A quick city break to the Northern English city of Manchester.
Over the my winter break I spent most of my time trying to catch up on all my university work (and on some much needed sleep). But I'm all about trying to some what maintain a balance between work and having a life, so decided to escape for a couple of days to clear my head. Okay, perhaps we didn't go for the most exotic of getaways, especially compared to some of our more recent adventures, but I'm counting it as a holiday none-the-less.
Manchester is a city not too far from where I grew up, yet it is a place I have only ventured into a handful of times. Not too far from our current home in Hull, myself and Dan decided to hop on a train and spend a couple days exploring the (unofficial) capital of the north.
We stayed in Whitworth Locke, a stylish aparthotel located close to the city's northern quarter. Over the years we have stayed in our fair share of places across Europe, but this complex has to be up there with the best. The stylish studio apartment was fully equipped with a large double bed, en-suite and kitchenette, ideal for a luxurious short stay. The warm peach walls and minimal decor style created an upmarket boutique vibe, which was carried throughout the hotel. Downstairs was a large atrium complete with lounging area, restaurant, coffee shop and conservatory bar - there was no need to step foot outside and if we were there for longer I could have happily spent a day here relaxing under the gorgeous glass dome.
Things to Do
Manchester was the ideal location for us to visit, with plenty to do and eat, and despite being a large city it still has a very down-to-earth feel. With only a few hours either side of our one night stay, we wanted to make the most of our short trip away whilst still being able to relax and forget about work for a day or two.
A guilty pleasure of mine is shopping, some may even call me a little bit of a shopaholic. Being a large metropolitan city there is an abundance of commercial high street stores, with many situated in the Arndale in the heart of the central retail district. However I try to stray away from the world of 'fast fashion' as much as possible (check out The True Cost for more details) and Manchester is a great city to fuel my addiction in a more ethical way. If you venture into the northern quarter you'll find yourself surrounded by funky thrift stores and ethically sourced fashion - my idea of an afternoon in heaven!
If you are wanting to explore some of Manchester's finest vintage stores, I recommend checking out Blue Rinse Vintage, Pop Boutique and GRIN for those 90's style vibes at affordable prices. Thunder Egg has to be one of my all time favourite stores and is perfect for those of us who definitely don't want to blend in with the crowd. It is filled with the most incredible dungarees with fun quirky patterns, and all their items are ethically manufactured here in the UK.
There are loads of cool arty shops including Oklahoma and Fred Aldous, which sell unique housewares, arts and crafts materials, handmade jewellery and things you definitely won't seen every day. We even found a gachapon machine which dispensed handmade ceramic ornaments in little plastic balls (which they re-use in the store). Yes, I know what you are thinking, that is a little pink smiling poop, which now takes pride of place on Dan's office desk back home!
Manchester is like one giant outdoor art gallery, everywhere you walk the streets are filled with colourful artwork that brighten up the concrete city. Specific street artworks to look out for are the tyger, the climate change mural (pictured below) and the 22 Bees mural which is a moving tribute to represent the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017.
Another great place to check out is Hatch. Located under the Mancunian Way on Oxford Road, Hatch is a vibrant pop-up space filled with independent traders. Here you can find everything including a nano-brewery, tattoo parlour, barbers, vintage stores, and not forgetting street food (including Herbivorous, a fully vegan place). They also host various events such as charity fundraisers, craft workshops and supper clubs, all of which are regularly advertised on their facebook page.
Bored of your typical meal and movie dates? Yeah so are we. If you're wanting to try something a little bit different then Junk Yard Golf is the ideal evening activity. With three themed 9-hole courses, this 18+ mini golf venue creates a unique crazy twist on the classic game. We chose Bozo, a creepy carnival course, filled with dark fairground rides and scary clowns. There is also a bar serving beer, spirits and cool cocktails to enjoy either on your way round or at the end - loser buys the drinks!
For those of you who know me well, you'll know I love trying out as many of the vegan restaurants in a new city as I can possibly manage! During our short trip we enjoyed some incredible vegan options at some of my new favourite restaurants, check out my short reviews below...
Vertigo is a thriving little bistro with two locations in the heart of Manchester. We visited the Cross Street venue for lunch and it was so great to see such a busy plant-based eatery, filled with everyone from families with young children to business people on their lunch break - it is a place which unites everyone with good vegan food.
Vertigo offer a fresh variety of specials including soups, sandwiches and salads. Dan got the last scrambled tofu and gherkin sandwich which shows show popular it is! Served on fresh artisian bread, it was packed full of delicious eggy yumminess which not only looked realistic, but tasted it too.
In addition to their specials they have a lunch menu with a selection of delicious sounding bowls including jackfruit bean chilli and cauliflower and lentil dhaal. I opted for the Hoi Sin Seitan Skewer bowl, served with rice, pickled vegetables and edamame beans. The seitan was amazing, it was so tender and meat-like in comparison to some of the more chewy seitan I've often had. It is clear to see why Vertigo is one of Manchester's most popular vegan eateries.
V Rev Vegan Diner
Perhaps the most well-known vegan eatery in Manchester and one that has been recommended to me numerous times is the infamous V-Rev Vegan Diner. Serving up some of the dirtiest junk food around, V-Rev without a doubt smashes the stereotype that all vegans eat are salads...
The menu offers a huge selection including burgers, hot dogs, loaded fries and mac and cheez. Dan ordered the Macatomi Plaza, named after the famous Die Hard skyscraper and I could see why... Towering high it contained a homemade beef style patty, a deep friend max and cheez patty (OMG), baecon, smoked gouda and salad in a glazed brioche bun. I opted for Kevin Bacon (hahaha), a buttermilk fried seitan chickn burger topped with baecon, cheez and all the good stuff. Our eyes were definitely bigger than our stomachs when we decided to add a side of cheez and baecon fries...
V-Rev definitely lived up to its title of serving some of the best vegan burgers around, even though we felt like we needed to roll out after the size of the burgers! They also offer brunch from 11-3 and a £5 lunch deal on their seitan chickn burger or Mac and Cheez so its a great place to visit at any time of the day!
Hampton & Vouis
Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day and so we had to look for the most perfect place to kick start our day. Hampton & Vouis is an independent speciality coffee house in the centre of Manchester. Despite having a largely omni menu, they offer a range of delicious vegan options including breakfast bowls, toasted sandwiches, brunch plates and sweet treats.
Dan ordered the what he thought was your standard 'beans on toast', but was presented with this masterpiece instead. Try telling me that isn't the prettiest beans on toast you've ever seen!! Their homemade mixed beans had a warming spicy kick and were delicately served on toasted sourdough bread.
There were so many tempting options on the menu, but when in doubt I will always opt for a smoothie bowl. Their acai bowl was a beautiful blend of frozen acai berries, mixed berries and almond milk, topped with granola and fresh fruit and seeds. It was so light and refreshing and took me from cold rainy England to a tropical paradise (I wish). I also ordered their beautiful beetroot latte, which has now become an obsession of mine...
Sunset by Australasia
Sunset is without a doubt the most gorgeous venue I have ever been to, if I was told to design the most perfect Instagramable setting this would be it! Walking into the glasshouse from the drizzling rain, we were immediately transported to a tropical chic beach bar with warm pink furnishings and an abundance of greenery.
With a menu inspired to give you a little taste of the sea, Sunset offers a surprisingly great selection of vegan sushi dishes. I couldn't make up my mind on what to order as I wanted to try a little of everything on offer, so we went for their Vegan Bento Box for 2. To start we were presented with a bowl of miso soup which followed with the most amazing selection of plant-based sushi, salads and exotic vegetable dishes.
The waiter was so incredibly helpful and explained what each of the dishes were individually (if only I could remember them all)! Each dish offered something different, from salty sea flavours to warming heat, it was a delicious selection of some of the best vegan sushi I've ever eaten. Sunset provided us with perfect romantic meal for two and it was a great way to end our little trip away.
Thank you so much for reading about our short city break to Manchester, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our quick little trip and find my post somewhat useful if you plan on visiting any time soon.
My top tips for travelling to Manchester
I would recommend catching the train to Manchester. There are tickets at reasonable prices from most major cities in the UK and everything within the centre is within walking distance so a car isn't needed (or you can always catch an uber if it rains).
Take some time out to wander round the streets in the Northern Quarter, there were so many small stores we stumbled across when exploring that we never would have seen if we had stuck to the main streets.
If you are looking for some Manchester-related memorabilia from your visit, rather than a tacky 'I <3 MCR' top or football shirt, opt for something that has the working bee on, Manchester's well known logo.
It's an English city so sadly that means English weather - Pack warm and definitely keep an umbrella handy!
Until the next adventure!