In this month’s edition of our series A Manc’s Guide To, we’re looking at Ancoats, widely considered to be one of Manchester’s (and the world’s) coolest neighbourhoods.
Home to a hub of thriving independent eateries, bars and shops, it’s changed a hell of a lot over the years – from being the sort of place you’d be wary to wander around alone in at night to an Instagram-friendly hipster’s paradise.
Today it is mostly full of young professionals eating small plates and walking their pedigree pups, but if you look closely you’ll still see the street signs that gave name to the notorious 19th century ‘scuttler’ gangs who once fought here.
The area boasts a rich industrial past, evidenced by the marina, red-brick mills and canal routes that continue to make up its fabric amidst a growing number of new builds, and has undergone serious regeneration since the 1990s.
Since 2017 it has consistently featured on the Time Out Coolest Neighbourhood list, and in 2019 it became home to the first Manchester restaurant to win a Michelin star in 40 years.
Food and drink
Home to some of the city’s most exciting independent eateries, Ancoats is one of the best places to dine out when you’re in the city centre.
It’s home to Manchester’s only Michelin star restaurant, Mana, as well as the Michelin-recommended Erst and Canto.
Cutting Room Square is filled with bars and restaurants, tables all spilling out into the street, and down at the marina there are more where you can sit, waterside, overlooking a flotilla of quirkily-painted narrowboats
There are so many gems to be discovered here – from artisan bakeries and whimsical tasting menus to natural wine bars, a back street lasagne kitchen, and Manchester’s most famous Neapolitan pizza parlour.
Rad’s – Caribbean joint Rad’s was feeding Ancoats long before the craft beer bars and small plates restaurants came along. Known for its authentic West Indian scran and warm, friendly service, jerk chicken and patties are a must, as is the homemade ginger beer.
Flawd – A natural wine bar overlooking the marina with a constantly-changing seasonal menu, put together using organic ingredients grown themselves at their market garden in Cheshire. Head chef Joseph Otway doesn’t disappoint, and neither does the drinks list.
Mana -Manchester’s first Michelin Star restaurant since 1977, Mana’s menu focuses on ferments and fire – serving a seasonally changing tasting menu that gets longer with smaller servings during the warmer months.
Nam – A Vietnamese restaurant, bar and music serving pho and Bahn mi alongside delicious small plates.
Ca Phe Viet – A core stop-off for lovers of pho, Vietnam’s national dish, find Ca Phe Viet attached to a Vietnamese store on Oldham Road. One of the first places in Manchester to sell Banh Mi, its pho is said to be the best in Manchester.
Pollen – Founded by bankers-turned-bakers Hannah Calvert and Chris Kelly in 2016, early fans happily queued – sometimes for hours – in the wind and rain to get their hands on Pollen’s inaugural stuffed cruffins and sourdough loaves. Today, both can be enjoyed at a cafe on the marina alongside an all-day menu.
The Crown and Kettle – Dating back to the 1800s, this Grade II-listed gem boasts one of the finest, most unusual ceilings in the city. A true gem, you’ll find a selection of ever-changing craft ales from all over the country behind the bar – and there’s a cracking sun trap seating area outside too.
Canto – Described in the Michelin Guide as offering a mix of ‘vibrant Spanish and Portuguese small plates’, Canto is the sister site to popular King Street restaurant El Gato Negro.
Companio Bakery – Community-supported bakehouse Companio is small friendly artisan bakery producing fresh sourdough and speciality bread, pastries, vienoisserie and savouries.
Trove – A bright and airy, modern cafe from Levenshulme bakery Trove selling fresh bread, coffee, pastries, inventive seasonally-changing plates and a range of ferments.
Erst – Brought to Ancoats by the same team behind Trove, Erst is a seasonal small plates restaurant and entirely beloved by the critics. Described by Guardian critic Jay Rayner last year as ‘one of the best meals of the year’, his review advised diners to ‘order the whole lot’.
Cafe Cotton – An independent cafe and bar housed inside Halle St Peters on Cutting Room Square that does great sandwiches and is something of an Ancoats staple.
Mira – Home to the best saucy Neapolitan sandwiches in the city, Mira is one of Manchester’s many lockdown foodie success stories. These saucy ‘Cuzzetiello’ sandwiches, inspired by the Italian region of Naples, see hollowed-out crusts of bread stuffed wicth fillings like meatballs, parmigiano and salami. Crude but incredibly satisfying, find them at Ancoats General Store.
Rudy’s – Ancoats is where it all began for Rudy’s. Today, the Neapolitan pizzeria has sites all over the UK and is expanding rapidly – but back in 2015, the walk-in-only pizzeria was something of a unique revelation to local foodies. Lauded amongst the best in the world, it’s also surprisingly cheap – costing under £10 for a pizza.
Second City – Sitting at the top of Ancoats’ Cutting Room Square, this sports bar can be relied on for fresh pints, dirty burgers and all the sports action your heart desires. Mana chef Simon Martin rates the chicken wings.
The Jane Eyre – Not a reference to Charlotte Bronte, but rather a gesture of love from two sons to their mum, The Jane Eyre is run by Mancunian brothers Joe and Jonny Eyre. It serves up quality cocktails and incredibly moreish small plates, oh, and the wine list is on point too.
Sugo Pasta Kitchen – Find rich Pugliese-style pasta dishes, loaded burrata and wine by the carafe at this hit Southern Italian pasta kitchen’s second site. The seating here is communal, so don’t be surprised if you end up eating with a group of people you don’t know.
Hip Hop Chip Shop – With walls covered in pictures of Manchester’s local hip-hop artists and massive plates of musically-inspired scran, Hip Hop Chip Shop is pretty legendary. Starting life off in an eighties-style boombox trailer, it’s been an Ancoats staple since opening in 2018. The deep-fried mushy pea fritters are a must, as is a pot gravy for dipping.
Lazy Tony’s Lasagneria – Manchester’s one and only ‘slab shack’ serving five-layer lasagnas widely considered to be the best in the city, Lazy Tony’s Lasagneria in Ancoats is pick up only – with a red neon sign to let passers by know when they have lasagne, and when they’ve sold out.
Blue Eyed Panda – Opened by the husband and wife team behind the popular Great Ancoats Street takeaway Ancoats Panda, formerly known as Chop Chop, Blue Eyed Panda is lauded by locals for its dumplings and Chinese favourites. Must-tries include the crispy chilli beef, salt and pepper chicken and roasted Cantonese meats.
Jimmy’s Manchester – This popular Manchester rock bar was first opened by One Night Only frontman George Craig and his bandmate and brother Jimmy in the Northern Quarter but relocated to Ancoats last year. From the kitchen, you’ll find fluffy Detroit pizza from Corner Slice.
Blossom Street Social – A lovely wine bar found just off Cutting Room Square, Blossom Street Social is currently home to a kitchen pop-up from the brilliant Sao Paulo Project. Run by former Masterchef contestant Caroline Martins, here you’ll find canapes disguised as succulents, beef fat ‘candles’ and puddings that look like lethal mushrooms.
Street Urchin – Run by husband and wife team Kevin and Rachel Choudhary, Street Urchin sits on the Northern Quarter side of Great Ancoats Street – but we still think it counts, offering some of the best fish dishes in the city centre. The pair previously ran the popular Altrincham pub The Victoria but were inspired to open up shop here instead by Kevin’s dad – who happens to be a fisherman himself.
Seven Brothers Beerhouse – This craft beer house comes from seven brothers from Salford and serves up a large range of super resh beers, all brewed right here in Greater Manchester.
Cask – Beer lovers will find a huge range of hand-pulled casks, draught beers and brightly coloured cans at this bar. Sitting on the marina overlooking the water, it also boasts a Ghostbusters pinball machine and plenty of board games to while away the hours on rainy days.
Elnecot – Taking its name from the earliest official recording of Ancoats, dating back to 1212, Elnecot is known for its menu of small plates inspired by local produce and Manchester’s heritage.
The area’s independent ethos extends to its shops, best exemplified by Ancoats General Store – which rolls Post Office, cafe, coffee shop, liquor and grocery store into one, and even sells its own growlers for takeaway beer.
For specialist chocolate, head to chocolate cafe Cocoa Cabana to buy locally-made goodies to take home. As for coffee, you’d be foolish not to pop into Ancoats Coffee Co to pick up some freshly-roasted beans.
If it’s artisan bread and pastries you want, you’re spoilt for choice with three excellent bakeries in the form of Pollen, Trove, and community bakehouse Companio. Get down early, though, as popular items tend to sell out quickly.
Local makers and artists are well represented at a number of pop-up markets and food festivals throughout the year, one of the most regular being the monthly Ancoats Pop-up, which is held every second weekend.
Nightlife and hotels
Whilst there are a number of busy nightclubs to be found a stone’s throw away in the Northern Quarter, Ancoats itself has more of a bar-led nightlife scene.
Rock bar Jimmy’s, found on the corner of Cutting Room Square, has a great live music venue in its basement, and if you’re looking for cocktails The Jayne Eyre is a must.
Vietnamese restaurant Nam curates an eclectic line-up of music events in its basement every weekend, and wine bar Blossom Street Social has regular DJs until 12.30am on Saturday nights – but as a general rule of thumb, most places close their doors early because of residents.
If you need somewhere to stay overnight the Ancoats Travelodge makes a good budget option. For those after something more premium, nearby hotel Dakota and aparthotel Native at Ducie Street Warehouse are both well worth a look.
Ancoats has consistently featured on the Time Out Coolest Neighbourhood list since 2017, with locals citing its brilliant charities and galleries, theatre, food and drink offerings.
The area has a rich history as the world’s first industrial suburb and is home to the mills that once earnt Manchester its nickname of Cottonopolis.
It is also known as Manchester’s Little Italy, a title that dates back to the late 19th century but was immortalised in 2021 with an official plaque on the side of Halle at St Michael’s.
Ancoats also is home to the Manchester restaurant that gave Manchester its first Michelin star in 40 years, as well as legendary nightclub Sankey’s – voted the best nightclub in the world by industry bible DJ Mag in 2011.
Whilst Sankey’s nightclub officially closed its doors in Ancoats in 2017 so that the owners of the building could develop it into flats, underground club nights are still hosted in the basement today.
Its countless mills also house a number of private studios, which are rented out as creative spaces to Manchester’s many artists and musicians.
House prices in Ancoats are amongst some of the most expensive in Manchester city centre, with new builds seemingly constantly springing up to the meet the demands of city dwellers flocking to the area.
The average property price over the last year has been £301,255, the majority of which were flats, selling for an average price of £298,629.
Semi-detached properties in the area sold for an average of £382,655.
A mixture of converted mills and new-build developments of houses and flats, Ancoats is without a doubt one of the most – if not the most – desirable residential location in the centre of Manchester.
Ancoats is incredibly well-connected thanks to its close proximity to the city centre.
The neighborhood’s New Islington tram stop is roughly a ten-minute ride from Victoria and Piccadilly stations and a 15-20 minute walk to both.
A stone’s throw from the Northern Quarter, its proximity to the Great Ancoats Street ring road also makes it a breeze to access for drivers.
There is a small amount of street parking in the area, as well as a number of secure car parks including SIP car park and Ancoats Car Park at Flint Glass Wharf.
Feature image – Flickr