Once a sort of no-man’s-land on the edge of Withington, Burton Road has slowly been swallowed up by neighbouring Didsbury and is now synonymous with what’s known as West Didsbury.
In case you’re sceptical about this assertion, may we respectfully point out the location of Withington Community Hospital behind the Didsbury end of Burton Road on Neil Lane.
Ten years ago, West Didsbury was still populated by – admittedly – well-to-do students. But as the years have gone by, it’s amassed an impressive collection of independent bars and restaurants, cafes, pubs, galleries, delis, and homeware shops – making it one of Manchester’s most desirable neighbourhoods.
Nowadays, the leafy suburb is predominantly the haunt of up-and-coming media bods, financiers and other young professionals looking to soak up its lively independent atmosphere before settling down and starting a family.
Transport and travel
Burton Road has its very own Metrolink stop. It lands you smack bang in the middle of everything, a matter of a few minutes walk to get to the area’s many bars, restaurants, and independent shops. Or hop on the 111 bus to be dropped outside the Metropolitan pub.
Bars and restaurants
A mecca for south Manchester’s foodies, Burton Road has it going on.
The Metropolitan – West Didsbury’s busiest pub by far, The Metropolitan (or The Met, as it is affectionately known by locals) is beautiful inside and out. Its hammer-beam roof trusses, mismatched furniture and walls of bookshelves, old paintings and plants give it a distinct country pub feel. With plenty of outdoor seating and a quality selection of fine pub grub, The Met is a wonderful all-rounder.
Mary & Archies – A top breakfast spot, Mary & Archies full English and bloody marys are a Saturday morning staple for any self-respecting Didsburyite. Food is served all day and there’s a great selection of craft beers and other drinks on offer too.
Another Heart To Feed/West Village – Another Heart To Feed relocated from Chapel Street to West Village bar last year and has been wowing Burton Road’s brunch crowd ever since. Favourites include the avocado and feta toast with beetroot hummus schmear, and smoked salmon on rye with caper cream cheese and raspberry balsamic glaze.
And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon – A mecca for South Manchester’s yummy mummies, ATDRAWTS is known and loved for two things: great coffee and even greater cake. From pastels de nata to gooey brownies and classic sponge bakes, you’ll be spoilt for choice. They also stock Trove sourdough and bags of pre-ground artisanal coffee beans to enjoy at home.
Cocoa Cabana – Artisanal chocolatier and cake makers Cocoa Cabana specialise in fresh handmade truffles, chocolates, brownies, cakes. And the owner has a very cute little sausage dog who’s normally pottering happily about (even though a customer tried to steal him once). They also serve up some of the best hot chocolates in the West (West Didsbury that is).
Sip – Wine bar Sip is both a wine bar and a wine shop. Home to a self-service enomatic wine machine, allowing you to take a glass and choose your favourite from over 30 different bottles of hand-selected, high quality and ever-changing wines. And on the food side, there are plenty of small plates and sharing platters from Trove bread, balsamic and oil to padron peppers and arancini.
Volta – Whilst Volta does a fair bit of shouting about its small plates, deli boards and charcuterie offering, the real star of the show is the space itself. Its intimate bistro bar and outdoor terrace are up there with the prettiest spots on Burton Road, and when the sun is shining it’s a great spot for soaking up some rays and enjoying a craft beer
Proove – The spot for a Neapolitan sourdough pizza on Burton Road. Made with Italian 00 grade caputo flour slow proved for a minimum of 20 hours, the base is fluffy and tends to be thicker than your average Neapolitan.
Folk – The best outdoor terrace on Burton Road, hands down. With plenty of shelter and outdoor heaters, it’s great for any time of the year. Come for the craft beer, stay for the relaxed vibe.
Wok & Flame – Tiny takeaway Wok & Flame is loved by locals just as much for its friendly owner as its tasty food. Serving a mix of Asian favourites from pad thai to chow mein and vermicelli, everything is prepared with love and it’s great value for money. Just remember to bring cash.
The Drawing Room – Come the early hours at the weekend, this tiny corridor of a cocktail bar is one of the busiest spots on Burton Road and guarantees a well-made classic, no matter the hour.
Greens – Opened by TV chef Simon Rimmer in the 90s, Greens has earned itself a solid reputation as a top choice for vegetarians over the years. Working with thoughtfully-selected produce, it prides itself on serving an imaginative selection of plant-based dishes.
Crazy Wendys – This Thai restaurant and bar is known for its weekend musical and karaoke events. Compered by Wendy herself, it’s incredibly popular and always packed to the rafters.
Sakura House – A tiny Japanese eatery with room for maybe 10 covers tops, Sakura House is a long-standing fixture on Burton Road and can be relied upon for quality sushi, sashimi, dumplings, ramen, katsu and yaki soba and udon.
Saison – A fixture on Burton Road since 2015, this independent beer bar acts as a quirky sister to Chorlton’s Dulcimer. As the name suggests, they care about beer – a lot. Head down to check out the impressive 16 keg taps and rare ale list, as well the fine array of craft beers.
Indique – A far cry from your typical high street Indian restaurant, Indique is owned by an Indian couple with a passion for authentic flavours. Offering a modern twist on traditional curries, the award-winning chef is known for serving up unique flavours straight from the streets of India.
Steranko – If you want to pick up a new pair of Birkenstocks or the latest Fjallraven bag, Steranko is the spot. It opened in 1991, when Pete Parry took the site over from an old bakery and set about remodelling it in the style of a 1940s tailors. If you’re looking to pick up quality utilitarian brands like Carharrt, Champion and Fred Perry without being subject to any airs of pretension by the staff, your search is over.
Moth – Moth is, in a nutshell, West Didsbury’s answer to the hipster lifestyle stores of the Northern Quarter. Owner Hazel trained originally in textiles and then as a fashion and interiors stylist before opening up shop in 2006. She stocks a mix of beautifully pared-down homeware, jewellery, and crockery and travels abroad extensively to ensure Moth’s pieces differ to that available on the high street.
The Epicurean – This charming little beer shop on Burton Road is one of the best spots in south Manchester if you’re a craft beer lover. Their global range is extensive, but there’s plenty of locally-brewed goodies available for those who like their beer super fresh too. Allegedly, they offer a loyalty scheme for customers but every time we tried to use it, they could never find ‘the paperwork.’ Still a great shop though.
Reserve Wines – Another one of Burton Road’s sacred booze shops, Reserve Wines is the place to go when you’re having a dinner party and want to impress. Having said that, it’s also the place to go when you just want to enjoy a nice glass of something in the garden at the end of a long day. As well as offering an extensive selection of bottled wines and spirits, as of last summer they also offer wine on tap which you can try and then take home in a bespoke bottle. Town dwellers can also find them inside Mackie Mayor offering the same service.
A Taste of Honey – Another long-standing fixture on Burton Road, A Taste of Honey has been under new management for the past year. As popular as ever, its close proximity to the Metrolink stop makes it perfect for commuters grabbing a quick pre-work coffee or a post-work deli treat.
Fusion Deli – The counter at family-owned Fusion Deli offers a fantastic choice of local and regional produce alongside mention shelves and fridges packed with flavours from far and wide. They also serve a wide range of sandwiches, paninis and soups for those that fancy stopping for a bite to eat.
Makers Market – On the last Sunday of the month, one of Manchester’s best independent markets pops up on the corner of Burton Road and Nell Lane. 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 pieces by local artists.
Parks and recreation
Fog Lane Park – One of the first public parks, Fog Lane was bought by the town planning committee in 1926. Its name is said to have been derived from a strain of grass known as Yorkshire Fog, which still grows in the park today.
Its many wildflowers attract bees, butterflies, and dragonflies which make for a beautiful sight, as do its many, varied trees. Alongside willow silver birches and redwoods, nature lovers can also spot rarer varieties such as hornbeams, alders, poplars, Norway maple, and Indian beans.
There are also great tennis courts (which are free to use), football pitches, a bowling green, and children’s play areas too.
Marie Louise Gardens – Established in 1903, this 4.75-acre park is an oasis of tranquillity with its winding, paved paths and flowering trees. It was given to the citizens of Manchester in 1903 by Josephine Silkenstadt, in memory of her daughter, Marie Louise, who died young. On the south-east of Palatine Road between Didsbury Village and Northenden, it’s often described as a hidden gem. Head down on Saturday mornings to find TRIBE.MCR running fun group training workouts here and make some new friends.
Cavendish Road Park – A charming little park with plenty of grass for playing frisbee or football, it’s open dawn to dusk and boasts a children’s play area and junior assault course. Lovely for a picnic when the sun is shining.
Hough End Playing Fields – Opened in 1918 for the test flying and delivery of locally built aircraft for the RAF, today Hough End is home to 20 full-size football pitches, six junior pitches, and two senior Gaelic football pitches with an adjoining community centre and gym. A five to ten-minute walk from Burton Road via Princess Parkway, this huge expanse of green is worth exploring.
Withington Community Baths – The only working Edwardian pool in Manchester, it was closed by Manchester Council in 2015 but reopened following an impassioned campaign by local residents who now manage it.
The original chimney and glass lantern roofs are intact, and there is extensive floor and wall tiling, internal and external stained glass to be seen throughout.
Built in 1913, it was once home to two pools, wash baths, and a manager’s flat. And in 1914, hosted the first ever mixed bathing in Manchester when it was introduced on a trial basis “with great caution,” according to accounts at the time.
Today it is home to a 23m swimming pool, fully equipped gym, sauna and two studios which host a wide range of classes and community activities.
West Didsbury is home to the WDRA, a friendly residents’ association who take great care conserving local wildlife and protecting the natural environment, particularly its many, many trees.
They also work with local businesses to ensure the area is kept lively and attractive and liaise with the areas local MP, councillors and council officers to ensure that West Didsbury remains a great place to live.
There are plenty of local activity groups, too, such as the Didsbury Runners Club and the Didsbury Arts Cafe, book and music clubs, oh and a pop-up pub run by a group of dads known as the Lock-Inn, which has proven very popular with residents.
West Didsbury’s vibrant local community, lively atmosphere, brilliant architecture, and magnificent trees make it one of Manchester’s most coveted neighbourhoods. It’s not cheap, but it is certainly cheaper than neighbouring Didsbury Village.
The average price paid for a house in the area is just under £300,000, with flats selling for an average of £215,093 and terraced houses for £343,273.
Interestingly, this average has seen a decrease of nearly 4% in the past year and 1% in the last three months – probably due to uncertainty regarding the current political climate surrounding Brexit.
However, some semi-detached houses in the surrounding area have recently sold for as little as £165,000 – with first-time buyers eager to snap up cheap council houses on the estate between Burton Road and Princess Parkway. There are certainly bargains to be found here.
Sitting on the edge of one of Manchester’s most expensive suburbs, its appeal lies in its close proximity to some of south Manchester’s best restaurants and bars as well as its leafiness.
If you have an aversion to yuppies, however, probably best to steer well clear.
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