July 4th, 2020 – We descend en masse to pubs, bars and restaurants, promising to never take them for granted again, following three-and-a-half pintless months, where freshly poured bevs had been replaced by the hernia inducing horrors of Joe Wickes’ home workouts. Jesus H Christ, we thought, let us never speak of March-June 2020 ever again.
Then everything promptly closed back down a few months later and we didn’t even have boozers available for the usual festive debauchery that is so gloriously synonymous with December. There wasn’t even a takeaway pint to be glugged desperately on a Northern Quarter street corner. End times territory.
This Monday, however, to paraphrase one of Baltimore’s smoothest Kingpins, Stringer Bell, the word is out there………. that we back up.
Condensation is going to trickle down glasses, puddling on picnic benches and curiously balanced patio furniture once again. Day sessions will evolve into all nighters under the sunshine and heat lamps, lagers gradually making way for shorter measures of stronger units. So many bags of crisps are going to be opened so, so flatly on so many tables. And naturally, some of those big umbrellas are going to be sent careering through the streets by rogue North Western winds, like an obscenely pissed up level of Total Wipeout. It’s going to be fucking glorious.
But where should your outdoor reunions take place from April 12th and beyond? Unsurprisingly, reservations are being snapped up quicker than a portion of birria tacos at the moment, while walk up jobs may be a fraught, face masked free-for-all as eager boozers pile into the city centre on Monday morning.
Naturally, all eyes will be cast towards the triumphant, pedestrianised stretch of outdoor amenities at our disposal through Thomas Street, Stevenson Square and Edge Street, basking in all their communal, European City vibes. Then there’s the Aperol spritzed gloss of the Corn Exchange and Spinningfields and, of course, the Sam Smiths soaked sun trap of Sinclair’s Oyster Bar. Not to mention Cutting Room Square in Ancoats, tempting you Eastwards of the city with the promise of al fresco bevving and Rudy’s pizza.
Yet these heavy hitters are all a bit obvious, aren’t they? That’s not a dismissal. Far from it. But it just means they’re likely to be utterly chocker come reopening time. So where should you look to away from the queues and the chaos? What corners of the city centre are going to be that bit easier to negotiate for a Guinness and a packet of Scampi Fries? Let’s take a little tour, shall we?
Tom’s Chop House
Old Mr. Thomas not only knows his way round classic pub staples like corned beef hash and steak and kidney pudding, he’s also knocked out one of the finest beer gardens in the city centre, tucked cosily behind his Chop House on Cross Street, backing onto St. Ann’s Square.
Yes, this Industrial Revolution era Victorian icon, once celebrated by the New York Times as ‘probably Manchester’s most venerable pub’, has been adored by the masses since it flung open it’s doors in 1901, but it’s outdoor facilities still feel somewhat overlooked, perhaps owing to the fact it’s wood panelled and green Minton tiled interior is so relentlessly welcoming and difficult to leave. Outside, however, you can kick back with a view of the Grade I listed St. Ann’s Church and all its intricate stained glass, while expertly poured pints are placed under your beaming face, alongside one of their utterly wondrous fish and mushy pea butties. Yes to all of that, please. All afternoon and evening.
The White Lion
When you think Castlefield beer gardens, the usual suspects of Dukes, Albert’s Shed and The Wharf often, understandably, dominate the conversation. It’s hard not to yearn for their teeming patios as you’re pressed against the glass of a post-work Met pulling into the Deansgate stop. But venture further towards the city centre, onto Liverpool Street, and you’ll be rewarded with a less frantic, but much easier going experience.
At the Lion, you likely won’t be stood around, barely able to make conversation in case a couple of seats at the arse end of the garden suddenly appear empty. You’ll comfortably slot in to a no nonsense session of pints, chips and people watching, all Timothy Taylor’s cask ales and salt and vinegar sending you into a heady haze of euphoria as you are somewhat ominously overlooked by the foreboding Hilton Hotel. The White Lion remains steadfastly locked in time, never altering what it does best, which is simple, effective, red brick pub tackle, with a set of pretty impressive festoon lights illuminating your evening session once the sun lilts behind the surrounding glass fronted high rises. Solid crisp selection as well, which is obviously crucial.
The rejuvenation of Ancoats in recent years has perhaps led more than a few people to forget that there’s plenty happening outside of Cutting Room Square in the city’s former Little Italy. Most notably perhaps, on Swan Street where, over the road from the imperious Mackie Mayor, lies the unassuming, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Bar Fringe. The Belgian inspired boozer has been operating since 1996, picking up a few CAMRA awards for its beer and cider offerings and a loyal following along the way.
Dubbed ‘a haven of eccentricity’ by the Manchester Evening News in 2003, Fringe has lived up to that moniker in the intervening 18 years, pulling in plenty of delighted regulars with it’s vast array of local and continental lagers (think Vedett, Timmerman’s Delirium, Duvel and Leffe), yet it doesn’t seem as though many have shared their knowledge of the back garden tucked away out of sight and out of mind. Rightfully so, too, as once the pandemonium of next week hits, most of us will be glad of a safe haven where we can have a tipple and tab in peace. Ideally served alongside one of Fringe’s notoriously solid chip butties. According to their instagram, the garden is open for business from the 17th, rather than the 12th, so be sure to use this knowledge wisely.
‘Drink, dance, fall over!’ says the bio of one of Manchester’s most beloved cult bars. Pretty sound advice, innit? What is also sound advice is venturing out to Oxford Road at any point from next Monday onwards and allowing yourself to be allured by the neon red of the Big Hands sign, which you can follow all the way to their secluded roof garden.
While your pints may not be followed by a sweat, weak lager and piss stained gig at the Academy afterwards, as is so often the routine when visiting Big Hands, they will be accompanied by a feel good factor that is pretty fucking hard to beat and has been since the Violent Femmes inspired saloon opened in 2001. Operating on a walk-ins only basis from Monday, you are encouraged to ‘bring a mask and a good attitude’, so saddle up with yourself and up to five others and soak up some very positive energy over a few pitchers of Tuborg and what is guaranteed to be an utterly mesmeric playlist. Then plan your first jukebox hovvering visit for when indoor bevving becomes a reality in May.
The Briton’s Protection
Sitting on the corner of Great Bridgewater Street and Lower Mosley Street, the Briton’s Protection is one of the oldest and finest pubs in Manchester, dating back to 1806 and offering a quite terrifying selection of whiskeys (over 330 varieties at last count). It’s the sort of watering hole that will always stand the test of time – divided into two rooms by the bar on the inside, with a narrow, mahogany and bottle green colour scheme, endlessly varnished furniture and plush, well worn leather – you’ll struggle to find any sort of urge to ever leave, yet that will all have to wait until May, because it’s the Briton’s beer garden where you will be having to situate yourself for the next month until indoor boozing kicks back in, next month.
Slots are available to book via DM on instagram, so while walk-ins may not be possible, you should still act quickly and secure your spot and then plan how you are most effectively (and responsibly!) going to work your way through that almost infinite whiskey menu or, if that isn’t your thing, there’s a pretty vast selection of interesting and international lager and cider to plough through, sequestered away from the noise of the nearby tram stop and main road, you can enjoy a wholesome slice of history while the throngs jockey for position round the corner at the sure to be heaving Gasworks and Bunny Jackson’s.
This Sadler’s Yard stalwart is perfectly located near Victoria Station, meaning it’s ludicrously easy to stumble home from, while also offering the benefit of being tucked away from the delirium of the mad dashes that will be made throughout the city centre next week.
Being part of the Common family, you can rest assured The Pilcrow really does give great pub (read that in the voice of Father Todd Unctious from the Father Ted Christmas Special), with 17 rotating, seasonal beers in operation (their insta will usually keep you updated on what they’re offering), Ancoats Coffee for the tee totals/designated drivers among us and, on top of their sensational sharing boards, scotch egg and toasties they, remarkably, were also offering NELL’S DELIVERY TO YOUR TABLE via the Common app pre-winter lockdown, which is very, very * does Italian hand gesture and pouts lips *. Here’s hoping that service makes a welcome return post-April 12th.
Cobbled streets and cocktails is a winning combination in anyone’s book and fortunately, Lock 91 has both in abundance down at their Lock Keeper’s Cottage on Deansgate.
Effervescent drinks accompanied by 100+ year old brickwork and Dickensian flooring may sound like someone’s had a go at remaking Sex and The City on Coronation Street (would watch, would love, fyi) but propping yourself up with a plethora of expertly mixed, industrial strength concoctions underneath a covered canalside terrace is an afternoon or evening that is hard to beat. The excellently situated Lock reopens for weekends only on Friday 16th with tables only available via reservation. Book for one of their Bloody Mary’s to send one hangover packing before working your way towards another.
Sir Ralph Abercromby
Bratwurst and Beers. That’s almost all that needs to be said for The Aberbrombie’s al fresco offering, because what’s better than a hotdog and a cold beer on a sunny day? There’s a reason millions of Americans got bang into baseball and it’s because game day is an excuse to sit in the sunshine with a ballpark frank in one hand and a tall, frosty lager in the other (although, admittedly, someone absolutely twatting a Home Run before everyone belts out ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ is fucking great gear as well). Substitute the frankfurter for the more substantial brat and Fenway Park or Wrigley Field for Sir Ralph’s gaff between Bootle Street and Jackson Row and you are well and truly in flavour country.
The Abercrombie’s seating area can house 130 safely socially distanced drinkers, who will be served at their tables with the aforementioned meat in tube form and ale from an in house Victorian cart. The pub is the only remaining structure from the time of the Peterloo Massacre, when those wounded during the violence were brought to the ale house for medical treatment, making the Abercrombie one of the most historically significant watering holes in the entire city. With walk ins only being accepted from next week, you should stroll over and enjoy a pint or three in the garden of this cultural landmark, as it’s one of the last of a dying breed.
The Angel **We’ve kept this in but it turns out the beer garden was full of people drinking there whilst the pub was closed, we’re trying to find out when it’ll reopen*
Sitting on a corner of Rochdale Road, almost equidistant from the Northern Quarter and Ancoats mobs, The Angel could have easily become a forgotten boozer, struggling to compete with it’s surrounding areas. Instead, the former Beer House persevered with tradition. It’s a real ale haven and dog friendly to boot. While it’s upstairs log fire is idyllic during a regular autumn/winter, the Angel’s recently re-turfed exterior is what will keep you coming back over the next month, with plenty of space to sink a few ales, ciders or wine from their impressive selection.
Oh, and you could do a lot worse than soak up your suds with a plate or dish off the Angel’s food menu too. Solid, honest pub fare that will see you right for an afternoon of IPA’s in the spring sunshine/drizzle. After the year the Angel have had, which included a pre-pandemic war of attrition with the council and MODA Living/Caddick, they’re well deserving of your custom.
Crown & Anchor
If top secret supping is what you’re after, then Crown & Anchor on Hilton Street is where you need to be heading. The NQ bolthole hasn’t advertised it’s hidden beer garden, but the pub which shares its owners with the Shack Bar & Grill have given the space a refurb, ready for reopening week.
The side terrace is tucked away from street view and, it must be said, isn’t often heavily populated, which makes it ideal for a period of time where patios and terraces and gardens will be utterly heaving. You can get yourself situated with a steady stream of glasses to empty and enjoy a couple of hours of relative solitude. We’ve yet to see the Shack inspired refurb in all it’s glory but rest assured, this is a secluded slice of the city that we’re more than happy to keep coming back to, and you will be too.
Of course, this streamlined selection is by no means a definitive list of hidden gems or anything like that, with plenty of Greater Manchester’s suburbs and neighbourhoods providing excellent outdoor options. But if city centre pinting is going to be your thing this week, you could do a lot worse than these suckers.
Now, let’s just hope for plenty of sunsh *checks weather app* ah for fuck sa……see you under the brollies and patio heaters then, yeah?