Still looking for inspiration? Here are a few prezzie ideas from our team
If you still have a few Christmas presents to buy but are running out of inspiration, then we might be able to help. Our team has put together a list of their favourite gift ideas and stocking fillers for all levels of budget and all types of recipients. Plus, most are from around here, so you’re supporting the local economy as well as scoring some brownie points from your nearest and dearest. Win win.
Plant by Three Little Leaves
Call me Ebenezer, if you like, but the yearly drama of Christmas gifting does my head in. It's not that I don't want to buy gifts for people (I spontaneously do that all year). It's just that there is so much pressure on everyone to buy something, anything, that what should be a lovely experience becomes fraught with anxiety and often results in unwanted gifts winging their way to a charity shop in January. The wrapping and tags and bags - many of which aren't recyclable - also bring me out in hives. I've been using brown paper or recycled mags and newspapers for years and don't be surprised if that glittery gift bag in which you packaged my (very kind, thank you) gift, wings its way back to you retagged next year.
So this sustainable, green (literally) and utterly un-wrappable gift is a dream come true. I love this new little Manchester-based plant shop Three Little Leaves. The plants are beautiful and unusual, the pots are stylish and there is even a section on pet-friendly plants - ideal as I have a cat that loves to nibble on leaves. If you know any city dwellers, a houseplant is also a dream gift in a year when garden envy has gone into overdrive. Kelly Bishop – Food and Drink Writer
Artwork from EASEL
OK I’m cheating a bit here, as I’m highlighting a new online platform rather than an individual gift; after all, art spans such a wide range of tastes and budgets that it would be impossible to choose a piece that suits everyone. EASEL is a new website from Manchester Art Fair which brings together original work from hundreds of British and international artists; there’s over 100 already, with more being added each day. Prices range from thousands to just £7.50; handily broken down, like mediums and galleries, into categories.
If you’re after a particular artist you can also search by name. There’s strong northern representation too, from artists like Rachel Camilleri and Damian John Stewart to galleries like Saul Hay (pictured above) and Leon Martyn, and plans for themed collections to further aid browsing soon.
As in many industries, artists and galleries have struggled this year due to the pandemic; not helped by the postponing of major shows like Manchester Art Fair. Founder Thom Hetherington and director Sophie Helm are hopeful EASEL will prove an important showcase - employing the same ethos of quality curation and engaging with studios, schools and institutions to ‘bring the entire cultural ecology together.’ With over 500 pieces now online, I’d say it’s the perfect opportunity to find a unique Christmas prezzie…Vicky Smith – Arts and Listings Editor
Wine tasting kit from Cork of the North
Cork of the North is a family-owned wine merchant with stores in Sale and Heaton Moor. Their mixed cases make an ideal gift for a wine lover - especially if you don't know much about wine and want to avoid randomly grabbing a few bottles and hoping for the best. They offer a balance of old and new world wines that you're unlikely to find in a supermarket and, as an added bonus, free delivery is available in nearby areas. CotN also sell vouchers for their very popular online tasting sessions lead by the highly knowledgeable owner, Marc Hough. The tasting kit for the session includes six small bottles of different wines and there is an option to add on a matching cheese selection. Marc has two Facebook sessions available in January if you want to wrap up an experience gift. Martyn Pitchford - Graphic Designer
An online WSET wine course
While we're on the subject, if you know someone who is interested in wine and might want to gain an official qualification (where the homework is the fun bit), then a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) wine course is the perfect gift. It's now possible to take WSET’s globally recognised Level 1 and Level 2 Award in Wines courses online from start to finish including an online exam, so any social distancing restrictions aren't an issue. The knowledge gained will stay with them forever and it's a great way of learning how to navigate wine lists. WSET works with approved course providers in Manchester. For more info, click here. Deanna Thomas, Editor
Get that glazed look with the Moorcock’s pottery project
Who would have guessed when the Moorcock at Norland was rated No.4 in our Top 100 Restaurants list that two years on this groundbreaking gastropub would have reinvented itself as a Chinese takeaway? OK, maybe crab and turbot omelette is a step up from egg foo yung and their Christmas hampers are equally superior, but the biggest surprise is the way chef Al and sommelier partner Aimee have transformed the restaurant space into a pottery workshop. They always made their own bowls and plates but a new kiln means they can expand production of their minimalist natural ceramics, glazed with spent ash from the restaurant’s wood ovens, while also using egg shells, oyster shells and bone ash. Each piece is unique. £297 will buy a 26-piece dinner set. A more modest £85 will get you a ramen set for two. Might it inspire tonkotsu noodles for Christmas lunch? It’s a beautiful trek up to this moorland haven above Sowerby Bridge, but they can organise delivery. Full ceramics range here. Neil Sowerby, Food and Drink Writer
Fantastic books and where to find them
When it comes to last minute Christmas gift ideas the furthest I usually get is the seasonal aisle at the big ASDA. Not this year though – I’m determined to show a bit more effort and if the global pandemic has taught us anything it’s the importance of supporting local business.
We’re not spoilt for choice for great independents across Greater Manchester and there’s any number I could suggest. Both Libero and Batch Bottlestore have some great craft beer packs on offer for example and the cocktail wizards at Speak In Code have put together some very cool cocktail gift sets (read more about those here). My top pick this year though is to take a trip to Northern Quarter Institution Magma.
Specialising in books, magazines, art, prints and various other hipster knick knacks it has announced it will be closing its doors in March after nearly 20 years. It will be sadly missed. It’s the kind of place you could always count on to pick up a book about Soviet architecture for your left wing uncle or a bag with a cat on for your housemate.
My gift of choice is the Magical Creatures and Mythical Beasts children’s book created by Professor Mortimer with illustrations by Victo Ngai. It features fantastical creatures that inhabit famous historical landmarks around the world – that’s a winning formula if ever I saw one. Jake Ogden, Commercial Partnerships Manager
Gift Sets from Pollen Bakery
One of the best independent artisan bakeries in Manchester has been keeping themselves busy over lockdown. There has been a constant queue outside their shop in Cotton Field’s Wharf, but now they’ve gone online. The Pollen Bakery webshop allows you to pre-order your bread, pastries, desserts and more for Christmas time, but they also offer a great selection of gift boxes and stocking fillers, all available for UK postage.
I love this Pollen Christmas Gift Box (£52) filled with jars of croissant butter, sea salt caramel and choc chip caramel peanut butter along with a box of croissant butter truffles and packages of chocolate orange shortbread and almond cantucci biscuits. All are lovingly handmade in small batches and utterly delicious. Deanna Thomas - Editor
Handmade earrings from Crazy in Lobe
So firstly, for transparency, the maker of these lil’ bundles of joy is my fiancé and the creation of these earrings is now how my partner chooses to ignore me of an evening.
Originally born out of lockdown boredom and an ‘I can do that’ attitude, these handmade polymer clay earrings are the perfect stocking filler. It’s so hard to find something that’s relatively cheap but still seems to be made with love. I think it’s also the ideal secret Santa present (assuming people are still doing that). With stock ranging from £4-£10 and variety of styles, it’s hard not to buy a couple. There are also options that can be personalised to match your own style.
That’s about as much as I can say about earrings, but seeing the effort that goes into making these to this quality has been eye opening.
PS. Yes that’s a Beyonce pun. Hayden Naughton - Head of Social Media
The Ember Mug
My daughter bought me this seemingly daft present that turned into solid genius. My Ember heated coffee mug keeps my coffee hot for over an hour, so when I wake up after snorting through forty winks of a Saturday afternoon my coffee is still hot.
Expensive at £99.99 but it turns into great value when you get a gadget that doesn’t get filed on top of the fridge but is actually used every day. It even has its own app (I kid you not) which has a chat with the mug, bullying it into keeping your coffee at precisely the correct temperature. Mark 'Gordo' Garner - Publisher
Wine and cheese for when it’s all wrapped up
To delight the devoted oenophile in your life you could really splash the cash at Salut, Manchester city’s sole remaining wine merchants (and pre-Tier 3 convivial bar). But if a bespoke case is too much check out Salut’s assorted Christmas boxes. Pictured above is their Christmas Day Essentials Box at £65, but Salut's £35 Adults Christmas Eve Box is designed to toast finally being ready for the big day. The kids in bed, presents stowed, you crack open the Prosecco (Bella Modella) and unwrap three cheeses from The Crafty Cheese Man; Nicky Nook Blue (Garstang), Owd Yonner (from Lancashire) and a French Brie, accompanied by chutney, olive and crackers will in turn demand you open Il Pumo Primitivo an easy drinking red from Puglia. It will help you get a modicum of snooze before the little darlings bounce on your bed.
For full details of Salut’s Christmas offers visit Salut's website. Neil Sowerby, Food and Drink Writer
A Guide to Manchester
Lancashire: Manchester and the South-East - Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England by Clare Hartwell, Matthew Hyde and Nikolaus Pevsner.
It's a £60 in hardback but it will keep you informed about all the great buildings of this city and across much of the conurbation. There's 800 pages of the thing with an elegant text and some good photos and neat plans. It covers lots of the more modest buildings too. This book is all about connecting with what is around you. It makes every day a day of discovery. For the post-Covid (we hope) days it’s all about appreciating where you live. There’s a Cheshire volume as well for those south of the Mersey.
...Of course there are also three superb Manchester books written by me, but modesty (and the editor) didn’t allow me to promote them, but here’s the link just in case. Jonathan Schofield - Editor at Large
The Book of St. John
Cookbooks can be hit and miss. Big names like Jamie and the Scruffy Bikers are shifting so many that the recipes just become, well, foggy.
Chef Fergus Henderson’s Book of St John isn’t one of those. Every recipe is a labour of love from the owner of the iconic Restaurant St. John in London which is hallowed ground to a growing tribe of chefs across the world. The recipes work.
If you enjoy tripe, the key recipes are here. If you are a normal human being and recognise that steamed syrup sponge and custard is ambrosia of the gods, then this book holds the key to life, the universe and everything. Believe me, it’s a lot cheaper than sending your partner to the Amazon to do ayahuasca. Less messy as well. Mark 'Gordo' Garner - Publisher
Let the good Shepherd guide you
Eddie Shepherd has attained cult status for his plant-based tasting menus at his ‘underground restaurant’ in Whalley Range (read more here). Now he’s sharing the secrets of his ‘modernist’ approach to dishes inspired by his travels. The sheer beauty of the dishes shines through Walled Gardens – The Cookbook (£20 via his website). Go one step further and you could join him in his culinary explorations, though whether you should unleash his Modern Gastronomy Kit (£59.95 from Amazon) on the festive kitchen is probably a caviar pearl or liquid-centred sphere too far. The kit is accompanied by a recipe booklet to show you how to get the best out of your molecular collecting spoon, pipettes and various gelling and powdering agents. Come New Year you could be wowing your guests with chocolate soil or elastic flexible caramel gel. Neil Sowerby, Food and Drink Writer