This is the place: has up-and-coming Prestwich finally arrived?

Prestwich is buzzing with brave new cafe bars and restaurants - is this suburban Manchester town still just up-and-coming or has it finally arrived?
Photos credit Elspeth Mary Moore
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Prestwich is one of those places forever described as ‘up-and-coming’ or a place ‘on the up and up’. It’s also been compared to Didsbury before now.

But since its high street received a £2million makeover in 2018, most proud locals will tell you that Prestwich has a lot to offer and has established itself as one of the best places to live in Greater Manchester, if not the world.

Taking its name from the Old English for a “priest’s retreat”, Prestwich was mostly rural and sparsely populated before it became a centre for silk weaving. According to Prestwich & Whitefield Heritage Society, transport links were poor, and the area was surrounded by narrow lanes and farm tracks. It wasn’t until the turnpike road from Manchester to Bury which cuts through the middle of Prestwich opened that it transformed from a quiet rural village into a busy town.

Prestwich was now on the map – it became halfway enclave between Manchester and Bury – whereas before it wasn’t halfway between anywhere and anywhere else, it was just in the middle of nowhere. Wealthy people from Manchester and Salford bought up land and built large Victorian villas on or near the new road.

Prestwich became an integral part of the Greater Manchester conurbation.

Its history is still of great interest though, and there is much research to be done. For more information on the history and heritage of Prestwich (and Whitefield), visit prestwichheritage.co.uk.

By the early sixties, the population had reached over 30,000, and Prestwich officially became a suburb of Manchester.

Until fairly recently, Prestwich was something of a cultural and culinary desert. There were a few greasy spoons, a couple of half-decent pubs and a 1960s precinct.

But thanks to an abundance of new bars, flourishing cafe culture and new businesses – The Goods In, Paloma and Osma have opened in the last few weeks alone – it looks like Prestwich may have finally arrived – despite the grim 1960s precinct.

Here are the top reasons why this Manchester suburb is the place to be right now.

Pubs and bars in Prestwich

With so many new bar openings, Prestwich is fast becoming the place to socialise – and not just on a Friday and Saturday night. From cool cocktails and stand-up comedy shows to craft beer and open mic nights, it boasts a bar culture to show most Manchester suburbs how it’s done, not least thanks to Cuckoo.

This indie bar, which opened in 2013, is responsible for introducing city centre standard cocktails to the local area with the bonus of regular culinary evenings featuring local chefs and producers. What’s more, up until recently, they hosted regular cinema nights.

Just a few doors up, you’ll find Grape to Grain. This is a specialist wine, beer and spirits merchant which stocks top quality wines from all over the world and offers a handpicked selection to try by the glass from the in-store wine dispenser.  Everything is available to take away and enjoy at home, but can also be enjoyed in-store in exchange for a small corkage fee. Try before you buy has never been so revolutionary. 

Grape to Grain also has an exclusive wine subscription service which delivers different selected wines to you on a monthly basis. And why not attend one of their virtual live tastings and explore the world of wine over Zoom. 

Last year, popular West Didsbury café bar Folk opened its second site in the former Solita unit on the corner of Bury New Road and Church Lane. This is a family-friendly cafe by day which becomes a cosy drinking den at night.

If you walk down Church Lane, you’ll find Prestwich’s oldest pub, The Church Inn, serving real ales and traditional pub lunches as well hosting a regular pub quiz and live music. Rumour has it – as reported by patrons, proprietors and ghost hunters alike – this 1600s historic boozer is properly haunted. According to Bury Times, a ghost nicknamed “Old Tom” is said to haunt the pub cellar, turn off the gas for the lager and move barrels about.

Spread over two floors with a cutesy garden to relax in, All the Shapes is a dog-friendly cafe bar serving up some wholesome but healthy dishes and pretty great coffee. A perfect spot for brunch, particularly the Shapes Green Eggs (avocado, crispy fried eggs and spinach). Give it a stab.

The people behind All The Shapes have recently transformed a rundown former warehouse into a trendy new cafe bar. The Goods In opened in July and up until fairly recently was still in a staggered soft-opening phase. It’s a large dog-friendly venue opposite the Bury New Road entrance to Heaton Park. serving Bloody Marys and brunch.

Set in a renovated Victorian building on Fairfax Road, The Crooked Man serves a range of keg and cask ales and features in the 2020 Good Beer Guide. But what makes this belting little bar so popular is their passion for music, hosting a resident DJ, live music and the occasional comedy event. There is also a weekly quiz which is a big hit with locals.

Cape to Cuba is a quirky, fully licensed, beach shack-esque South African-themed cafe bar serving belting rum-based cocktails and tasty sandwiches.

Restaurants in Prestwich

There are lots of popular places to eat in Prestwich village, including Panama Hatty’s, Croma, and Istanbul. But you can thank Michelin-trained Manchester chef Mary-Ellen McTague for putting Prestwich on the culinary map with her critically acclaimed restaurant, Aumbry. The fine-dining restaurant closed in 2014 due to complications with the premises, but Mary-Ellen positively primed Prestwich for welcoming brave and experimental new concepts to the area.

Paloma bar and kitchen has brought a taste of the Mediterranean to Prestwich. This Basque-style restaurant and bar opened its doors on the precinct in September 2020 opposite Costa Coffee and, ahem, BetFred. There’s clearly no skimping on quality here. All the food at Paloma is sourced from exclusive Spanish, Italian and other Mediterranean artisan producers and delicatessens which have won Great Taste Awards.

OSMA, which also opened in September 2020, serves a relaxed, healthy lunchtime menu of open Scandinavian sandwiches and hearty salads alongside fresh juices and great coffee. The head chef and proprietor Danielle Heron has worked in some of the top kitchens in the UK, and abroad including numerous Michelin Star awarded restaurants. 

Rufus Bar and Kitchen is owned and operated by a lovely coupl called Paul and Noreen, who offer an independent soulful dining and drinking experience as well as run a successful open mic and monthly poetry evenings that link in with other similar events in Chorlton and the Northern Quarter.

Everyone should have a decent local Italian restaurant. Prestwich has got Babbo on Scholes Lanejust round the corner from Osma – serving affordable Italian classic dishes. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic this year, they’ve had to drastically adapt and temporarily become more of an Italian deli shop than a restaurant. So for now, grab a takeaway and why not have a glass of prosecco and some antipasti while you wait. 

Community spirit

One of Prestwich’s greatest strengths is its sense of community. There’s a whole host of clubs and social events for people to get together and keep that unique spirit alive and kicking.

Volunteer-run Prestwich Community Cinema holds monthly screenings at The Carlton Club on Bury Old Road.

Another business that leads the way when it comes to community spirit is Village Greens, a co-op on Prestwich Precinct which serves fresh, local, organic produce and whole foods. It’s also a sustainable zero-waste shop where you can fill up your own containers.

Prestwich Arts Festival is a creative community festival established and run completely by volunteers. The first event was held in 2018, bringing people together in the joy of arts and to celebrate the talents and creativity of the diverse local community.

Commissioned by Prestwich Arts Festival in a display of the community’s affection for music, a huge mural of late singer Mark E. Smith was painted on the side of Chips@No.8 chippy giving the nod to the legendary Fall singer who spent most of his life in these parts. The fish and chips here are a work of art too.

A giant mural of comedy legend Victoria Wood appeared on the side of the Sword and Sparrow Tattoo Company on Bury Old Road late last year, not far from where she was born.

Credit: Akse P19

Born in Prestwich and raised in Bury, Victoria Wood started her career whilst she was still an undergrad with an appearance on breakthrough showbiz tv show New Faces in 1974. But she is probably best known for her BBC sketch Acorn Antiques with Julie Walters, the comedy series Dinnerladies and Victoria Wood as Seen On TV.

Although live events are a bit of a sore point at present, not many suburbs can say they host some of the best festivals in Manchester. Prestwich can. 

 

The ever-popular Parklife Festival takes place in the grounds of Heaton Park and brings more than 140,000 revellers to the area for a music-packed weekend every June, pandemics permitting.

And Festwich, the UK’s largest free tribute festival, manage to create the best possible experience in a fun-filled and safe family environment, attracting revellers from all over the country, no expense spared.

Parks and walks

You get a lot of natural beauty for your money in this leafy suburb, with lots of picturesque parks and green spaces putting it ahead of most Manchester suburbs. Perfect not just for families but anyone trying to keep in shape.

The biggest and best known is Heaton Park, the largest municipal park in Europe, where there are 600 acres of green space to keep fit enthusiasts and dog walkers.

There’s a beautiful boating lake, kids playgrounds, and a treetop adventure to satisfy your inner Tarzan. The animal centre (currently closed) has chickens, goats and pigs, as well as more exotic species such as alpacas and peacocks.

Or take a walk on the wild side and enjoy the wildlife, flora and tranquillity of an ancient wooded valley at Prestwich Clough, a favourite retreat of ramblers and dog walkers.

It’s part of Prestwich Forest Park, 200 hectares of woodland and open space with plenty of places to explore and discover, regular activities and events, children’s play areas and, in Philips Park, a mountain bike trail. 

And we can’t not mention St Mary’s Park on Bury New Road. This pretty park, with its own flower park adjacent, has tennis courts, a playground and an outdoor gym. Locals can be seen taking yoga classes outdoors, Manchester weather permitting, of course.

Transport

Prestwich has its own Metrolink tram station, so getting into town couldn’t be easier.  It takes just 15 minutes to get to Victoria Station, with the delights of Bury and its World Famous Market 15 minutes away in the other direction.

For anyone willing to endure the Manchester weather, cycling is an option too. It’s downhill all the way and takes less than 20 minutes to get to town. Getting home is another matter.

As well as having bus routes that can take you almost anywhere in the north west, Prestwich couldn’t be much closer to the M60, making it perfect for commuters.

Property and affordability

Credit Jennie Platt Estates and Lettings

While house prices are on the rise, your humble pound will still stretch further than many other places in and around Manchester. With more and more trendy apartments being built and new housing developments popping up left right and centre, young professionals are flocking to the area.

From characterful Victorian terrace houses to 1930s family homes, there’s a lot to choose from in Prestwich.

More recently, several million-pound houses have been built in the desirable St Ann’s Road area which has somewhat gentrified the area.

The cost of a pint and your average meal is also cheap compared with other ‘hip’ places in Manchester, averaging around £3.60 for a pint of Peroni – up to £1.20 less than other fashionable drinking haunts in and around Manchester.

So has Prestwich finally arrived, or is it still just up-and-coming? 

“We’ve already seen how the council’s £2m investment in Prestwich High Street has benefited the town,” says Labour councillor Eamonn O’Brien. “Whilst most other high streets are dying, Prestwich is buzzing and has a growing offer of food and drink places that have added to its reputation as one of the best places to live in.”

Most locals say it’s actually still up-and-coming. Prestwich has had more facelifts than Amanda Holden, and now it’s set for another, this time £1.45 million focused on the Longfield Suite, which could be demolished as part of the regeneration plan. And there are rumours of a hotel, a food hall and some brand spanking new apartments, which is getting locals all excited.

This is the Place is the name of a poem written by Tony Walsh commissioned by Forever Manchester, the one and only charity that raises money to fund and support community activity across Greater Manchester. And they can’t do it without your help. Please 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.

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