Last weekend, I took a trip up the motorway to visit one of my nearest and dearest friends from university. Alice lives in Manchester, but we met during Freshers’ Week while studying in Birmingham. We instantly bonded over a love of cookies, alcohol, and a shared affection of spending much of our time hanging around in our pyjamas and feeling hungover.
Travelling up to Manchester
I didn’t travel alone. Two of my ex-flatmates were coincidentally in the same flat in our first year of uni before discovering we all actually came from Gloucestershire. As a result, they joined me and after work on Friday, we all piled into Steph’s car for a road trip up to Manchester. After a brief (but essential) stop at the services to refuel, we arrived in Manchester about three hours later. We soon bundled into Alice’s house after lots of hugs and unloading the many bags from the car. In true Mancunian style, Alice had already laid out a spread for sustenance whilst we gossiped about boys, work, and general life until the very early hours of the morning. I definitely don’t get to see these guys altogether enough, so it was lovely to have a much-needed catch up.
The next morning, we woke up to ‘how do you like your eggs in the morning?’ Alice, my hero that morning, was singing away whilst cooking us poached eggs and bacon on toast with pots of tea. What a diamond!
Once we’d got dressed, we headed out into the city. We all decided more tea was necessary. When in Rome when you’re up north. For this reason, we took a quick pit stop at a lovely bar in one of my favourite areas of Manchester – The Lawn Club in Spinningfields.
The bar offers comfy and impressive furniture and decor, and a lawn complete with deckchairs for when it’s sunny. As a result, we enjoyed rolling around on the novel chairs. Evidently, we’re very easily pleased!
Time for a drink! Camomile tea for Steph, strawberry tea for Jo, Earl Grey for me (naturally), and a strong coffee for Alice. I think all that cooking this morning must have worn her out. It was much appreciated, though!
After we’d finished our drinks, we headed out to do a bit of shopping. We stopped to admire all the Mulberry and Prada bags in Selfridges we wished we could afford.
By this time, we’d worked up quite an appetite. There was only one thing for it. Burgers. The last few times I visited Manchester, there was only one place for it: Almost Famous. I’ve honestly not eaten burgers like theirs. Crispy bacon, melt in your mouth patties, crispy fried onions, gooey cheese. And the best fries to complement: bacon bits and baconnaise. Plus it used to be a secret hangout, without publicity and no reservations. The Manchester City goalie was enjoying lunch with his wife and kids next to us, so surely that’s proof it’s good?
Red’s True Barbecue
Although I could have easily returned to Almost Famous, Alice was determined we’d try somewhere new. Given the exceptional standard of independent eateries in Manchester, this wasn’t hard to find. She opted for Red’s True Barbecue, as she’d been recommended it by a few friends on the basis of their renowned ‘Donut Burger’. I must say, I was pretty impressed!
The whole restaurant has a pretty cool biblical theme. This is in little touches like the menu cover, and the loo design is like confession booths. It’s clearly very popular (particularly on Saturdays), and doesn’t take reservations, so we sipped at the bar whilst we drooled over the menu.
It also has a Texan theme, with a menu bursting with brisket, pulled pork, and meat. I really like the grungy appeal of the restaurant, and all the staff are heavily tattooed and pierced.
It wasn’t long before we got our table. One thing I must point out is the fast-paced nature of the restaurant. It’s clearly very popular and they want to serve as many people as possible, and so they compromise any relaxed vibe. Plates were removed even before I had finished eating, so this was one thing I wasn’t too impressed by. Definitely don’t visit if you want to take things slow.
As mega condiments fans, we were super impressed by the choice of sauces for our food that were on offer. Alice and Jo opted for the Pit Burger. It’s a heavenly blend of steak, brisket, pulled pork, streaky bacon, and cheese, all on a brioche bun.
I had a cheeky bite of Alice’s and it was pretty incredible. It’s clearly, however, not one for vegetarians.
Both Jo and Alice obviously enjoyed their burgers, as they didn’t hang around long. Just look at that excited little face!
I opted for the burger the restaurant was famous for: the Donut Burger. I was intrigued, and wondered how this arguable monstrosity could actually come together. Would it work? Oh boy, it did. Not everyone’s cup of tea, admittedly. If you’re guilty, however, of occasionally mixing sweet with savoury, try this bad boy! It came with yummy skin-on fries and hush puppies. I’d never tried hush puppies before, and to be quite honest, I wasn’t that impressed.
Steph, meanwhile, opted for the North Carolina Pulled Pork N Slaw. I did like the little touches including the enamel plates the dishes came in. They just made the meal a little more interesting and quirky.
Saturday Night in Manchester
After our meal, we went to do some more shopping and grab a few things for our night out later that evening. Once done, we headed to a bar in Manchester’s Northern Quarter to meet a couple of Alice’s friends for a cocktail.
After a couple of drinks, we drove back to Alice’s to get ready for a night out. Not a bad looking bunch, are they?
Funnily enough, we headed back to Spinningfields and sipped mojitos out on the deckchairs on the lawn. There’s something really refreshing about sitting out on a deckchair in the evening. Motown classics were blaring, and the city lights twinkled from the nearby skyscrapers. It’s a definite go-to place in Manchester: full of beautiful, young professionals.
Next, we headed across the street to The Alchemist. This is a really cool, twinkly bar that serves cocktails like potions. Think test tubes and whirls of smoke. It’s a really cool idea which I’ve not seen done before, and it’s quite a classy place to hang out. I’ve heard the food’s pretty good there too.
The rest of the night didn’t make it onto the camera, but they say all the best bits don’t. It ended in a hazy mix of bars (try the Liars Club for Tiki cocktails), before we moved on to The Venue. This is a club we’ve visited before and it never really disappoints. If you like indie music and Mancunian classics (cue Oasis, The Smiths, Happy Mondays), add it to your list. It’s great fun and not pretentious at all. After a swift trip to McDonalds for some Chicken Selects, we hopped into a taxi. We somehow stayed awake chatting for hours, before finally going to bed.
A Morning in Manchester
When we finally crawled out of bed the next day, the sun was blaring. After a mishmash of toast, ice cream, and squash, we felt more awake and headed outside to sunbathe.
It was a beautiful day; just right for chilling and chatting along to some reggae. After that, it was unfortunately time for us to hit the road.
I had such a great time – Manchester never disappoints. I’m sure to see various nights out in Manchester again in the near future. More importantly, it was lovely to catch up with the girls and just have a laugh with Alice, who I never get to see enough. It definitely goes to show that no matter how far away you live apart from each other, when you’re such good friends it doesn’t make a difference. Until next time, Manchester!
Manchester is undoubtedly one of my favourite UK cities. Where are your favourite places to see, drink, and eat in Manchester?