When the BBC located MediaCity in Manchester in 2011, a fresh wave of professionals descended, and with that, both new and established hospitality brands started to open their doors. Once famed for its music scene and its football club(s), this northern powerhouse now boasts one of the fastest growing eating-out scenes in the country.
However, for the last four decades, Manchester has been without a Michelin star proposition, in fact its closest star was awarded to Moor Hall , which opened under Mark Birchall in 2017. There are plenty of gems on offer though, and for me, this city is one of the nations most exciting foodie destinations.
Take Mackie Mayor, which opened in October last year. Located on Swan Street, on the former site of Smithfield Market, the space has been completely reimagined by the team behind Altrincham Market. With space for up to 500 diners under the domed glass roof, when I visited on a cold January afternoon we had to wait a good fifteen minutes to find a table, which we ended up sharing with an eclectic mix of diners over the course of the day and night. Part of the charm here, is that diversity. One minute we were eating Honest Crust Pizza next to a couple and their puppy, Monty, then a little later I was tucking into the Baohouse bao (which was the absolute bomb) next to a group of blokes on a stag do. Two meals in one afternoon, and I’d like to pretend we stopped there.
Suitably stuffed, and braving the cold, we headed deeper into the Northern Quarter, which is buzzing with bohemian bars and quirky cafes, settling on a pit stop at Common, before our reservation at Washhouse.
This chic drinking den has a speakeasy vibe, albeit with a DJ playing deep house in the corner. Seating up to 40, and operating a strictly booking-only policy, Washhouse describes itself as ‘hiding in plain sight’. Discreetly located behind the façade of a laundrette, you enter the dimly lit bar behind a washing machine door (naturally). Don’t expect a service wash here though. This place is serious about drinks. With cocktails ranging from not-so-classic-classics (a bloody mary adorned with chorizo and cherry tomatoes) to super sweet concoctions complete with fizz-wizz popping candy, ice cream and more. But…the first rule of Washhouse is you don’t talk about Washhouse, so I’m going to stop because I want to go back.