I grew up in Australia, loving sunshine, fresh foods, walking in parks, Sunday markets and lying on the beach, soaking up the sun…..heaven.
Thus, the move to cold, wet Manchester was definitely an odd choice. Seems my love of theatre and all things creative outweighed my love of sunshine.
And never did I imagine I would fall in love with this city like I have.
The number one question anyone English asks is “why not London?” and I’m not sure myself. My gut feeling said: try Manchester. Try the theatre, food, vibe and (most importantly) cheap flats and see if you want to move to a more exciting city.
Their follow up is always: “because you accidentally chose well”.
Manchester, it seems, is a well-kept secret; a vibrant, exciting, cultural hub, bursting with arts, students, shops and incredible food and drink.
Yes: food and drink! Does the North West leave vegans starving to death?
One of my first days here – I went on a long hike to the City Centre and stumbled into a random pub (as an Australian does) called the Thirsty Scholar. I wandered to the bar and was confronted with an entire menu of vegan pub food. Vegan? Pub? Food? I don’t understand…. Did I fall over walking and hit my head? Nope – I had accidentally stumbled into a 100% vegan pub.
I think I’ll like it here. If you have a craving for hearty pub grub – Manchester delivers!
Just up the same road – you’ll find The Cornerhouse. A haven for any creative foodie.
The Cornerhouse is an art gallery, movie cinema, bookshop, social hub, cultural meet-up spot and delicious restaurant/café. The upstairs restaurant has a large menu that includes vegan pizzas, a 100% vegan falafel burger, Superfood Salad and, my personal favourite: Cajun Sweet Potato Wedges that are to die for. They even offer a daily vegan cake!
Areas to Head For:
There are two main areas to visit if you come to Manchester, one is the Northern Quarter, for all your caffeinated Hipster, Vegan needs and the other is Chorlton – a residential suburb that has become a haven of cafes, bakeries, yoga studios and greatest second-hand shops known to man.
Love cute things and yummy treats? Hit Oklahoma in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. Both a Café and lovely home wares/gift shop; it’s definitely worth a visit! All chairs are mis-matching, they serve apple and cinnamon tea and epic stuffed sweet potatoes. Also – lots of vegan cakes and yummy, healthy smoothies.
Dough Pizza Kitchen is a must go to for Vegan/Gluten Free pizzas and desserts. Popular choice if going with a big group of people and want to please everyone. You can enjoy a Roasted Vegetable Pizza followed by a vegan flapjack sundae and coffee. Heaven? I do not lie.
V Revolution is located on Oldham Street and utterly brilliant. They specialize in vegan “Junk food”, including epic burgers, Sunday breakfasts, milkshakes and whatever else you thought you may “miss” as a vegan.
Fig and Sparrow: if you love cute coffee shops – look no further. Not only does Fig and Sparrow have the greatest service known to man and lovely fresh bread you can have in any number of ways (I’m struggling to go past the organic peanut butter on rye) but they also USE BONSOY! One of two places in the entire city I’ve found thus far. If you do not know what Bonsoy is – well.. just Google.
The Perfect Day in Chorlton:
If you have an entire day to fill in Manchester – let me take you for a walk around Chorlton that basically describes all my days off.
Chorlton on a sunny day will satisfy you like nothing else – you can start walking through the beautiful parks and finish at the Tea Hive Café for breakfast. The Tea Hive is one of my favorite places in Manchester and they cater for vegans very well, including plenty of cakes and the best damn sandwich I’ve ever had. Here – the ambiance is perfect and you can literally sit and drink tea for hours. Damn you free wifi!
After the Tea Hive, you can stroll a few meters to heaven – The Unicorn Grocery; a 100% Vegan Grocery store that stocks everything you could possibly wish for. Their shelves bursting with every fruit, vegetable, bean, grain, seed and vegan product known to man. Also a generous deli section, home cleaning products, make-up, pet food, alcohol! You will not go wanting. So when you come to Chorlton, bring a giant shopping bag to stock up on Peanut Butter.
What better way to finish the day than wandering the bustling streets of this amazing suburb? Look in every charity shop (there are hundreds), look in the cute “Chorlton Bookshop” and read all the community notices.
If you fancy a last stop – jump on the tram and get off in Didsbury, a gorgeous suburb with plenty to offer! Gorgeous scenery, kitchen shops, great cafes and lots of lovely dinner options: “Pomegranate” on the main strip is very vegan-friendly and utterly delicious.
My final mention goes to Fuel in Withington; a Vegetarian bar/restaurant very near where I live. On a quiet night I love nothing more than relaxing here, having a vegan wrap for dinner and abusing the free wifi.
If you find yourself heading for Manchester – I would say check out what’s happening on the Fringe theatre scene and go watch a brilliant play for a low price 🙂 You can watch a film at the Cornerhouse followed by some vegan pizza… or even just wander through the large city centre that ranges from the hip Northern Quarter to high-class shopping spots.
I hope you love my city as much as I do. The best part is: it’s still just the beginning!