Pastry chef and owner, Pollen Bakery
Pollen Bakery is widely regarded as one of Ancoats’ must-visit food outlets. It opened in late 2016 and quickly attracted queues of hungry locals that reached out the door and around the block. The queues are shorter these days – thanks to their new marina-based premises a couple of minutes’ walk away in New Islington – but the food is still of a high standard, centred on authentic sourdough and viennoiseries.
As Pollen’s co-owner and baker, Calvert has had a front-row seat to the district’s rise. “Ancoats has evolved from a forgotten part of the city to a bustling area, with some of the best food and drink,” she says. “It’s full of culture, with small independent businesses and residents living at its heart.”
She picks out Japanese tea shop Cha-ology as one such independent business, a place where culture meets delicious food and drink. “Their matcha cake is fantastic, and they deliver the ultimate Japanese tea experience.” She also praises Erst, a laid-back restaurant from the team behind the bakery-café Trove.
As for shopping, she recommends women’s ethical clothing store Beaumont Organic alongside fashion boutique NOLA and the quirky but luxurious home goods outlet Form Lifestyle Store. All are based in the Northern Quarter, just across the ring road from Ancoats.
“There has been an influx of amazing businesses… expanding and moving to the area,” she says. “We hope that this continues… to add to the [neighbourhood’s] variety and independent soul.”
Manager, The Horsfall
Camille Jordan manages The Horsfall, an Ancoats multi-media hub for young people housed in a renovated Victorian shop. “Ancoats was part of the industrial revolution, and over the last 15 years the original buildings have all been beautifully renovated,” she explains. “I see Ancoats being more of a community hub and culture-filled area.”
Jordan likes pointing culture vultures to the area’s intimate venues, such as independent performance space Hope Mill Theatre. For shopping, she recommends Ancoats General Store. “It’s a unique kind of convenience store which also sells amazing coffee and fantastic street food.”
And for live music, she suggests Band on the Wall. “It has been around for years – it’s the kind of venue that holds Ancoats together,” Jordan says. “I often go to the soul music club nights, but it has a personal connection. My mum’s a musician – she’s played there a few times.”
Live gigs are a key element of a city like Manchester, and none are more important than the concerts by the independent bands and solo acts promoted by Chris Horkan’s company Hey! Manchester. A Manchester resident since 2004, he’s seen Ancoats evolve into a major force. “It’s really encouraging to see the area developing, particularly in the past decade,” he says. “Going back 20 or even 15 years, you’d have little to no reason to visit Ancoats, but now it boasts some of the city’s best new bars, cafés and restaurants. There’s a real buzz building about the area.”
Horkan stresses how important venues are for live music, with a building’s architecture and history establishing a genuine ambience. In this respect, he believes one venue in Ancoats stands out above the rest. “The Hallé at St Michael’s is my go-to for small, piano-based concerts, with Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor and Philadelphia act BC Camplight just two of the highlights from the past couple of years,” he shares.
And where do these hungry musicians go to eat? “Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza,” he answers without hesitation. “This place set in motion the need for people to visit Ancoats, prompting people to venture across Great Ancoats Street for possibly the first time. Its Neapolitan pizza is easily the best in the city.”
For drinks, he opts for The Jane Eyre. “It’s easy to lose several hours in this bar, thanks to its range of classy cocktails and some of the city’s best ales,” he says. “In the summer, it spills out into Cutting Room Square, making it ideal for those lazy sunny days.”
Co-founder, Bad Language
A leading light in Manchester’s arts scene, Bad Language is an award-winning live literature night that hosts poets and authors from all over the world. Held in neighbouring Northern Quarter venues such as Gullivers, it was set up in 2010 by a team of writers and cultural thinkers, with Ancoats resident Joe Daly serving as both promoter and onstage host. He is also the co-owner of FLOK, a wine bar located in nearby Stevenson Square.
“Ancoats has changed more than any other area of a city I’ve ever known,” says Daly. “Rather than an evolution, it has been an explosion – so many new bars and restaurants have moved in and the quality has been huge.”
For nightlife, he suggests a bar that takes its name from the 13th-century moniker for Ancoats: “Elnecot is a nice, friendly local bar with a relaxed atmosphere. It’s ideal for a weekday drink and a livelier weekend few.”
Meanwhile, visitors looking for culture are similarly spoilt for choice. “Hallé St Peter’s is one of Ancoats’ wonderful converted churches,” Daly says. “As well as being a beautiful space in its own right, it’s also a go-to destination for all kinds of events and gigs.”
If you’re after a sweet treat, Daly suggests Pollen, which he dubs as one of Manchester’s best bakeries. “They started off in a railway arch and weekends would see these crazy queues forming,” he says. “They’ve since moved into the [New Islington] Marina – their cinnamon buns are a highlight.”
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This article was originally published in the May 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine