Dragging my wheelie case behind me, I trundled off to Euston station after work. A weekend in Manchester lay ahead. Somewhere I’d not been in all the time I’ve lived in the UK, but heard many good things from friends.
I don’t have much time left here so weekend trips adventuring around this little island are what I have planned between now and early next year.
Just over 2hrs on the train, so far from an epic journey, but I’d bought my usual “padkos“. Old childhood habits die hard.
It was just getting dark when the train pulled in at Piccadilly station, and Friday night revellers could be seen on the streets, heading to the many bars Manchester has to offer.
The Velvet Hotel was easy enough to find, at the top of Canal Street which was decked out with tables and chairs filled with patrons enjoying the start of the weekend.
I’d heard of “Northern hospitality” and wasn’t disappointed when on arrival the staff couldn’t do enough to make me feel welcome.
Room 15 was fabulous. Bottle of bubbly and a welcome tray on arrival, together with all the thoughtful little touches, left me feeling like a rock star. I’d planned to grab a few drinks that evening but arriving quite late and after a tough week all I could manage was a long soak in a hot bath quaffing champers.
I opted for breakfast in my room as the aim of the weekend was relaxation. No waking up early or rushing about trying to fit in all the sights. This was down-time!
The Velvet Hotel has thought of most things to make your stay feel a little more luxurious. Proper coffee with a cafetiere instead of instant, fresh milk and fruit in the bar fridge (replenished twice daily and complimentary), quality toiletries and even a cute little rubber duckie for bath time (sadly it didn’t vibrate!)
Breakfast was immense, I’d gone for the continental which consisted of cheese, cold meats, toast, croissants, fruit salad, yoghurt, fruit juice and coffee.
Enjoying it from the comfort of the huge king-sized bed with the morning papers was blissful.
By noon I managed to escape the wonderful hotel room and set forth to conquer Manchester. Friends had furnished me with a list of things to do, mostly drinking establishments. First stop however was to pick up a couple of items I’d forgotten to pack. Next thing I found myself shopping … like a girl … in the shops, real shops! I shopped like a girl, and I liked it.
At that point I needed more caffeine and found North Tea Power which was recommended to me by Derek Lamberton (@coffeelondon), who also happens to be the creator of London’s Best Coffee app — Go buy it now!!
What a find! North Tea Power is on par with any of the top London coffee establishments. My flat white was gorgeous, and I was very pleased to note they weren’t using Square Mile’s summer blend. Some of you know how I feel about it, it’s not positive.
The staff were friendly and knowledgeable and the time spent there was most enjoyable. I didn’t sample any of the tasty treats on offer but the food looked fantastic.
Another quick flattie (using Hasbean Jailbreak beans in case you were wondering – walnuts, is all I’m saying) and I was off to see more of this intriguing city.
Manchester, a city of contrasts. Gritty, edgy, industrial but at the same time kitsch and camp, with some awesome randomness thrown in. Definitely more to my liking than Edinburgh.
Manchester felt like the edgy bisexual guy/girl you met at the bottom of the road and hoped no one would see you with. Whereas Ediburgh was more like the nice clean cut boy you take home to meet your parents.
I felt like I was cheating on London.
Lunch was disappointing but I didn’t have a clue what I fancied and the smells emanating from Tampopo were too good to resist. However, I doubt the chef or any of the staff working there had ever eaten Nasi Goreng as the dish had no resemblence to the breakfasts I’d eaten in Malayasia. Beer Lao was on the menu and together with the spicy prawn crackers, were the only saving grace.
Beer ‘o clock was approaching and on my to do list was Marble Brewery. A bit of a walk but a post prandial wander was necessary.
Marble Brewery’s Chocolate Marble had won 2nd place overall at the GBBF 2011 and the pub was recommended to me by Mr Standing who knows his booze!
The bar staff were friendly and let me try a few of the brews before deciding on a half pint of Dobber (5.9% ABV). Yes, I appear to be getting into this “English beer stuff”.
It was only once I’d sat down did I realise Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden was playing in the background. Shortly followed by The Smiths (this was Manchester after all), System of a Down and Disturbed. My kinda pub! I knew the Chocolate Marble wasn’t my cup of tea but asked to try a wee bit as it would have been a shame not to seeing I was at the source. Another swift half of Dobber and it was indeed time for a disco nap.
After a bit of faffing and getting tarted up I was ready to take on Manchester nightlife. Socio Rehab came highly recommended and being in the Norther Quarter, seemed like a good place to start.
Now cocktails aren’t really my thing, unless they’re very well made. Too many nights in bars with jugs of “Happy Hour” badly made cocktails has left a bad taste in my mouth (sorry). Most of the time I find them too sweet.
Recently though, I’ve been a spoilt by the Singapore cocktail scene and had the pleasure of sampling some truly spectacular concoctions.
Socio Rehab was busy but service was prompt, if somewhat rushed (not a good omen where cocktails are concerned). Waiting for my first drink (a Mid-Week Roller) I noticed an extensive whisky and tequila selection. Time to go off piste!
The guys behind the bar were a lot of fun, and once we established I knew a bit about both whisky and tequila the challenge was on to make me the best cocktail of the evening. Various delicous beverages consumed but the one the stood out for me was Blood & Sand.
A few more bars (Apotheca, Fab Cafe, Velvet Lounge) and a few of the more camp clubs along Canal Street, when the news of the Tottenham Riots came through on Twitter. I managed to find a pub that had tuned to the news and watched events unfold. Horrified!
As you can imagine it put a bit of a damper on my evening, but managed a couple more drinks back at the hotel before sliding into bed.
Skipping the hotel breakfast in favour of Teacup was an excellent decision. A small queue snaked out of the door when I arrived but totally worth the wait! A small but perfectly executed brunch menu and cakes to die for. A friend had threatened to never speak to me again if I didn’t sample the flourless chocolate cake.After the fantastic coffee experience at North Tea Power the previous day, I opted for a pot of Chai. A mini experiment arrived with timers and instructions on how to serve.
Breakfast was truly scrumptious!! I do love my Eggs Royale.
The Teacup is a popular place and as you can imagine rather busy on a Sunday. It was a miserable rainy day and I had time to kill before my train back to London and felt a little guilty lingering as long as I did. I contemplated the cake menu but after my delicious breakfast there was no room left for the legendary flourless chocolate cake. I did, however, get a piece to go (best decision ever!)
A much needed flattie from NTP on the way to the station, and before I knew it I was hurtling back in the direction of London. Somewhat anxious as to what awaited me, and also how I was going to get from Euston to Wood Green seeing as the roads were closed and there was no Piccadilly line north of Kings Cross that weekend.
An interesting rail replacment bus route saw me dropped at the bottom of my road. Rather fortuitous! Every shop in the area was shuttered and boarded up so options for dinner were limited. After a bit of calling around I managed to get pizza delivered #FTW
This is when I remembered the cake in my bag.
Nibbling on possibly “the best chocolate cake in the world” in the comfort of my own bed, reminiscing about a fabulous weekend just had, the world seemed like a rather good place to be (even though London burned).
Manchester, I’ll be back!