We now have reason to visit Manchester regularly as that’s where Big S is at Uni, so I thought I’d pass on some recommendations and thoughts for anyone who either lives in Manchester with allergies, or is going to visit.
Before this year I hadn’t been to Manchester since the 1990s, and it really seems to have become a vibrant, exciting but manageable in size, place to be. There are cool bars, shops and restaurants aplenty and lots of murals and graffiti to adorn the northern streets. I could have spent hours in the Unitom shop that sells arty and interesting magazines and books!
On both of the weekends we have visited, we stayed in hotels in the city centre – the Novotel and the Mercure. Both were large but the Novotel was a little bit nicer. Nothing wrong with the Mercure, it’s a little tired but has a fantastic location overlooking Piccadilly Gardens.
Whilst we have managed to get something to eat for Little S at the hotel breakfasts, it’s not necessarily a very comfortable experience! In the Mercure the staff were completely stumped and baffled when we mentioned allergies – on being informed what they were the waitress made the classic reply of ‘we have gluten-free bread’ – super unhelpful when you’ve just said the allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts and sesame seeds!! Luckily, thanks to Natasha’s law there was a very thorough allergen menu available and we were able to work out that the hash browns, bacon, sausages and baked beans were all safe. I do feel uncomfortable with the customers helping themselves and using the same spoon for various containers, but these were so huge it would have been harder to take the spoon with you and so the risk seemed smaller. The white baguette was apparently ok, but as it nestled alongside the other breads on a shared board with a shared breadknife we knew that wasn’t an option. My advice is take some food with you, just in case. We had emergency cereal, homemade biscuits, chocolate and oat milk and that’s just for one night!
Usually we stick to chain restaurants as we feel a bit more comfortable with what we know, but as Big S has been exploring Manchester and finding much cooler places to go (and she has a serious dairy allergy) we have been a bit braver than normal.
On our first visit in the autumn I did a thorough search on Trip Advisor and it seemed that Giorgio’s Italian would be ok. I contacted them in advance and they very helpfully gave a run down of the possible dishes. It was fine in the end, nice food but rather pricy for a bowl of pasta in my opinion. The waiter/owner was a little brusque and dare I say ‘know it all’ so we almost felt like he wasn’t listening to our requests – not what you want if you’re an allergy family! But it was a safe meal, albeit we could only have a simple tomato pasta and no pudding or starter was possible.
On our more recent visit, we followed Big S’s recommendations. Tacos at Liquor and Burn were great – there are plenty of vegan options, no peanuts on the premise and we had some really delicious messy food! This was certainly a first for little S, as she’s only ever had tacos at home before. They did say that they used some sesame but it was kept in a sealed bottle with a tiny opening at the top so the seeds couldn’t get everywhere, plus they made our food in a separate area so we felt more at ease. Cauliflower blasts (the chicken variety contained milk) and pork pibil and pineapple tacos were all dairy, egg, nut, peanut and sesame free – brilliant! It was a fun place to be, the staff knowledgable and the food was delicious 🙂
We also had an interesting tea stop at Bird and Blend – the range is massive and really unusual – I had a toffee pudding green tea! No dairy is used in the teas (just a bit present in the pre-packaged chocolate or the flash of hot chocolate on offer) so this made us feel more relaxed, plus it was a fun place to be (and it’s dog friendly too!)
Our other meals were at a Franco Manca, Wagamama and Zizzi – all firm, reliable favourites.
I have to say, that for us at least, one night in a hotel is plenty, breakfasts are hard for Little S, and we’re so used to eating at home, we all feel a bit unhealthy after too many meals out!
We’ll definitely be visiting Manchester many more times in the next few years, so I will update these recommendations as we go. Do you have any recommendations for the next time we go?
But it really is an interesting, vibrant and exciting city, and well worth a visit.