Pubs are an integral part of British culture, and nowhere does them better than Manchester.
We’ve got tiny ones, giant ones, shiny ones and ancient ones.
There are some that serve seriously fancy gastropub food and others that serve a whole menu of crisps.
Whatever your brief is for the perfect pub, Manchester will have somewhere that fits the bill.
We’ve rounded up some of the quirkiest boozers that offer something a little… unexpected.
It is always, always that trip to the toilets that makes you realise you’ve tipped over into inebriated – staring at yourself in the mirrors above the sinks thinking ‘Oh, yup, too many pints’.
Here in Manchester, it can also be a trip to the toilet that gets you sozzled in the first place.
The Temple – or Temple of Convenience to give it its full name – is a tiny subterranean drinking den that in the Victorian era, was actually a public toilet.
It’s so narrow you can almost reach wall-to-wall if you stand with your arms outstretched.
But down here you’ll also find a great selection of bottled beers, a jukebox, and bags of charm.
100 Great Bridgewater Street, M1 5JW
The Marble Arch
Come, venture slightly beyond your comfort zone of the city centre and Ancoats – for just beyond you’ll find one of Manchester’s very best pubs.
The Marble Arch building has been here since 1888, and to this day is one of the most impressive historic pubs in the UK.
Its tiled walls, ornate ceilings and mosaic floors, not to mention its roaring fire and its beautiful wooden bar, are just part of the charm.
One of the strangest experiences when visiting The Marble Arch is the way the bar seems to draw you in to it.
It’s all thanks to its gently sloping floor – some say it’s this way to make rolling barrels easier, others say it’s for cleaning, but out favourite theory is that it’s to encourage inebriated customers to totter back to the bar for another round.
73 Rochdale Road, M4 4HY
The Seven Oaks
By day, The Seven Oaks is a fairly normal pub – a lot of beer, a lot of sports, a lot of regulars.
But by night, it becomes the stuff of hospitality legend.
This is the pub for people who work in pubs, a place where the hospitality staff normally pouring drinks for everyone else can come and have their own after work – even if they happen to finish work at 4am.
Built for the people who work ‘the wrong 9-to-5’, if you’ve got proof of working in the hospitality industry, this Chinatown pub is the place to come for late night, or early morning, pints.
5 Nicholas Street, M1 4HL
Peveril of the Peak
You cannot miss the Peveril of the Peak.
Not only is it clad all over in ceramic tiles in vibrant shades of chartreuse and mint green, but it also stands alone at the fork in a road.
Manchester’s only detached pub has been here since the early 19th century, with a jumble of cosy rooms arranged around a central bar.
Inside, there are all the best sorts of pub trimmings, like a jukebox and a dart board.
It’s also had the same landlady for 51 years – Nancy Swanick, 90, is pretty legendary in her own right.
127 Great Bridgewater Street, M1 5JQ
In stark contrast to the Peveril of the Peak, The Circus Tavern is very much a pub you can miss.
This tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it drinking den is home to the smallest bar in Europe.
Don’t expect a massive selection of beers here – there simply isn’t room.
It’s the weeniest pub in Manchester and also one of its oldest, dating back to 1840 (though the building was here even earlier).
Back in the day, it used to be a regular haunt of circus performers (hence the name), and Manchester United players, including George Best.
86 Portland Street, M1 4GX
The Old Wellington Inn
When you’re nursing your drink in the Old Wellington, you’re surrounded by masses of history.
The city centre pub is the oldest building of its kind in Manchester, dating all the way back to 1552.
Back in those days, the walls, floors and ceilings were all wonky, and the ceiling beams were so low that punters had to duck when they were walking around.
The pub might be ancient, but strangely, it hasn’t always been here on Exchange Square.
The medieval building actually used to be about 70 metres down the road, and had to be moved bit by bit and piece by piece after the IRA bomb in 1996.
Over the course of two years, both the Old Wellington and Sinclair’s Oyster bar were completely rebuilt in their new home here, where they still stand as two of Manchester’s most amazing pubs – and pull some of the city’s cheapest pints.
4 Cathedral Gates, M3 1SW
Back Piccadilly in the city centre isn’t exactly a wholesome location as things stand – there’s a lot of graffiti, rows of bins, the occasional rat.
But if you travel back in time to 1976, things get significantly more bleak. We’re talking mass murder bleak.
A previous landlord of the Mother Mac’s pub turned and killed his wife, then his three children, then the pub’s cleaner, before setting the building ablaze and killing himself.
Its days may be blissfully less gory now, but the newspaper clippings from the time are still framed on the walls.
33 Back Piccadilly, M1 1HP
If you’re a fan of a ghost story, this is the pub for you.
The Shakespeare on Fountain Street – directly across the road from Primark – has had plenty of paranormal activity, if we believe the reports of its customers (who, admittedly, are likely to have been worse for wear).
Punters have reported seeing a flaming ghost at the top of the stairs, believed to be the spirit of a young girl who accidentally set herself alight while lighting candles at the inn.
It’s also said to be haunted by a former chef who hung himself here – you can apparently still see the rope marks on one of the ceiling beams.
Spooky past aside, The Shakespeare is a good-value pub with a menu of typical pub fare.
16 Fountain Street, M2 2AA
Famed for its Jack Daniel’s collection, the Briton’s Protection draws in whiskey fans from across the globe.
Every year the owners travel to Tennessee to make bespoke casks – and they’ve even created a Jack Daniel’s-themed room in a snug behind the bar.
Home to some exceedingly rare bottles, including one with an unaired Sinatra concert recording hidden in a tie clip, collectors pay thousands for bottles from the Manchester casks.
That’s not all, though. The pub’s history dates back to the Peterloo massacre, attested to by a mural in its hallway.
Not entirely historically accurate, look closely and you’ll spot some of the rebels bear a striking resemblance to famous Manchester footballers.
Apparently, the previous owner was a bit of a fan.
Feautre image – Adam Pester / TripAdvisor
Food & Drink
Inside the underground Manchester noodle bar serving Chinatown’s spiciest scrans
Over in Chinatown, there’s a relatively new little noodle bar that’s been making a big, spicy stamp on the city’s dining scene.
Its owner, Wendy Ren, hails from the Chinese province of Sichuan – a region that’s home to giant pandas, traditional Sichuanese opera, and some of the spiciest food going, thanks to its famous Sichuan pepper.
Also known as the Chinese prickly ash, the citrus-like peppercorn leaves a tingly numbness in the mouth and on the lips that you’ll either love or hate.
It’s an acquired taste, by all accounts – but those who love it can’t get enough. In fact, on my visit during a packed-out Wednesday lunch service, Wendy stopped to chat with an Italian family holidaying in Manchester who had been in to eat three days in a row. Now that’s an endorsement if I ever heard one.
She’s opened the restaurant alongside her Cantonese husband, Ken Chen, but the recipes are all hers – and on our visit she laughs with us about how it has taken him some time to get on board with her spicy food, saying: “he found out pretty quickly that he either eats it or he doesn’t eat at all.”
For big fans of spice, this is fast becoming the absolute go-to spot in Chinatown – and for those who aren’t so tough, don’t worry, because Wendy’s put some things on the menu for you too (and possibly, also, for Ken).
Called Noodle Alley, the restaurant is tucked away underground on Faulkner Street and beautifully decked out in red and green with little nods to the famous wide and narrow alleys of Chengdu.
Formerly home to China City, a real old-school Chinatown legacy restaurant, the space has a special place in Wendy’s heart.
She tells me that she and her husband used to come and eat here “all the time” when they first started dating, so the location really means a lot to both of them.
Chinatown restaurants aren’t exactly known for their glamorous interiors, and China City, Wendy jokes, was one such place – with the same old carpet, and the same old tables that had been used for the past twenty years.
Now the space is her own, though, it’s markedly different – lovingly decked out in cheerful colours, with little green windows, hanging lanterns, and bamboo rattan paneling on the walls.
Her story of getting into the restaurant business is something of an unusual one. Prior to opening Noodle Alley, she tells me, she spent nearly two decades working at The Marriott Hotel.
After seventeen years of service and the birth of her second child, she asked to go part-time but her request was refused – so she quit the very next day, and began building her own route to independence.
It was during the Covid lockdown, she says, that she really got into cooking group meals – making meals for her friends and spending hours in the kitchen busying away happily over her stove.
A friend with several restaurants in Chinatown suggested she start her own business, and the rest – as they say – is history.
Dish-wise, her menu spans a mouthwatering selection of dry noodles, soup noodles, street food, and small plates, including the likes of deep-fried wavy potato chips with chilli and Szechuan pepper and steamed beef strips wrapped with chilli paste, numbing Sichuan pepper, and five-spiced rice powder.
Dan Dan noodles, the Sichuan dish we probably all know the best, don’t feature – they’re a bit old news now, apparently, and Wendy has some cooler alternatives for us to try.
One is her Su Jiao Mian, a mixture of minced pork, sesame sauce, and house chilli oil, the other is the Wan Za Mian, a fiery mixture of spices combined with minced pork, soft yellow peas, and more chilli which Wendy says is “one of the most popular noodles in Sichuan.”
Apparently, if you’re eating with the cool kids in Sichuan, you should order this. Not one to argue, I dig in – and it’s safe to say her food is pretty damn exceptional. Almost immediately, I’m planning my next trip back.
Other signature dishes here include Wendy’s steamed beef strips, which can be eaten alone or dipped into one of her noodle soups, and a dish of ‘saliva chicken’ – a crunchy, cold, textural dish with steamed chicken, fresh chillis and ribbons of cucumber that sit swimming in a bath of homemade Sichuan chilli oil, so named because it literally makes your mouth water.
We also opt for a dish of pork knuckle with butter beans in an umami-rich pork bone broth. Not one for the faint-hearted, even Wendy seemed a little cautious to recommend this one, but as fans of ‘the weird stuff’ we insist – and it really ends up being a highlight of the meal.
We end up needing a little help with it. It’s a slippery bugger and I end up wearing a fair bit of the broth. before she returns with a knife and fork to cut it up properly for us.
That broth it’s in, though, is so beautiful I could happily bathe in it. Some might say I did, to be fair. As for the soft, succulent pork meat? When sliced into tiny morsels and dipped into an extra special Sichuan chilli oil she retrieves from the kitchen, is something else entirely.
If this is Sichuan heaven, then I’ll happily stay here forever. From plump hand-made dumplings stuffed generously with flavourful pork and drenched in chilli oil, to chicken giblet soup noodles, there’s so much on the menu I will be coming back for.
And for those who really can’t handle the spice, I guess I’ll be recommending the scallion oil noodles with soy sauce and crispy egg. No matter what you order here, I don’t think you can go too wrong.
Featured image – The Manc Eats
Food & Drink
Top Manchester chef to host special £250 dinner – but vegans aren’t welcome
The French at The Midland Hotel has revealed it will host an exclusive dining experience next month with Hubert de Billy from the esteemed Champagne house Pol Roger – but there won’t be anything on the menu for Manchester’s vegans.
Adam Reid at The French is set to host an exclusive dinner next month as the esteemed chef patron joins forces with one of France’s most luxurious Champagne houses.
Taking place on Friday 6 October, diners will be treated to an indulgent four-course dinner pairing Lancashire lad Adam’s stylish Northern cooking with matching wines.
Due to the specific nature of the vent, however, specific dietary requirements will not be catered to on the evening – so vegans are being warned to stay away.
Wines will be introduced and described by none other than Monsieur de Billy, the fifth generation of the family-owned Champagne house and Pol Roger’s great-great-grandson.
Founded in 1849, Pol Roger is regarded as one of the finest of all the Champagne houses.
Guests will be given the opportunity to taste the prestigious Pol Roger Champagne, a notable favourite of late Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with some snacks on arrival before digging into a sumptuous four-course meal.
At £250 a head, it’s not cheap – but then we are talking about one of Manchester’s most premium restaurants, collaborating with one of France’s most prestigious Champagne houses, so it seems par for the course that you’ll be paying a pretty penny for it.
Starting at 6.30pm, things will kick off with glasses of Champagne and special snacks made by Adam Reid and his team before diners are seated in the plush restaurant for their meal.
Tickets for the event are strictly limited, and due to the nature of this event, specific dietary requirements will not be available to be catered for including vegan and dairy-free diets.
Whilst vegans and dairy-free folk might be feeling a bit left out, for the rest of Manchester it’s an opportunity to dine in one of the city’s most famous restaurants.
For those who don’t know the history of The French, in 1974 it made history as the first Manchester restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star.
Back then, it was Chef Gilbert Lefevre at the helm and it really did what it said on the tin – serving opulent plates of escargots, foie gras, and caviar, even committing right down to the menu itself, half of which was printed en français.
The restaurant retained its star for three years, before losing it in 1977, and would go on to have some ups and downs before coming under the stewardship of Simon Rogan in 2013, with its now-Chef Patron Adam Reid working underneath him as Head Chef.
Rogan – already then a proprietor of the Umbel group including L’Enclume, Fera at Claridge’s, and Rogan & Co – famously ended his five-year contract with the hotel two years early after failing to get a Michelin star.
That same year, local lad Adam took on the top dog role and in 2017 re-positioned the offering to reflect his own style – essentially making everything more relaxed.
He dropped the complicated place settings, brought in music so that diners no longer feared dropping their forks, introduced a new chef station in the restaurant, and revised the menu to pay homage to his Lancashire roots.
Under his stewardship, The French at The Midland typically serves an 11-course tasting menu featuring dishes inspired by picky teas, miniature cheese and onion pies, and steaming cups of beef tea served alongside Pollen ‘French malt’ bread and thick pats of beefy butter.
This special Pol Roger dinner is a one-off at the restaurant. It marks the beginning of a new chapter at Adam Reid at The French with its chef patron and head chef looking to host more collaborative events going forward.