The Manc - It feels like Stretford is the place to be in 2020 and here's why"

It feels like Stretford is the place to be in 2020 and here’s why

Wikipedia

For so long Stretford, of all the Manchester suburbs, has been overlooked, or neglected, or else plainly left to rot, while most of the other towns in our region, be it Urmston, Chorlton, Sale, or Altrincham, have been swept away by a food and drink revolution.

But, as we begin a bold new decade, one in which Manchester is set to outperform every other region outside of London, it feels like Stretford's time has finally arrived. At last!

Wikipedia

"But, ​what​ was the problem?" an ignorant, almost-passive observer might well ask.

Well, if a lack of interesting amenities; nowhere nice to eat, drink, or even more importantly shop, ​isn't a problem for a community and its general sense of self-confidence, then ​what​ is?

In this spirit of local enterprise and self-expression, here are just a sprinkling of outlets, establishments, institutions, that have helped bring about the great "Stretfornaissance," and long may it continue:

Fountain Records

"Reel Around the Fountain Records"

Named after a Smiths song, this independent outlet has to be one of ​the​ very best record stores anywhere in our region; a real treasure trove of musical history.

Located on the top floor of the Arndale, it's an easy one to miss, but you ​don't​ want to miss it. If you're looking for a starting point in this place, which appears to be more music labyrinth than mere record store, check out the extensive Manchester section near the counter.

Here you'll find both valuable rarities and recent reissues from some of our city's finest bands, and as you'd expect, given the detailed, highly specialised name of the shop, its Smiths and Morrissey section is by all measures, superb.

And why wouldn't it be? After all, the misunderstood maestro of indie music grew up a short walk from Stretford centre and this record store was featured in the recent biopic of our city's brightest star, ​England is Mine​ (2017) - available on Netflix. In fact, shots of Stretford appear in the background of this film to such an extent, the town begins to feel like an additional character.

Already there is so much to be proud of in this overlooked Manchester suburb: so much history, so much culture, so much beauty.

Longford Tap

Uplift Café

A far more recent venture, it's been open about 9 months, here we see the Stretfornaissance beginning to gather momentum in the form of a wonderful independent café at the front of  the mall.

We've got the cultural icon, we've got the huge yet hidden gem of an independent record store and now we even have somewhere half-decent to eat, and also with bags of character. It is a beautiful, quirky, eclectic outlet.

One wall is filled with artwork from local artistic types. Yes, the year is 2020 and there ​are​ artists in Stretford. In true Mancunian fashion, the staff are some of the warmest, most hospitable and personable that you could ever hope to come across; the place feels clean and spacious; the clientele is a glorious mixture of old and young; it's tremendously good value for money.

Oh, and if that isn't enough, the food is ​truly​ terrific and also just a bit adventurous: gloriously crisp sweet potato fries, fresh courgette fries; halloumi fries, beetroot buns, or else homemade sausage patty. It's a beautiful mixture.

Vegan and vegetarian preferences are catered for; health foods are readily available but in perfect conjunction with freshly prepared junk food in the form of a lavish full English or a homemade beef burger. It feels like the perfect balance.

Anywhere else it might seem pretentious, but in this instance it is perfect: a much needed dose of South Manchester finesse, where once there was only McDonald's. Forget #street food life. These days, you can find that in any city in England. This is #Stretford life at its very best.

Stretford Food Hall

Stretford Food Hall

Another venue that has only been open for about six months, but already this place feels like a local institution in its own right: such is the pace and scale of change. In true Stretford fashion, the venue is already over-subscribed.

Far from being cheap, it is ​the​ place to be. Formerly Argos, the hall is filled with long communal benches and tables, and intimate leather booths that are soon snapped up.

With its minimalist, almost brutalist decor, its revolving street-food stalls, its fully kitted out bar, and a florist lingering in the corner, the food hall feels as though it belongs in an ultra-hip suburb somewhere in Berlin, rather than a half-remembered outpost of South Manchester.

However, with the ever reliable Metrolink providing a swift service to Manchester centre - we're talking 15 minutes maximum - with middle class money finally flooding into the borough: the hipsters have arrived.

Here you can get street food from across the globe, as well as craft ale and craft lager, artisanal coffee - they're big into local produce - and finally, there's a sizeable shop at the back of the facility, a kind of co-op for creatives.

In general, this is a fascinating place in which to part with your wages, if you can find a spare table or a place to stand that is. But, given the recent shortage of creative space for Stretford's long suffering residents, it's no wonder they pay a premium.

Stretford

Longford Tap

Finally, around the corner from the food hall, near the entrance to the mall, we have Longford Tap, an expertly crafted European style café bar which opened in September 2019, but, as you can probably guess, in true Stretford spirit, it seems fully at home and at ease with itself.

It has always belonged here. Black and white interior images pay homage to local history, to the many forgotten landmarks too numerous to name. The name and logo of the bar pays tribute to a prominent local landmark: the old art deco cinema, known as Longford Cinema, but now vacant and crumbling.

Once again, you'll find this icon of the landscape in the Morrissey movie on Netflix. See how it's all beginning to knit together?

Also, once again, locally sourced ales abound, the highlight being the signature offering: "Longford Tap" created by small, independent Manchester brewers, Beatnick Republic. It's as though we are now living in an alternative reality, a dream world whereby Stretford has swapped places with the Northern Quarter but has remained mostly affordable!

To cap it all off, lovingly made Manchester themed bar snacks, such as scotch eggs or pork pies with a twist, compliment all of the alcohol on offer.

Stretford Food hall

Already there is so much to be proud of.

See how far Stretford has come in such a short space of time, and who knows? At this rate, in five years time, Longford Cinema might even reopen as an independent, European arthouse-type venture in the manner of the old Cornerhouse on Oxford Road.

In that case, the Stretfornaissance really would be complete.

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