A food and drink guide for Manchester dated 1996 which was uncovered in the archives of Northern Restaurant & Bar illustrates 20 years of culinary developments in what the guide itself refers to as “Menuchester”.
Holden Media, organisers of Northern Restaurant & Bar, the largest hospitality trade show in the North, were sorting through their extensive publications library when they found a City Life “Manchester Café Bar, Restaurant & Pub guide” published in 1996.
Whilst NRB itself has kept Northern hospitality operators at the cutting edge of the industry for the last sixteen years the dog-eared guide provides a stark reminder of just how far the city’s restaurant scene has come.
It features a foreword by locally-born cricketing legend Mike Atherton and delightful period-piece touches including the editor’s marvelling at the recent phenomenon of ‘pavement dining’, whilst they also still felt the need to put specialist terms like ‘bistro’ in inverted commas
Even the section dedicated to the hipster enclave of the ‘Northern Quarter’ is prefaced with the area’s historical market name, ‘Smithfield’, as the modern description had yet to catch on amongst the wider population.
Thom Hetherington (pictured), CEO of Holden Media, says: “City Life was the first guide I bought at the age of twenty two, and it opened my eyes to the wonders of the city’s food and drink scene.”
City Life’s editors state that Manchester in 1996 was on the cusp of a foodie revolution claiming that with “over twenty five major cuisines” represented within the city it had earned the nickname “Menuchester”.
Hetherington continues: “Manchester is now clearly in the midst of a second culinary explosion, and although I have fond memories of the 1990s I’m delighted that this time we get to cheer the launches of restaurants such as The French, Manchester House or El Gato Negro Tapas”.
Although the guide charts a period of significant changes, with sad losses including establishment such as The Market Restaurant, Brasserie St Pierre and Juniper, many of the operations listed are still going strong included much-loved institutions such as Yang Sing, Koreana and Café Istanbul.
Featured maps of restaurant and bar hotspots stretch only to Chinatown, The Gay Village, Smithfield/Northern Quarter and Rusholme. The central business district of shops and offices was still largely a culinary desert in 1996, whereas the latest gastronomic hotspot of Spinningfields didn’t even exist.
Hetherington believes the guide shows there is no better time to be a foodie in Manchester marveling at the “breadth, depth, vibrancy and sheer variety of the local scene”.
Not only that, but he feels this incredible evolution has been reflected across the North, saying “Alongside established stars you have newer restaurants ranging from The Man Behind The Curtain to Lake Road Kitchen and Sticky Walnut to the Raby Hunt. Surely it can be argued that the North is currently the UK’s most exciting region for food and drink?”
He concludes: “An incredible amount has happened in the last twenty years, so here’s to the next twenty!”
The North’s largest hospitality show, Northern Restaurant & Bar, returns to Manchester Central 15-16 March for its 16th year. The exhibition includes the NRB Debate and the NRB Top Fifty Awards celebrating the region’s top operators.
For further information on the trade only exhibition, events, exhibitors and how to get free tickets visit northernrestaurantandbar.co.uk. Follow us on twitter, facebook & Instagram or watch last year’s videos