6 new places to visit in Manchester
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 March 2016
Manchester - a ‘cultural boomtown’ - is cited by Lonely Planet among the ten cities across the world you should visit in 2016. Since the IRA bombing 20 years ago, Manchester has been involved in relentless reinvention, and there’s no sign of it letting up. Go to the city centre only infrequently and you’ll find it different every time. So, for that casual visitor to Manchester, here’s just a few of the most recent changes.
First it served as a meeting place for the grain-trading merchants of Manchester. Then, from the 1970s, the Corn Exchange was a marketplace for independent, alternative traders. After being badly damaged by the 1996 Manchester bomb, it re-emerged as a high-end shopping centre The Triangle. But after a £30m transformation, the Corn Exchange is back to its old name and now a dining destination where you can pretty much eat your way around the world, all under one roof.
Restaurants which opened there throughout the second half of last year included Indian street food venue Mowgli, a Byron burger restaurant, Cabana Brasilian Barbecue, Vietnamese Pho, Pan Asian Tampopo, Mexican Wahaca, Banyan Bar and Kitchen and several Italian-style eateries such as Gino D’Acampo: My Restaurant, Salvi’s, Zizzi, Vapiano and Pizza Express.
The Corn Exchange transformation also includes a Roomzzz Aparthotel, with 114 apartments, ranging up to palatial luxury penthouses.
Appearing as if by magic in the shadow of the CIS Tower, Sadler’s Yard is Manchester’s first new public square of the 21st century. Previously, this space consisted of closed-off walkways, but, with its official opening in December, Sadler’s Yard became the ‘public heart’ of NOMA, the £800m development of offices, homes, shops and leisure facilities on 20 acres of land owned by The Co-operative Group.
The square is named after balloonist, chemist and pastry chef James Sadler who made the first manned balloon flight from Manchester in 1785, from a garden close to what is now Balloon Street.
NOMA will later this year be home to a mobile pub, The Pilcrow, which is being built largely by volunteers, who, in the process, are learning traditional craft skills from experts.
For now Sadler’s Square is worth a visit just to see a new and unfamiliar public realm, and to read displays about Sadler’s exploits.
HOME and First Street
A new home for two much-loved Manchester art institutions - the Library Theatre and the Cornerhouse cinema and arts centre - the £25m HOME was officially opened last May by Bury-born film director Danny Boyle.
With five cinema screens, three gallery spaces and two theatres, HOME is the largest arts venue outside London. The centre, in Tony Wilson Place (close to the iconic Hacienda building on Whitworth Street West) is also a key development in what has long been a forgotten corner of Manchester, now dubbed First Street - a place where artistic creativity will jostle with businesses and people will work and play. Yet another new ‘quarter’ for Manchester, then.
Peter Street revival
Something special has been happening in Peter Street...and we don’t just mean the welcome return of the glorious Central Library in 2014 after a £40m make-over. Peter Street also now boasts the Albert Hall - a century-old former Wesleyan chapel which has in the last couple of years become one of Manchester’s favourite music venues. The Charlatans, Johnny Marr and Guy Garvey all played there in 2015.
Then, last October, came Albert’s Schloss, a beer palace serving the best of Bavarian and Bohemian brews along with hearty Germanic fare such as pork knuckle with red cabbage, beef pot roast with potato rosti and currywurst.
Another autumn arrival in Peter Street was Asha’s - an Indian restaurant with a sumptuous interior and a menu to match. The Asha in question, by the way, is Asha Bhosle, singer of many thousands of songs in Bollywood movies, and the subject of the 1997 Cornershop hit Brimful of Asha.
Suddenly, Peter Street is the place to be.
King Street rises
King Street - once the posh people’s purchasing parade - had lost its way. By 2013, almost a third of its shops were empty. An injection of cafe cult
Last October saw the opening of fine dining restaurant Quill on the pedestrianised part of King Street - traditionally the preserve of fashion shops. Just a few doors up, tapas restaurant El Gato Negro has just opened, featuring a retractable roof to take advantage of Manchester’s famously balmy climate.
At the top end of King Street - traditionally the finance hub - the five-star Hotel Gotham opened last April in an Edwin Lutyens-designed Art Deco bank building, while Burger & Lobster opened at Ship Canal House. Another bank-turned-hotel with the wow factor (and Manchester’s first infinity pool...on the seventh floor!) arrived in December with the King Street Townhouse. (Actually it’s in Booth Street, but within the Upper King Street Conservation Area, so officially part of King Street’s good news story.)
Whitworth Art Gallery
The Whitworth has been a Manchester institution since 1889, named after benefactor Joseph Whitworth whose other gift to the world was the standardised screw thread. But, like the city’s other great arthouse Manchester Art Gallery, the Whitworth has undergone a lavish and typically Mancunian architectural mash-up of old and new. The Whitworth reopened a year ago after a £15m transformation which doubled its size and gave it glassy additions which extended towards the park which shares its name.
Mancunians loved the new/old gallery, and so did the art world, as last summer the Whitworth was awarded the Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year.