Eating & drinking in Manchester

Vegan spring rolls & aubergine charmula at Pokusevski'sManchester always feels really welcoming and reminds me a lot of my former home, Glasgow. And just like Glasgow it is a brilliant city for eating and drinking, especially if you are veggie or vegan. I usually spend the weeks leading up to a trip busily researching where to go but I was so preoccupied with the Nepal fundraiser that before we knew it we were heading north so most eating and drinking was figured out as we wandered around.

I was recommended V Revolution by northerner Vegan Olive on Twitter and the sound of vegan junk food was too good to miss out on, so we made this our first stop, for a late lunch. The simple menu is mainly of burgers, hot dogs and nachos and features several mock meat options. It is ridiculously cheap and Tristan kept asking if the prices were real! Sure, the burgers aren’t huge but for under £5 they are brilliant. I went for the ‘chicken’ one with a peanut satay type sauce and T had a hot dog. The burgers are presented in small seeded rolls plus a side of tortilla chips. There’s plenty of hot sauce around too to spice things up a bit. I’d seen online that a previous daily special was vegan mac cheese and was gutted that wasn’t on the menu today, but that’s all the more reason to swing by next time I’m in town! The café also has a shop that stocks popular vegan brands such as Amy’s Kitchen plus a range of chocolates, mock meats and staple vegan pantry items including my favourite sauce of the north: Henderson’s Relish.

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Burger and chips at V Rev

After a bit of shopping and sightseeing we made out first drinking stop at The Blue Pig. This Northern Quarter bar doesn’t look that special from outside but is really nice once inside and it’s name is understood from all the kooky pig-themed art. The staff were friendly and they stock a decent selection of beers, wines and ciders. The food menu looked impressive too but we weren’t quite ready to eat again – yet! It’s largely burgers and meaty food but the veggie options of veg sharing platter, falafel burger and halloumi sandwich plus an enticing quinoa-based special were all strong options. After that we had a drink in the outdoor seating area of Simple Bar on the corner of Tib Street.  This was the perfect location for people watching and enjoying a locally crafted cider. Apparently different bars take over this corner depending on the day of the week.

We were really undecided on what we wanted for dinner so I had a quick look on HappyCow and saw that Dough Pizza Kitchen on High Street street does vegan pizza. Pizza is one of my favourite food groups (alongside chips) but is something that I’d rarely had since being vegan so we quickly opted for this place. It also meant T didn’t just have to work round my dietary choice as it isn’t actually always about me! You can easily make a pizza vegan by not including cheese but at Dough they have vegan cheese. The menu was brilliant, catering for various dietary requirements with clear symbols on the menu, and the staff – as with everyone we met in Manchester – were super friendly and helpful. We had pickled peppers and rosemary foccacia to start and for main I went for The Veggie pizza with mushrooms, spinach, sweetcorn, sun-blushed tomatoes and chillies. Yum! T had one with salmon on it. Weird.

The Veggie pizza at Dough Pizza Kitchen
The Veggie pizza at Dough Pizza Kitchen

It was now past 8pm so time to get some (more) drinking done! We met up with a local friend who led us to Port Street Brew House which is a cosy wee pub that specialises in craft beer with seven handpulls, eighteen draft lines and over a hundred bottled beers. Post-dinner and pint I was beginining to flag – time for an Espresso Martini! We headed to Hold Fast – a quirky basement bar themed around Victorian ships and exploration with lots of antiquities and interesting decor. As well as packs of Trivial Pursuit cards from the early ’90s. Needless to say, we didn’t get many answers correct!

Our next watering hole was the Peveril of the Peak on Great Bridgewater Street, a pub so tradtional it doesn’t have any web presence at all. With lots of snug little rooms, a pool table through the back and a jukebox it’s the perfect location for some relaxed drinking. It’s also famous for being one of Manchester’s oldest pubs and a drinking hole of actor Robbie Coltrane.

Then we headed back into town for one last stop: Manchester’s trendy canteen, bar and club, Soup Kitchen. This industrial bar is definitely one of the places to be and be seen at the weekend. During the day the canteen serves up to six different soups (always one veggie and one vegan option) as well as jerk chicken, vegan stew, jacket potatoes and salads. All for very reasonable dollar. At night, the music is cranked up and the party vibes start flowing. I really enjoyed this bar – the only downfall being the lack of toilets meaning long queues. But you can’t win them all, eh?

For Sunday brunch we made a beeline for Odd Bar which does one of the best vegan breakfasts in the UK according to PETA. Any breakfast that contains tofu is a winner for me so I was easily sold. T actually went for the veggie breakfast as the falafel sausages and bean patty were more appealing to him than sausages, bacon and black pudding (good boy!). The falafel sausages were definitely a highlight and made me think, why don’t I make these myself?! The tofu, however, was rather disappointing as it was barely scrambled and hadn’t been seasoned or flavoured at all. I have a feeling that the usual chef was off as that tofu was certainly not top-10 worthy. I loved the meal overall but I think my top vegan breakfast would still go to InSpiral in Camden, London (also featured on PETA’s list), which does properly delicious scrambled tofu, as well as organic beans and tamari mushrooms.

Vegan breakfast at Odd Bar
Vegan breakfast at Odd Bar

After a wander round the city we had to take shelter from the wild rain in the MIF tent at Albert Square. A good opportunity to sample a pint under pretty coloured lanterns and watch the chaos of a suddenly too busy bar and kitchen unfold. When the rain died down, we wandered down to where Factory Records HQ used to be based, which is conveniently located next to The Lass O’Gowrie – a pub that our friend claimed sells the most delicious beer she’s ever tasted (Privateer Red Duke, if you are interested). Another cosy, traditional pub it was ideal for sheltering from the rain.

As we were in town for a Björk gig we decided to get some food en route to the venue. We tried to get into trendy Gorillia, owned by the same folk as The Deaf Institute, but it was packed and given we were limited on time we couldn’t wait for a table. So instead we went next door to Dog Bowl. This diner-cum-bowling alley has a fairly staple Tex-mex style menu of burgers, nachos, fajitas and salads. All the salads had cheese so I opted for the falafel burger without slaw or mayo. The boys got bit greasy meaty burgers and Emma had a really lovely looking salad plus onion rings. Whilst it might not be my usual type of dining choice it did the trick.

Before the gig we managed one sneaky last drink at The White Lion just round the corner from the venue, on Liverpool Road. A warm and welcoming old man’s boozer – except this afternoon when it was full of the Björk army – with an ample beer garden makes it  an ideal stop for a Sunday afternoon drink. There was an older gent spinning the ones and twos, playing Motown and Northern soul, which would have made for a fun evening, if we weren’t heading to see the magical Björk.

My final foodie experience of the trip was at Media City in Salford, where I was working on the Monday. Pokusevski‘s is an independent deli/café which has a menu reminiscent of Ottolenghi. Flavours from Mediterranean, Eastern Europe and Jewish countries served up as a series of small, but quite pricey, dishes. I went for raw vegan spring rolls and aubergine charmula – I had no idea what charmula was but I’d seen the aubergine on the counter and it looks divine so it had to be bought. It turned out to be aubergine grilled in a mouthwatering spice mix of cumin, pepper, garlic and coriander, amongst other flavours. A perfect end to a fantastic few days in Manchester and Salford!

Vegan spring rolls & aubergine charmula at Pokusevski's
Vegan spring rolls & aubergine charmula at Pokusevski’s

Why not check out my top vegetarian and vegan places around the UK or eating and drinking in Brighton, Oxford and London? If you’re a Londoner I’ve also covered the top places in South East London.

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