tables, but the drinks are beyond insane and the place is really intimate with a VIP feel.
Try Thai, 52-54 Faulkner St, Manchester M1 4FH
After a couple of drinks we then headed over to Try Thai, again following a few recommendations from friends. Thai food is one of our favourite cuisines and this place came really highly recommended, so we knew we had to check it out. You’ll find this place in Chinatown on Faulkner Street, but don’t be fooled by the less-than-exciting exterior. Once inside, this is a bustling little restaurant that was full to the brim on a Monday night, and once we started to eat our food we could see why!
I’ve eaten at a fair few Thai restaurants, but this one is on another level. Once you get past the chintzy decor and delve in to the menu, there are so many amazing dishes! It actually took us all a while to pick as there was just so much to choose from, but I settled on my old favourite satay chicken skewers, and one of their variations on a red curry with sticky rice – basic I know, but both were SO good. Dan chose the incredible coriander beef starter which was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, and the garlic and pepper chicken main which again, was top notch! Everything was amazing and I’d say this was easily the best Thai meal I’ve eaten and I’m so desperate to go back asap!
Top tip – there are some great deals on weeknights here, so if you’re not too fussed about what day you visit, I’d definitely book midweek. We managed to get two-for-one drinks and also I had two courses for around £13 which was such a good price considering the portion sizes and just how good this was! Can you tell I enjoyed it?
ibis Styles Manchester Hotel, 3-5 Portland St, Manchester M1 6DP
After the copious amounts of food and drink we then retired back to our hotel. We wanted something affordable, central and modern, so went for the ibis Styles Manchester Portland Street Hotel and we’re so glad we did. This is just a few minute’s walk from Picadilly Station, and a 10-15 minute walk to the restaurant and bar. Its super close to the Northern Quarter and really handy for the main high streets, so we’ve found a definite gem here!
I travel a lot for work so have stayed in my fair share of ibis hotels, but the ibis Styles range have a completely different concept to the regular kind. Throughout the hotel, there’s a definite theme in the decor, and its one that is very apt for Manchester; the unpredictable Great British weather! In the foyer you’ll find a ceiling of umbrellas, some sunglasses that are almost as tall as me, lights shaped as clouds and walls decorated with rain. Head to the lifts and you’ll see the walls are adorned with raining cats and dogs, then once in the corridor to your room, there’s a ‘cobbled street’ carpet complete with fallen Autumn leaves. The rooms themselves are just as quirky, with cloud shaped tables, leaf inspired chairs, weather forecasts in the bathroom and art prints depicting a typical day in the British wind and rain.
If you’re in to something super chic and peaceful, then this definitely isn’t for you, as the decor is quite loud and bold (I’d recommend the Hilton Double Tree for that!), but if you’re looking for something that little bit different that won’t break the bank and will brighten up your stay, I’d really recommend this. We’d definitely stay here again!
Evelyn’s Cafe Bar, G18 Smithfield Building, Tib Street, Manchester M41NB
Now on to day two! Breakfast is one of my favourite things to eat in Manchester as there are just so many places to choose from, but one of my favourites is Evelyn’s Cafe Bar and I couldn’t wait to introduce Dan to their amazing food! Located on Tib Street, it has a really nice relaxed vibe to it, and I’ve visited a couple of times to work on my laptop over brunch and found it a really productive place to get work done!
I went for the sweet potato hash which is the perfect meal when you want to treat yourself to something tasty for breakfast, minus the grease! I swapped my fried egg for poached and it was honestly the best poached egg I’ve had. I’d also recommend the Korean Chicken which is incredible! Dan chose the ricotta pancakes which were so light and fluffy, but the honeycomb butter was the star of the show!
Other brunch spots I’d recommend are Moose Coffee for an American style breakfast to die for, and Ezra & Gil for some chilled dog-friendly vibes. If you’re heading there on a weekend, I’d suggest you book a table before you go!
Flourish, 8A Tib St, Manchester M4 1PQ
Next stop after breakfast was the Northern Quarter for a spot of shopping! First up we headed to Flourish on Tib Street, which is a great little florist stocking gorgeous flowers and a huge selection of cactus plants and succulents as well as a number of house plants. I picked up some beautiful white roses over a week ago and they still look amazing! Had we not had to get a train home with a suitcase and a couple of bags I would have bought a few of the house plants as they looked so lovely and were really reasonably priced! The ladies who work here are so nice too, and kindly let us shoot some outfit photos outside.
After picking up some blooms we stopped by a number of our favourite Northern Quarter shopping spots, including Vinyl Revival for some records, Magma to browse the great range of fashion and lifestyle magazines and books, Fred Aldous for their huge selection of gifts and stationery, and COW for some cool Vintage styling!
Of course we also hit some of the high street shops in the city centre (a girl can’t go shopping without visiting Zara, can she?) but when it comes to finding something unique, the Northern Quarter is definitely the one!
It was such a lovely couple of days exploring one of our favourite places, and I would definitely say that 24 hours is nowhere near enough, even for us who have been there countless times over the years. If you’re visiting soon, I’d love to hear what your plans are, or if you’re living the Mancunian life then please send me your recommendations! I’m always looking for somewhere new to eat, drink or shop!