Stretching from the heart of the city and encompassing two university campuses, a whole load of bars and clubs, a host of theatres (and a couple of trees), Oxford Road is one of the liveliest and most varied parts of the city. The area starts at the Academy, which is often swamped on Saturday mornings by emo kids turning up ten hours before their favourite band is due to play. As you'd expect, the university end is mostly catered towards the noodle loving student community, so expect a menagerie of cheap restaurants and cheaper bars.
As you make the stroll towards town, things become a tad more upmarket with snazzy restaurants, a couple of theatres and the Bridgewater Hall. There are still plenty of bars round this end, but they tend to be more aimed at office worker than students.
Whichever end of Oxford Road you end up at, you're sure to find a decent enough place for a pint and a bite to eat. A word to the wise though; they don't call this the busiest bus route in Europe for nothing. Speeding buses, inept cyclists and businessmen running late does not a fun time make. Indiana Jones had a whip to cross such affairs as this road. You have a couple of friends wearing high heels. Life isn't fair.
A lively bar with great atmosphere, Kro has been ensuring that the local student population remain fed and watered. A selection of Danish dishes (that don't all include bacon), a comfortable atmosphere and a friendly clientele make this a great bar for a drink.
325, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9PG
0161 274 3100
You're never really stuck for conversation in the Cornerhouse. Providing a film theatre, an art gallery and a selection of tasty tea time meals, you'll always have something to talk about (making it a good choice if you're going on a date with someone dull). As you might imagine, the clientele is a good mix of creatives, intellectuals and culture vultures... apart from on a Monday night, when the bar hosts one of Manchester's best pub quizzes. Then it's a bit of a free-for-all.
70, Oxford St, Manchester M1 5NH
0161 200 1500
Big Hands is a bar that divides opinion. Some people see it as a manky hole that charges extortionate door rates and is peopled with socialists eager to trap you in a conversation about Karl Marx. Others think it's a charmingly quirky place, full of character and people who like to think on a deeper level than football, fashion and last night's television. Either way, there's a good selection of beers behind the bar, a pleasingly eclectic jukebox and a good chance you'll catch a band having a drink after their Academy gig next door.
296, Oxford Rd, Manchester, M13 9NS
0161 272 7779
A haunt for undesirable university sport teams, Scubar doesn't have much going for it. From the outside it looks like a house with no windows. From the inside it looks like a generic bar with no windows. The music isn't worth mentioning and there always seems to be a crying girl in the ladies. Really, the only reason to go here are the cocktail bowls (goldfish bowls full of noxious and highly alcoholic cocktails, served with a straw). After one of these, you'll be so drunk you'll probably decide that you like Scubar after all.
136, York St, Manchester, M1 7XN
0161 274 3189
Although the thought of going underground in Manchester isn't a particularly appealing one, the Temple (or the Temple of Convenience, as it was known) proves there's more to living under the road than sewers and genetically enhanced rats. A tiny little bar beloved of the indie mafia (you know, the ones who like to write 'philosophical' graffiti in the loos), there's a good jukebox and some reasonable beers to be had. Whether or not that makes up for the fact that you are, in fact, drinking in a cramped underground ex-toilet is your call. Oh, and watch out for the stairs on the way down; few things are as likely to give you a bad impression of a place than arriving in it on your face.
Great Bridgewater Street, Manchester, M1 5JW
0161 228 9834
Pure Space Café Bar
They know what they're doing at Pure Space. A good-sized, open plan bar with plenty of booths, a minimalist décor with bright pictures to give it some character and a very good, fairly priced cocktail list make it an attractive choice. They haven't stopped there though. The addition of a rather lovely roof terrace and SubSpace nightclub underneath the bar (which hosts some great funk and soul nights, as well as a dangerously cheap eighties night) suddenly transforms the place from a great choice for after work drinks to somewhere you could potentially stay from lunch-time until the early hours. If only your liver could take it...
11-13 New Wakefield Street, Manchester, M1 5NP
0161 236 4899
We were delighted to hear that this club, previously operating as Paradise Factory and Industry, was to reopen. The building has a special place in the city's heritage since it was originally the Factory Records HQ from which New Order, Tony Wilson, et al unleashed a creative tidalwave on the city. Now it's been reclaimed by Peter Hook with the help of Tokyo Industries' Aaron Mellor to create a three-roomed, modern club space that draws students, trend-followers and old hands alike.
112-118 Princess St, Manchester, M1 7EN
Though this is primarily a bar, the downstairs area is gathering quite a reputation for hosting club nights popular with the indie, electro loving student set. There's something on nearly every night with a good proportion of the events being one-offs. That's always appealing because you might hit upon something brand new and exciting – though there is also the chance that you'll end up bored out of your brain, trying to fend off the advances of some inebriated teenager while everyone jumps up and down to yet another overplayed tune by The Killers.
106 Princes St, Manchester, M1 6NG
A Didsbury favourite, Felicini has seen fit to give us great Italian food without having to schlep our way over to Didsbury. Sadly, it's quite expensive but it's worth every penny. Despite the strange layout, the décor is nicer than the home of an IKEA designer, and the staff are so keen, you'll forget the pain of taking out that second mortgage.
60 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5EE
0161 228 6633
Not strictly a restaurant and more like a truckers' station, Gemini's has won a place in our hearts for being the ultimate place to cure a hangover. Forget aspirin, yoga or drinking more vodka - Gemini's all-day breakfasts will provide that elusive hangover cure we all need after an evening of debauchery. Of course, it can't erase all of life's problems and you'll still have to deal with fact you hugged a lamppost the night before.
328 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9NG
0161 273 8839
A sophisticated, if slightly expensive Chinese restaurant next to the goliath Manchester Royal Infirmary. The food is typical Oriental fare and the buffet meals are a bit special. It gets pretty busy, so best book before you turn up.
403-419, Oxford Rd, M13 9WG
0161 273 3373
A hop, skip and a jump from its sister establishment, Kro 2 is a glassed behemoth of a restaurant with a decent menu and no pesky sense of identity or character to get in the way. On sunny days it's a great venue because it's got plenty of outside seating (a bit of a rare commodity round these parts) and we're sure the smoking ban is going to boost business no end. On rainy days (and there are plenty of them, living in Manchester) there is so much glass about that you feel like you're still outside, in the rain. However, all griping about the design aside, the menu has some fair options and the wine list deserves a special mention - as do the waiters who always manage to give good service, even when they're clearly overstretched.
Oxford House, Manchester Technology Centre, Oxford Rd, M1 7ED
0161 236 1048
From the outside, Tai Wu doesn't look like it's going to be very good. It's huge, for a start, and the huge sign for the NCP car park doesn't do it many favours. But if you've been put off from eating there because of the outside, you've missed an absolute treat. Tai Wu is, quite simply, one of the best Cantonese restaurants in the city (even with the hordes of restaurants in Chinatown). The food is authentic, delicious and reasonably priced in the ground floor restaurant, while the buffet downstairs is ridiculous value for money. And the fact that not only is Tai Wu regularly full to its 600 capacity at weekends, but most of these customers are Chinese, speaks for itself.
44, Oxford St, M1 5EJ
0161 236 6557