They lean upwards to kiss the clouds. To the west, Deansgate Square South Tower, tallest UK building outside of London. To the east, slimline Beetham Tower, the thinnest of skyscrapers, flatpacked to 555 feet.
They will soon be joined by more gleaming high-rises in Manchester’s ever-expanding, 21st-Century skyline. Welcome to Manctopia.
So, what does this sweeping gentrification hold for a proud city, famous for football, music and textiles? Mancunians may be divided, but there’s no questioning the touristy appeal of the Manc-hattan skyline, as seen from the floor-to-ceiling windows of Hyatt House Manchester, itself a shiny, new landmark.
The view from the 18th floor is breathtaking. Mad for it? You bet. Such is the architectural eye candy that it becomes a guilty pleasure to leave the curtains open 24/7, falling asleep under a sea of tiny, twinkling lights, waking to nature’s alarm clock, a dazzling sheet of sunshine.
Spotless and stylish, Hyatt House’s apartments could be described as a home from home but, after months spent working from home in a smallish flat, it feels more like an upgrade. For a quiet, socially-distanced night in, the kitchen has everything you need: hobs, fridge, dishwasher, microwave, coffee-maker, toaster, and pots and pans.
The living space has comfy couches, and wall-mounted TV, as does the bedroom, which also has built-in wardrobes and modern en suite.
Hyatt House is part of The Lume building, in the university district. The Lume is also home to Hyatt Regency, which has a further 212 rooms. Guests – we all know the drill by now – must wear masks as they come and go.
After a cooked breakfast in The Laureate Restaurant, it’s time to explore. From Hyatt House, it’s a 20-minute walk along Oxford Road into the city centre, but first stop is the Imperial War Museum North at Salford Quays.
It’s a humbling delve into the past: from the field gun which fired the opening British shots of the First World War, to a copy of Mein Kampf signed by Hitler, and twisted steel from the World Trade Center There’s an unarmed, training version of the WE-177 nuclear bomb, and a flamethrower used at sea – on HMS Vindictive during the 1918 Zebrugge Raid.
The personal objects are the most poignant – soldiers’ diaries, masks, torches and scraps of photos.
Salford Quays is also home to BBC and ITV’s MediaCity UK studios, outlet shopping at The Lowry and a plethora of chain dining options, all in the shadow of Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium.
Now, back into the city by tram. Under six grade two-listed railway arches, sits the Spirit Of Manchester Distillery. There are three copper stills, and the largest can produce one million bottles of gin a year (during the pandemic, production switched to hand sanitiser, with thousands of bottles going to the NHS).
As a newcomer to the drink, the tasting session is like a fun, first day at gin school. The Signature blend is smooth and citrusy, with a nutty, liquoricey kick. The sage and thyme-infused Wild Spirit, meanwhile, is crisp and creamy. Then there’s The FAC51 Hacienda, a collaboration with musician Peter Hook, which uses lemon and lime peel, in tribute to the acid house scene, as well as locally-sourced dandelion and burdock root.
Next door in Three Little Words restaurant, I enjoy split pea hummus and sourdough crackers for starters, followed by gorgeous lime and coconut chicken, with spicy rice and kale.
There is still time for a stroll around the hipster-friendly Northern Quarter, full of lively bars, cafes and restaurants, and striking street art, with one more culinary treat to come.
Back at the hotel, in the Graduate Bar, I’ve been urged to try one of chef Halima’s pizzas, and within a few bites it’s easy to taste why. Satisfyingly chewy sourdough is topped with Italian cured meats, rocket, and chilli oil. Showstopping stuff.
If there’s one regret on this trip, it’s that Piccadilly Records, famed vinyl emporium, is closed, after Record Store Day. They’ve earned the rest. Next time.
See you again, Manchester – you really hit the heights.
The National Football Museum is the big attraction for lovers of the beautiful game, covering everything from the early years of the World Cup to local boy Marcus Rashford’s off-the-field campaigning.
Paul stayed in a one-bedroom apartment in Hyatt House. Rooms from £105 per room per night. Call 0161 359 5556 or visit hyatthousemanchester.com. For Hyatt Regency, call 0161 359 5550 or visit hyattregencymanchester.com. Before you book, please check the latest travel advice at gov.scot and gov.uk
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