In a new feature, Carolyn Yates scopes out the best things to do, eat and see in the urban environs of the city
Didsbury’s been a sought-after suburb since the Industrial Revolution, when businessmen used their newly acquired wealth to build properties overlooking the north banks of the River Mersey. Admit to living in Didsbury now and Mancunian eyes will widen, no matter how much you affirm that you’re “in the affordable bit” (which usually means the 1930s semis of East Didsbury rather than the Victorian villas of West Didsbury).
It’s not hard to see why Didsbury is known for its property prices. The leafy suburb has serious kerb appeal, thriving independent traders and a plethora of cafes, restaurants and bars. There’s green space too – none more tranquil (if you can ignore the faint hum of the M60 and planes approaching the airport) than Fletcher Moss Park and Stenner Woods.
The lane between the pubs was nicknamed 'the gates of Hell' because of the temptation to stop for a drink...
Didsbury has something of a split personality, with the West (around Barlow Moor Road) attracting young professionals and the East (near the Kingsway) being more family-friendly with its good schools and amenities (including the Parrs Wood Entertainment Centre, which offers the only multiplex cinema in South Manchester plus popular restaurant chains, a bowling alley, casino and gym). Didsbury Village, a conservation area and home of the annual Didsbury Festival, bisects the two.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Drinks on Burton Road
With multiple bars within a five minute walk, Burton Road is the place to enjoy a drink (or four) after a long week. Try Volta for award-winning small plates with your craft beer, The Drawing Room for colourful cocktails (and a jukebox) or West Village, which transforms from a coffee shop by day into a relaxed bar by night thanks to a timeshare with Another Heart to Feed.
If you’re tempted by a late-night curry, ignore the dated décor and grab a table or takeaway at Namaste Nepal which offers flavourful Nepali and Indian tandoori dishes (the Namaste Chewla, chilli paneer and tandoori chicken makhanwala are popular choices).
SATURDAY: Green space, historic buildings and food in Didsbury Village
Blow out the cobwebs with a stroll through Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens, where the RSPB was founded in 1889; the walled rock garden and walking trails through marshland, meadows and woods offer great wildlife-watching opportunities. Before you leave, get refreshments from the Alpine Tea Rooms and see the carved wooden memorial benches outside; the stories behind the gargoyles and lacrosse player are particularly poignant.
See the old village green in front of The Didsbury pub (an 18th century coaching house) and The Ye Olde Cock Inn (so-called because cockfighting once happened there); the lane between the pubs was nicknamed “the gates of Hell” because of the temptation to stop for a drink rather than attend St James’ Church (now the oldest building in Didsbury). Walk through the imposing Eagle Gate to The Old Parsonage, a Grade II listed building and community centre which often hosts exhibitions by local artists.
Continue into Didsbury Village where you can join the line to sample local cheeses, meats and just about any accompaniment you can think of at The Cheese Hamlet, pick up your Sunday roasting joint (and great sausages) from Axons butchers and grab a flatbread or mini quiche for lunch from French patisserie Bisous Bisous. While you’re there, buy an almond pain au chocolat to save for Sunday morning.
Stop for a moment to appreciate the gothic-style Didsbury Library. Opened in 1915, it is one of 2,509 libraries in the world paid for by American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. A short walk around the corner takes you to The Art of Tea, where you can enjoy its namesake beverage (or excellent coffee), peruse the wall art for sale and rummage through Didsbury Bookshop in the back – a bibliophile’s paradise with thousands of second-hand books to delight collectors.
Lastly, take anyone you want to impress to Hispi for dinner. This sister restaurant to Gary Usher’s Sticky Walnut and Burnt Truffle is humbly brilliant (and has a great value lunch/early evening menu) but if it’s fully booked – as it often is – try No.4 Dine and Wine, which has a similar bistro feel and is only a few steps away. Follow with a drink at The Stokers Arms, a spacious, contemporary pub which sometimes hosts live bands.
SUNDAY: Music, shopping and street art in West Didsbury
The area’s not short of brunch options but Thyme Out’s menu offers everything from a full English to Turkish, Mexican and American inspired dishes, plus the ubiquitous “smashed avo” to appease hungry millennials. It’s a small place so there’s usually a wait, but you could always kill time by popping to 8 Stratford Avenue to see the house where the iconic cover of Oasis’ Definitely Maybe album was photographed in founding member Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs' living room (the house also featured in the Shakermaker video).
Get a coffee from Another Heart to Feed to energise yourself for an afternoon of shopping. Foodies will love The Epicurean (a huge selection of craft beer and cider), Reserve Wines (boutique wines and spirits from around the world) and Cocoa Cabana (an award-winning chocolaterie).
For clothes, try Steranko for modern menswear and Bond for trend-led women’s fashion, and you can find stylish homewares at Moth (whose range of cushions, ceramics and tableware has a distinctly minimal feel). If you’re shopping for someone else, Belly Button offers unusual handmade cards and gifts.
Look up from the shop windows to spot street art such as Mateus Bailon’s nesting bird mural (above G.T. Blaggs hardware store) and sister piece on the side of Wine and Wallop (Lapwing Lane). There’s another bird-themed mural, the monochromatic “Bird Towers” by Phlegm, on the side of Folk café bar.
If it’s sunny (or at least dry), sit in the canopied beer garden at The Metropolitan, near the flat at 86 Palatine Road which earned a plaque as the birthplace of Factory Records – the world-famous independent label that launched some of Manchester’s most iconic music including Joy Division, New Order and the Happy Mondays.
Enjoy a casual dinner of Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizza at Proove, then head to East Didsbury to enjoy a film at Cineworld – which also screens a surprising range of live plays, ballets and operas. It’s also Manchester’s only 4DX cinema, where you can hold on to your moving seat and 3D glasses while being sprayed with water, wind and smells as the latest blockbuster plays on screen.
Or just go back to the pub, if that’s more your thing.
Didsbury is well-served by public transport with four tram stops (Burton Road, West Didsbury, Didsbury Village and East Didsbury), a train station (East Didsbury) and plenty of buses running along Wilmslow Road – which is one of the busiest bus corridors in Europe. There’s free on-street parking in most places, but it can be hard to find and tight to manoeuvre into.