My Guide To Manchester | Coffee, Food, Spaces

By Lucy Harbron - 23:58

Nearly 4 weeks out from my life in Manchester, and I think the home sickness is starting to kick in. Still, when I fall asleep, I imagine facing the window and hearing the noise of the Northern Quarter. Wake up shocked that I don’t turn right into my kitchen, go down 4 flights of stairs and turn left towards the café, right towards town. Having spent 2 years on autopilot, its turning it off is tricky when navigating a new place still feels clunky. While I cling to google maps in London, here are places I could direct you to even with my eyes closed back in Manchester.

For coffee...


After an achievement, when a zine with your by-line falls into your mailbox or NME reply to your email, go and get a donut. Put 5 candles in one to celebrate an anniversary of your work. Buy your Dad one when he drives to collect you for Christmas, buy your friend one and take it to a picnic in place of baking. When people visit, collapse there for hangover breakfasts and sit for ours taking in a way that sounds just like ‘we should start a podcast’, but don’t. Pace down the street to be there before they sell out, buy bags of coffee to take the flavour with you.

Just Between Friends

In 2019, the simple coffee sign screamed glamour. Sat there as the weather chilled, being bundled up in a coat feels like the cosiest statement of style. I loved the recycled mugs and how they never quite sat on their coasters. I finished reading Elizabeth Smart there, I’d meet my own flatmate there, slowly learning that the cherry brownies are amazing and living right opposite a café was always what I’d wanted.

In 2020, the sign turned to a statement of necessity, something you’d see in a mirage, an oasis calling out – C O F F E E. Real coffee, foamy milk coffee, properly brewed coffee in a cardboard cup. Coffee to make you feel real, and even a pastry to go with it. Opening as a hatch when everything else was shut, there was a brief period when no one else realised and that coffee felt like supplies from the resistance. I went every day for weeks.

Idle Hands

I have the faint idea that I went to Idle Hands before, back in uni at 18 with a rubbish boyfriend. I got black coffee then and hated it, it was in a much smaller place. I know for a fact I went the day I found my flat, ate pecan pie and wrote a letter. I went Daisy there, it became our place, working our way through the rotations of flavours, sharing with select friends, talking about everything. I’ll always think of her there, Daisy and chocolate cream.

For a drink...

Rose + Monkey

I first went to rose and monkey because it reminded me of The Washington in Sheffield, and now I’m searching for its twin in London. As though an eclectic musician inherited an old pub, I’d get either a Guinness or an aperol, paired with pretzel pieces or a full indian feast. The place to run to in between the various lockdowns, a guy plays guitar to himself in the corner as friends talk in groups. Pouring a pint that Quentin had no complaints about, it had everyone’s stamp of approval.

Night + Day

On New Years Eve 2019, I sat outside Night + Day in a beret, drinking a gin martini and admiring my own life. I laid photobooth pictures of myself down on the metal orange table and snapped a picture. In March, it housed a brief reunion with Sheffield friends before I wouldn’t see them for a year, a night out with Emmie that I remember despite its unremarkability. She danced to kylie, I don’t think I even bought a drink. Unlike the day before my 23rd birthday, when me and Sophie bought one too many and its house wine coarsed through my veins painfully the next day.

When the sun rolled in and they placed their benches outside as a left over from the days we drank under umbrellas because it was all the government would allow, I never walked home without considering stopping for one, messaging something to say ‘you out?’

Castle Hotel

Castle makes the best gin and tonic and I’ve never quite got to the bottom of how. At a gig in February, me and tasha look at each other, reacting the same after the first delicious sip. A band playing sitar soundtrack
the start of the investigation into what made a classic gordons taste so good. Perfectly mixed with the tonic, balanced and botanical in flavour, even Daisy liked it, even conor smiled at the sip despite gin making him rowdy and so avoiding it. I think its thanks to the wide glasses, short even for a double but almost requiring two hands to hold. It was the first drink I had inside after it all, sat in a corner on a velvet sofa staring at a piano forbidden to play by hazard tape. On dates there I drank Guinness, but I only remember the G+Ts.


You meet everyone at YES. Sometime in December 2019, I push myself into the door when the crowd reached it. With shared air only, the night is hazy to remember feeling so foreign now. But I remember meeting daisy and Jamie, them meeting Quentin, creating a group chat and a backbone for a year of only online communication. Then a year of basement cinemas and vegan chicken, two for £8 aperol spirtz, lunches after job interviews, long coming reunions, getting food because you’re there and you might as well, walking 15 minutes in the rain for a cocktail and immediately swapping to £3 beers, whiskey and Guinness in the gig room where it’s always cold. 3 or 4 floors and I don’t think I ever saw them all, too busy laughing and hoping for a seat on the terrace.

For food...

Wolf At The Door

I went to Wolf At the Door one last time, three times. Shrugging and slipping in for a dinner out excused by a why not, adding an extra bao to the order, still eating even as the rain fell around the fragile gazebo, £1 tacos could out weight any doubts. Serving up some of the most fun food I’ve ever had at a bafflingly low price, ‘serious’ baos never have quite the same appeal as one filled with chips and curry sauce, and chased by a pilsner.


Marking the end of any lockdown, me and Emmie flocked for soup. Ramen is a mystery, no matter how hard you try, homemade attempts are never as good as restaurant quality where simplicity becomes something intricate. The ladle spoon scooping up broth calmed my chop stick anxiety, picking up and dropping mushrooms like Bambi, splashing soup over clothes to ruin the sweetness of the image. The meal always had to be proceeded by a bun, and a clear cocktail that was deadly in its crystal appearance. Making an event out of cosiness, it’s the tastiest comfort.

Crazy Pedros

Go to Crazy Pedros at 5pm after work, say you’ll stay for one and leave hours later, full of half price slices and happy hour cocktails. Go on your birthday and cram as much as you can into a bottomless brunch, switch from frozen margaritas to prosecco for effectiveness as the brain freeze sets in, tally your slices. Go on the Friday night of pride, share a whole pizza and nachos while maintaining your buzz with tequila. Get takeaway, opt for monster munch on a pizza or something mental over a classic stonebaked from down the road because sometimes more is more.


During lockdown, the Companio queue was the only one I would tolerate. Way down the street from the door, I stood in the rain at 8am every weekend for months, far more dedicated to my ritual than my warmth. When my time came to go in, I abandoned my pre-conceived order as the counter seemed to get fuller every week, eventually overflowing to the baker’s bench by February. Letting impulse lead, centring the child that begged for treats, embracing the romantic visions of bakeries in Disney films and art, I’d pick out what I wanted. Coffee and almond croissants, cinnamon buns, rhubarb danishes, basque cheesecakes, cheese and marmite rolls, honey cakes, fresh sourdough, pear and hibiscus tarts and on and on and on. 2 or 3 each week, every Saturday, I’d eat them in bed with a book, collecting a cappuccino elsewhere as I wandered back to warmth.

For a moment of calm...

Manchester Art Gallery

There’s a room in Manchester Art gallery that’s full of nudes. Walls full of Eves and Liliths and Sapphos and Marys, they’re connected by a conversation about censorship. The conversation interests me but not as much as the beauty and all the sad eyes. I’d take the same pictures everytime, awestruck anew over and over.

New Islington Marina

During the brighter months of the first lockdown, I almost felt like I was the only one in Manchester to know about the marina. I’d have my pick of benches, stopping to enjoy my pastries in the fresh air with a book. I watched it get busier and busier till even a patch of grass was hard to come by in summer of 2021. But we always found somewhere, becoming a one and only meeting spot when everything had to be outdoors. In winter, Quentin poured whiskey into our coffees for his birthday. In autumn, me and holly toasted her university challenge victory with canned beers. In summer, me and daisy shared ice creams and arancini on a bench. Our lives revolved around it for a year and a half, I’m sure others still do.


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