Forget Morrissey’s miserable laments, Manchester’s magic has lured the Michelin awards tonight and big-name blockbuster events during 2024. Sophie Morris looks at a reinvented city
First Chanel - which hosted its Métiers d’Art fashion show in Manchester in December - and now Michelin. These are just two of the upscale French and international brands making a beeline for the British city with the biggest buzz about it.
Manchester, the bustling Northern powerhouse that has been using the symbol of the worker bee as its emblem for almost 200 years, was chosen to emphasise the efforts Mancunians have put into making their city great. This, rather than relying on patronage from, say the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who last year took a knife to the HS2 rail project, which was to connect the North with the capital.
But last week, while Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham was in the House of Commons trying to save the final legs of the botched rail project, others were gazing in the opposite direction. Manchester is gearing up for one of its most exciting years ever.
Major music, sport, art and food openings, and events are scheduled for coming months - starting tonight with the Michelin Guide UK & Ireland awards for 2024, the first time in 30 years of UK awards that Michelin has ventured beyond London.
There are currently 203 British and Irish restaurants with Michelin stars, but only one in Manchester - won by Mana in 2019, the city’s first in 40 years.
Why, then, is the event here? I ask chef Adam Reid, who heads The French restaurant at the Midland Hotel that is hosting it.
“It’s the most exciting food industry event to be held in Manchester in living memory,” he says. “It’s a special privilege to host Michelin and shows the esteem Manchester, its food scene, and the Midland Hotel are held in.”
There are plenty of rumours as to who might end the night with a new star, including Reid.
Higher Ground, the 2023 opening critics flocked to review, was last week awarded a Bib Gourmand, one of 20 new UK restaurants that was rewarded. This spring Tom Barnes, once executive chef at L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria, which has three Michelin stars, opens Skof though he’s not in the running tonight.
Manchester has thrived even without Michelin’s attentions. You could say it’s an ageing institution keen for a bit of Manchester’s sparkle.
Both The New York Times and Time Out have named the city a must-visit for 2024. There are restaurant chains like Hawksmoor and soon-to-open Flat Iron. Flashy joints like Sexy Fish and Fenix. And hip spots such as Erst, Flawd, Stockport’s Where The Light Gets In, Another Hand, Edinburgh Castle, and the forthcoming Maya and Medlock Canteen.
Lovingly Artisan, a bakery in Altrincham Market has just been voted Britain’s best by industry experts. “The funny thing is that we Mancunians have been telling everyone Manchester is the best city in the world for decades,” says Thom Hetherington, founder of the Manchester Art Fair and hospitality and cultural consultancy Landing Light.
“Manchester is without doubt having a moment,” he says. “It’s thrilling but also vaguely nerve-wracking - the eyes of the world are upon us!”
The showstopper opening of the year is Co-op Live, the £365m arena due to open in April next to Manchester City’s football ground. Backed by Harry Styles, who has reportedly advised on the design along with Bruce Springsteen, the world’s largest indoor arena (capacity 23,500)
will soon welcome Olivia Rodrigo, Nicki Minaj and homeboys Liam Gallagher and Take That.
It’s not all megastars, points out Burnham. Winners of his “Mayor’s artist of the month” will also perform. “Greater Manchester has always been proud of its creative output and there’s no sign of this slowing down this year,” he tells i. “It’s very important that we continue to invest and support our cultural sector, especially through what are very difficult times, and back this sector and our night-time economy.”
There are smaller venues, too, keeping up the legacy of Tony Wilson, the Haçienda, and Joy Division, as well as Morrissey and the 80s Madchester scene, from Aviva Studios at Factory International, to re-opened The Snug.
In anticipation of more visitors, several hotels are opening: Treehouse Manchester, Malmaison Deansgate, Mollie’s Motel & Diner, and Victoria Warehouse will add more than 500 rooms.
The Station Agent’s House at the Science and Industry Museum will open as a special Landmark Trust holiday let, for eight.
And the English National Opera will move to Manchester by 2029.
The Manchester Museum recently reopened, there’s a new RHS Garden (Bridgewater in Salford) and RHS Urban Show at Depot Mayfield, and the snooker World Tour Championship is visiting for the first time in April.
Describing this as Manchester’s moment in the sun isn’t the right metaphor for a place in the rainy northwest. “Manchester is in the midst of delivering a run of trophy events and institutions which must confound other regional cities across the UK and Europe,” says Hetherington, “and which seemingly makes light of our own government’s efforts to hamstring the North at every turn.”
Getting there Manchester Piccadilly is served by TransPennine Express, Northern, CrossCountry, Avanti West Coast, Transport for Wales and East Midlands Railway. Manchester Victoria is served by TransPennine Express and Northern. Metrolink trams run across the city.
More information visitmanchester.com