My short trip to Manchester gave me a single day to enjoy the city. Or more correctly, a single afternoon, after my flight from London ended up delayed. This didn’t give me much time, but I tried to make the most of it. Follow along as I go Sunday roasting and more in Manchester in the middle of Winter Storm Ciara.
Note: this post is part of my trip report series about my quick trip to Manchester in February, 2020. Click here for the trip report index and introductory post.
Sunday Roasting and More in Manchester
My friend Kyle from Live and Let’s Fly heartily recommended a visit to Albert’s Schloss for a traditional Sunday roast. My original itinerary had me arriving in Manchester by air at 9 am. Unfortunately, the winter storm had other ideas, canceling my onward flight from Toronto. British Airways originally rebooked me on a flight departing London at 7:45 pm. With my reservation at Albert’s Schloss booked for 6:30, that simply wouldn’t work. Fortunately, with some quick thinking, I booked a one-way rental car to Manchester. It saved my trip, but also meant an early afternoon arrival, leaving me not much time to explore the city.
Fortunately, soon after arriving, a break in the weather brought sunshine to the city center. I used the opportunity to stretch my legs and take a walk around area. The ornate red sandstone exterior of the Kimpton Clocktower certainly basks in the sunlight.
A short walk from the Kimpton Clocktower is St. Peter’s Square. Front and center in the square is the Manchester Central Library. The rotunda-style library building, built in 1930, resembles the Roman Pantheon.
Next door is the Town Hall Extension building. Constructed in 1938, it is an addition to the Manchester Town Hall building. Currently, it houses the Business Section City Library. The building’s designer, Emanuel Vincent Harris, also designed the Manchester Central Library. While many consider the library one of Manchester’s notable landmarks, the Town Hall Extension receives mixed marks from architecture critics.
Speaking of which, next to the Town Hall Extension is…Manchester Town Hall. The gothic-style Town Hall was completed in 1877, but council meetings are no longer held here. Instead, these occur in the Town Hall Extension instead. However, the old building still sees use for special events and conferences. It was also where the results of the Brexit referendum were announced on June 23, 2016. When viewing the building from St. Peter’s Square, the Manchester Cenotaph sits in front of the building. Though not the war memorial’s original location, the City Council relocated it here in 2014.
One of the unique aspects of St. Peter’s Square is the juxtaposition of new and old. Right next door to the historic Town Hall and Library buildings are modern office buildings.
While here, I made a quick stop at The Vienna Coffee House. As the name implies, it’s a Viennese-style coffee shop. On this blustery day, I enjoyed a flat white and a tasty chocolate cake. Besides coffee, the shop also serves breakfast and lunch, along with afternoon tea service after 2 pm.
After a quick rest at the hotel, I took the short walk down Oxford Road to the University of Manchester. Why the University? To visit Blackwell’s Bookshop to buy a children’s book or two for my son. I quickly found Judith Kerr’s classic The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which seemed appropriate for my trip to the UK. The book came with a kid’s size teacup, which my son still uses for tea on the weekends.
Anyway, the university traces its roots to 1824, though the University of Manchester itself only dates to 2004. At that time, a merger of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the Victoria University of Manchester created what is now the University of Manchester. The centerpiece of the Oxford Road campus is the Old Quadrangle. Most of these Gothic-style buildings date from 1873 through the early 1900s. Whitworth Hall stands as the most well-known, and is where commencement is held each term.
After walking around the campus for a few minutes, I headed over to the Manchester Museum. Also on the grounds of the University of Manchester, the museum’s permanent exhibition is a natural history gallery on the first three floors. Front and center is Stan, the T-Rex. Perhaps someone should talk to Frontier about adding Stan as their next tail animal.
Also watching over the gallery is this enormous skeleton of a sperm whale.
In additions to dinosaurs and fossils, there’s also some miscellaneous wildlife exhibits. This one dealt with cats of all sizes and their prey.
Meanwhile, this one included a collection of various penguin skeletons.
Though I wanted to see more of the museum, I walked in pretty close to closing time, and so I only had time to explore the first two floors. So I headed for the doors to walk back to the hotel – only to find a raging hailstorm outside. Turns out Ciara had one last trick up her sleeve before heading east. Anyway, after waiting a few minutes for the hail to stop, I headed back to the hotel to get ready for my roast.
And so it was on to Albert’s Schloss, about a 10-minute walk from the Kimpton Clocktower. Despite the stormy weather, this place was packed. That made me glad that I made a reservation. Thanks to the advance booking, though, a friendly hostess brought me to my table immediately.
I started off with a beer flight. Dark beer is usually my preference, and so it was my favorite of the bunch.
As I sipped my beer, I noticed a parade of classic cars heading down the street in front of the restaurant. Turns out this was part of a film shoot, ostensibly set in New York but filmed in Manchester. (One of the waiters tried to tell me the name of the movie, but it was so loud inside, I couldn’t make it out.)
Finally, the pièce de resistance – my Sunday roast main course. I ordered the Cheshire pork belly with roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, seasonal greens, Yorkshire pudding, and chips.
This was all quite delicious. The pork belly in particular was quite nice, tender with a well-rendered and crispy skin. Meanwhile, the mashed sweet potatoes had a good helping of brown sugar sweetness. And the Yorkshire pudding made an excellent bread to sop up the tasty brown gravy. I also ordered an apple streudel for desert, though I apparently forgot to take a photo. The Sunday service is a decent value to boot, £23 for two courses or £27 for three.
My one complaint – the dining room gets really loud. Like, loud enough you really can’t even hear the waitstaff as they take your order. In other words, don’t plan on coming for some quiet Sunday evening conversation. But as a representation of a joyous Sunday roast atmosphere, it’s just fine.
Needless to say, I slept well after stuffing myself. The next morning, I had a little bit of time to walk around before heading for the airport. First, I paid a visit to Exchange Square and the Corn Exchange building.
The Baroque-style building was constructed in two phases between 1896 and 1903. Originally used as a corn exchange, it fell into a state of disuse after World War II. After suffering significant damage in the Manchester IRA bombing, its owners repurposed it as the Triangle Shopping Center. Today, the building houses a food court and a 114-room apartment hotel.
Just northwest of Exchange Square is Manchester’s most notable landmark, Manchester Cathedral. Construction began on the cathedral in 1421, though work only finished in the early 16th century. However, in the early 19th century, the interior was largely scored to be finished in Roman cement. Unfortunately, this severely damaged the structure, with an extensive restoration replacing nearly all of the stonework between 1868 and 1898.
From the Cathedral, I then circled back through the city centre back to the hotel. Right in front of the cathedral, I was surprised to find a statue of Mahatma Gandhi. I later learned the Manchester City Council placed the statue here in 2019 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Gandhi’s birth. It’s a little interesting they placed it in Manchester. Gandhi had little connection to the city, aside from a short visit in 1931.
A series of pedestrian malls and cobblestone streets wind their way from the Cathedral back towards Albert Square. I found things oddly quiet for rush hour on a Monday morning. Perhaps road and rail disruptions from Ciara were to blame. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the quiet walk, admiring the mix of old and new buildings.
1 pm Sunday to 9 am Monday isn’t nearly enough time in Manchester, but I enjoyed a delicious roast, and a brisk walking tour of the city.