As summer in Manchester is a sporadic affair at the best of time, a pub trip with the sole purpose of enjoying the beer garden can seem a bit too much of a commitment. Here are three establishments that offer a similar glimpse of the sun – but from a height, raising the bar for people-watching and feeling a touch more glamorous when the heavens opens and you’re avoiding the downpour.

1. Épernay Champagne & Cocktail Bar (pictured)
A few years ago, there would be nothing to gaze over as you sipped your champagne in the sunshine here. Situated above Taps Pourhouse outside the Great Northern, the area was a little bit desolate before the likes of All Star Lanes, Lucha Libre and Almost Famous upped the people-watching ante. Now, as you perch on Épernay’s wooden benches, the area is bursting with all sorts to muse over: business types, families, awkward first daters and even the odd celebrity can all be found milling about. Secret enough to resist overcrowding, the Épernay balcony is the perfect location to relax after a long day with a G&T or a sumptuous cocktail crafted by the knowledgeable and friendly bartenders.
Unit 1a, Great Northern Tower, Watson Street, M3 4EE, Tel: 0161 834 8802, Mon – Wed 2pm – 12am, Thu 12pm – 12am, Fri & Sat 12pm – 2am, Sun 12am – 11pm,

2. Big Hands
A little rough around the edges, permanently playing excellent music and adorned with band posters, music flyers, beer mats and old vinyl, this rock ‘n’ roll dive bar is a far cry from the glitz of the perfectly manicured cocktail bars of Spinningfields. Known for being the haunt of the musicians who have just swaggered off stage at the Academy next door, Big Hands is the perfect venue for a pint a few seats away from rock stars and roadies. The balcony, however, is its crowning glory. More of a roof terrace, it’s crammed with mis-matched furniture and gives way to a small roof garden that is full of tangled plants and vibrant colours. Tucked away is a barbecue, which is whipped out when staff are feeling particularly optimistic about the weather. Located on the busy Oxford Road corridor, the vibe is youthful, grungy and music-focused. Perfect for a cold pint and a toy with the best jukebox in the city.
296 Oxford Road, M13 9NS, Tel: 0161 272 7309, Mon – Fri 10am – 2am, Sat 12pm – 3am, Sun 6pm – 1am,

3. The Lounge at Manchester House
The jewel in the crown of Tim Bacon’s empire, Manchester House offers luxury and glamour to the young professionals of the city (and those out to impress). But even if that’s not your thing, the beautiful panoramic views of the city from 12 floors up are impossible to resist. The rooftop corner terraces are available for private bookings and are equipped with wifi and even space to plug in your iPod so that you can be DJ for the night. With the smart, luxurious surroundings and dramatic skyline views, The Lounge at Manchester House provides elegance and opulence to after-dinner cocktails, or a romantic gaze across the city.
Tower 12, 18-22 Bridge Street, Spinningfields, M3 3BZ, Tel: 0161 835 2557, Tue – Sat 12pm – late,

Nancy Dent
Published on:
Thu 19 Jun 2014