I recently spent a night in Manchester with very few preconceived ideas about the city, and ended up leaving a piece of my heart there. Ok, I admit that was really cheesy, but in all honesty in just 24 hours I managed to fall in love with this beautiful city and its people, great food and stunning architecture. There is so much to see and do in Manchester, that I’m already trying to find excuses to go back again and spend more time exploring and soaking up the city’s culture.
V Rev Diner
I am happy to report that the vegan scene in Manchester is not just alive, but thriving. There were so many restaurants to choose from, but in the end we whittled it down to just a few, starting with V Rev Diner.
I actually didn’t have plans to go to V Rev, but we found ourselves in Manchester a bit earlier than expected, so we headed there before the football match at the Etihad stadium. I follow these guys on Instagram and Twitter, so I know just how amazing the food looks. That said, they have had some mixed reviews on Tripadvisor, particularly around the service, so I was not entirely sure what to expect.
When we arrived, the place was already very busy despite it being around 11:40am. Good sign if you ask me. We sat in one of the 2-people tables along the wall, and ordered our food – the “Buffalo The Vampire Slayer” for Andrew with fried chkn, baecon, buffalo sauce, ranch dressing, lettuce, tomato. And for me, the “Guac To The Future” with fried chkn, cheez, guacamole, chipotle mayo, salsa and lettuce, plus a side of mac n cheese and fried pickles. Oh, and a couple beers to wash it all down (it was football day after all).
The food that arrived was beautiful. I mean, just look at those pretzel buns!!! But more importantly, it tasted incredible. The chicken seitan was perfectly fried, and all the lovely Mexican sauces and spices were incredible. And the bun! It had a lovely pretzel flavour and was delicious and chewy. The chips were perfect too – small, crunchy, hot, salty – just like the best American fries you can order. The mac n cheese was good, but slightly lacking in flavour. The consistency of the cheese sauce was great though. I really liked the fried pickles too, but the best part was the ranch dip. Seriously, V Rev, if you’re reading this, can you bottle that shit up and send it to me please?!
V Rev was amazing. If I had this restaurant in Leicester I’d be there ALL the time. I particularly liked the look of their ranch fries and hotdogs. And desserts. And sandwiches…. Oh, and did I mention they are dog friendly? They even have a “dog of the week” board! Be still my beating heart.
The Pasta Factory
The Pasta Factory was recommended by fellow blogger and mancunian Vegan Olive. It’s not a vegan restaurant, but they have several vegan options clearly marked on the menu, and all their wines are vegan too (result!).
We were a few ( 15) minutes late because we were enjoying a drink at a bar near our hotel (more on that below), but the restaurant was cool about it and seated us along the wall and took our drink order – a bottle of barolo while we checked out the menu. The menu is very simple – they have one starter and a few different pasta dishes, all of which are lovingly homemade at the restaurant. The starter is the simply called “taglieri” – a platter of different foods, which is vegan optional. We went ahead and ordered it for two, not really knowing what to expect. Perhaps some breads and olives?…
Nope. This was our vegan platter and it was the most glorious platter of food I have ever laid eyes on. There were so many different delicious things on the plate, including their homemade vegan cheese! My favourite though was actually the tomato bruschetta – it was so delicious and moorish and juicy and just how you would expect it to be made in Italy.
For our mains I ordered the truffle ravioli which was filled with mushrooms, garlic, parsley & cashew and dressed with a black truffle & mushroom sauce. It was delicious – garlicky, yes – but luckily the person I’d be kissing that night was also eating it 😉 Andrew ordered the bucatini all’Arrabbbiata which, again, was just perfect. The pasta was perfectly a’dente and the sauce was slurpy and spicy and just generally flavoursome. Oh, and they even gave us some of their vegan homemade parmesan! So good. And the wine was just perfect with all of our food.
For dessert Andrew ordered the vegan pannacotta. Unfortunately I was in the bathroom when it came out so it was mostly gone before I could take a photo! I thought it was nice, but I’m not much of a fan of non-chocolate desserts. However, Andrew said it was just like the real thing.
If you are heading to Manchester, I highly, highly recommend this place. It’s non-fussy and non-pretentious, but the food is incredible and all the staff are really friendly and happy to chat.
The Unicorn Co-Op was another unplanned visit. We were getting ready to leave Manchester and I did a quick search for vegan places to get lunch on our way out of town, and stumbled on this little grocery store in Chorlton that was all vegan. From the city centre it took us about 20 minutes to reach the shop, and it was so busy we had to park on the street instead of in the parking lot. Once inside, it was a bit manic and I felt a little thrown around by all the people, it was that busy. However, once out of the produce aisle we had a bit more space to breathe and take it all in.
This shop is 100% vegan and is owned by the workers. They stock some of my fave vegan products, plus new ones I have never tried or even heard of before. We ended up buying some vegan mozzarella, tortillas, ravioli, snacky things, hummus, artichoke dip, sausage roll and some fresh food from their deli counter (chickpea curry, sesame noodles, daal). I had to stop myself from buying everything in the shop. I seriously wish we had something like this in Leicester. Oh, and we – quite literally – bumped into Ian Brown from the Stone Roses who was shopping with his two teenage sons. Andrew did apologize for bumping his cart, but he didn’t seem to mind 🙂
We decided to go the scenic route home through the Peak District, and lucky for us there was an all-vegan pub along the way called The Globe in Glossop. This pub has been completely vegan since 2011 and serves up simple, delicious vegan food for next to nothing. No exaggeration here. We had two mains, two sides and two drinks and you know what it came out to? £12. That is not a typo. When we got the bill we asked if that was correct, to which the server replied, “we get that a lot.”
So onto the food – the mains are mostly curry-type dishes that come with either rice, chips or curly fries. I ordered the chickpea and spinach curry with tofu and curly fries, while Andrew went for the vegetable curry with tofu and chips. We also had a side of pickled cabbage, veggie samosa and some vegan mayo for the chips. The food came out quickly, and was very filling. I definitely liked Andrew’s more than mine, but it was still good, and I really liked the big chunks of smoked tofu. The curly fries were a winner though – perfectly crispy and well seasoned. I managed most of my meal and really wanted to try one of the many desserts, but after our weekend of decadence I just couldn’t bring myself to order anything else. Even though they had chocolate cake with ice cream… ok, now I’m wishing I had ordered it.
Overall the pub was really cute and charming, the staff were lovely and the food, well, I can’t really complain because it was so cheap! It wasn’t fantastic – I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to go there – but it was good and wholesome. I think if I went again though I’d probably get the sausage, chips and gravy….
Things to do
So the main reason we went to Manchester was to watch Leicester City play Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium (surprise, surprise). Because of this, we didn’t really have much time for anything else other than eating, which, judging from above we did very well.
However, we did have some time to wander around just soak up the city and its architecture. What I love about Manchester is the sort of faded elegance of the city. It’s not flashy or clean, but it buzzes with a vibrancy that you can’t help but be infected by. It feels like a real English city, one that knows its not the prettiest, but is unapologetic and totally badass. That said, we saw some amazing architecture – there are beautiful buildings, particularly in the Northern Quarter.
One thing I do know about Manchester is that it is renowned for its nightlife, and even though we didn’t stay out late, we loved the feeling of fun that spills out of every bar and nightclub. Before dinner the first night we had a drink at the Refuge bar which is housed inside the Principal hotel and is the old assurance building. It is stunning. It’s a huge space with beautiful a interior and a fun feel. There is even a “winter garden” accessed from the bar which is full of trees and twinkling fairy lights giving it a very romantic feel. We enjoyed this bar so much we almost didn’t make it to dinner – certainly helped that the drinks were relatively cheap!
After our dinner at the Pasta Factory we wandered around the Northern Quarter looking for a bar to cap off the night. There were so many options, and many of them were jumping. We ended up in the Blue Pig where we found a table by the window to people watch as we sipped our drinks while the DJ played some seriously nostalgic ’90s and ’00s R&B music. It was perfect.
The other highlight of our trip was the drive home. We took the scenic route by driving along Snake Pass (the A57) through the Peak District. It was absolutely stunning. The landscape was constantly changing so you never tire of the views. And the baby lambs – they were everywhere and so teeny tiny!!!
TLDR: Manchester is beautiful, the vegan food is spectacular, I can’t wait to go back.