So, to Manchester! You can reach Manchester Oxford Road or Manchester Picadilly in around an hour by train from Leeds station (if you’re planning a trip like ours I’d definitely recommend getting the train over driving). We visit Manchester a few times a year as we both have a few friends living over there and the food and drinks scene is great. If you are ever taking a little Gluten Free Manchester day trip, here are a few of my favourite places for to eat (and drink):
The Best Places to Visit on a Gluten Free Manchester Day Trip
We visited Takk for brunch and coffee when we first arrived in Manchester. The venue is the perfect weekend brunch spot – central but uncrowded. The space is large and bright and airy: lined with a jumble of classic redbrick walls, cartoonish murals painted onto clean white, and posters for local bands and clubnights. Other than the sunlight from the large front windows, Takk is lit with naked Edison bulbs, hanging low over wobbly and graffiti’d (and kind-of-adorable) ex-school desks.
Takk’s brunch menu is short and seasonal: I ate the gluten free option, a gorgeous bowl of quinoa, pomegranate and sweetcorn with smashed avocado and grilled halloumi, topped with purple basil. The title may be a bit of a mouthful, but it was so colourful and delicious that it didn’t matter what they called it: Salty white halloumi, creamy green avocado and crunchy pops of sweetcorn, pomegranate and purple basil made this dish a delight.
On entering Fig + Sparrow, you’d be forgiven for wondering where exactly you are. It is an interesting concept: part coffee house and part lifestyle store. I’ve since learned that Fig + Sparrow also let out an apartment, which looks just as beautifully designed as the rest of the business. A narrow shopfront opens on to a small window seat and low table, which backs on to the shop. I lusted after the gorgeous homewares: the stoneware cups and wire baskets; the clay and blue bowls and brass hanging frames; the chai glasses and the copper kettle. Sometimes, I wholeheartedly (and mistakenly) believe that my house will be a happier, tidier and more beautiful place if I buy more knickknack-ery.
Beyond the shop is the café proper, with maybe up to a dozen seats. The counter is piled with bread and cakes, including a number of vegan and gluten free options – we took a gluten free salted caramel brownie (for me) and a slice of chai and marzipan cake (for him) into a little fairy-lit booth and stopped a while to chatter over a few coffees.
Billed as a “modern day proper pub”, the Smithfield (run by Blackjack Brewery) are somewhat of a hidden gem for Manchester beer drinkers. We stumbled upon it as we took a wander through the Northern Quarter and stopped in for a quick drink. We then returned, an hour or so after leaving, to pick up the bag the somebody left behind.
The Smithfield offers a great selection of beers and, though they’d run out on our visit, they usually stock a gluten free Mikkeller too. In any decent, homely local, there is also a good selection of tattered books, daily newspapers and old-fashioned board games dotted about in cabinets and on shelves, and The Smithfield is no exception.
This is a little break from all the foodie, drinkie goodness that Gluten Free Manchester has to offer. Anyone who knows me is probably aware that I love books as much as I love food. I love books about food. I love food that looks like books (I totally once made a giant book cake for a Harry Potter party) and I especially love eating food whilst reading books (messy and antisocial, but not by any means impossible). Books meant a lot to me, growing up as a really weird teenager, and they are still where I go when I’m sad or stressed or anxious and just need a bit of time away.
So, I love the John Rylands Library. It’s kind of magical. First of all, this library looks like a castle or cathedral or evil villain’s lair, just rising up out of a modern city centre. Also, it feels a little bit like Hogwarts when you’re inside. The main room is cavernous and ornate and full of old old old books and it sort of made me sad that they were all in glass cases so you didn’t really get that old-book smell (which I know comes from mould and mildew but I don’t care because, like my fiancé, I love it even though it’s kind of gross).
We’d heard tell that Beermoth is Manchester’s answer to Tapped Leeds, so were looking forward to trying it out. Atmospherically, the two are very similar: American-style brewpubs, with long wooden bars, dark floors and open ceilings with low-hanging foil-clad piping. Both bars are spacious, and packed with a mixed crowd of beer drinkers: young and old, men and women, sampling a drink from the wide range of beers available.
Unfortunately for me, Beermoth don’t stock a gluten-free beer, and their only cider is bottled, and was unavailable when we visited. Instead, I had a delicious (but non-alcoholic) raspberry lemonade by Square Root, a London-based independent producer of small-batch soft drinks. The lemonade was lovely, but a gluten free beer offering would have really made Beermoth stand out.
Meander back across the Northern Quarter and you’ll come across Port St. Beer House, a small and busy little bar with a great range of beers. The bar is an absolute must for any gluten free Manchester visitors or residents: their gluten free range, is truly fantastic. The bar is stocked with gluten free beer offerings from the likes of Mikkeller and Greens, as well as the full range of First Chop, including POD, their sweet and warming 4.2% vanilla stout. This is very exciting for me because in another life, before I gave up gluten, I was a regular beer lover, and stouts were typically my drink.
Spread over three floors, Port St. Beer House has benches out the front, as well as an enclosed beer garden behind, where, on a warm day, it is easy to sit awhile and talk for hours over one-too-many beers.
The final place on my list of the top places to visit on a Gluten Free Manchester trip? PLY, a “bustling bar, pizza hangout and art space”. As PLY offer gluten free pizza, we checked them out for dinner. PLY is a spacious venue, spread across the ground floor of a large building in the Northern Quarter. The space is decorated in primary yellows and reds, with plenty of pine furniture and whitewashed brick walls. Though the space is large, the venue still has an intimate feel, with booths, and corners divided up with books and record collections.
I had a bianca, a pizza with a white sauce, which I’ve never had before, with fine courgette ribbons and tangy taleggio. The pizza looked really pretty, adorned with edible flowers, and the base was great, but I don’t think I’d order a bianca sauce on gluten free base again – as gluten free pizza bases tend to be a little bland and dry anwyway, a traditional rich tomato sauce compliments it much better. I was surprised that PLY don’t offer gluten free beer, as they do pizza, but enjoyed a glass of wine with my pizza instead.
Have I missed your favourite spot for Gluten Free Manchester Eating + Drinking off the list? Let me know in the comments!
Explore Manchester’s streets, and you can find some hidden foodie gems, even for those of us looking for something outside the box: plenty of gluten free and vegetarian treats can be found. A Manchester day trip is well worth the visit from Leeds, or even further afield, and the city is big enough to make a weekend of it.