The Manchester's Finest Review of 2019

It’s been a funny old end to the decade. 2019 has seen some good, some bad - but, I’m pleased to say, mostly good. 

By Ben Brown | Last updated 2 January 2020

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So here it is – our (well, my) review of 2019, broken up into little bite-sized chunks for your reading pleasure.

January – February

The year started off, and fresh from a VERY expensive trip to LA, I came home and people were talking about only two things. One was the fact that Gregg’s had released a VEGAN sausage roll, which managed to delight and unexpectedly anger the country in equal measures.

The other one was Bandersnatch, a little Black Mirror episode on Netflix that was the first ever TV show of it’s kind which allowed the viewer to decide exactly what happened in the story. Much like those ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ books that were popular for about 3 months when I was 11.

Sure it was crude, and many people thought it was just a load of rubbish but we didn’t care – we decided to spend a day on Instagram doing our own. What transpired was a day of me running around the city centre at the whim of the great Manchester public.

I drank Jager for breakfast, failed to eat 40 chicken nuggets and got a Bandersnatch tattoo. Check it all out here…

By February, the city welcomed a rather stunning exhibition at the Manchester Art Gallery, one that showcased Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches in all their glory. On the complete other end of the spectrum, the Northern Quarter welcomed a new concept – the fantastic retro arcade bar – NQ64.

By Valentines Day, while most people were stood in a garage forecourt deciding what flowers to buy their loved ones, we were hosting a special Valentine’s Day Quiz at The Bay Horse Tavern. There were some great prizes up for grabs and I must say that the quiz was actually excellent. A factor they’ve continued every Tuesday through the year with their new Quizmaster Andy.

Finally, February saw unseasonably warm weather – a fact that encouraged us to re-publish many of our ‘Beer Garden’ round ups, as well as get out and about in shorts, little skimpy t-shirts and the occasional flip-flop. Temperatures hit the mid-20’s – which could only mean one thing; Climate Change.

March – April

So, climate change. Well, 2019 introduced the world to a new face and voice – that of Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish girl who managed to get under the skin of pretty much every single climate change denier in the world.

Not only was she pretty much lambasted by most media outlets, she was also publicly bullied by the President of the United States. Good one mate.

March saw world-wide climate change protests as millions of children took matters into their own hands and decided to not bother turning up for school. Cue loads of angry parents and adults telling them that they’re destroying their own futures, while simultaneously driving to the interview in a 4×4 and drinking water from a plastic bottle.

It was also big news in the physics world as we finally managed to take a picture of a black hole. It might look like it’s been taken on a Nokia 3610 but it means an awful lot for the scientific world and the ongoing quest for a Unifying Theory. Probably.

Important for us and our bellies, Ancoats welcomed the brilliant Erst to it’s roster of bars and restaurants. From the team that brought us TROVE, Erst specialises in simple small plates with exquisite ingredients. Oh and natural wines. Probably the best wines I’ve had all year in fact.

April also saw the opening of Stockport Market Hall, an attempt to replicate the success of Altrincham Market and Mackie Mayor in the town. Unfortunately it fell flat on its face as soon as people realised that the eateries inside weren’t actually independents but all owned by the same person. The team behind the fantastic Foodie Fridays were understandably fuming.

May – June

As Summer hit the city probably the biggest news occurred. This was monumental in fact. The Jeremy Kyle Show was axed. Not very good news for the Manchester-based production team (sorry Kim) but definitely good news for the vulnerable people that Jeremy would bait for the viewing pleasure of the unemployed at home.

Sticking with telly, we were all anxiously excited about a certain fantasy series coming to an end, simply for us all to just sigh with disappointment and then instantly forget it ever happened. Game of Thrones – I salute you and your atrociously boring ending.

Hatch over on Oxford Road almost trebled in size, with a slew of new restaurant operators and retail units, while we also welcomed the city’s newest luxury hotel – Dakota over on Ducie Street.

After the year’s most lavish opening party, the hotel has welcomed some pretty big stars including Hugh Jackman, Stormzy and erm… Jeremy Clarkson.

June saw Manchester’s biggest festival head to Heaton Park and even though it rained A LOT – an enjoyable time was had by all.

Most so by a lad from Sale, bingo caller by day, parkour-vaper by night. This lad, Ty Jones also happens to look exactly like Ed Sheeran, so we took him to the festival on the Sunday to see how many people we could fool. The answer? A lot!

Finally, The Book of Mormon began its colossal run at the Palace Theatre – and anyone who missed it. Gutted. What a show.

July – August

By this point in the year everyone was talking about Manchester International Festival – and they managed to put on an absolutely outstanding show for all.

Stand out for me though was the excellent Festival Square – a daily FREE showcase of music and performance that managed to blow everyone away with the line up. It became the city’s unofficial cultural hub for 2 weeks – and somewhere I ventured to pretty much every day of the festival.

Early July also saw Kylie Minogue hit Castlefield Bowl, part of the impressive Sounds of the City festival. Playing alongside some Manchester legends in the form of Elbow and Hacienda Classical, Kylie managed to hold her own – as you’d expect from someone who’s been in the ‘biz for over 30 years.

Sticking with the festivals, July also saw Bluedot hit Jodrell Bank and it was an absolutely stellar year for the music and science mash-up (see what I did there!?). Headlined on the Saturday by Kraftwerk, the festival was at its biggest and best ever and things can only be looking up for next year.

August saw one of the best pictures ever taken of the city emerge – a picture taken by artist Simon Buckley on his iPhone 6. Evoking a serious sense of Lowry, his piccy from the top of Deansgate Metrolink stairs while it was pissing it down is truly a work of art (and sums up the Summer perfectly).

Image: Simon Buckley

Finally, any mention of festivals and summer wouldn’t be complete without a bit about Manchester Pride, which split itself up this year with street parties on Canal Street and huge concerts at the newly completed Mayfield Depot.

Headlined by Ariana Grande, my personal favourite moment was dancing under a bridge on Pomona Island in broad daylight with a bunch of very friendly (but rather tired) ravers.

September – October

As the nights began to draw in, the city welcomed back it’s massive student population alongside the annual Warehouse Project stint (which is just finishing up as I type this right now).

This year it all took place in the new and mightily impressive Depot at Mayfield, a 10,000 capacity venue that’s managed to re-invigorate a rather manky end of town and turn it into a true events destination.

With it getting dark and cold outside, people decided to stay in more and watch some telly and quite possibly the year’s best show premiered around this time – Chernobyl.

The gripping and horrifying story of the 1986 nuclear meltdown in Ukraine, the show had people unable to take their eyes away from they were seeing. Except for that bit where she’s interviewing the workmen in the hospital as their skin drops off – I closed my eyes for that bit.

Food and drink wise, the city had some pretty big news in October as Mana won the city’s first Michelin star in 42 years. Wowzers.

Simon Martin’s modern and innovative Ancoats eatery is certainly an experience and the news not only came to the delight of many, it also closed up their books for around 4 months.

October also saw the opening of Wilderness Bar + Kitchen (now called Wolf at the Door after a bit of trouble in Birmingham). Offering up a culinary slice of Copenhagen, WATD looked to create a relaxed and informal setting where the seasonal food and drink were the main talking points. They still are too.

November – December

As the year came to a close pretty much the only bloody thing on people’s minds was both Brexit and the General Election – two things that I won’t go into now because I’m sick to bloody death of both.

November did see the arrival of a brand new festival to the city – Homobloc – a huge celebration of the LGBTQ+ community at the Depot and a party that defied all expectations to become a huge hit for the city.

Will they be doing it again next year? Almost certainly. Will it be as good as 2019? Let’s hope so.

The winter also saw the opening of Ancoats’ newest establishment – Edinburgh Castle. Lovingly restored, this 200 year old boozer is now owned by the team behind Cottonopolis, and has proven to be a mightily popular addition to the area.

In recent weeks the restaurant upstairs opened, headed up by Head Chef Julian Pizer. Word on the Finest grapevine is that this could be another Michelin star for Manchester. A bold claim for sure – one that I’m yet to corroborate because I’ve yet to eat there. A visit in January is a must.

December also saw Finest go ‘viral’ with a little video about a 3kg wheel of cheese. More than 3m people have watched it so far and if I’d known that at the time I definitely would have combed my hair first (and brushed my teeth).

Finally, just before I gorged myself on too much cheese and bacon over Christmas we continued our annual ‘12 Doors of Christmas’ campaign – a festive treasure hunt around the city that saw us give away a range of fantastic prizes to whoever could find a door first.

So that’s it. That was 2019. What a year. This time last year I had no idea I’d be as happy as I find myself now – so let’s roll on 2020 – I guarantee it’ll be mega.

In Memoriam

Beastro ● Patisserie Valerie ● Umezushi ● El Taquero ● Neighbourhood ● Grafene ● Fika ● 1847 ● School for Scandal ● Roc + Rye ● Blank Canvas ● Steven Pankhurst’s hair ● New York By Night ● The Jeremy Kyle Show ● Jamie’s Italian ● Dogs N Dough ● Thomas Cook.