There’s a saying in Chorlton that pretty much sums the place up: “be different, just like everybody else.”
This quirky south Manchester suburb is the heart of liberal, left-leaning Manchester and is mostly populated by what my mum would call ‘lentils’ – a mix of well-off professionals and young families with a penchant for chick peas, yoga and hareem pants.
It’s hardly surprising, therefore, that Chorlton is known for its organic delis, independent bars and restaurants, sustainable lifestyle stores, wholesome community spirit and Guardian readers – apparently, more copies of the paper are sold here than anywhere else outside London.
It’s been home to such Manchester icons as Morrissey, The Stone Roses, Badly Drawn Boy and even the Bee Gees.
According to the 2011 census, Chorlton is also home to Manchester’s biggest gay community outside the Gay Village.
Eccentric writer and gay icon Quentin Crisp also spent his last days here while staying with a friend on Claude Road. He is commemorated in a Banksy-style portrait by local artist Stewy which you can find on Keppel Road.
Some of the UK’s top children’s TV programmes such as Danger Mouse, Count Duckula and Chorlton and the Wheelies were produced here by animation studio Cosgrove Hall. The building has been redeveloped into flats and bears a silver plaque at the entrance to remind residents and visitors of its history.
Transport and travel
Chorlton has three tram stops – the main Chorlton stop, St Werbergh’s Road, and Firswood. It’s also easily accessible by bus via numbers 85 or 86 from town, with routes that run through Moss Side and Alexandra Park. There’s also plenty of street parking if you’re looking to take the car. But that wouldn’t be very Chorlton of you, would it?
Bars and restaurants
The Oyster Catcher – If you love your fish, there’s nowhere better to get it – in landlocked Manchester, at least – than The Oyster Catcher. Set up by ex-Hispi chef Duncan Ranyard, simply and punchy flavours are the order of the day here – helped along by the josper grill. From the charcoal oven, treats like black sea bream and tandoori monkfish are not to be passed up. And, as the name suggests, there are also plenty of quality oysters to go around too.
The Creameries – Famed for creating Manchester’s first cheesy Sunday roast (melted Ogleshield cheese served over chargrilled vegetables, home-cured meat or fish and delicious potato rostis, anyone?), the award-winning Creameries is the brainchild of acclaimed Manchester chef Mary Ellen McTague. Many of the ingredients are sourced from other independents in Chorlton with veg from Unicorn grocery and fish from Out of the Blue. Expect a strong selection of homemade pickles and ferments, game, bread and cheese, naturally.
Bar San Juan – The best tapas in Manchester, or so our Spanish friends tell us anyway. Simple, tiled decor and stripped back furnishings put all the emphasis on the food – and boy is it good. It’s walk-ins only, and gets pretty busy in the evenings, so prepare yourself for the possibility of a wait (or go at lunchtime when it’s usually quieter).
The Beagle – Part of the Common group, The Beagle offers laid back neighbourhood dining and a strong selection of craft beers (remember, they’re also behind two of Manchester’s top craft beer festivals Indy Man Beer Con and Summer Beer Thing). We love the loaded kimchi fries here – they’ve inspired many a lazy weeknight treat.
Henry C – Some of the best cocktails in Manchester can be found right here. Named after the creator of the Ramos Fizz, one Henry ‘Carl’ Ramos. Amidst an eclectic mix of drinks you’ll find an extensive £5 negroni list, which we can’t get enough of. The food is great, too – think a range of tasty Po Boys and hot dogs, served straight from the countertop. No muss, no fuss. The Milanese Spritz recently made it as The Guardian’s cocktail of the week and the bar has just been nominated by MFDF for the Best Bar Award for the second year running.
Peck & Yard – This highly rated fried chicken joint has been making waves on the south Manchester foodie scene for a minute now. Describing itself as a ‘pan-Asian chicken shack’, the menu might be short but that’s merely a sign of confidence in what they do. Known for a large range of delicious oriental sauces, get your hands on everything from Korean cheese to Malaysian peanut and miyagi (a sweet, savoury, and sticky sauce made with sake). Small bites meanwhile include edamame, deep-fried tofu, and seaweed fries.
CBD Manchester – A charming little cafe serving up a range of food and hot drinks, with the added option of CBD (one of over 100 chemical compounds known as cannabinoids found in the cannabis or marijuana plant, but it won’t get you high). They also stock a range of edibles including raw vegan bliss balls and chocolates, all made using quality organic oils as well as CBD products to take home.
The Little Yeti – Nepalese street food spot The Little Yeti is a relative newcomer to the area. The space it now occupies used to be Azad Manzil – one of south Manchester’s oldest curry houses – then the Cellar Key, then Velbekomme. Run by the family behind Gurkha Grill, the must-try dish here is momos – a stuffed dumpling not dissimilar to pierogi or gyoza.
Mary and Archie – Undoubtedly the home of one of Chorlton’s best beer gardens, Mary and Archie offers it all: craft beer, good wine, cocktails, small plates, breakfast, and burgers. A solid Chorltonite favourite for a reason.
Double Zero – For top-notch sourdough Neapolitan pizza in Chorlton, this is the spot. The base is slightly thicker than Rudy’s, but delicious nonetheless. Booking in advance is highly recommended. You’ll be chancing it with a walk-in.
The Beer House – Formerly the Marble Beer House, Manchester’s very own Marble Beers sold the pub to new owners in July 2018. Its brews still feature alongside a range of guest beers on keg and cask. Housed in the former premises of Marble World Beers off-license, it’s long and thin and sometimes when the bar is busy it’s hard to squeeze through. Relive the Eighties playing Mario Cart on the Nintendo 64, or pick up one of the available board games or card decks for a bit of analogue fun.
The Lead Station – Situated in an old police station, The Lead Station has been a Chorlton fixture since 1995. Inside you’ll find exposed brick walls, a trendy bar, and a globe-trotting menu.
Electrik – Cafe by day, bar by night, Electrik boasts an enviable jukebox and is known for its one deck Wednesdays, which has seen people like Andy Burnham and Maxine Peake grace the decks with their selections. The food here is top notch too.
Chorlton Tap – After over twenty years of being known simply as The Bar, the pub was renamed the Chorlton Tap in 2016. One of the area’s first modern cafe bars, it was founded in the 90s and today boasts 8 handpumps featuring rotating guest beers sourced from local micros and larger micros from further afield such as Magic Rock and Salopians, alongside beers from the group’s own Wander Beyond Brewery.
The Font – Cheap, cheerful and friendly, The Font is known around Manchester as a solid student favourite. £2 cocktails? Say no more.
Tea Hive – Tea lovers look no further. Tea Hive is the home of all things loose leaf tea in these parts, with some scrumptious homemade cakes to go alongside. They also stock artisanal coffee if you’re not in the mood for a brew.
Dulcimer – A cute little pub with a good range of craft ales and the promise of wood-fired pizzas to keep you going. The beer garden is a treasure. It’s definitely not the biggest but it’s definitely cosy and a pleasure to sit in no matter the weather, thanks to a little bit of cover.
Chorlton Green Brasserie – Chorlton Green Brasserie first opened in 2014 and has been a hit with locals ever since. Last year it got a facelift and the boys behind Eat New York got involved bringing some salt beef bagel and pastrami reuben magic with them. You can even get a Sunday roast bagel here. Slutty.
Brewski – Where to start with Brewski? There’s so much good going on here. From Canadian poutine complete with squeaky cheese curds to all American brunch plates and gluttonous roasts, comfort food is the name of the game here. On the drinks side, 14 rotating taps ensure craft beer loves are kept happy – as does the option to order beer by the flight.
Jasmine – Loved by locals, Jasmine is revered as one of Manchester’s best Lebanese restaurants. Try the chicken bourak or chickpeas fateh, and definitely don’t miss out on the lamb chops. They are divine.
The Laundrette – Go for the cocktails, stay for the carbs (and the extensive outside seating when the sun is shining on Beech Road).
Bowling Green – This traditional real ale and sports pub sits a few yards from Chorlton Green and Beech Road. Until 1940, Chorlton Green was the site of Chorlton Chapel – once the main place of worship for the people of Chorlton. These days, to get from Chorlton Green to The Bowling Green you can cross the graveyard of the old chapel by going through the archway in the wall on Crossland Road at the south of the Green.
Horse & Jockey – This black and white Tudor-era pub belongs to Manchester family brewers Joseph Holt and also boasts its own microbrewery, The Bootleg. Head in for casual dining and craft ale a-plenty. Oh and don’t miss the Farmers Market on the last Saturday of the month.
The Beech Inn – Apparently, The Stone Roses used to hang out here between recording sessions. Once a regular in the Good Beer Guide, it was famous across Manchester for the quality of its ale. It suffered a bit of a decline in the noughties, but has since been brought back to its “heart of the community” status thanks to the work of landlord Chris Clish.
Barbakan Deli – Named after the historic gateway leading into the old town of Kraków in Poland, Barbakan was established over 50 years ago by the Najduch family. Famed for the range of continental bread, they bake over 15,000 loaves a week. Alongside semi-sweet plaited Eastern European loaves you’ll also find everything from German Wurzlebrot and Kaiserbrot to Chorlton sourdough and full Irish soda bread. On the sweet side, think Polish twix and poppy cakes, apple doughnuts and lemon rings.
Creative Recycling Gallery – Discover upcycled free-standing and framed artwork made from discarded materials in the main gallery of this social enterprise. Out the back, a charming sculpture garden and craft cabin awaits. You can also take classes here in disciplines like weaving, lino cut printing, collage and glass fusing.
Chorlton Bookshop – A Chorlton staple since 1983, it was nearly forced to close in 2014 after a new bar opened next door but was subsequently saved by a residents campaign that saw more than 100 people turn out to protest. Still here today, this cosy family-owned bookshop can be relied on to find the latest fiction, non-fiction and children’s books, plus a selection of classics. They also have a resident cat, but she’s not for sale.
Unicorn Grocery – This worker-owned grocery is famed all over Manchester and the subject of many urban myths which they’ve painstakingly taken the time to debunk on their website. The much-loved co-op offers a great range of organic, locally sourced fruit and veg and fair trade deli products, plus some ethical and organic beauty products.
Epicerie Ludo – Founded in 2011 by ‘Francunian’ Ludovic Piot and Mancunian Darren Williams, this lovely little grocery and wine merchant has blossomed into an award-winning shop with the addition of a deli counter. Resist the temptation to buy the whole shop and make sure to enquire about their Christmas hamper service.
McQueen Independent – Offering sustainable fashion since 1994, men and women’s clothes shop McQueen Independent celebrates colour and pattern in all its forms, taking care to source from little known independent labels. You’re guaranteed to find something unique here.
Trouble at Mill – With a name that’s a nod to Manchester’s industrial heritage, this boutique womenswear clothes shop stocks some charming pieces. Not averse to a bit of fun, they’re often hosting little events too – whether they’re getting the decks out or running t-shirt printing workshops, there’s always something to look forward to here.
Hurricane – Attracting customers with its beautiful window displays for nearly a quarter of a century, lifestyle boutique Hurricane professes to only sell ‘the very pretty things.’ From fashion and homeware to artwork and garden ornaments, it’s well worth a browse.
Belly Button Designs – Home goods store Belly Button Designs is one of the Chorlton go-tos for a cute handmade card. Helped into business with a small funding grant from the Princes Trust, you can now find cards from Belly Button Designs stocked all over the world from Vancouver to Melbourne. They’ve even amassed a cult following of card collectors. You can also find some lovely wrapping paper, notebooks, and ceramics here.
No.68 – Another Chorlton gift shop, but one you’ll probably never tire of visiting. With an emphasis on kitsch, fun items, it’s great for a browse and you’ll no doubt find something to suit your pocket.
Franny & Filer – For contemporary handmade and craft jewellery, look no further than Franny and Filer. Run by two designers with a passion for beautiful pieces, the shop has the work of over 50 UK designers on display.
Makers Market – Chorlton Makers Market takes up residency adjacent to Chorlton Library and on the grounds of the Oswald Road Primary School on the third Saturday of the month. The roving market is hosted at a different location every weekend and always comes through with the handmade goods. Think baked treats (from pies and rolls to cakes and brownies), candles, jewellery, pottery, and upcycled pieces by local artists. There’s normally a pretty good record stall that turns up, too.
Parks and Recreation
Chorlton Park – Opened in 1928, Chorlton Park attracts around 30,000 visitors a year. Its big play areas, tennis and basketball courts, football pitches, cycling routes, and skating area make it a hub for the whole community. There are nice spots to sit and just chill out, and it’s a great place for spotting cute dogs (if you’re into that sort of thing).
Longford Park – Longford Park is technically in Stretford, but borders Chorlton-cum-Hardy on its eastern side, so we’re claiming it for Chorlton. Like many parks in south Manchester, it’s maintained by a community group who organise monthly health walks and have set up community allotments here. It boasts a large number of facilities including a athletics stadium, basketball court, bowling green, tennis courts, playgrounds, and a wildlife centre.
Chorlton Ees – The Chorlton Ees*, aka Chorlton Water Park, offers a multitude of walks for all abilities. Meander through tree-lined paths to find hidden meadows or follow the Mersey banks to Jackson’s Boat, a dog-friendly pub which also offers cycle hire. If you so desire, you can make your way to the Ees via Aycliffe Avenue, once home to footballing legend George Best.
*Ees is an archaic English term for a piece of land liable to flood, or water meadow.
From Christmas window dressing competitions to the notorious Chorlton Facebook, the community spirit here is second to none in Manchester, probably because so many of its residents have a similar outlook.
There’s ladies choirs, a locally-run homelessness support group at the Longford Centre (above) and several day centres for vulnerable or lonely residents.
The Chorlton Good Neighbours organisation looks after older members of the community, offering befriending visits to those unable to get involved in the meetings and activities they host at Wilbraham St Ninian’s United Reformed Church.
Property in Chorlton does not come cheap. It’s eclipsed only by Didsbury and the bits of Greater Manchester that used to be in Cheshire.
Prices for a detached house are around the £400,000 mark, whilst a semi-detached will set you back around £344,000 on average. Terraced houses meanwhile come in at a much more affordable £294,000, with flats a mere £175,000. Pricey for locals, cheap as chips for anyone relocating from London.
Neighbouring Whalley Range, Firswood and Stretford offer suitable alternatives for those working with more of a limited budget.
This is the Place is the name of a poem by Tony Walsh commissioned by Forever Manchester, the only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester. And they can’t do it without your help. Donate what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a hugely rewarding experience. There’s a unique sense of satisfaction in knowing that you are making a real difference to the lives of others, especially to those close to home.
Photos: Stephen Cottrill