Coronavirus appeared in Manchester at the start of March. But the region was already talking about COVID-19 long before that. After all, it was our sister city that was hit first.
Wuhan, Manchester’s twin, became the focus of international attention in January when it was a revealed a deadly new strain of bacteria had infiltrated the population.
By the turn of 2020, sickness and pneumonia levels in the Hubei province were mysteriously rising at alarming rates, and health experts determined a new coronavirus to be the culprit.
Manchester council leader, Richard Leese, was among the first in Britain to reach out in a letter of support, as the sobering severity of our sister city’s condition became clear.
On January 23, more than 11 million residents in Wuhan were initially locked down in a bid to contain the spread. Many surrounding cities soon followed.
But by then, the rapid spread of COVID-19 had already transcended borders.
Within weeks, coronavirus was ravaging the world – quickly becoming the biggest global pandemic in a century.
Six months on, some nations have recovered. Many are still reeling. Others remain immersed in the heat of battle. It is generally accepted now that life will not to return to “normal” until a vaccine is found, with many fearing the virus could find a new lease of life in the winter.
Wuhan itself has largely recuperated after a torrid start to 2020, but will nonetheless be remembered as the first epicentre of a worldwide health disaster.
Pre-quarantine, the city’s associations were entirely different. Wuhan was recognised for its booming industry, enormous freshwater lake, ancient architecture, art galleries and exotic markets (which may have been an initial entry point for the virus’ arrival in wider circulation).
Akin to Manchester in terms of reputation for industrial prowess, Wuhan, like Mancunia, has long been playing an instrumental role in national development; a modern city guiding its country into a new era.
Manchester and Wuhan’s relationship is an old and enduring one – having actually been twinned together for more than three decades.
It was in October 1986 that Wuhan and Manchester officially became sister cities – seeking to closely cooperate in a way that mutually benefited each of their economies.
The partnership was renewed on its 30th anniversary at Manchester Town Hall with a photographic exhibition of Wuhan-Manchester links (including an image of the original signing).
Government reports show that Manchester architecture firms have been commissioned to work on projects in the Hubei province, whilst the partnership has also resulted in the assembly of language exchange courses and funding of delegates to receive special training courses in Manchester University.
Council authorities have also cited the relationship as helping Manchester forge stronger links with other major Chinese cities – including the powerhouses of Beijing and Shanghai.
Quests for modernity aside, a number of parallels can also be drawn between Manchester and Wuhan in each of the cities’ respective national status’.
Despite playing second fiddle to London and Beijing, both are recognised as leading locations within their regions – with Wuhan the capital of Hubei and Manchester regarded as the de facto capital of Northern England.
Each city is dotted with green space and stunning parks, with thriving art scenes and glowing skyscrapers at their cores.
Whilst Manchester retains many of its treasured architectural relics (including the ancient Cathedral and partly reconstructed Roman forts in Castlefield), Wuhan has the famous Yellow Crane Tower – which has existed in various forms since AD 223.
Of course, like with any siblings, there are differences.
Aside from the obvious cultural clashes you might expect to find with any two cities living 5,000 miles apart, there’s the weather. Wuhan is described as a “furnace” for its hot and humid summers, whilst Mancs spend much of the season below the cover of a brolly.
Yet, crucially, Manchester and Wuhan share a similar sense of civic pride, an understanding of who we are, and, indeed, what we want to be.
Mancunia’s famous city motto goes: “This is Manchester, we do things differently here.” And our sister city has a strikingly similar maxim.
It translates roughly as: “Wuhan, different every day”.
Yara, the family-run Syrian and Lebanese restaurant serving Manchester for fifteen years
Take a trip down to the Stockport village of Cheadle and you’ll find a surprising glut of great Middle Eastern eateries nestled on the Cheshire border.
Amongst them sits Yara, a family-run Syrian and Lebanese restaurant that’s been serving Manchester for fifteen years.
First opened in Altrincham in 2008, today it has five sites across Greater Manchester – all serving up traditional Middle Eastern favourites like succulent kebabs, crispy donut-shaped falafels, and fluffy pittas with flavourful homemade dips.
With further restaurants in Whitefield, Chorlton, Cheadle and Alderley Edge, it’s clear that people just can’t get enough – so we made the trip down to see what all the fuss is about.
Suffice it to say, after tasting their sharp and citrussy babaganoush, stuffed vine leaves, and tabbouleh – a super fresh herb and bulgur salad dominated by parsley – we fell head over heels just like the rest.
Yara is a haven for those on the hunt for some finger-licking Middle Eastern goodness, with vegetarian starters like charcoal-grilled halloumi and creamy pots of homemade hummus pooled with rich olive oil sitting alongside crunchy pastry treats.
These include chicken or cheese and spinach bourak (often referred to as Assyrian or Middle Eastern egg rolls), lahembajeen – filo pastry topped with minced lamb, pomegranate sauce, pine kernels and onions – and mossahab, a chicken-stuffed puff pastry with added onion and herbs.
As for the main attraction: the meaty charcoal grill. This, more than anything else, is what we really came down for. At Yara, tender cuts of lamb and chicken come rich with Mediterranean spices and herbs, whilst lamb kebabs come in the shish, shawarma and kafta varieties.
Oh, and to save on your next Deliveroo order from Yara make sure to use our code 5OFFATYARA when you check out.
Feature image – The Manc Eats
Where to find a great pint of Guinness in Manchester city centre
When it comes to finding good pints of Guinness, it’s fair to say that not all Manchester boozers are created equal.
Some pints are thin and watery, some have a very bitter taste, and some are missing that all-important signature creamy head. All things you want to avoid. In fact, if you go into a pub and see any of this our advice is to run.
Any bartender worth their salt will tell you that there’s a certifiable art to pouring out a proper pint of the black stuff, starting with a two-part pour – a practice considered sacrosanct for literally hundreds of years.
Your pint should be properly poured with 3/4 of it filled with old stout, rested, then topped up with new, and when the glass is emptied a white, creamy residue should remain.
These, as we know them, are the basics but serious Guinness drinkers can likely reel off a whole list of other criteria that we haven’t even touched on. For now, though, that’ll do.
Keep reading to find the best places to drink Guinness in Manchester.
Mulligans of Deansgate
Widely renowned for having the best pint of Guinness in Manchester hands down, if it’s authenticity you’re looking for then Mulligan’s is a must.
An authentic Irish bar with live music and plenty of cosy snugs to tuck yourself away in, it’s typically packed to the rafters and bartenders pride themselves on never, ever leaving a bubble in your pint.
The Bay Horse Tavern
This Northern Quarter boozer on Thomas Street is another favourite for those looking for a great pint of Guinness.
This St Patrick’s Day, lovers of the black stuff can get a pint for just £4 between 4-7pm. as well as £5 double Jameson and gnger and £2.50 Jameson all day long.
The Peveril of the Peak
A historic city centre boozer, The Peveril of the Peak is not just one of Manchester’s most beautiful but also one of its most unique public houses.
Run by one of Britain’s oldest and longest-serving landlords, come for its bold green tile-clad exterior and stained glass windows and stay for a creamy pint of Guinness.
Another great Northern Quarter boozer, this time on Oldham Street, The Castle Hotel is another spot you can completely rely on for quality Guinness. Its pours have even been accredited.
The real ale pub boasts several cosy snugs, a small beer garden out back and a gig room where you can watch local bands whilst sipping on proper pints.
The Crown & Kettle
This gorgeous Grade II-listed freehouse sits the border of Ancoats and Northern Quarter and dates all the way back to 1774.
Reopened in 2005 in cooperation with English Heritage, it has an incredibly fine and unusual ceiling and one of the best pints of Guinness in the neighbourhood.
Whilst we’re talking about Ancoats, Edinburgh Castle also deserves an honourable mention for its Guinness pour.
This lovingly refurbished Victorian boozer not only boasts Manchester’s most elite chip butty and a stunning upstairs restaurant, but is also widely considered one of the best places for a pint of Guinness in town.
O’Shea’s Irish Bar
Obviously, we have to talk about O’Shea’s. This Irish bar is widely considered a go-to fo a good pint of Guinness, with some even reporting they prefer their pints to Mulligans.
During Covid, the bar made a splash in Manchester by opening a giant outdoor Guinness garden. This year on St Patrick’s Day, it is opening from 10am for breakfast pints.
Another historic boozer reborn after two years of sitting boarded up on the busy Manchester stretch from which it takes its name.
The Deansgate is now under the ownership of Greene King and serves a cracking pint of Guinness from its ground-floor and first-floor bars alongside a menu of hearty pub grub.