Let's get things straight: we love Chorlton. It's our back yard. We've lived all over Manchester and rate it as the best place to live - and before all the Didsbury massive start coughing into their overpriced lattes, no, we wouldn't rather live there. There are too many chains and not enough Mancs. And as for city dwelling... we're not sold. We like a bit of peace and quiet every now and again, we like a bit of green space and we like our doorsteps defecation-free. We like Chorlton.
So why do we rate it so highly? For starters, it's got a thriving food and drink scene and they're two of our favourite things in life. Add the great mix of locals, creatives, wasters, students and blaggers, throw in as much green space as you'll find anywhere in Manchester and you've got a bit of the big picture.
Bars / Pubs
A Chorlton institution, The Bar, has always got people in it, whatever time of day or night. A minimal wooden design gives it a twist on the traditional boozer, but there's plenty of red-faced regulars and the crowd that packs this place out all seem to know each other, so it still has that 'local' feel to it (though the locals here tend to be lecturers rather than scallies). Quiz night on a Monday is the stuff of Masterminds and guest ales / imported lagers like Krombacher are very potent - sink a few of these and you will know about it. This place really comes into its own in the summer with lazy Chorltonites basking out front on the benches. Overall it's a cracking place to sink a few jars.
553 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0UE
0161 861 7576
People used to say Abode was the poor relative of The Bar, but it has well and truly shed that rep now and emerged as a really popular hangout for those who can't be arsed with the pseudo-intellectual types at The Bar. The regulars include old Manchester heads like Martin Moscrop (ACR) and Rob Bright. After Abode's banging 1st birthday party celebrations (with a guest set from Graeme Park), it seems this bar has become the place for Manchester's party animals to graze.
537-539 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21
0161 861 7576
We've never been massive fans of Polar Bar, as whenever we've been in there the experience has left us a bit cold, bdum, dum tschh! Terrible puns aside, it's not that comfy a place for a drink, although it still does a brisk trade and is especially popular with the sun worshippers during the day.
414-416 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0SD
0161 881 0901
Another popular hangout for Chorlton's work-shy crew, Bar 480 has the unique selling points of a cabinet of action men and some Kelzo artwork on the back wall, as well as pieces and photos from local artists. The drinks are standard fare, with the welcome addition of Becks on draft. If old school soul is your thing, you'll love Saturday nights here as the DJ plays some cracking forgotten gems, though you might want to steer clear if you're looking for somewhere you can 'really talk'. Again, summertime sees Bar 480 constantly busy as people vie for outside tables where they can sun themselves and take in the view... even if the view is of Somerfied.
480 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 9AS
0161 861 9558
The Lounge likes to think it's a tad more upmarket than its neighbours, and the owners run a stricter door on busy nights to stop the madheads getting in. The restaurant space out back makes it swankier than most.
478 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 9AS
0161 881 9130
The Royal Oak
The Royal Oak is the sort of place where there will be a fight over the pool table, claret will fly everywhere, and no one will bat an eyelid. It's a bit rough at times - but it's absolutely soaked in character. Wander in on any given night and chances are that there'll be an Irish band on and the whole place will be singing and, chances are, you'll love it. Big Irish connections here and screens for racing, football and rugby can be found all over the gaff. The function room upstairs supports everything from kickboxing classes to rowdy band nights.
559 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 0AE
0161 860 7408
Horse & Jockey
Situated smack bang on Chorlton Green, this is the pub with the ceiling for the vertically challenged and is a popular hangout with Chorltonites. The Jockey is a honey pot for people from the surrounding areas; private Chorltonville types and Mersey Bank heads rub shoulders at the bar and The Green out front gets rammed when the sun shines. On a good day, you can spend the night talking to a real cross-section of Chorlton in one of the nicest beer gardens we've ever seen in Manchester. On a bad day, you'll hit your head on the beams while trying to avoid the crossfire between the scallies, who want a local in Chorlton where they're not made to feel like second class citizens, and the deli-heads, who think the Jockey could be a charming village pub if it weren't for the louts who sit on the grass, playing commercial rap & R&B and smoking green (the class C variety, not grass from the actual Green).
Chorlton Green, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 9HS
The Bowling Green
Irish-run pub with a strong local feel. This makes it different to other pubs in the area, who trade more on the young professionals and post-grad population. A pool table in the bar and big screen sport action make it a good choice on a Saturday afternoon.
Chorlton Green, Chorlton, Manchester
A bar that serves continental-style grub and plays host to comedy, live music and all manner of performance. Being one of the few bars in the area to have a late license, Iguana is always packed out at the weekends and its outside seating makes it popular during summer too. It's a funny old bar, calling to mind package holidays and Malibu and coke, and last time we were in the DJ played both Wig Wham Bam and Agadoo (though maybe we just caught them at a bad time). But somehow it really does work - it's like that package holiday you took at the last minute, which turned out to be a proper laugh once you got over yourself. Rumour has it that the owner - Pasquale, if we remember correctly - is planning to open another venue close by, which will play live classical music. Darling, darling, the Royal Northern College of Music students will be ecstatic if you do...
115-117 Manchester Rd. Chorlton, Manchester, M21 9PG
0161 881 9338
The Trevor Arms
One of Chorlton's oldest pubs, some of the patrons who prop up the bar here look like they've been drinking in the Trevor since it opened in 1752. YOu tend to find the clientele splits into two sections; the bar is 'men of ale' territory, while the lounge attracts the younger crowd who like to chat with friends and watch the sport on the screens.
135 Beech Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 9EQ
0161 881 8586
Pub / Bar Roundup
The Marble Beer house is part of the Marble brewery organisation and as you'd expect serves real and guest ales in abundance. We used to work here and the crowd was a mix of older, dare we say it, more cultured types. From here you can see Wetherspoons on the former site of the dodgy snooker club. The building is pretty, the clientele are not. Up on Wilbraham Road you will find Hardy's, a huge space overlooking a bowling green at the back. Once considered a magnificent pub, it is now a very average boozer. Over the road you will find The Spread Eagle, which is a Holts pub and as a result serves up some of the cheapest booze in Manchester. Pints of bitter for just over a quid and a pint of their own lager for not much more means there's no end of p*ssheads counting out their shackles to get in on the action. Up on Barlow Moor Road there's the rather swanky Argyle's, which is a venture from Sacha Lord-Marchionne of The Warehouse Project fame (although there's no indication of the connection inside). It seems to be doing pretty well and the food is supposed to be decent. Further up the new corridor of bars takes in the Australian-themed bar, Uluru, which has got a late license until 1am at weekends.
This place is a (fairly) newish addition to Chorlton's food scene and when it opened we trotted down to check it out and found it to be an absolute delight. It's part of the same family that run the Golden Rice Bowl on Cross Street in the city centre and the proprietor is one of the most efficient and courteous guys we've ever come across. The food is a mixture of Chinese and Thai with the Dim Sum starters a real treat. Main courses like the Thai Style King Prawn and Beef / Seafood Udon come in Bento boxes with noodles and rice and you get soup and salad on the side with oranges to freshen up after. This may all sound like standard fare, but trust us when we say it's cooked to extremely high standards and the quality and quantity of the fish or beef puts it way ahead of lazy comparisons to places like Wagamamas. With prices sitting at the £8 mark for a main course and takeout even cheaper, it is ridiculously good value.
360 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, Manchester M218AZ Telephone: 0161 862 0888
Tom Tom's Bistro & Tapas
Young and cheerful addition to Chorlton's food scene, this cosy little restaurant is tucked conveniently between The Bar and Abode on Wilbraham Road. The owner is the chef and his brother is usually front of house, which makes for a friendly atmosphere. Some excellent food gets served up here; favourites include the Italian meatballs, fish pie, Thai Green curry and lemon drizzle cake. Because it's a family run business, there's a tangible sense of care and thought put into the food and they've just started serving up tapas style dishes. It will be interesting to see how that goes down in this part of Chorlton.
535 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21
0161 882 0700
Okay so Croma is a mini-chain that was spawned off the back of Pizza Express, but what the heck. It's a winning formula and we're definitely partial to their Garlic King Prawn starters and American Hot pizzas. We even rate their experimental Haddock versions. Croma knows how to take care of families and as a result, it tends to attract a good proportion of them (though, this being Chorlton, the kids tend to be well-behaved). One thing, though: never, under any circumstances, have the duck with hoi sin sauce pizza. It's just a sticky mess.
500 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester, M21 9AP
Telephone: 0161 881 1117
The Lead Station
A relative of The Lime Tree in West Didsbury, the Lead Station is usually rammed to the rafters. The menu is small but decent, despite the place having lost their chef to the charms of Revise, and the service is very efficient. The Lead Station attracts a slightly older, slightly more affluent crowd than many of the other bars in the area and is popular with parents escaping from their broods and Chorlton's sizeable lesbian community. It's also a good place to hang out if you're hoping to bump into Badly Drawn Boy (as long as you realise that, no matter how many of the same bars you drink in, it's never going to be cool to run up to him and start gushing over his About a Boy soundtrack).
90 Beech Road, Chorlton, Manchester
Telephone:0871 811 4871
Originally Marmalade had us gushing with praise for its stodgy, rustic, English fare. It was Christmas time and as we tucked into our chicken with homemade seasonal vegetable and gravy, next to the roaring fire, we felt a warm glow of contentment. Then the weather got warmer and the menu didn't really change. Winter fodder on a hot summer's day is as appealing as a picture of John Prescott in his undies. Eventually there were changes to the menu and another visit saw us going for scallops and the fish of the day, which were both good - but didn't leave us raving. As the weather cools we'll probably find ourselves craving their food more and more, and we're sure that come Christmas it'll be our favourite again, but over the summer, the jury's still out.
Beech Road, Chorlton, Manchester
Telephone: 0161 862 9665
The chrome signage put us off to begin with, but our recent visit proved that first appearances can be deceiving. Check out the spring rolls - in an Indian I hear you cry - well yes, we were dubious, but it works. Also the lamb on the bone for mains is so good it could put you off going to Rusholme.
489-491 Barlow Moor Road Chorlton, Manchester M21 8ER
Telephone: 0161 881 7200
Leo's Italian Restaurant
Leo's opened up five months before Yakisoba, Escape and Bar Braw made this end of Barlow Moor road fashionable. A modern Italian, our first experience of Leo's left us with mixed views - we were underwhelmed by the pasta, especially as there was sweet chili sauce drizzled on the plate (sweet chili sauce? With Italian?!), but one of our party raved about their fillet steak. A while later, they were still going on about that steak, so we agreed to give Leo's another go. Steak it was, and that meal was a revelation. When you realise that yes, it's Italian, but the emphasis is squarely on the meat instead of the pasta, suddenly the place makes sense. The fillet steak served up in cream and brandy sauce is without a doubt the best steak you can find in Chorlton. If you're a raging carnivore you've got to check it out.
356 Barlow Moor Road, Chorlton, M21 8AZ
0161 860 9092
Next door to Asian Fusion is one of Manchester's oldest and friendliest Indian restaurants in town, Azad Manzil, and damn good it is too. Conversely, despite being full of Italian chefs and waiters, Zanzetti (on the former site of Michelangelo's) has always been a disappointment to us. Thai Spice on Beech Road serves up decent Thai food - on a recent visit, the special Choo Chee was very respectable. Mink has lethal but very tasty cocktails, especially the Passion Fruit Caipirinhas, but remains inconsistent with its food. Bar Lorenzo on Beech Road is so small it reminds you of those shoebox-sized places in Madrid and both the food and Cruzcampo have been going down a storm with the locals. Revise has the former chef from The Bar and The Lead Station running his own kitchen (who said Chorlton's catering scene was incestuous?) and he has a lot of fans so this may be worth a visit now. And if you're after a decent pie, avoid Polar Bar (whose pricey 'award winning pie' is a complete disappointment) and head to Pi, whose fancy twist on pie-and-a-pint is our new favourite way to line our stomachs before a night out.
Chorlton's best bits are, without a doubt, the food, drink and green space, but the delis and shops are a definite selling point too. With so much choice it can be a bit bewildering, so if you're after a bargain or inside info on where the locals go, take a look below.
If it's award-winning sausages, steak, lamb or chicken you're after then Frosts in the precinct is a must, although you can expect to pay for the privilege. Out Of The Blue on Wilbraham Road has made a magnificent contribution serving up excellent fresh fish and sushi in a very knowledgeable and friendly fashion. However if its amazing value food you're after, head down to neighbouring Whalley Range, Ayres Road and Clarendon Road, where the Asian shops sell Halal meat, fresh herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables at prices that you just won't be able to find in Chorlton.
If you're on a budget and getting a takeaway The Baths chippy opposite Chorlton Leisure Centre on Manchester Road is the best, with the Beech Road chip shop a very respectable second. Kebabs can be found at the Greek Panicos on Barlow Moor Road or at the Turkish Delight sat opposite. Both are very highly regarded in the kebab world. For curry head to Mahbub opposite Hardy's on Wilbraham Road, if you can't find what you want on the menu ask for something special like lamb, chickpea (channa) and spinach, which is as good as any curry served up for many a mile.
For days out, head to the award-winning Barbican Deli (on Manchester Road) to stock up with mouth-watering supplies - make sure you groan as your wallet is fleeced - and then head to Longford Park to sit and watch the world go by. This park is particularly a favourite for families as there's a children's playground and a small animal farm. Alternatively, for a more adult Chorltonite get-mashed experience, forget the food and go to Oddbins to stock up on tasty continental lager, then head down past The Green and through Chorlton Meadows to Chorlton Water Park. Drink more booze, then move onto whatever poison you wish to indulge in. Avoid temptation to jump in the stream. Finally in a drunken blur you may find a renegade soundsystem in the Water Park playing good music until the early hours. Wake up and wonder how the hell you got home.