Chorlton is the gastronomic centre of Manchester, whether you’re eating, drinking or shopping; it is no exaggeration to say this suburban village has everything. Here I will endeavour to guide you through a list of my favourite independent outlets to ensure that your festive season will be full of well-informed culinary adventures.
Heading out for breakfast? Manchester does nothing well if not casual dining, and Hickson and Black’s Deli boasts the finest bacon sandwich in all of Manchester. There is limited seating, so having your butty to go will allow you to gorge on crispy, locally-reared back bacon nestled in a homemade bloomer whilst pushing on to the next port of call.
However I understand it rains in Manchester a lot, so rarely do we have the crisp autumnal morn required for breakfast-to-go. Never fear, Gabriel’s Grocery is a beacon of regional produce prepared to very high standards. In many ways, this joint encapsulates what the Chorlton food is all about: simple, local, tasty and reasonably priced.
Full of breakfast, we go in search of morning coffee – and dare I say elevenses? This place has been a stalwart for me over the years and there is no better place to brunch in Chorlton than North Star Delicatessen. The glass windows allow light to flood the open plan space which is adorned with home-made cakes, quiche, salads, sandwiches and other light Mediterranean lunch dishes. NSD, without a shadow of a doubt, offers a quite brilliant brunching opportunity whether it’s with company or simply you and a newspaper.
We now head straight for lunch, and Chorlton’s best do not need me to big them up. The Parlour, winner of The Observer’s Food Magazine Awards 2012 for best Sunday lunch is really all I need say, except that it gets very busy so go early. Again, there is little for me to add but ‘Winner of best cheap eat in the North’ in this year’s OFM Awards, which is Bar San Juan. It really is a little piece of Spain serving pretty much the finest tapas I’ve ever had.
Tummies fortified against late afternoon hunger pangs, maybe it’s now time to do some shopping. You may want to visit WH Frost, the most traditional of butchers, to pick up meat that is stocked in both the Parlour and NSD. It has been on top of its game for over a century and indeed long may it continue. Just up Wilbraham Road is Out of the Blue. This fishmongers exudes class on every level, from its everyday fish selection to its special occasion luxury line – which is delivered to the shop on a sometimes tri-daily basis to ensure the freshest and most beautiful fruits of the sea.
However, Chorlton (and maybe famously so) is not just for carnivores. Unicorn, Manchester’s vegetarian co-operative grocery breaks down all the pretences of somewhere that might use words like ‘wholesome’, ‘organic’ and ‘ethical’. It has a deli bar, fresh bread counter and a seriously good beer, cider and wine selection. However, what knocks me out about this place is the fruit and veg, which is always so fresh, healthy, appetising and utterly sumptuous. They even have a lettuce pick ‘n’ mix section which is picked from their own plot and is an absolute treat.
Across the road from Manchester’s premier independent supermarket is Manchester’s premier delicatessen: Barbakan. Besides from supplying 15,000 loaves a week to local businesses, you can sample the delights of the in-house master baker along with a very fine cured meat and artisan cheese selection. Furthermore, the shelves are bursting with what seems like every specialist canned or dried delicacy from over the entire continent from Gdansk to Gibraltar. This emporium is the epitome of what a deli should be.
Late afternoon? Early evening? We head to Pi for pie and more importantly delicious beer. Pi is a haven for continental beer and some fantastic oddities. Nationally renowned for its quality and quantity of beer, its atmosphere and friendliness means it is in my top 5 Manchester pubs and bars. Do try a legendary Delirium Tremens or a Pauwel Kwak served in its round bottomed glass propped up by a wooden stands, or even a Sri Lankan Lion Stout. Take some time to enjoy the intricacies of beautiful beer in the serene setting of Chorlton.
These very wonderful places can only exist if people in their locality go and enjoy them. Have a foodie day in Chorlton; there is literally something for everything, my list is nowhere near exhaustive of the delights on offer, but simply a sample. Like anywhere, the best way to explore is to go yourself and have a leisurely stroll around. Mooch in the shops, peer through windows, read menus, spy upon other peoples’ plates of food. Ultimately treat yourself, indulge and enjoy, let your senses free and appetite roam through the butchers, delicatessens, restaurants, pubs, cafés, bars, supermarkets and fishmongers.
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