Recently “discovered” by The New York Times, the Northern Quarter is the artsy, edgy hub of Manchester. Situated between Piccadilly and Victoria railway stations and spreading to cover parts of Ancoats (Manchester’s Little Italy), young entrepreneurs have regenerated and reinvigorated the area with a raft of quality restaurants, bars and boutiques, making it the place to go in all the city.
Every day of the week, the bars are packed with the young, the beautiful, the successful, and myself, sampling Manchester’s revolution till the wee small hours of the morning. I’ve been going to the NQ for as long as I’ve been old enough to drink, I’ve seen venues come and go, but much like the rest of the city, its changing facade always leaves you with somewhere new to try. I’ve picked out just a handful of my essential spots.
8 Thomas St, M4 1EU
Hands-down, this is my favourite place to drink and party in Manchester. It ticks all the boxes, drinking, dining and live music, situated over three floors, it’s a place where you can have both your breakfast and your evening pint. With bar-type meals of burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches, it’s all made from quality ingredients and won’t overface you or your wallet. And with its impressive forty-strong bourbon and whisky collection, Trof means business; you can find a wide range of local and imported craft beers, creative cocktails, and everything from the usual spirits and wines to the unusual liquors only the edgiest of places will stock.
The Blue Pig
69 High St, M4 1FS
Situated in the very heart of the Northern Quarter, this infamous drinking den is one of the most popular places to drink and eat. Their sumptuously crafted cocktails are some of the best in the city, and use some lesser known spirits. Crammed on the shelves behind the bar you’ll not only find some of the finest aged rums but a marvellous small batch gin collection including Langleys – No.8, Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry, and Van Wees Three Corners which, let me tell you, packs one hell of punch. Nestled away you’ll find an exceptional number of aperitifs that are making quite the come back and a tequila assortment that leaves you with quite the headache in the morning. Dangling from the ceiling you’ll find the famous Blue Pig that looks down on a welcoming, atmospheric and trendy venue.
Oldham Street, M4 1SH
Casual American dining served in little tin buckets, cocktails in jam jars, with a funky vinyl soundtrack, Dive is the embodiment of Manchester gentrification. With a killer happy “hour”, that in true Manchester style lasts three, Dive is at the very heart of what the Northern Quarter truly means. Attracting some of the best live acts the city has to offer, Dive has a simplistic aesthetic but puts sharing at the centre of everything, with giant meals designed for sharing and sumptuous cocktails; the communal aspect of Dive is what makes it unique to the city. Often partying till 5am, it’s worth a trip for the young, fashionable and free.
24 Dale St, M1 1FY
I first visited Allotment not too long ago, and I feel like I owe the city an apology for not going sooner. The city has become clogged full of stripped back, industrial chic designs that try far too hard to be edgy and cool. Allotment takes a different view. Littered with plants, flowers, and grass the bar takes its namesake very seriously. Potted plants adorn the walls, gnomes hide in the nooks and thick wooden tables pull your focus right across the room. It feels fresh and crisp and relaxes you in seconds, and with their exceptional gin selection you won’t be disappointed. Quirky cocktails with delightful names are served in all manner of containers; you’ll never be unsatisfied with your beverage choice. Quintessentially British with a modern hipster twist, this place is my go to for a night out with something different.
Pen and Pencil
57 Hilton Street, M1 2EJ
Want to enter the world of Sterling Cooper and party just like Don Draper? Well Pen and Pencil is just what you’re looking for. Named after the famed venues on New York’s own “Steak Row”, which was a popular hangout for writers and journalists, this is the original Mad Men bar and a local haunt for Manchester’s cutting edge creative generation. With funky cocktails, bold and flavoursome food, it just keeps me coming back for more. Something truly special.
The Manchester Renaissance is well underway, there is no question about it, and for me the Northern Quarter is leading the charge. Bold is the only word I can think of to use to describe the entire region of the city. The NQ pays homage to past whilst striving for the future, delivering the best cocktails and food anywhere in the north-west of England.
Header image: Duncan Hull