Jenna Campbell talks us through the best places to eat and drink in Stockport
Situated in the leafy suburbs of South Manchester, the borough of Stockport was made famous in the 19th century as the home of the nation’s hatting industry, a claim to fame celebrated in the Hat Works, the UK’s only museum dedicated to hatting. And while the villages that make up the borough, namely Cheadle Hulme, Marple and The Heatons, are bursting at the seams with places to eat and drink, the town itself has perhaps been overlooked, regarded as a town you pass through on the way to the mega-metropolis.
But in recent years, as investment in the town centre has increased and a number of independent shops and businesses have made the South Manchester town their home, its food and drink scene has found its footing. You need only look at the revival of the Old Town, its marketplace and Lower Hillgate for evidence. Engels may have found Stockport to be "one of the duskiest, smokiest holes" in the area, but in 2021, if it's craft beers, creative cocktails and community-fronted food events you’re after, then Stockport is just the ticket.
Here's our collection of the best places to spend a few hours in Stockport.
Ate Days A Week
For a pie and butty shop that was dreamt up purely on the basis of creating punny dish names based on song titles, Ate Days A Week has quickly earned a cult reputation for great food. There’s a meatball sub called Great Balls Of Fire and a chippy tea called Cod Only Knows on the menu but our favourite name is (I Just) Died In Your Barm which takes the Wigan kebab (a pie barm for the uninitiated) to a whole new level. Pies you can have on your barm include an ox cheek, potato and parmesan one that makes us want to get on the 192 right now. This one also make our best butties list in 2020.
8 Vernon St, Stockport SK1 1TY
Flying under the radar due to its location on Lord Street, adding a hidden gem charm, the family-run Korean restaurant Baekdu (a Korean mountain) is a dining concept based around charcoal fire pits. Very much a hands-on dining experience, each table is fitted with its own pit that the chefs use to grill, BBQ, and cook the food in front of you, from spicy marinated chicken, best served with the highly recommended lettuce and spring onion salad, to thin-sliced brisket and seasoned pork steak and rib.
No frills interiors allow the food to take centre stage with the menu broken down into table BBQ items, rice in earthen bowls – with variations including stir-fried kimchi and spicy squid and vegetables – noodles soup and soup with rice. Baekdu’s starters and sides certainly pack a punch and range from spring onion and seafood pancake and sweet and spicy rice cakes to grilled mackerel and thin-sliced raw beef. The spicy and intricate flavours are best accompanied by an ultra-refreshing Korean lager or for those with no morning plans, somaek – a heady mixture of soju and beer.
28-30 Lord St, Stockport SK1 3NA
A much-loved shrine to beer, Baker’s Vaults is something of an institution in Stockport thanks to its great food, vast drinks range and quirky jukebox. Previously known as the George and Dragon, the building was built around 1775 on the foundations of the old Stockport castle. Demolished in the 19th century and renamed the Bakers Vaults, it was rebuilt in the gin palace style popular at the time. Refurbed in 2014, the beer hub, with its soft lighting, antique-style furniture and intimate seating nooks – due to the occasional pillar dotted around for good measure – makes for an ideal drinking spot for all manner of occasions from a relaxed catch-up to a full-on session. It's also well-known for being part of the local live music circuit.
With 10 hand pulls you can expect Robinson Brewery’s much-loved ales, Unicorn and Dizzy Blonde, alongside a selection of old and new world wines and a range of artisan gin and prosecco.
Market Pl, Stockport SK1 1ES
Cherry Jam is the brainchild of the World Bartending Champion and former Britain’s Got Talent "Bar Wizard" performer, Neil Garner. The feel-good bar and its Instagram-worthy décor – think 70s-style walls, neon signage and an eclectic mix of furnishings and plants – has really made its mark on the Old Town after its successful DIY cocktail delivery service during lockdown. Inside, the bar is split into two main areas: Bar Cherry and The Jam, the latter of which is available for private hire.
Open Thursday to Sunday, Cherry Jam serves up a selection of signature cocktails that take their names from well-known personalities and places in Stockport including Blossoms - made with gin, elderflower, craft aperitif with lime and apple juice and topped with sparkling rose; and 192 - not just everyone’s favourite and worst bus route, but a hedonistic mix of three rums set alight before serving. New for winter, try the Salted Caramel Old Fashioned and Bounty Daquiri, or if beer is more your thing, there's a range of craft beers, as well as home-brewed gins. Go for the cocktails and stay for the stellar playlist of pop, disco, funk and soul.
2-4 Mealhouse Brow, Stockport SK1 1JP
The Cracked Actor
The Cracked Actor is a blues bar with a storied history that opened its doors in August 2019. The Underbank drinking den was formerly a general store and hat shop, a source of inspiration for its owner Joseph Patten – an actor who has worked in the Project 53 Taproom amongst others. He has incorporated old loom tables, a period-style staircase, chandeliers and a bar designed to resemble a Victorian pharmacy counter.
Behind the bar, you’re spoilt for choice with the pub's own speciality brew, The Cracked Actor Lager, accompanied by a host of craft ales, a variety of spirits from distilleries such as Manchester’s Zymurgorium, wines and gins, including Stockport’s Hatters Gin. An ideal place to come in from the cold, grab a board game and settle in with a pint, or several.
28 Little Underbank, Stockport SK1 1JT
Another string to the bow of Joseph Patten (The Cracked Actor), Dr Feelgood is a live music venue, bar and restaurant, with an extroverted menu inspired by American diners set to a soundtrack of glam rock. The former site of Remedy bar features pretty straightforward interiors – think concrete floors, neon signs and dimmed lights with sturdy tables made for standing on while you belt out Livin' on a Prayer, alongside vintage-style football tables and pin ball machines. It almost feels like you’ve stepped into Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Food-wise, you would be hard-pressed to miss the brightly coloured burgers with buns in shades of pink, red, blue and black. For those partial to a Man v Food challenge, there's the "Hell on the ring" hot wing challenge - veggie option available. With a variety of beers including Ting Rebel and Red Stripe, alongside a selection of experimental cocktails, the glam rock venue makes for a very exciting addition to the marketplace.
28 Mealhouse Brow, Stockport SK1 1XY
A round-up of Stockport’s best food and drink venues wouldn’t be complete without a mention of Foodie Friday, the town’s hugely popular street food event, which takes place on the last Friday of every month. The Grade-II* listed Victorian market hall plays host to the event with vendors located both inside and outside the hall accompanied by live music and entertainment.
A unifying force in the Stockport food and drink scene, the event brings together some of the North West’s best pop-up food options with a different group of traders each month – though some make more than one appearance – you can expect to taste flavours from Thailand to Spain and sample an assortment of dishes from dumplings to tapas and everything in between. Washed down with pints, cocktails and whatever else takes your fancy from the market square’s vendors including the aforementioned Bakers Vaults and Project 53. That's your Friday sorted.
Market Pl, Stockport SK1 1EU
The Good Rebel
In early 2020, Stockport’s old town welcomed The Good Rebel to Mealhouse Brow. Launched by Martin Healy, a hospitality professional with over a decade of experience in bar management, the 80-seat venue with a cinematic quality is one of the few Stockport centre bars to offer a sizeable beer garden – perfect for a hot summer’s day with a beer or late nights cocktails under the twinkling lights.
Speciality cocktails include a chocolate espresso martini made with Belgian crème de cacao, there are also classic cocktails, signature pours and a sizeable range of European lagers and beers, as well as wines and spirits. There's a brilliant hand-drawn map of Stockport by Dave Draws emblazoned on the walls too.
6 Mealhouse Brow, Stockport SK1 1JP
Hillgate Cakery fills an important vegan food shaped gap in Stockport’s foodie landscape with everything from deli snacks and sweet treats to hot drinks. Located on what I’m coining the up-and-coming part of Stockport, Lower Hillgate (it’s likely someone has said this before me), it’s hard to miss the cakery with a couple of high tables and chairs perched out front looking out onto neighbours Rare Mags and the soon-to-be Yellowhammer from the founders of Where The Light Gets In. Not only does Hillgate make delicious cakes in flavours like almond and cherry and chocolate and Biscoff but if you pop your head in soon you might still be able to grab the bakery's knock-out take on the cheese n’ ham toastie. Made with perfectly melted vegan cheddar, Tofurky deli ham, English mustard and seeded wholemeal toast. There's also a range of baking ingredients, pantry staples and vegan kitchen must-haves on sale.
Hillgate Cakery 22 Lower Hillgate SK1 1JE
Kambuja - Stockport Produce Hall
The restaurant formerly known as Angkor Soul first opened its doors in 2015 in the village of Marple and was an instant hit thanks to its authentic yet understated home cooking. The only Cambodian restaurant in Northern England (to the best of their knowledge), was founded by chef Y Sok, a Cambodian American chef, who learned to cook traditional Khmer cuisine from her relatives. The chef's family emigrated to the United States in the 1970s following the tragedies of the Khmer Rouge. Since then, Y has worked in the hospitality industry in the States and UK, during which time she moved to Marple with her husband and founded the restaurant.
Its second location inside Stockport Produce Hall offers a pared-back version of the Southeast Asian-inspired menu served at its flagship with dishes ranging from the sizeable Banh Hoi, a delicious vermicelli noodle salad with grilled meat, lettuce, mint, basil and sweet and sour fish sauce, and Loc Lac, comprising steak pieces caramelised in sweet soy and garlic served atop salad dressed with pepper lime sauce, to light bites such as pork shrimp wonton and specials like the Tamarind spare ribs.
Of course, the Produce Hall is a great place to visit for other reasons too and has a regularly rotating range of food and drink vendors.
Produce Hall 24a Market Place, Stockport SK1 1EU
Billed as Stockport’s only dive bar and serving up an impressive range of rum and whisky, Notion has one of the most extensive bar backs in the town plus some very enticing cocktails. The Tennessee-inspired concept by café and takeaway venture Ate Days a Week founder Andy James (formerly head chef of Cane & Grain, Bunny Jacksons and 33 Oldham Street in Manchester) is no shrinking violet. The Vernon Street bar promises a "grungy light night dive bar with a serious part vibe", taking its inspiration from the deep south with timber walls coated with spray paint.
Not only does it stock some most exclusive spirits – Indonesian rum Nusa Cana makes a welcome appearance alongside some Kentucky bourbons – but it also serves up a range of cocktails and a refined selection of draft beer. The Deep South theme extends to the food with American classics including buttermilk chicken wings at 50p a pop, customisable beef burgers and hot dogs.
8 Vernon St, Stockport SK1 1TY
Set amongst the hustle and bustle of Stockport Marketplace next door to The Produce Hall, Project 53 taproom really is at the heart of the Old Town. Showcasing the best of Mobberley Brewhouse’s beers alongside a rotating range of guest ales, the bar, based in a former furniture shop, also offers 30 varieties of gin - predominately from small-batch producers - as well as spirits and wine.
Featuring a rustic interior, high seating and open space for socialising with friends, Project 53’s drink offering is complemented by a range of pizzas like – margarita, pepperoni, courgette & pine nuts and goats’ cheese & balsamic - giving both meat-eaters and vegetarians plenty to choose from. A selection of deli boards, snacks and sweet dough bites, the latter served with warm Nutella and Biscoff dip, make it ideal for a post-work social.
22 Market Pl, Stockport SK1 1EU
Some of the best Lebanese food in Manchester can be found here and that’s no exaggeration. A small family business with a big heart and impeccable service, Tyros should be recommended to anyone passing through Stockport on their lunch hour. The deli serves up fresh, generously portioned deli boxes with the option to sit in or take away and no request is too much for the lovely team.
Choose from a large or medium box with a choice of Lebanese seven spices mild rice or spicy rice with fresh ginger and onions or a little bit of both with three choices of meats and two vegetable dishes, finished off with fresh Lebanese flatbread. Meat ranges from lemon chilli chicken shawarma and breaded chicken to lamb skewers and beefsteak. Veggie options include toasted halloumi, falafel and feta with plenty of accompaniments like cabbage salad, hummus, couscous, potatoes and carrots coated in olive oil and numerous sauces and dressings. The above is also available in a wrap, which for those with a small appetite will be better than the full meat or veggie box because honestly, the portions are no joke.
7 Tiviot Dale, Stockport, SK1 1TA
Where the Light Gets In
“The most exciting food I’ve had in years,” proclaimed Marina O’Loughlin in 2017 when she visited Where The Light Gets In, a former coffee warehouse turned foodie heaven situated halfway up, or halfway down (depending on your perspective) Rostron Brow off of Lower Hillgate. The restaurant founded by Sam Buckley has been fundamental in bolstering the town’s culinary scene with its seasonally and locally-minded dishes earning it rave reviews and even a green Michelin star along the way.
Its intimate and open plan dining room, which feels like a swanky, New York loft seats 30, with tables and chairs positioned "theatre style" towards the open kitchen. From here, a procession of plates leaves the pass, accompanied by a well-informed member of the team who is on hand to tell you about the source of your food, whether it be smoked mackerel from Cornwall or vegetables and herbs grown on by the team at The Landing - their collaborative community space on the top of the Merseyway precinct. Menus start at £65-a-head and change daily depending on the days catch, harvest and slaughter. They can be accompanied by either an alcoholic (think natty wine) or non-alcoholic drinks pairing.
7 Rostron Brow, Stockport SK1 1JY
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