Saturday, 23 April 2016

Rediscovering Manchester #1 - Teacup // John Rylands Library // Be At One

Despite living in Manchester most of my life, I've never felt particularly bonded with it. I prefer the other two cities I've lived in, Liverpool and London, and I've never felt like a true Mancunian; despite being very proud of being Northern.

But I'm back here now, and here I'm staying for at least the foreseeable future. So I decided I would give Manchester a chance; I would visit places, revisit places, wander around, try and get a feel for the city I've called home for over 20 years. And because I never do anything without an ulterior motive, I figured this would also make an excellent blog post series.

My friend Jim came to visit me a few weeks ago and we spent the day in Manchester which gave me the opportunity to visit a couple of places I'd been keen to go to (and to revisit the beautiful John Rylands library).

We started off in Teacup, a teashop/cafe in the Northern Quarter. It's a pretty big place which is nice for a cafe in the NQ, which often have limited seating, so we were seated after just a short wait for someone to come and actually seat us. The menu is really varied, and there's an extensive tea option too. Teacup serves cakes, which are HUGE and displayed pride of place on the counter.

I ordered rosebud tea, dippy duck eggs with ciabatta soldiers and finished off with a slice of Pistachio cake. Our food came pretty quickly, and looked lovely. My tea had a beautiful flavour, and the ciabatta soldiers were really delicious and had a proper amount of butter. I've never had duck eggs before and they were lovely, though I do like my dippy eggs a touch dippier than they were served. 

We wouldn't have done Teacup justice without trying the cakes, so I ordered the pistachio cake which was HUGE. The sponge was light and moist, and I really liked having the whole (and clearly high quality) pistachios mixed in. The icing was buttercream with little bits of crystallised rose on. I would have liked more rose incorporated somehow, either in the buttercream icing or internal buttercream, because as delicious as the cake was it did get a bit same-y. Teacup unfortunately only has one card machine, which for such a big place is a bit of an error. We did have to wait a while to pay, and I ended up getting a bit snappy when the machine was taken to people who had waited less time than us to pay (sorry Teacup man). I wouldn't normally mind so much, but with Jim only visiting for a few hours we were on a bit of a schedule. 

We headed down to Deansgate and into the John Ryland's library. The exterior of the library is beautiful; a lovely red-brick gothic affair. The location of the building, and my poor photography skills, means it's difficult to get a decent picture of the exterior of the library. The library was designed by John Ryland's third wife in his memory, in 1889 and it took a decade to build. 

The interior comes as a bit of a shock initially; being very modern. But as soon as you get into the library proper, you're hit with sheer opulence that is the very definition of Victorian Gothic, and is reminiscent of a church with sandstone walls, carvings, stained glass and vaulted ceilings. 

The reading room is beautiful room made predominantly of wood, with little nooks with study desks and, of course, bookshelves. It was lovely to see this room being used for actual study; how marvellous it must be to revise or write an essay in such a space (though maybe not given all the visitors wandering around taking photos). The room has a huge vaulted ceiling (and there are mirrors to look at it without damaging your neck!) and a balcony that I don't think is open to the public, decorated with statues of literary figures like Plato, Shakespeare and Milton. It's a gorgeous space with a real sense of peace, and is exactly what comes to mind when you think about a library!

What's outside the reading room is almost more spectacular: a beautiful stone staircase complete with a balcony that severely tempts you to recreate that Romeo and Juliet scene. 

There's always an interesting mini-exhibition on, plus more rooms and corridors to explore. There's even original Victorian toilets to take a peek at (or a pee in, they're still in use!). It's not hard to see why this glorious library tops Tripadvisor's list of things to do in Manchester. 

All that woodwork made us thirsty, so we headed to Be At One, a cocktail bar that opened in Barton Arcade recently. It's the latest in a monster chain, their 30th location, in fact. The bar is very modern inside, all dark wood and red leather and neon.

 There's a HUGE cocktail menu, and a decent happy hour with drinks 241 (same one, obvs) from 16.30 - 19.00/20.00 most days. One of Be At One's main points is the friendliness of the staff. And they were VERY friendly. The shift manager asked me my name, gave me his and shook my hand (and I saw him do that with every customer). It's a little weird, but nice. Apparently they have a policy that a customer should have a drink in front of them within 60 seconds of placing the order, which definitely didn't happen with us for either drink we ordered, but it wasn't a long wait. We had Passionfruit Margaritas and English Fizz (Hendricks, elderflower liqueur, cucumber syrup, lemon, mint and soda water). The latter is a favourite type of cocktail of mine; fresh and herby and slightly floral, and BAO's version was nice but not the best I've had. I enjoyed the cocktails, I'll definitely go back, but it's certainly not top of my cocktail bar list. 

Have you visited any of these places?


  1. It sounds like a great day! What we've summed up from this is that Caitlin is impatient :P I think one day I'd like to do some blogging in the library. Its just so pretty <3

    1. You have JUST learned that Caitlin's impatient?! :P

      But great post, and awesome to remember a fab day Caitlin! :)