People can hardly hide their jealousy when I tell them I’m from the big SK. It’s basically Disneyland.
Whatever stereotypes you hear about the place, Stockport is loved by its locals, and it shows. The incredibly sexy Victorian-Industrial buildings are everywhere, and are fast becoming filled with more and more independent shops, restaurants and watering holes.
The Cracked Actor
Like an old music box, The Cracked Actor is an attractive little square-shape, squat on the corner of Little Underbank, with music pouring out as soon as you open the door. The atmosphere is like nothing I have ever witnessed; I can only compare it to an 1800’s house party soundtracked by Muddy Waters and James Brown. Somehow, everyone in this tiny box of yellow light and exposed bricks all understand the unwritten rule: everyone’s a friend. My first night here was weird – which I intend as the highest compliment. I went into the bar with a friend, and left with about 7 more. Standing alone in a universe of anonymous, impersonal bars, The Cracked Actor feels like it’s yours, like a space to be shared. The Cracked Actor is for the people. And the people love it.
The Cracked Actor, 28 Little Underbank, Stockport SK1 1JT
What makes Stockport’s independents so good is putting a face to a name. Pop in and see the lovely Emma Nosurak for a wee chinwag. Emma, founder and owner, is also sidekick to Herbie: the toy poodle – infamous around town for his irresistible cuteness. Severely adorable. Be aware.
The duo run Plant Shop, which has an unbeatable aesthetic and the slickest Instagram. The store is cooler than cool (ice cold, in fact) and I rather fancy living in it. Besides being the first choice for a statement fiddle leaf fig (other plants are available), the shop also sells ecological skincare, refillable eco cleaning products and local artists’ jewellery, gifts and more. The stylish mini-jungle also has regular events: sometimes mini-markets, sometimes tarot readings, but always chilled tunes and drinks.
Plant Shop, 8 Mealhouse Brow, Stockport SK1 1JP
The guys who work here probably see my face more than their own mothers’. Schooling other bars on how to do beer and pizza right, 53 has struck gold for that happy balance between quality and comfort. Never trying too hard, this neighbourhood bar ticks all the boxes your ex never could: good-looking, always open, friendly, liked by your mates, and great at making pizza. It’s the bar that you would be proud to introduce to your mum. Plus, it always smells great. I have no idea what the smell is frankly, but its formed a serious Pavlov dog type effect on me. I’m not complaining.
Project 53, 22 Market Pl, Stockport SK1 1EU
Exactly what it says on the tin: this shop sells magazines that, happen to be, rare. Of course, you can also find indie coffee, Japanese candles, handmade 1/1 mugs and proper fancy pens. Or, my personal favourite item of stock, a sweatshirt with ‘stöckport’ printed in the classic stüssy style. The couple behind Rare Mags (again, lovely and great for a chat – something Stopfordians are natural experts in) have a strong presence in the community and support independent and local artists. Their Instagram is a great one to watch if you want a general ear to the ground about Stockport’s going-ons. Stop by and pick up one of their ‘I shop in Stockport’ stickers and feel like you’re part of something greater before we’re all nipple-deep in sea water.
Rare Mags, 17 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1AQ
Definitively the most bad-ass hairdressers you’ll ever go to. A power business ran by another power couple, Kristian and Naomi have touched the scalps of legends like Amy Winehouse and Noel Fielding – and they’ll touch yours whilst listening to The Doors or The Rolling Stones in their glorious rock-shrine. Where else can you get your micro-fringe trimmed whilst sitting under a poster of Prince, singing along to Pinball Wizard as loud as you want? Don’t try this in other salons. Doesn’t end well. All their products are recyclable, cruelty free, and have no parabens or sulfates, so that your best haircut ever comes guilt-free. The Tramp family have lovingly nicknamed the Underbank and market area: ‘Stockport SoHo’ – still waiting on the petition for the official name change.
Tramp, 28 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1LA
Joe McBride, known by his DJ alias, Synkro, is the founder of this record-coffee shop hybrid. Obviously, there’s no seating arrangement we enjoy more than a mini-mezzanine. SK1 has the perfect one for you and your mates sit and put the world to rights over some fresh coffee from Buxton roastery and chocolate ganache (vegan options are always available too). After you’ve finished, you can look through SK1’s enviable collection of vinyl at your leisure. It’s blindingly obvious how passionate Joe is about the vinyl he goes on day-long hunts for, for the sake of bettering the people of Stockport’s record collections. Cheers, Joe. SK1 Records also has regular events where, more often than not, the booze is catered by WineBoy, a local independent wine merchant who can be found in the Market hall – also well-worthy of a visit.
SK1 Records,17 Little Underbank, Stockport SK1 1LA
Where The Light Gets In
This is not just eating out. WTLGI is an event. Each meal has its own narrative; expect the team to share stories of the farms they work with and expect the food to blow your mind. The converted factory attic is a warm, intimate setting for the most entertaining dining experience in Manchester. The menu-less venue focuses on locally sourced food, which changes seasonally, so what’s plated up always comes with a side-serving of surprise. If you’re trying to bag that second date, you know where to go. Pretty impressive.
Where The Light Gets In, 7 Rostron Brow, Stockport SK1 1JY
Last in: the latest arrival. Norah’s the new kid on the block, it opened in late summer this year, and has already proven that it’s here to stay. I find Norah incredibly dangerous for my bank account; it’s pretty reckless of them to curate a shop where I can imagine literally every single item of clothing fitting nicely in my wardrobe. No need for a wishlist – when every piece is as good as Norah’s stock, the list has already written itself (can I just get the whole shop for Christmas please?). Handpicked vintage rubs shoulders with boutique brands like House of Sunny, resulting in a shop that’s near impossible to walk past, and a permanent fixture of passers-by stood drooling outside the window.
Norah, 5 Little Underbank, Stockport SK1 1LA
Honourable mention: Foodie Friday
Although it isn’t a physical building, it would be criminal not to credit Foodie Fridays. On the last Friday of every month, some of the most legendary independent street food vendors from round Greater Manchester and Cheshire set up shop round the Market hall. The range covers wood-fired pizza, tapas, dumplings, donuts and more (with vegans not put at any disadvantage whatsoever). The night covers everything that’s good about life: friends, food and drinks. Pretty simple, but always effective for a good night. Its an event that always has a dedicated space in my calendar. You can’t be in a bad mood on Foodie Fridays. Nothing bad has ever happened on Foodie Friday.
I wish every Friday was Foodie Friday.