With its seemingly endless supply of double decker buses, homeless people asking for change and roving gangs of teenagers; Oldham Street can sometimes be mistaken for one of the roughest parts of the city – and to be fair sometimes it is.
If you’ve lived in Manchester for more than 10 minutes then you must know about Afflecks and all the crazy, mental shit you can find in there. Not only that but you can expect to see all sorts of Goths and chracters milling about, presumably swapping tips on how to slash your wrists in a bath of goats blood while listening to Evanescence. There’s an absolute ton of shops in here where you can find pretty much anything including army surplus, fudge, art and crafts, tattoos and piercings, posters, band t-shirts, vintage clothes, flavoured condoms and retro video games. On top of this you can also indulge your sweet tooth at Ginger’s Comfort Emporium who serve up ice cream to die for.
Get yourself in Affleck’s and you can easily waste a couple of hours. Don’t though because there’s plenty more to check out further down the street.
When it opened in 1988 Vinyl sales were slowly beginning to dwindle as the Compact Disc was beginning to creep in while the tape cassette was already enjoying continued success after the invention of the Walkman. Today however, CD’s are only used for AOL trials, while tapes and Walkman’s died out with the iPod. Vinyl is back, and Vinyl Exchange is now the largest seller and buyer of rare and second-hand CDs, records and DVDs in the north-west of England. If you’re looking for some old New Order LPs – this is the place to go.
Opposite Vinyl Exchange you will find one of the best charity shops in the city – as Oxfam steals all of the best stuff from the various in-store donations in the region, throws them on a wooden hanger and adds an extra tenner to the asking price. It’s always worth a gander in here to see what they have in – you can usually rely on them to have some cracking jackets as well as an excellent selection of jeans. And to be fair the prices aren’t that bad – and the money is going to charity – so stop complaining you tight bastard.
Night & Day
Back across the road and you will find two legendary Manchester bars which have been around since before you were a twinkle in the milk-man’s eye. Night and Day is a grimy but brilliant live music venue which manages to double up as a cafe during the day. The food is standard pub grub including breakfasts, burgers and sandwiches but it is very good value for money. On top of this, there’s a massive bar with plenty to choose from, while listening to some typically belting tunes. In the last 20 years, the place has hosted thousands of musicians during their live music evenings, including Arctic Monkeys and MGMT, and to their eternal shame – Mumford & Sons.
A huge bar that spans around 3 postcodes, The Patron is an excellent place for a few pints, a bit of grub or to just sit down on one of the chairs and watch all of the Oldham Street oddities shuffle past outside. The drinks selection in here is always on-point, with a great range of draught beauties including some cracking Paulaner tipples. The food is excellent too – I’ve never had a bad bit of grub in here ever, and although I’ve only eaten here twice – that’s still good odds considering some other places in the area.
Coming out of The Patron perhaps you can take a pic of the Frank Sidebottom graffiti for your Instagram and continue down the road. There’s a Private Shop here so if you need a couple of sex toys – this is where you can pick them up. There’s a couple of pubs coming up now so make sure you’re thirsty.
Since opening Fress has been blasting every restaurant in the area out of the ball park with their selection of seasonal dishes and award winning brunch. When I popped in here on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago it was busier than the top deck of the Titanic, shortly before it sunk into the dark depths. There’s a reason for this – the food was exceptional and probably the best plate of Smashed Avocado I’ve probably ever had outside of my own dreams. We’re big fans, and you will be too, so if you’re peckish by this point – you can’t go far wrong.
Eat New York – The Bagel Shop
This place aint just a bagel shop. Oh no. But first – let’s talk about those bagels. Let’s talk about those beautiful doughy bastards which are stuffed full of huge stacks of salt beef or pastrami. Let’s talk about just how wonderful they are – especially when you’re a bit (or a lot) hungover. Let’s also talk about all of the booze that they have and the top tunes. Let’s also talk about the bit upstairs which always seems to be hosting some sort of trendy night which I barely understand. Basically – it’s brilliant on all fronts and somewhere that’s perfect for a cheeky little jar, some gut bursting grub or a night on the tiles. Or all three.
First up we have The Castle – many a middle-aged man’s favourite pub and proof that you can get a manky, old, failed boozer and easily turn it into something special without adding 10 flat screen TVs and putting Sky Sports News on all day. You can expect a cosy atmosphere (usually because it’s always heaving), as well as plenty of craft and real ales to get down your neck. There’s no food here except a packet of crisps, so it’s time to get some serious drinking done while listening to a fantastic Manchester juke box. I suggest you head into the back room, which is a great place to while away the hours, or even their hidden beer garden for that priceless ‘having a fag’ banter.
Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun
The newest kid on Oldham Street, the guys who started this place, which I’m going to call CBR+B from now on, seem to have taken a leaf out of the Ronseal book of – ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’. So you can expect Cocktails. You can expect Beer. You can expect Ramen. Aaaand you can expect Buns. To be perfectly honest with you – I’ve not even been in yet – it’s only been open a week but I have heard from a variety of reliable sources that it’s both cool as fuck and the food is excellent. As soon as I get down there I’ll edit this bit to reflect my thoughts.
A few years ago Gulliver’s was a right shit-hole. When I would walk past on my way to the fabric shop next door there was always someone arguing or fighting or gossing outside – not the best advert for what was going on inside. Recently however it was taken over by those responsible for The Castle opposite and it’s had a fantastic refurb and it’s now one of the hottest places to have a few drinks and listen to some live acts. With its great jukebox and rough and ready atmosphere it’s the perfect antithesis for the typical places you would find in the Northern Quarter. Their calendar includes loads of bands that I’ve never heard of but if you’re into your music and you read NME – I’m sure you’ll know them.
The Koffee Pot
You may remember Koffee Pot as the constantly condensed cafe on the corner in Stevenson Square – but it’s now moved and like a recently divorced aunt – reinvented itself ever so slightly. Not only do they still offer their fantastic breakfasts, teas and coffee but they’ve also decided to get involved in the late night act too – offering a full bar, cocktails and events to compete with even the fanciest of NQ establishments. They are typically open ‘til 11pm every night with quizzes, live music and happy hours to get you suitably pissed-up enough that you’ll be back in the morning for a hangover breakfast. Genius.
Located right next door to Koffee Pot – Black Milk has been making till this last year or so – mostly because it seems that Mancunians enjoy eating cereal away from the comfort of their underpants enough to warrant a full, actual shop in which to sell it. The menu for this place is like trying to navigate a puzzle book written by a blind 2 year old – but it’s safe to say that it includes a vast array of sugary cereals, chocolate, cream and toffees all smashed together ready for an Instagram pic and a swift visit to the dentists. If you like sweet stuff – pop in here – you can’t go wrong.
By now it’s probably pretty late and you’re probably drunker than Gazza at the Fried Chicken shop. Now it’s for you to decide where to head for the rest of the evening; you can head back to one of the bars already mentioned, or you can try a couple of places a little bit different…
Frog and Bucket
This absolute Manchester legend is open most nights offering probably the best value comedy in the city – with fantastic acts, cheap drinks, great food and a cheesier than a Frenchman’s fingers Cheesy Disco at the end of it all. Fridays and Saturdays are host to ‘A Barrel of Laughs’ where for £17 you get 3 fantastic comics and one of the Bucket’s typically brilliant comperes to hold it all together. Just don’t get too drunk and start heckling anyone on stage – you’ll definitely end up looking like a knob, and your mates will never let you live it down.
Behind Closed Doors
If you’re now looking for somewhere to let off some steam, perhaps have a dance and get some proper good cocktails in you then you should definitely consider Behind Closed Doors. You probably didn’t see it earlier – not just because you’re steaming but because it’s entrance consists of just a rather innocent looking door with an intercom on it. Open it up though and you’ll find what they like to call a ‘hidden den of sleaze and debauchery’ – pretty much what most people are looking for in life. Their cocktails are excellent and the tunes are always bang on.
Head back down Oldham Street and if it’s late enough you’ll find a door has opened up next to Turtle Bay with a throng of tipsy folk queuing outside. Welcome to Mint Lounge – Oldham Street’s only fully fledged nightclub. Walk down the steps and enter through the curtains to a delectably dingy night of sweat, loud music and plenty of dancing. Friday nights play host to their Top of the Pops night featuring the best in dance-able tunes to pump the night away right until 4am. Saturdays is the brilliant Funkademia – the legendary night offering funk, soul and electro disco. You can’t go wrong really – I’ve never had a terrible night in here – it’s always busy with a great varied crowd, there’s never any trouble and the music is always bob-on. Brill.