I’ve already talked at length about how North West England has developed (and is developing further) a reputation for being the centre of British foodie culture. With independent eateries from every corner of the globe (often strongly rivalling what you’d get in country), speciality coffee producers, cocktails that can tickle every tastebud and a growing number of street food markets and food halls, it’s hard to find another part of England that truly compares.
But rest assured, this isn’t just confined to the big Northern cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. You’ll find incredible food in the unlikeliest of places, and it can even transform a sleepy suburb.
Let’s talk about Altrincham.
Altrincham is a traditional market town in Greater Manchester, just over 30 minutes by tram from the city. In many ways it’s just like any other outskirts town – it has high street shops and chain coffee brands. You’ll find run down bits and cash converter style services and supermarkets .
But you’ll also find one of the fastest growing food and drink cultures in the UK. And it’s transforming Altrincham as we know it.
Altrincham Market and the regeneration of a suburb
In 2014, Market House Altrincham opened its doors and the sleepy suburb has never looked back. Even during the middle of the week (and during the day) the market is full to bursting, everyone of the communal tables full of chattering groups whilst more walk the aisles in the hope of grabbing a seat.
It was a £175,000 make-over that cheered up the tired old market building, bringing with it a raft of indie (and most importantly local) food and drink traders. Many of the traders only operate in the market (and in the recently opened Manchester version, Mackie Mayor), showing just how important the market is to the local food scene. And whilst locals can reap the benefit of a beautifully restored market building, they can also see an uptick in wider town centre regeneration too.
Altrincham once boasted the most empty shops for its size (with around a quarter standing empty), and another percentage yet housing the cash converters style shops that don’t necessarily make for an attractive town centre. That’s changing now, and rapidly, with offshoots opening in premises surrounding the bustling market.
Within the market itself the food is top notch, which is really all that matters. I had some of the most incredible Steak and Eggs with Salsa Verde from Tender Cow, whilst Mr had the hugest bowl (yes bowl) of pie and mash I’d ever seen from Great North Pie Co. The next morning we popped in for flat whites from Market House Coffee and hot chocolate from Sam Joseph, and they were definitely in my top five flat whites of all time (no mean feat).
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Where else to eat + drink in Altrincham?
As well as the Market House Altrincham and the market itself, there are so many other new independent eateries popping up in Altrincham off the back of this incredible regeneration project. Here are just a few that I’ve tried and would personally recommend, but there is a constantly changing roster of great places, so it’s worth checking them all out!
At the time of writing, Blanchflower is a recent addition to the Atrincham food scene (when we visited it had only been open for three weeks). It’s safe to say that the cafe is an instagrammers dream with gorgeous interiors including tiling and dusky pink velour.
But it isn’t just the decor that is completely gorgeous. Styled as an artisan bakery and restaurant, I thought the brunch menu was really unique in comparison to the at least a million other brunches I’ve had of late. We enjoyed the Ox Cheek Benedict (with braised ox cheek, mmmmm!), and the Ham + Eggs which were served with the tastiest homemade potato rosti. If you visit, make sure you try their renowned sourdough!
The Con Club
As I mentioned above, there were quite a few options to choose from in Altrincham as the restaurant culture there is absolutely huge, but we headed to The Con Club on the recommendation of Mr S who has eaten his way around Atrincham a few times over. We booked pretty late as going to Altrincham was a last minute addition to our plans, and we couldn’t get a table until 9.30pm, but it was genuinely worth the wait.
One of the area’s premier bar/restaurants, it’s housed in what used to be the Working Men’s Conservative Club, opposite the market house and has been lovingly restored and brought back to life.
We skipped the starters and went straight on to order the maple cured bacon chop, with sweet potato, hot and sour pineapple and chilli kale (an absolute delight – that pineapple was a revelation) and the cod loin katsu curry. For dessert, we tried both cheesecake and sticky toffee pudding paired with some dessert wine (we selected our favourite Pedro Ximenez, but they have a surprisingly good selection).
Despite the fact the restaurant was extremely busy (especially with two huge group tables) and the bar was packed, the atmosphere was great and jovial and the service sublime. I would definitely book in advance via their website if you plan to eat here.
The best of the rest
Bistrot Pierre is a modern french bistro with amazing Prix Fixe lunch deals, great interiors and a provincial cooking vibe. Whilst it is a small chain, it still manages to maintain and indie feel.
Porta is an effortlessly cool tapas restaurant in the heart of Altrincham (with a branch in Chester too). No bookings, just turn up!
Sugar Junction is the cutest of all cute cafes, and does a particularly awesome brunch. They also have a branch in Manchester and the best afternoon tea menu!
What else to do in and around Altrincham
If you are anything like me, you might be happy just to visit a place for the food. However, combining a foodie trip here with other activities in the region is totally possible, just as I did before Christmas.
Dunham Massey is a National Trust property that has a 250 acre deer park that you can wander around in, as well as beautifully manicured gardens a tea room. An afternoon romp around a park full of deers in your wellies is certainly something different from the bustle of the main City of Manchester or a sleepy market town.
A trip to Manchester
As mentioned, Manchester is just a short tram ride away and an ideal location for a UK city break. We combined a night in Altrincham with two nights in Manchester, but would have been happy to take the tram in either direction just for an afternoon. There’s lots to do in Manchester including museum visits, galleries and theatre and I’ve written in depth about the city in my weekend Manchester itinerary.
A trip to Salford Quays
As with Manchester, you can get to Salford Quays from Altrincham by tram and although it’s a longer journey, it’s totally worth it. It’s a developing area just 20 minutes away accommodating Media City UK (prompting the BBC to move much of its operations to the North). Every time we visit here, something else has changed or developed, as the are gets busier and more populated.
You can take a wander around the area, which is home to the end of the Manchester Ship Canal (which in itself has an incredible history), and see the new studio buildings of Coronation Street, Blue Peter and many more. In fact, Blue Peter have some of their garden and the Gold Badge Walk on display, and it’s good to wander around some of our TV heritage.
Whilst here, you can also visit the Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry Theatre (one of my most favourite theatres in the whole of the UK), go on a self guided heritage walk and even get a Media City UK tour.
As a UK tourist destination, Altrincham may not have been on your radar, but believe me, it’s worth a visit especially if you are making a trip up to the North West. This traditional market town has so much to offer the curious foodie, and that is only going to continue as the regeneration follows in the footsteps of the old Market Hall.
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