We can almost taste freedom! It might remind you of a vanilla latte, a pub garden burger, or the tang of a barber’s hairspray. We bet you have a hitlist – all of your favourite places waiting to dust your seat by the window.
What about other businesses though? The ones you may’ve missed before, but fought through the pandemic and are well worth checking out? Manchester has enough hidden gems to crown anyone’s day back into something close to normal life.
Let them treat you right. We’ve found plenty of great spots to reacquaint yourself with the city.
On an unassuming corner of Lever Street, there’s a café unlike any other – or at least one that marries several concepts into a rich, sugary whole. Chapter One is a bookstore, workspace, snug, art gallery and interplay of community socials. Creative castaways come here to drink from little mugs until midnight: the place doesn’t just close late, but makes you wish it would stay open later, such is the charm of its canvases and typewriters.
For 27 years, Flanagans has been trimming Manchester into shape. This beloved gent’s hairdresser still has a sharp style and music taste. Enough people go for the feel of the place, never mind the razor. It’s pricey but worth that first third-lockdown cut. You can pay for a regular stylist, the next level up, or the manager themselves. There are five branches of Flanagans in total and one in the city centre on King’s Street.
Comedy fan walks into a bar… Well, we’ll let someone at The Bread Shed finish that one, fielding as it does the best local laughs and a few names you’ll recognise from TV panel shows. Over lockdown, the owners have been voraciously live streaming, keeping us all a little warmer with marathon stand-up (or should that be sit-down?) performances. We can’t wait for this modest venue – tucked beside The Flour & Flagon off Oxford Road – to switch its mic back on.
“No egos, no gimmicks” reads the Instagram caption, a world away from budget gyms and people fixing selfie sticks on their weight machines. Squatting on the banks of the River Irwell, FORM is a new kind of fitness space. There’s still intensity, of course – via hammer kits, free weights and personal training sessions – but it focuses more on classes and physio.
What makes an awesome evening? We’d start with over 350 whiskeys. Then we’d move onto an infamous open mic every Tuesday. An hour or so later, we’d finish with a leftfield basement gig where jazz, punk or local rappers tear up the stage. This isn’t a daydream though – it’s all in a much-loved bar on Tariff Street. The Whiskey Jar collects the Northern Quarter’s bohemians like they’re going out of fashion. You’ll either find it crammed or fairly quiet: a potential for date night if you time it well. Stay on the lookout for colourful regulars like the Joe Bagpipes, the foul-mouthed Scottish compere.
Antipodean café culture is hard to come by beyond New Zealand and Australia. Pot Kettle Black wears it proudly on the menu – think wild yeast bread, brunch tacos, pork rolls, and cheese and avocado wraps. The venue has a gleaming reclaimed wood floor beneath high ceilings, made for plenty of conversation. We’ll be ordering breakfasts by the dozen when it reopens in Barton Arcade.
What have we missed? Tell us about your own independent stars in the city. They need our support and word of mouth. With a move to any of our inner-city apartments, you have an even better home to wander from, minutes away. It’s not just about distance either – local brands are getting closer to our residents with special partnerships in 2021. Get in touch! Let’s see what’s coming up in the months ahead, when we’re breathing a little easier.