If not for anything else, Manchester is known throughout the world as a cradle of musical talent. Oasis, The Smiths, the Stone Roses, Joy Divison, New Order and the Buzzcocks, amongst others, have all pounded the pavements of central Manchester. And of course, it’s a city of sport.
You can’t mention Manchester to anyone without the inevitable question: “United or City?”. As a ‘Manc’ born and bred, I know it’s coming (I’m neither but thanks for asking). You’d be forgiven for thinking that football is Manchester’s only sporting preoccupation but rugby has a long-standing tradition in the city, not least as the home of Sale Sharks. During the 2015 Rugby World Cup, the England v Uruguay Pool A match will be hosted at the City of Manchester Stadium – once the centrepiece of the 2002 Commonwealth Games and now home to Manchester City FC. The stadium has previous form; rugby greats Mils Muliaina and Waisale Serevi played in the Sevens final at the Commonwealth Games when New Zealand claimed gold against Fiji.
Always ranking highly on people’s list of cities to visit in the UK, we’ve pulled together the best places to grab a bite to eat or have a sherry or two on your whistle-stop visit to Manchester for the rugby.
1. Trof NQ
The Northern Quarter is without question the most happening and interesting part of Manchester city centre. Its quirky bars and cafes and independent boutiques and record shops attract people from all walks of life and tastes; from hipsters to the alternative crowd and everyone in between. Trof is the kind of place where anyone can roll up at any time of day or night. With live gigs, open mic nights and quizes in the evening coupled with an extensive food and drink menu, or a coffee and cake or hangover-busting brunch the morning after, Trof delivers on so many levels.
2. Cloud 23
Seen from miles around, the Beetham Tower became an instant Manchester icon on completion in 2006. Divided up between a 4-star hotel and residential appartments, the tower is one of the world’s slimmest skyscrapers. For cocktails with a view, the Cloud 23 skybar on the top floor of the Hilton is the highest you can go in the lego brick-like structure and the only bar of its kind in the city. With a 360-degree panoramic view of the Manchester skyline and beyond, you won’t be disappointed. It would be wise to book in advance to avoid disappoint as it’s always in huge demand.
3. The Knott
There’s something about a bar that draws attention for deliberately avoiding trying to be cool and edgy. Maybe it’s for that reason that the Knott bar at the bottom of Deansgate – Manchester’s main artery – has such a loyal clientele. Tucked beneath a railway viaduct beside the Bridgewater Canal, the Knott is unassuming and unpretentious, not to mention a true paradise for the beer and ale connoisseur. Cask ale from the top micro-brewers from up and down the country feature on the bar’s seven hand pumps while European lagers and crafter beers from the US and UK feature on draught. There’s also an extensive bottle range, featuring the best Trappist beers and more.
4. Matt and Phred’s
If there’s one place in the Northern Quarter with an unimitable ambience and vibe, it’s Matt and Phred’s. With a longstanding reputation on the city’s music scene, live acts take to a stage six nights a week that has been graced by the likes of Jamie Cullum and multi-Grammy award-winner Adele. Free Monday to Thursday with a small entry fee on the door on Friday and Saturday nights, you’ll be tapping along to the best of local and international jazz all night. Happy Hour is until 8pm when you can get two-for-one cocktails or a free pizza with every two drinks bought. There is even a pizza on the menu called the Dave Walsh Special but sadly I can’t take credit for that.
This is not your average bakery, as may be suggested by the name. While churning out delicious fresh bread everyday, Bakerie is also a wine bar in the Northern Quarter with 24 different wines by the glass and 70 by the bottle. Besides that, you can expect hearty food on the day and evening menus, including what has become a speciality, sharing boards. They even offer a tapas-style traditional Sunday roast sharing board which goes down a storm on a lazy Sunday.
6. The Font
Who could argue with £2 cocktails? Tucked down a side street off Manchester busiest thoroughfare Oxford Road, Font attracts a mixed crowd with its laidback ambience and inexpensive and extensive cocktail menu starting at £2 for classics like Cosmopolitans or Tom Collins’. A place to grab a Full English the morning after your late night celebrations, or somehwere to grab a cheap but filling bite to eat before the match.
There are quite a few new Tex Mex restaurants around town, like Luck, Lust, Liquor & Burn. For food on the go though, you can’t go wrong with Barburrito. Having first opened its doors in Manchester’s Piccadilly Gardens, this small Mexican burrito joint became so popular that it now has two city centre outlets and has spread as far afield as Liverpool, Nottingham and London. Made fresh in front of you, just choose your fillings and let your stomach do the rest.
Los Angeles has Hollywood Boulevard, Paris has the Champs Elysées; Manchester blows them both completely out of the water with the Curry Mile – the UK’s largest concentration of Asian restaurants. While the renowned one-mile strip in Rusholme is lined on both sides by a plethora of curryhouses, the best in the city has to be Akbar’s on the city’s Liverpool Road. Imagine ordering a naan bread larger than your own head. Don’t believe me? Seeing is believing.
9. The Deaf Institute
Helping to transform a derelict space in a historic Manchester building, this venue, bearing the name of its previous incarnation, is three floors of entertainment to unwrap in one package. Most nights, there is a live music gig in the music hall on the first floor while the basement bar plays host to club nights. The main bar, with its booths and big tables, is a bit more relaxed serving up food, cocktails and local ales and craft beers to regulars until the small hours amid décor touches like stag heads and Dolly Parton wallpaper.
The ultra modern Spinningfields quarter is Damien Henderson’s playground of choice, particularly for drinks. One of his favourite haunts is Artisan – a restaurant and bar set in a massive 12,000 sq ft space on the first floor of The Avenue North. A juxtosposition of industrial warehouse chic and an artist’s loft, it looks like something out of 1984 but with murals, sculptures and art adorning the walls and nooks and crannies.
How to get there
There is a well-signposted walking route from Manchester Piccadilly railway station to the stadium, taking around 25 minutes.
To take the Metrolink, Manchester’s efficient tram system, board a Ashton-bound tram and get off at the Etihad Campus stop adjacent to the stadium. From Piccadilly, the journey takes less than 10 minutes.
There are also a number of bus routes from the city centre to the stadium. For further information on bus timetables and routes, use the handy Transport for Greater Manchester journey planner.
Where to stay
Look for somewhere to stay during the Rugby World Cup? Find a hotel in Manchester.
Going to any other games this Rugby World Cup? Check out our handy guides to some of the host cities:
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