So, that’s it. 2021 is over, and we can all take a breath. Even by the insane standards of recent history, this was a year that managed to leave a trail of eye-rubbingly implausible stories in its wake.
After a deadly pandemic put Blighty’s famous ‘Blitz Spirit’ to the test in 2020, we’d have all settled for a simple 12 months with some normality. But what we got instead was another unpredictable, topsy-turvy chapter that seemed to crawl and fly by simultaneously.
Bookended by the grim spread of COVID variants with some light in the middle of the tunnel, 2021 has turned out to be as much of a rollercoaster as its predecessor. It all began with a winter of discontent as everyone hid indoors, and it looks set to finish in a similar way. But en route there was plenty to talk about. And some of the strangest stuff happened right on our doorstep.
Here, we look back at the most peculiar episodes during another wild year in Manchester. The result is a list that features giant pigeons, penis enlargement adverts and ‘Julie’s I Pad’…
Flying for a beef sandwich
In March 2021, lockdown was in full force, but there was hope on the horizon. The government’s ‘roadmap to freedom’ had been unveiled, COVID cases were falling, and businesses were finally preparing to reopen their doors to customers. Within a matter of days, we’d be able to head to pubs and restaurants and dine outdoors.
But one helicopter pilot didn’t feel like waiting until the restrictions eased. He was hungry now, and what he really fancied was a beef butty.
So, he hopped in his chopper, took off from Salford, whizzed 80 miles across to the Chipping Farm Shop in Preston, and collected his sandwich before flying back home.
Pictures of the man receiving his order were posted on social media and the story made quite the splash, but authority figures didn’t see the funny side.
One councillor labelled it a “fragrant abuse of lockdown rules”, and police forces said they opened an investigation into the matter.
In April 2021, a press release sent Gary Neville into meltdown.
“I’m disgusted,” he snarled, his gnashing teeth obscured by a padded Sky Sports microphone.
“Absolutely disgusted. I’m disgusted with Manchester United and Liverpool most.”
The former England footballer was delivering an emotional on-screen response to the published plans for the European Super League (ESL) – a new breakaway division featuring 12 of the continent’s biggest football teams (including Premier League sides Man Utd, Man City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, and Chelsea).
The contest effectively amounted to an elite members’ club where the same sides would play one another over and over again and the rich owners would get richer. It was foul.
Neville was one of the first to start frothing at the mouth in response, but he would not be the last. Within days, the vitriolic backlash against the ESL saw panicked clubs pull out and the competition folded like a house of cards. But fan power’s fight continued – with supporters using the victory over the ESL as a springboard to battle back against the club owners who had signed up to join the division in the first place.
On May 2, with the world watching, Manchester United fans held a demonstration against the Glazer family at Old Trafford before their match with old rivals Liverpool. The barriers were breached and several hundred people broke into the stadium before kick-off.
The match was abandoned – and the passionate scenes made headlines across the globe.
The incident prompted the Premier League to bring in a new owners’ charter designed to stop any future attempts to join a breakaway league. It also led to the Glazers briefly opening a dialogue with supporters via a fans forum – the first communication of its kind during nearly 16 years of ownership.
Fans had won the battle, but not the war. Ringleaders over at Real Madrid, Juventus and Barcelona still want to revive the ESL project when the time is right. And the vilified American Glazer family remain at the helm at Old Trafford.
This one isn’t over.
The chaotic parish council meeting in Handforth
A year ago this month, a council meeting was taking place in Handforth – a little town just outside of Greater Manchester – that would end up shooting its participants to stardom.
The group had arranged an emergency online forum to talk politics, with question marks hovering over the conduct of certain members.
The whole thing was a typical Zoom huddle of blurry faces, scrambled audio and people talking over one another. But when a recording of it was posted to social media in February 2021, everything changed.
The footage revealed a council meeting so jaw-droppingly chaotic it proved a monster hit online – generating thousands of views in a matter of minutes.
Handforth Parish Council became its very own soap opera: Introducing us to a rich mix of four dimensional comedy characters that ranged from the tooting Brian Tolver to the enigmatic Julie’s iPad.
The breakout star, of course, was Jackie Weaver – a member of the Cheshire Association of Local Councils who’d seemingly been drafted in to get the Handforth house in order. Weaver gained worldwide fame for remaining stoic in the face of disruptive members during the meeting, responding to an onslaught of cries and accusations by coolly kicking complainers out of the call.
The endlessly quotable (“You have no authority here Jackie Weaver!”; “Read the standing orders! Read them and understand them!”) footage has done the rounds all year – and even led to the council changing its name to “move away from the toxic side of Handforth”.
Weaver, meanwhile, has published a book titled You Do Have The Authority Here! and become one of Handforth’s most famous associates, even being invited to switch on the town’s Christmas lights in 2021.
Giant pigeon parades through Piccadilly Gardens
You can usually find something peculiar happening in Piccadilly Gardens at any time of day. It’s a part of Manchester where seemingly anything goes. Even human-sized pigeons.
Pigeons are so populous in Piccadilly Gardens they ought to be paying rent. Walking down the paths here involves tiptoeing around dozens of pests all fluttering and cooing by the fountains, whilst dozens more swoop in to feed on scraps left behind by commuters, shoppers and loiterers. They’re everywhere. Which might explain why a mammoth bird almost managed to get across the gardens unnoticed in 2021.
It was a piping hot August day, and everyone was simply minding their own business, when someone dressed in a huge pigeon suit began plodding through Manchester’s central square.
One person nearby managed to capture a snippet of video, but few others seemed to bat an eye.
We’re apparently so used to pigeons round these parts, even the gigantic ones can blend in…
On a cold, dark January evening, supermarket staff working the late shift were stunned to witness an ambulance rock up in the car park with its blue lights flashing, before an entire family spilled out of the vehicle to do some shopping.
Puzzled police turned up and proceeded to pull the driver aside, discovering they had no insurance and were wanted by the court.
It was later revealed that the ambulance had been purchased second hand, and that the driver had been taken into custody for the incident.
So, just to recap: An uninsured, wanted driver bought an emergency services vehicle and used it to take his family shopping, turning on the lights in the process. During lockdown.
Swarms of bees descend on the city
Something miraculous happened in Manchester this summer. For a magical moment, it seemed like the bee symbols dotted right around the city had all sprung to life.
On at least three separate occasions during June, thousands of bees were found swarming to specific spots of Mancunia. First, they took over the back window of a BMW, before settling on a sign for Manchester International Festival on Peter Street. Later in the month, a few thousand more were spotted around the corner as they engulfed a canopy outside of Albert’s Schloss bar.
The sudden appearance of these pulsing gold and black blankets was a sight to behold – but it also invited many questions. Why had these insects apparently decided to reclaim Manchester?
According to the British Beekeepers Association, it’s not unusual for honeybee colonies to swarm on warm days between May and July – ordinarily after a queen departs. Scout bees search for a suitable new spot to make a nest, whilst the other bees wait together until a home is chosen.
That’s apparently what we were seeing back in summer. And it was pretty amazing.
Lots of Gorton residents head into Sunny Brow Park when the weather is good, either to enjoy a leisurely stroll with river views or take the kids to the playground.
In many ways, it’s a park like any other. But in June 2021, this unassuming little green space on Knutsford Road made the headlines for a very strange reason.
A couple were spotted – and pictured – engaging in some frisky activity in broad daylight below a tree.
First at around midday. Then again at 2pm.
The incident(s) resulted in stunned by-passers calling the police, and the duo were arrested on suspicion of outraging public decency.
Posters for penis enlargement pop up in shop windows
Head-turning artworks have a habit of appearing overnight in Manchester. Throughout 2021, we’ve woken up to huge posters lambasting Boris Johnson for his failures in government, and a stencilled spray painting of a boy flying a kite in Stockport (which was initially rumoured as a Banksy before Salford artist Mr Eggs took credit). But the most bizarre of the bunch was an ‘advert’ for free penis enlargement.
In November, an image materialised in a shop window on Market Street joking that drivers of specific vehicles could be eligible for the enhancing treatment.
The caption read: “Do you drive a 4×4, Jeep or Range Rover in the city? You could be entitled to FREE penis enlargement therapy on the NHS.”
A phone number was displayed below images of the vehicles, alongside a logo for a company called Megacorp.
This prank, promotional device, or political stunt – whatever it might be – has apparently been done before, with the Metro reporting that a similar poster was seen three years ago in the Midlands, albeit with a different contact number listed.
The Manchester Evening News believed the latest posters had been put together by an anonymous designer working under the alias Foka Wolf.
The real purpose remains unclear. But it definitely raised a few smirks at the time.
The new restaurants and bars opening in Manchester this month | October 2023
October will be a big month for new restaurant openings in Manchester, with some of the most high-anticipated launches of the year taking place.
There is, of course, Sexy Fish, that hugely glitzy London establishment that’s moving into Spinningfields at long last.
Also branching across into Manchester in October will be Louisiana fried chicken legends Popeyes, Leeds’ favourite ramen house House of Fu, and Broadway Diner, where wait staff sing musical numbers at you while you eat.
You’ll also find new restaurants to check out right across Greater Manchester, from an Italian restaurant in Stockport’s Underbanks to a couple of new spots at Kampus in the city centre.
Keep reading for all the new restaurant and bar openings in Manchester this October.
Bondi Bowls, Kampus
Bondi Bowls will open its first permanent base at Kampus this September, offering healthy choices to residents and visitors alike.
Bondi Bowls first began life as a delivery-only service during the pandemic before taking on residencies at street food markets Hatch and Freight Island.
Set up by founder Jamie Tones, a chef who has worked in kitchens around the world, the menu takes inspiration from his time in Sydney with a selection of different açaí and poké bowls.
Diners will find an all-day brunch offering from morning to night with global flavour inspirations from the likes of India, Mexico, and Australasia.
Finally, Manchester Victoria is going to have a decent beer bar – and we honestly cannot wait.
The team behind Piccadilly Tap and Euston Tap are at last gearing up to open their new taproom at the city’s original train station, and are promising commuters their arrival will mark a new chapter with ‘no more £7 pints’.
Progress on the site seems to be ticking along nicely with an opening date due in the coming week.
Opening date TBC
Love From, Kampus
A new alcohol-free pop up bar experience is taking over the bungalow-on-stilts at Kampus next month, promising a series of events that don’t rely on booze.
The pop-up, open between 12 and 22 October, is founded by Karl Considine, who hosts the What Next podcast and shares stories of sobriety.
Love From will help to pave the way for the rapidly-growing alcohol-free market as more and more people turn their backs on booze.
Manchester’s iconic nightclub Panacea – a celeb favourite – has reopened its doors as Ikaro, a new grill and champagne bar.
This lavish newcomer has announced its arrival with huge LED screens that light up John Dalton Street with stunning graphics.
At the restaurant, diners will find two menus focusing on two different elements, fire and ice. On the first, you’ll find Grilled Lobster Tails, Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye, and Australian Wagyu Tomahawk.
On the second an array of Sushi and Sashimi such as Torched Hand Dived Scallops and Bluefin Tuna Otoro.
House of Fu, Portland Street
An all-time favourite of our pals across the Pennines in Leeds, House of Fu will be making its first foray into Manchester in October.
The ramen restaurant will bring their modern ramen, rice bowls and small plates to Manchester from 11:30am every day.
The venue also boasts a late-night party spot, state-of-the-art karaoke rooms, and a private dining room, offering a brand-new feasting menu for parties of up to 30, alongside their everyday menu.
Opening Friday 20 October
Birria Brothers Tacos, Northern Quarter
You probably already know Birria Brothers Tacos – they had a queue going right down Oldham Street during one of the many lockdowns when they popped up at Koffee Pot.
And now it’s official, with the team taking over a chunk of Koffee Pot’s cafe and tiling above the door shouting ‘TACOS’ to passers-by.
The order of the day here is almost always traditional birria tacos, a Mexican dish where slow-cooked bef is stuffed into corn tortillas, ready to be dipped in the rich cooking stock.
Sexy Fish, Spinningfields
One of the most luxurious and highly-anticipated openings of the year is due to open this month, with Sexy Fish taking shape in the former Armani site in Spinningfields.
The Manchester restaurant will be the third global outpost for the restaurant concept, which has already seen electrifying openings in London’s Mayfair in 2015 and Miami’s Brickell district in 2022.
On the menu will be high-end sushi, a large Champagne collection with a selection of the world’s top vintages from leading estates, and an excellent sake wine selection.
OpeningThursday 12 October
New Wave Ramen, Tib Lane
New Wave Ramen has built a reputation for having the best bowls in the city, despite not having a restaurant space of its own – until now.
The Mackie Mayor legends have taken up a two-storey space in a historic building on Tib Lane, serving signature ramen bowls and small plates from the binchotan-fired grill, alongside sustainable seafood.
These giant bowls of broth and noodle are so moreish you could drink gallons of the stuff.
All of us Mancs over a certain age will remember Cord, the legendary Northern Quarter boozer that opened at the turn of the millennium.
Now the founding team behind that institution are heading to Stockport to open Alfredo’s Social, an Italian social, in the Winter’s Building.
They’ll be serving authentic Neapolitan pizza, small plates, salads and charcuterie, with ingredients sourced locally or even grown in their own allotment.
Opens Saturday 14 October
Popeyes, Piccadilly Gardens
FINALLY – Louisiana’s famous chicken chain Popeyes is opening its brand new Manchester restaurant this month.
Known for serving fried chicken dishes with sides like red beans and rice, Cajun fries, mashed potatoes with Cajun-style gravy, Cajun rice, macaroni & cheese, southern-style biscuits, and coleslaw, it’s opening a new location on Piccadilly Gardens.
And then there’s the breakfast menu, with dishes including the Big Breakfast Roll (a sausage patty, egg, streaky bacon, and American cheese in a soft bun), a variety of sausage, bacon, egg and cheese muffins, cajun hash browns, and its famous Louisiana buttermilk biscuits served with cinnamon sugar or Nutella.
Opening Thursday 26 October.
A Broadway-themed diner where the wait staff serenades you with hits from your favourite musicals is set to bring a little razzle-dazzle to Manchester.
Staff at Broadway Diner, which comes from the team behind Karen’s Diner, will sing hits from iconic Broadway musicals, like Oliver!, Rent, Lion King, Hamilton, Cats, and more.
The new musical diner, which is set to open in the Trafford Centre later this year, will also host performances from local artists in a bid to give back to the local community and offer a platform for up-and-coming homegrown talent.
Opens Sunday 22 October
Things to do and events in Manchester in October 2023
Oast House Teepee – The Oast House has confirmed that its legendary Christmas tipi draped in twinkling lights is set to return for the festive season. The Teepee will be made up of three tents joined together with a huge open hub. It opens on Wednesday 11 October.
Madre Sunday roast – Kampus’s excellent Mexican restaurant Madre is launching a Sunday feast menu, where you can order a choice of meat cooked Mexican-style, accompanied by traditional sides including salsa, papas con crema (roast potatoes but better), Refried beans, Elote and grilled cabbage.
Evelyn’s new menu – This Northern Quarter institution has a shiny new menu from October, with seasonal dishes focusing on Levantine and Pan-Asian flavours. New additions include whol Cornish sole, Za’atar lamb chops, picanha steak, and chocolate soufra.
Indy Man Beer Con (IMBC) – Manchester’s enormous celebration of independent breweries is heading back to Victoria Baths between 5 and 8 October. There’ll be talks, tastings, street food, merch, and everything else a beer-lover could possibly want.
Strike Steak at Hawksmoor – Hawksmoor decided in summer to start selling absolute bargain steaks whenever the trains were on strike (so, always), and are now switching the deal up. For £15, you can get a Hawksmoor burger with beef dripping chips, between 12pm and 3pm, on strike days (30 September, 4 October, and 6 October).
Bundo does Oktoberfest – To celebrate Oktoberfest, Bundobust have shaken a spice rack over some iconic German dishes for hungry punters to enjoy alongside a cold German beer. A proper match made in heaven if you ask us. The limited-edition specials will be available until Sunday 15 October,
Bottomless curry at Zouk – For National Curry Week, Zouk’s famous bottomless curry offer is back, with all-you-can-eat curry for £20 per person. The deal is available from Monday 2 October to Friday 6 October, with 120 bottles of Cobra given away each day to the first people through the door.
Featured image: The Manc Group
The Japanese takeaway with a Michelin-trained chef serving a secret omakase menu out back
Good sushi is a hard thing to find in Manchester nowadays. To be honest, ever since the demise of Umezushi, it has felt out of reach.
Average sushi, however, is suddenly available in abundance thanks to an explosive proliferation of trendy, if soulless, Pan Asian restaurants.
You know the sort. The spots with the claggy, dried-out rice on ostentatious platters, whose chefs stuff cream cheese into the middle of their maki, or disguise its lack of freshness with cascading waterfalls of dry ice.
These spots, with their fake flower walls and neon signs that scream “Pick me!” seem, depressingly, to be taking over. So it’s with relish I can reassure you at least one place in Manchester city centre is doing its bit to remind us what real sushi should actually taste like.
Even better, it’s entirely missing the gaudy flamboyance of Manchester’s glitzy Pan Asian sushi scene – so if, like me, you’re not into superficial sushi, you should feel right at home here.
I’m talking about One Sushi, formerly known as Ikkan – a tiny Japanese takeaway shop on Oxford Road filled with little more than a few wooden counters and a cash desk topped with metallic maneki-neko, or beckoning cat.
Opened last year by the team behind China Buffet, a popular Chinese restaurant in the heart of Chinatown, its takeaway cabinets are stuffed with California and red dragon rolls, deep-fried ebi, and various tempting combo platters.
These lovingly packaged takeaway morsels are already considered by sushi fiends in the know to be amongst best in the city, but – whilst they are really good – they are nothing compared to what is coming off the kitchen’s near-invisible pass.
Hidden at the back by a blue flag featuring the One Sushi logo and rolling waves that resemble Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai’s famous Great Wave off Kanagawa print, it’s here that you will reconsider whether you’ve ever really had a good piece of sushi before in your life.
Prepare to be blown away.
We’re talking otoro belly tuna, A5 seared wagyu steak (that’s the highest grade you can get), sweet Japanese scallops and prawns, all prepared right in front of you by master sushi chef Eddie who trained at two Michelin star Hong Kong restaurant Zuicho.
All the fish here is super fresh, and the entire style of the menu is down to chef Eddie – meaning he chooses for you, preparing the best of the best from that day.
Priced at £58 per person, Eddie can accommodate up to four people at once for this incredible omakase sushi experience. There’s really nowhere like it in Manchester for this price, in fact the only other place where you can go to experience something like this will set you back at least £200.