Manchester Craft & Design Centre, 17 Oak St, Northern Quarter, Manchester, M4 5JD – Visit Now
Make Manchester Craft & Design Centre your mecca for an exploration of the Northern Quarter’s best food, drink and shopping.
Look back at archive photos of Manchester Craft & Design Centre, a thriving Victorian fish and poultry market until 1973, and it’s hard not to feel a twinge of loss. A compilation of footage from the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University, gathered as part of the Craft Centre’s 30th anniversary celebrations, shows bright green lettuce peeping out of wooden crates, stall owners in white overalls, the closely-packed heads of fresh flowers obscuring the rows of tubs that hold them. Might the market have come into its own again now, had it survived, a Manchester version of the bustling Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid?
We’ll never know – but though one industry has departed, taking with it traders who used to speak backwards to each other so as not to be understood by punters, another has sprung up in its place. In 1982, Manchester Craft Village first opened its doors to the public; the building has been a venue for craft ever since. There are now regular exhibitions in the space (with Verity Howard’s stunning ceramics on show there until 29 May 2016) alongside the jewellers, artists, photographers and designers who’ve taken up residence there.
Manchester Craft & Design Centre is hands down the most reliable one-stop-shop for unique, but not over-priced, gifts in the city. It also makes for an enjoyable couple of hours of browsing, best paired with lunch from the dedicatedly fresh and inventive Oak Street Café on the ground floor. To make a day of it, however, it’s worth stopping off for breakfast, afternoon tea or dinner at one of the cafés and restaurants nearby, as well as dropping into some of the neighbouring shops. Here’s our guide to the best.
Food & Drink
Edge Street, one road over from the Craft Centre, is fit to bursting with places to visit, with perhaps the most obvious for an evening drink being the recently-revamped Common (see above), which has a good range of craft ales and wine, as well as your usual spirits, cocktails and a damn fine Aperol Spritz. Common also does coffee, very tasty small plates and unusually-flavoured doughnuts unparalleled in the Northern Quarter. It’s right next door to Home Sweet Home, the land of gargantuan, fabulously over-the-top cakes (so much so that they made it into our roundup of Manchester’s top food fads).
Further towards the historic Smithfield fish market behind the Craft Centre (of which only a beautifully carved façade remains) you’ll find Ziferblat (see above) and, on the corner, 63 Degrees. Ziferblat is a pay-as-you go café, where everything is free except the time you spend. It’s become a reliable hub for freelancers (it’s one of our top freelancer-friendly spots in the city), who help themselves to tea, coffee, cakes, fruit, cereal and more, paying only 5p per minute (or £3 per hour). Acclaimed French restaurant 63 Degrees moved from its spot on Church Street last year; with things like artichoke velouté with truffle oil on the menu it’s a damn fine place to eat, particularly if you take advantage of their lunch menu deal. Incidentally, Edge Street is also home to the Manchester Literature Festival offices.
Parallel to Edge Street is Thomas Street, home to Manchester institution Teacup. Tea is, predictably, the speciality here, served with doorstop wedges of cake (see above, the carrot is our favourite); there’s also a decent food menu, and the emphasis is on organic and Fairtrade produce. For stronger stuff, head for 57 Thomas Street, a Marble Beers Brewery bar that showcases the best Marble Beers alongside eight draft lines and a rotating bottle section, as well as, following the recent revamp, food. We’ve not yet sampled the menu, but if The Marble Arch (another under the Marble umbrella) is anything to go by, it should be damn good. For the cheapest of meals, head to the excellent This & That Café for curry – it’s hidden away on Soap Street.
Last but not least, Manchester Craft & Design Centre is only a few steps away from Tib Street, which is almost an afternoon in itself. Our guide includes Beermoth beer shop (which also has a new café at Spring Gardens), Matt & Phreds jazz club, afternoon tea specialists Sugar Junction, florists Northern Flower, and wine bar Madera (see above; formerly, and absurdly, named Wood.).
Manchester Craft and Design Centre does a huge range of products, but the streets nearby are a good way of expanding the repertoire. Deadstock General Store on Edge Street (see above), for example, does a pretty unusual range of gentlemanly items, including safety razors, beard brushes, soaps, dog whistles, nail kits and more. It’s one of our favourite lesser-known independents, and well paired with Oi Polloi if you’re shopping for a dude. Right next door is a pottery studio which has occasional openings and sales, and around the block, on Thomas Street, is Richard Goodall Gallery, which specialises in poster art, photography and illustration.
If you’re after food shops, Bonbon Chocolate Boutique is among Manchester’s best, selling exquisitely made chocolates (see above) in a tiny café filled with the smell of cocoa. Sit in for a stunning hot chocolate or brownie. For gifts on the rather more bonkers end of the scale, there’s Oklahoma, a colourful mecca lit with pineapple shaped lights and fit to bursting with everything from classic children’s toys to books, mugs, cards, homeware, decorations, games and more. The Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art nearby not only a great gallery, but also has some unusual gifts in its shop.
Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the Northern Quarter’s weird and wonderful collection of street art on your travels – and let us know your favourite Manchester Craft & Design Centre studio, or thing to do nearby, in the comments.
Services and FacilitiesShops, exhibitions, workshops, events, gift vouchers available, café
AccessibilityWheelchair access to ground floor studios only