Literary Food & Drink Tour of Manchester

I read a book a week, all of the subjects on the Trivial Pursuit board, and so I thought it would be interesting to list some of the most famous foods and drinks featured in literature and where you can get your own version right here in Manchester...

By Ben Brown | 14 February 2018

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Butterbeer: Harry Potter
‘Here – you’ve earned a drink. Something from the Three Broomsticks, you won’t have tried it before –’
He pulled two bottles out of his briefcase.
‘Butterbeer!’ said Harry, without thinking. ‘Yeah, I like that stuff!

I’m going to tell you now – I’m not remotely interested in any of the Harry Potter books, films or tat that they are flogging in Primark for a tenner. It’s well after my time, and I reckon the movies are probably terrible, considering the fact that I’ve never once thought of wanting to pop one in my DVD Player and actually watch it. But there are loads of people out there who do, and if you want a taste of Butterbeer (whatever that is), then Home Sweet Home offers their take on it featuring some Jamaican Rum, butterscotch liquor, root beer and vanilla ice cream.

Home Sweet Home, 49-51 Edge St, Manchester M4 1HW


Chocolate Cake: Matilda
‘You like my special chocolate cake, don’t you, Bogtrotter? It’s rich and delicious, isn’t it, Bogtrotter?’
‘Very good,’ the boy mumbled. The words were out before he could stop himself.

Bruce Bogtrotter. What an absolute bloody legend. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of that lad, calmly scoffing an entire chocolate cake in front of the school while that horrible mess of a woman – Mrs Trunchbull – gets ready to pick him up and fling him over the school fence head first. It’s a great scene and one of the best examples of childish over-indulgence ever to grace the page, and you can recreate it yourself down at Fress, who freshly bake a selection of cakes every day which are not only delicious but also rather moreish so you won’t struggle like Bruce. It’s just a matter of luck for when they decide to make a chocolate cake – or perhaps just request it of them, and they’ll be kind enough to indulge you.

Fress Cafe, 2 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE


Tea Party: Alice in Wonderland
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”
“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.”

After tumbling down a rabbit hole, going big then small then big then small again, chatting to a cat with a shit eating grin and getting mugged off by a worm, Alice stumbles upon a Tea Party being held by the Mad Hatter, possibly the most memorable character in Alice in Wonderland. Clearly, a comment on the atrocious conditions hatters were forced to work within – surrounded by mercury which slowly sent them off their rockers. The Tea Party in question is about as odd as you’d expect, and if you’re looking for an accurate recreation, the Richmond Tea Rooms pretty much entirely revolves around Alice and this famous scene. There’s plenty of options available, but their Queen’s Tea is the pièce de résistance, sure to impress anyone – mad or not.

Richmond Tea Rooms, 15 Richmond St, Manchester M1 3HZ


Turkish Delight: The Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe
‘‘It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,’’ said the Queen presently.
‘‘What would you like best to eat?’’
“Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund.

Little Edmund Pevensie, the sneaky little bugger. Behind his family’s back, he gets seduced (not like that) by the White Witch, stitches them all up, gets Aslan killed and then feels all smug at the end when everything works out alright. Yeah good one Edmund, you little shit. Oh, and guess what he did all of this for? What so many of Narnia’s creatures died for? Turkish bloody Delight. Now, I’m a pretty big fan of Turkish Delight, and I suppose in wartime Britain it was a huge luxury, but he could have ANYTHING. A PlayStation 4? A 4-Finger Kit Kat Caramac? No. Turkish Delight. Idiot. Now I’m not going to tell you where to buy Turkish Delight in town, just go to ALDI. Instead head on over to Comptoir Libanais for their Turkish Delight cocktail, complete with Lanique rose liqueur, dark chocolate bitters, cranberry and creme cacao – it’s incredible.

Comptoir Libanais, 18-19 The Avenue, Manchester M3 3HF


Lemon Cake: Game of Thrones
Olenna Tyrell: “Shall we have some lemon cakes?”
Sansa Stark: “Lemon cakes are my favourite.”
Olenna Tyrell: “So we’ve been told.”

Vast swathes of Game of Thrones are dedicated to extensive and detailed descriptions of the food, drink and feasts that many of the characters get stuck into. You can just imagine George RR Martin dribbling onto his typewriter every few minutes and having to take a break to nip down the ‘offy and get himself another Ginster’s Pasty. Probably why the books are taking so long. Of note, though is Sansa Stark’s love of Lemon Cake, which I must admit, are an absolute winner. Patisserie Valerie, of course, do a cracking Citron Tart if that is your bag, and you can even sit in there with a lovely dress on for the afternoon, and nobody would bat an eyelid (or try to kill you). I did look around for a Pigeon Pie too, favourite of literal and genetic bastard Joffrey Baratheon on his wedding day but I couldn’t find one in the city. Perhaps someone could get a net around Piccadilly Gardens, grab some of those annoying little buggers and get them in a pie for us?!

Patisserie Valerie, 2-4 St Ann St, Manchester M3 2BW


Ready Player One at 17 Below: Ready Player One
I gave myself a crash course in ‘80s Saturday-morning cartoons.

So, this book might not be everyone’s cup of tea, with enough people out there slagging it off as a load of rubbish as much as saying that it’s decent. Personally, I thought it was alright – perfect for some pool action in Tenerife and so choc-full of 80’s references that it was like reading some of the rubbish that I come out with every day on these very pages. 17 Below do a cocktail called Ready Player One, which actually has nothing to do with the book (except the name) but is actually really bloody good, so it makes the list. It’s a concoction of Rum, Pineapple, Banana and Coconut which is a lot like a Pina Colada, but surrounded by the 80’s arcade games and the Pac Man neon – you can forgive them and just embrace the retro.

17 Below, 17 Bow Ln, Manchester M2 4FW


Bread & Wine: The Bible
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

Talking about the Bible in any setting is always a bit of a tight-rope. There’s still plenty of people out there who are just waiting for someone to slag it off, and they will pounce on you with the force of a thousand locusts. So, I won’t do it. I’ll just stick to the facts that I know and the stuff I’ve gleaned from them terribly illustrated Sunday School books that showed Jesus as a long-haired white bloke wearing sandals walking in front of a rainbow. At one point in the Bible, around the middle somewhere I think, Jesus pulls out some bread and wine for the Last Supper and hands it out to all his mates. I mean, who doesn’t want bread and wine? They’re brilliant; the more wine you drink the better the bread is, and the more bread you eat – the more wine you can drink. Best place in town? Bakerie who offer lashings of freshly baked bread every day, as well as a fantastic range of wines. Get yourself hooked on their Wine Jukebox and you’ll manage to get through enough grapes and bread to actually feed 5,000 people.

Bakerie, 45 Lever St, Manchester M1 1DN


Breakfast Chicken: To Kill A Mockingbird
“Gracious alive, Cal, what’s all this?” He was staring at his breakfast plate.
Calpurnia said, “Tom Robinson’s daddy sent you along this chicken this morning. I fixed it.”
“You tell him I’m proud to get it—bet they don’t have chicken for breakfast at the White House. What are these?”
“Rolls,” said Calpurnia. “Estelle down at the hotel sent ‘em.”

Atticus Finch, fighter for the downtrodden, champion against racism in the Deep South and all round bloody top bloke has just lost his trial and of course, is feeling a little bit bummed out. Not only has Tom Robinson been convicted but he’s also failed to prove to his kids that class and race cannot get in the way of truth and justice. He wakes up the day after the trial and is surprised to find a splendid chicken dinner laid out for breakfast – what would amount to a tantalising feast in those days. Well, fear not, because if you want chicken for breakfast, you can bloody have chicken for breakfast. My favourite and closest you’ll get to some proper Southern US chicken is Black Dog Ballroom, who offer a Chicken & Bacon Waffle dish, surprisingly piled with fried chicken, bacon, a big waffle and loads of maple syrup to pour on top.

Black Dog Ballroom NQ, 52 Church St, Manchester M4 1PW
Black Dog Ballroom NWS, 11-13 New Wakefield St, Manchester M1 5NP


Excellent Chowder: Moby Dick
Fishiest of all fishy places was the Try Pots, which well deserved its name; for the pots there were always boiling chowders. Chowder for breakfast, and chowder for dinner, and chowder for supper, till you began to look for fish-bones coming through your clothes.

Anyone who has had the misfortune of reading Moby Dick will probably groan with displeasure at its inclusion in this list. Considered one of the classics, when I picked up its hefty bulk and began to read I was quickly stopped in my tracks when the bit about whaling began – which pretty much just translates into an actual manual on how to catch whales. We’re talking what hooks and harpoons to use and how to chop them up and which bits are the best. It was so tedious that I popped it calmly on my bookshelf, never to be read again. There’s a bit in the book though where they reside in Nantucket, famous for its Chowder. A New England special, Chowder is a hearty seafood soup thickened up with milk or cream and ideally served within its own bread bowl. If you fancy chowing (sorry) down on some here in the city – head to seafood specialists Randall & Aubin for their New England Clam & Bacon Chowder with fresh cornbread.

Randall & Aubin, 64 Bridge St, Manchester M3 3BN


Whiskey: Animal Farm
“…It was a few days later than this that the pigs came upon a case of whisky in the cellars of the farmhouse. It had been overlooked at the time when the house was first occupied. That night there came from the farmhouse the sound of loud singing…”

The perfect allegory for how you should never trust a farmyard creature, Animal Farm was George Orwell’s answer to Walt Disney and his attempt to create a child-friendly romp in an English farmyard. Unfortunately, he focused way too much of his efforts into the more depressing aspects of farm life such as hard work, dictatorships and terror, instead of popping a few cute songs in there and some comic relief. Nevertheless, it’s still a riveting read with one of the more humorous parts coming when the pigs discover some whiskey in the farmhouse, get pissed and start acting the pan around the farm. If you want to do the same, pop a top hat on, balance a monocle on your face and walk on two legs (better!) and get down to The Whiskey Jar in the NQ who have over 300 whiskeys as well as plenty of cocktails flying around for you to sup.

The Whiskey Jar, 14 Tariff St, Manchester M1 2FF


Porridge – Oliver Twist
“Please, sir, I want some more.”

I bet you didn’t think you’d be sat there, reading this, with me telling you where’s good to buy porridge from. Porridge, a meal so boring and bland that they named a prison sitcom after it. Porridge, a meal that not even that rude little cow Goldilocks can stand to eat unless it’s the perfect temperature. Well, here we are, talking about porridge on Manchester’s Finest because of that most famous of scenes in Oliver Twist. The greedy little bugger wants some more, but he’s already had a bowl, so that fat geezer goes mental at him. After a brief discussion in the office (because I’d never buy porridge out ever) we settled on the best being Ezra & Gil in the NQ. Not only is it served up with blueberries, Greek yoghurt, pumpkin seeds and honey but apparently it’s heavenly in the mornings.

Ezra & Gil, 20 Hilton St, Manchester M1 1FR


Marmalade Cocktail: Paddington Bear
“Every morning?” The bear looked as if it could hardly believe its ears. “I only had it on special occasions at home. Marmalade’s very expensive in Darkest Peru.”

I’ll level with you. I know very little about Paddington Bear except the fact that he’s a bear, he wears a waterproof jacket and he enjoys marmalade butties. Oh and he’s from Peru. Which doesn’t make sense because he’s knocking around London getting into all sort of mischief. How did he get from Peru?  Last time I checked there are no direct trains from Peru to Paddington and if there was it would probably cost about a million pounds. Marmalade sandwiches are terrible, almost as bad as the jam butties me mam would put in my Turtles lunchbox when she forgot to buy Billy Bear, so I’m not going to let you know where the best one can be bought. Instead head to Hawksmoor who offer an absolutely bloody brilliant Marmalade Cocktail featuring Gin, Campari, Lemon and Marmalade. Even Paddington would get involved the little alcy.

Hawksmoor, 184-186 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3WB