Jenny Southan tracks down musical gems and enjoys Michelin-starred cooking in the northern city.
1. Canal Street
Manchester is known not only for its rich musical legacy but for its gay scene, the epicentre of which is found along Rochdale canal. This waterway was once used to move cotton, timber, limestone and salt between Lancashire and Yorkshire, but by the sixties it proved easier and quicker to use other forms of transport. However, it has always been lined with pubs and bars – 100 years ago they were frequented by men who worked on the canal, but now it is those flaunting the pink pound that are the regulars.
The gay quarter has become far more accessible to straight people, and fun times are to be had by all in Canal Street’s many bars, clubs and restaurants. Outdoor eating and drinking by the water is the norm, especially in the summer, when the street is clad with bunting and lined with tables. Visit canal-st.co.uk for a list of venues and events.
2. Michael Caines, Abode Hotel
From Canal Street, head up Piccadilly (away from the station) to Abode hotel, a few minutes away. There are Michael Caines restaurants in four Abode properties around the UK, and the one in Manchester is well worth trying, particularly for a working lunch or dinner.
The one-armed chef has gained national recognition for his Michelin-starred cooking, and it doesn’t cost as much as you might expect. An “amazing graze” lunch menu will set you back only £12 for three courses (£18 with two glasses of wine or £21 for three glasses) and there is a choice of three starters, mains and desserts. Portions are small but the quality is good.
A typical lunch might comprise tartare of mackerel with soused beetroot and turnip wasabi mayonnaise, followed by slow poached coley with red pepper purée and squid ink risotto, and warm peach crumble with blackberry sorbet. There is also an à la carte menu with mains from £20. Open Mon-Sat 12pm-2.30pm and 6pm-9.45pm, closed Sun. Abode Manchester, 107 Piccadilly; tel +44 (0)161 247 7744; michaelcaines.com
3. Vinyl Exchange
This may be the age of the MP3, but there is nothing like rifling through dusty 12-inches in search of that rare Japanese import you’ve been dying to lay your hands on. Even if you don’t have a record player or an encyclopaedic knowledge of music, the Vinyl Exchange is the place to take a trip down memory lane when it comes to Mancunian music. From Joy Division, the Smiths and the Stone Roses to Take That, Oasis and Elbow, you’ll find them all here. And if you are feeling adventurous, there are plenty of genres to explore, such as nu school breaks and deep house. You might just discover something you like – I found a 1999 limited edition yellow vinyl version of Ian Brown’s Golden Greats for £25. Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm. 18 Oldham Street; tel +44 (0)161 228 1122; vinylexchange.co.uk
4. Generation Pop Gallery
A five-minute walk from here is the Generation Pop gallery. Sister to the well-known branch in New York, it opened last winter and was the first to be launched outside the US. It’s quite small so is easy to miss, but the collection of works by esteemed contemporary artists is as bold and bright as pop art should be.
Works on show include Allison Lefcort’s Warhol-esque portraits of celebrities (black and white faces on a coloured background), Tim West’s paper “sculptures” of Disney characters, and photography by Frank Worth of legendary stars James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, displayed publicly only after the artist had died. There’s also a collection of original Disney artwork by Peter Ellenshaw, all with certificates from the Hollywood studio. Everything is for sale and prices range from £300 to £3,000 or more. E3 New York Street, City Tower; +44 (0)161 848 0880; generationpopart.co.uk
5. Wheel of Manchester
A short walk away, on Exchange Square in the Millennium Quarter, is Manchester’s answer to the London Eye – a 60-metre high Ferris wheel with 42 glass pods that provide a unique view of the city. The 13-minute ride takes you high above the square and a commentary describes the landmarks to look out for, such as Manchester Cathedral, Old Trafford football stadium, the Triangle and Arndale shopping centres, the Printworks (previously owned by Robert Maxwell but now an entertainment venue), and two of the city’s highest buildings –
Co-operative Insurance and the Beetham Tower, home to the Hilton hotel. Open Sun-Thu 10am-11pm, Fri 10am-midnight, Sat 9am-midnight. Tickets from £6.50. Visit worldtouristattractions.co.uk
6. Britons Protection
The last stretch takes you down Deansgate – look out for the red-brick John Rylands University Library to your right, which houses more than four million printed books. After all that walking, you will no doubt have worked up a thirst, so what better way to end the tour than with a pint? Turn left down Great Bridgewater Street to reach the Britons Protection. From the outside, the 200-year-old pub looks a little forlorn, with its partially illuminated neon Tetley sign above the entrance. But don’t be put off – this is a great watering hole with a good selection of ales and whiskies, lots of cosy nooks and crannies, and a courtyard for smokers. 50 Great Bridgewater Street; tel +44 (0)161 236 5895. Go to visitmanchester.com