Chinatown Manchester. Where to eat and some history.
Chinatown Manchester is the second biggest in the UK after London. It is right in the middle of the city, between Piccadilly gardens and St Peter’s square. A great place to eat and shop for exotic groceries, it’s a must visit when you’re in Manchester.
A little bit of Chinatown history
In the early part of the 20th century Manchester welcomed it’s first Chinese settlers. Many of whom worked in the laundry industry.This was the birth of Chinatown Manchester. After the second world war Manchester experienced a lot of immigration. People came from around the world taking advantage of the British Nationality Act. Britain needed more people for it’s post war workforce. One group of people who came were the Chinese. Most came to Manchester from Hong Kong, the Cantonese region of China. As a result a lot of us locals refer to Cantonese food as Chinese food. In fact Chinese food comes in many different regional forms.
Manchester’s Chinatown today
The most striking thing about Chinatown is Paifang archway on Faulkner street. This huge Chinese arch was built in China and shipped to Manchester in 1986 in 3 seperate parts. The arch is a gift to the Chinese community from Manchester City Council.
There are a lot of different restaurants to eat at around the area. You’ll notice that it’s not just Chinese restaurants. There’s Thai, Vietnamese and even Japanese here. One reason for this is the local Asian grocery stores. You can buy things here that you can’t find in normal grocery stores in the UK.
Where to eat in Chinatown
For many of us Mancunians we have our favourite go to places to eat in Chinatown Manchester. Old school restaurants like The Yang Sing on Princess street have been serving us for decades. Manchester’s palate has matured over the years. We now have many speciality Chinese restaurants such as Hunan on George street. Here the food is from the Hunan area of China, so spicier than Cantonese food. There’s also Red n Hot on Faulkner street for those looking for that Szechuan spice kick. Yuzu is a popular Japanese spot with a great sake bar.
Weird fact about Chinatown Manchester
On George street there is a small building called the Guardian Telephone Exchange. This was built in the late 50’s and sits at the entrance to a 4 mile network of underground tunnels. The tunnels were to house officials and workers in the event of a nuclear attack during the cold war. Similar tunnels were in place in London and Birmingham. Apparently, the tunnels were dug by Polish workers. The Poles couldn’t speak any English so there was less risk of anyone knowing they were there.
If you’d like to explore Manchester book on one of our food tours. Our food tours take you around the city centre on a 3 hour walking and eating adventure. We’ll tell you the story of Manchester’s communities and eat their food. Go to www.mancesterbites.com for more details.
Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. And that Dylan concert.
We are lucky to have numerous historical buildings in Manchester city centre. One such building that you can visit is Manchester’s Free Trade Hall. Built in 1856 this grade 2 listed building stands on the site of the Peterloo Massacre. Originally the building was used as a meeting place for the local business community.
It had a vital role in the repealing of the corn laws. The corn laws meant that imports of grain, corn and wheat were taxed. This meant that landowners in Britain could charge a higher price for their corn. As a result it became more expensive to eat. Over time many urban centres such as Manchester rose up and rebelled against the law. The Free Trade Hall was Manchester’s epicentre for anti corn law demonstrations.
Fast forward to December 1940. Manchester was under attack from the German Luftwaffe. The Free Trade Hall suffered great damage. Only the frame of the building survived. In the 1950’s the hall was re-built behind the original outer wall.
A centre of Manchester’s music scene.
The Free Trade Hall became home to Manchester’s Halle Orchestra. In fact it continued to be their home right up until 1996. That is when the Bridgewater Hall took over. It wasn’t just classical concerts that the hall held. One of the most famous episodes in the hall’s history came in 1966.
Bob Dylan was touring the UK and at the time was causing quite some controversy. Dylan was using an electric guitar which was seen by many of his fans as distasteful. At a gig in the Free Trade Hall on 16th May, Dylan was heckled and called “Judas” by a concert goer. Many fans started to slow clap and some even walked out. Dylan kept going. He knew what he was doing was changing the face of music at the time. In 1998 Dylan released the recording of the gig. Manchester bands such as The Fall, The Smiths and Joy Division all say they were heavily influenced by this event.
Today the Free Trade Hall is a Radisson Hotel. You can still go in and admire the stunning entrance hall and enjoy a drink at the bar.
If you are interested to know more about Manchester and it’s incredible history, book a tour with us. Our food tours take in some of Manchester’s best local bites as well as a wealth of history and culture. To book a tour go to www.manchesterbites.com