1. It’s the up-and-coming place to be!
Didsbury is the postcode for the aspiring middle classes of the new millennium. Professionals and families with an eye on the Victorian semi with original features. All around are green spaces and leafy lanes in which to take the £3000 bike out for a weekend spin. For longer excursions there’s always the Porsche Cayenne or the Range Rover Sport, a recent upgrade from the Audi A5 that just isn’t that comfortable anymore.
2. It supports the local lot
House prices may have shot through the roof, putting Didsbury beyond the reach of a whole new generation of young professionals on fixed-term contracts and zero job security, but it’s not all about the money. Didsbury has embraced the ‘shop local’ mantra, so wedged between the estate agents you’ll find a bunch of locally owned businesses with a commitment to excellence. There’s the family-owned Axon’s (5 Barlow Moor Road), one of the best butchers in Manchester. Just around the corner, the Cheese Hamlet (706 Wilmslow Road) is so representative of Didsbury that it made its way into the lyrics of ‘I Think We’re in Didsbury,’ () a parody of the village that became a YouTube viral hit. It’s too easy to parody anyone who knows the difference between various types of brie, but their cheese is really, really good. I wonder if the authors of the song knew that the local Aldi stocks coconut water, a staple of any self-respecting Didsbury household.
3. It’s the setting for ITV’s Cold Feet
The famous British answer to Friends recently returned to our screens after a 13-year hiatus. In the late 1990s, Didsbury was where moderately educated professionals stumbled into mortgages fresh out of university, and the TV series captured the ambitious frolics of the six friends making their way into adulthood and parenthood – back then it was still possible to start your life in Didsbury. The gang are back (minus Rachel of course, killed off in an accident in series 5; I’m told Helen Baxendale politely declined the offer to return as a ghost) but have forsaken Faithless and the boundless optimism of Blairite Britain for the burdensome misery of middle age, which is tempered by mindfulness podcasts and comedic midlife crises.
Throughout, Didsbury remains constant, the Victorian semis – now with extended kitchens and loft conversions – still the ultimate object of desire for the suburban middle classes. But now the village has a tram line, so even if you can’t buy here, you can still get here easy enough from everywhere else.
So, what to do once you do get here?
4. There’s a lot to see and do
Didsbury is bordered by some pretty lush greenery. There’s few better places in Manchester to go for a walk than the woodland walkways of Fletcher Moss Park, starting in the gardens of the Parsonage where Fletcher Moss lived between 1865 and 1919 and going as far down as the Merseybank playing fields by the river. The Alpine Tea Room is a pleasant enough café in old Croft from 1795, on the edge of the botanical gardens. And for all you Cold Feet fans, Karen’s house in Didsbury is on nearby Kingston Road, just up from the side entrance to the park.
4. There’s even more to drink
Didsbury is chocka block full of pubs, many of which are included on the infamous Didsbury Dozen pub crawl, which consolidates the drinking excesses of a bunch of beered-up twits in rugby jerseys into ‘a thing.’ Hard to imagine 20 lads fitting into the narrow corridor of The Station (682 Wilmslow Road), a traditional Irish bar with a great pint of Guinness and decent ales. There’s more room in the Fletcher Moss (1 William St), another fuss-free traditional pub with a beer garden out the back and quiz nights on Tuesday. Older punters sit in the front for a quiet chat if the big screens in the main bar are showing football.
For drinks of the non-acloholic kind, my favourite spot is the Art of Tea (47 Barlow Moor Road; ; 9am-11pm Mon-Sat, 10am-10pm Sun), a café with a fine selection of brews and marvellous taste in music. Through a door at the back you get to a bockety bookshop, with floor-to-ceiling shelves stuffed with second-hand books. It’s is the perfect antidote to the the shit coffee-to-go philosophy of the chain cafes: you can hang out as long as you want, and if you present a stamped loyalty card from another café you’ll get tea or coffee for £1, as part of their disloyalty programme.
5. And still more to eat…
Didsbury is lined with restaurants, but my choice is Casa Italia (688-690 Wilmslow Road; 9am-10pm Mon-Wed, to 11.30pm Thu-Sat, to 9pm Sun). It calls itself the ‘home of Italian food,’ and there’s few more authentic Italian spots to be found anywhere: it is staffed almost entirely by Italians but, more importantly, is stuffed with artisanal produce imported directly from the old country. I’m especially partial to the cheese-and-prosciutto sandwich, but their deli counter is simply sensational, with a terrific selection of cured meats, cheeses, sauces and pasta – their pasta di Gragnano, homemade in Naples, is the best I’ve ever tasted anywhere. They also do a pretty mean cappuccino.
6. There are some gorgeous places to take an overnight kip
The only reason to stay is because you’re on a second or third date and you’re really looking to impress, or maybe because you’re celebrating a notable anniversary (in which case I’d ask why you haven’t sprung for a weekend in Paris?), but if you must then have the choice of two
Victorian boutique hotels – either Eleven Didsbury Park (rooms from £90) or the Didsbury House Hotel (rooms from £95), both part of the Eclectic Hotels group that also own Great John Street Hotel and King Street Townhouse in town: inside it’s all mod cons and an emphasis on original features and classy décor.