Carolyn Yates continues to scope out the best things to do, eat and see around the urban environs of the city
Levenshulme and Fallowfield may be known for different things - the former for its antiques village, Saturday market and delicious smell from the McVitie’s factory, the latter for its sprawling university campus and lively student nightlife - but the neighbouring suburbs have more in common than you might realise.
Both areas are about a twenty-minute drive from Manchester city centre, sit within the same electoral district (Manchester Gorton), have acres of green space (Highfield Country Park and Platt Fields Park respectively) and are connected by the Fallowfield Loop; an eight-mile urban cycleway (thought to be the longest of its kind in Britain) and pedestrian route which runs from Chorlton through Fallowfield and Levenshulme to Gorton and Fairfield.
There’s also great community spirit in both areas; Levenshulme is big on self-improvement, with ongoing projects including the resident-run market and community gardening groups, and Fallowfield is always buzzing with student life. Whichever area you prefer, both have a lot to offer.
FRIDAY NIGHT: Eat your way along the Curry Mile
Although Manchester’s famous Curry Mile is technically in Rusholme, it starts at the border with Fallowfield (at the north-eastern edge of Platt Fields Park) so it’d be rude not to go while you’re in the area. Despite concerns that it’s becoming diluted by shisha cafes and convenience stores, this just-under-a-mile stretch of Wilmslow Road is still packed with restaurants offering some of the best Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern food in the North West.
The area comes to life from 7-10pm (or 1-3am if you’re a hard-partying student) and two of the most popular places are Shere Khan and Mughli: the former was the first licensed Indian restaurant on the Curry Mile (and now has locations across the country) and the latter’s ‘soul food from the roadside cafes and family kitchens of Mughal’ is regularly award-nominated and critic-approved.
But part of the fun of the Curry Mile is trying different places before you choose a favourite, and you’d be wrong to judge a book by its cover here; unassuming exteriors often belie the delicious food inside, as Confidential discovered in their quest for the area’s best kebab…
SATURDAY: Stroll around Levenshulme
The heart (and high street) of Levenshulme is on Stockport Road, where you can start the day with coffee and a pastry from Trove before heading to the Antiques Village to peruse three floors of vintage furniture, fittings and collectibles. The building itself, which opened as council offices in 1899, is full of retro charm; with ornate wall tiles, mosaic floors, wood-panelled ceilings and wrought iron gates just crying out to be Instagrammed.
Stash your purchases in the car/van and go to Levenshulme Market for lunch. The market, one of the busiest in Manchester, takes over the station car park most Saturdays and monthly Friday nights; there is also a special university version on Tuesdays.
Look up to the station platform to see the Levenshulme mural and walk under the railway arches to The Street With No Name; the sign by the station entrance was put up by the Friends of Levenshulme Station to recognise the 160-year-old, 77-yard unnamed street which has become a local landmark. There’s also art displayed on the station walls by local artist Karen Allerton and children from Alma Park Primary School.
See if there’s an exhibition at Bankley Studios and Gallery (which is otherwise closed to the public) or spend the afternoon enjoying the 70-acre Highfield Country Park, a peaceful nature reserve with several marked trails. Near the Heaton Chapel end of the park, Shores Fold Community Farm is a great place to take animal-loving kids (or adults) to see the chickens, geese, goats, pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs and ponies.
Have dinner at Jandol, which serves great Lebanese food and fresh-baked baklava, or tuck into some of the best burgers in south Manchester at The Meating Room, an unassuming, no-frills junk food joint. If you fancy a drink, head to one of Levy’s much-loved locals (The Blue Bell Inn, The Klondyke or The Union) or one of the bars on Stockport Road (try Fred’s Ale House, M19 Bar or The Station Hop).
SUNDAY: Parks and recreation in Fallowfield
Sleep in and have brunch at Fallow Café, ‘a little beat-up but well-loved café in the heart of Fallowfield’ (soon closing temporarily for a refurb, so otherwise pack a picnic), then spend the afternoon exploring Platt Fields Park - ‘a victory of people over profit’ which was built by the Manchester Corporation in 1910 after a public campaign to save the land from developers.
The 90-acre park is one of South Manchester’s best green spaces and has so much more to enjoy than you’d realise looking in from Wilmslow Road, including a boating lake to which Mike Garry’s poem The Gift and mural on the boathouse walls pay tribute: "Dream the dreams you never dreamt you could / In this 'The People's Park' with a heart shaped lake / This precious gift of Love".
Nearby, there’s a multi-sports area (nicknamed ‘the teenage village’ but ostensibly for people of all ages) with a BMX track, skate park, football/tennis/hockey/basketball courts, jogging trails, cycle paths, crown green bowls, children’s playgrounds and picnic tables.
There are also many horticultural and historical features of interest, including the Shakespeare Gardens (featuring plants from the Bard’s era), the Nico Ditch (part of an ancient defensive earthwork protecting the Mersey from attack) and Platt Hall - former home of Charles Worsley, Manchester’s first MP and Oliver Cromwell’s Major-General, and current home of the Gallery of Costume (which contains one of Britain’s most important collections but is currently closed due to a moth problem).
While you’re near Platt Hall, exit the park and cross the road to the Hardy's Well, a former pub adorned with a poem by University of Manchester Chancellor Lemn Sissay; according to his website, ’since it was put up in the late nineties, there were so many fender benders that the city council changed the lights as a traffic calming measure.’
When it’s time for dinner, take a seat at Fuzion Noodle Bar’s communal tables and enjoy ‘street food of the Far East brought to Fallowfield’. The small Pan Asian restaurant (arguably one of the best in Manchester) offers a Wagamama-style menu of noodle and rice dishes, but that’s where the comparisons stop; you can taste the passion that goes into the food and the portions are so generous (especially the Hangover Katsu) that you might struggle to fit in a banana and Mars bar spring roll for dessert.
Stay for a Japanese beer or relocate to The Font (reopens September), The Beer Studio or 256 Fallowfield for a drink.
Neither area is served by tram but there are bus routes to both areas and there’s a train station in Levenshulme. Parking is available on street.
Levenshulme Market (every Saturday from March to December, plus one Friday night a month)
Verbose spoken word night (currently on hiatus but usually the fourth Monday of the month)
Levy Jumble Trail (various dates)
Manchester Easter Fun Fair (March/April)
Envirolution Festival (June)
Levenshulme Open Gardens (June)
Levy Fringe (June/July)
Manchester Thai Festival (June/July)
Levenshulme Festival (October)
Bonfire Night at Platt Fields Park (November)