Manchester is full of pubs and bars but this doesn’t stop new ones from constantly opening their doors in the city. As a creature of habit, I generally find myself sticking to the same places as I know what I like.
But with a free day and an open mind, we decided to spend an afternoon visiting some of the new openings in Manchester to see if any of them are worth a return visit.
When Manchester’s arthouse cinema relocated to a new area of the city and became Home, one of the things that was promised was new eating and drinking spots. At first, this felt like a wasted opportunity when the first two venues to open in the area were bland and generic Pizza Express and over-saturated coffee chain Starbucks. But in recent months, more independent venues have set up shop at First Street and one of the newest is The Gasworks.
Owned by the same team at The Dockyard, as soon as you enter its shared ownership is obvious as it has exactly the same industrial design as the group’s sites at MediaCity and Spinningfields. The only difference is the brewing equipment set up in the front window. The duplicate look isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a comfortable space with a mix of table and chair types suitable for larger and smaller groups.
During our visit on a Friday afternoon, the clientele was mainly groups of office workers having a long lunch so it had quite an upbeat atmosphere.
It had eight keg beers on with a decent range including Magic Rock, North Brewing, Runaway and Thornbridge along with around six cask beers including Brightside and Thirst Class.
As one of its USPs is the in-house brewery, I went for one of their own – in fact, the only one of their beers available. This was billed as a pale ale but it was disappointing as it tasted more like a lager than hadn’t finished the lagering process.
Overall, it’s alright. I can see it being popular with those who work nearby for lunch or an afterwork pint and it’s nice to see local breweries available. But as I was disappointed by their own beer, I’m not sure it’s somewhere I can see myself visiting on a regular basis.
5 Jack Rosenthal Street – gasworksbrewbar.co.uk
Bøck Biere Café
Focused on the beer of Belgium, Bøck Biere Café is located just off Cross Street so it’s not in one of the main bar areas of Manchester.
I was slightly dubious – which was purely because of the use of the Scandinavian ‘Ø’ in the name which seemed odd for a Belgian bar – but I’d heard good things about it and spotted some positive tweets from Manchester beer lovers so was happy to check it out.
The venue is set over two floors and the look is cosy and intimate with with brown leather couches, low lights and marble tables.
The main thing that makes it so different from anywhere else in the city is that it’s all table service – commonplace on mainland Europe, but very rare for a bar in the UK. We took a seat and the waiter (only one working at that time and he was extremely busy) brought us over a glass of tap water while we perused the menu.
The menu has around nine options on tap – eight from Belgium and one from Lost and Grounded. There’s also a decent bottle list which they say will be expanded as time goes on, and they’re happy to take suggestions from punters for additions.
One thing I wasn’t too keen on was unisex toilets – they are nicely designed and I assume it’s due to a lack of space but I’m just not a fan of them in general. However, this wouldn’t stop me returning and I look forward to see what else gets added to their menu in the coming months.
10 Tib Lane – twitter.com/bockbierecafe
I’ve written before about Bundobust so I won’t go into detail again, but I will say I’ve visited a fair few times since it’s opening in Manchester and I haven’t once been disappointed by the beer range.
Seven Brothers Beerhouse
A couple of years back, I lived near Ancoats and there wasn’t really too much around there, but things have moved on and Seven Brothers Beerhouse is one of a number of new openings in the area.
The first thing you notice is just how large it is – it covers two floors with plenty of seating including comfy couches. It feels very bright and welcoming thanks to skylights and plenty of lighting.
They’ve gone for an industrial look throughout with exposure walls and metal fixtures and fittings. It does look a bit unfinished in sections – particularly the MDF floor – but I assume as it’s only just opened there are some bits still to complete and when we were in, there did seem to be some meetings going on to enhance the venue.
I think one thing it does need is some guest beers. Seven Brothers only have a small range so for someone like me who is always looking to try something new, I’d want to see more options. They do have something called a ‘trial tap’ but when we enquired what it was, the chap behind the bar just replied “lager” with no further explanation so I’m not sure if this is a Seven Brothers brew or a guest option.
It’s quite a nice venue overall and they do have some bottles (I spotted Wylam in the fridge), but it’d need more variety on offer for it to become one of my regular haunts. It seems like the type of place which would appeal to freelancers as there’s plenty of tables, coffee and cake available – plus it also open its doors at 9am.
Blossom Street, Ancoats – twitter.com/SEVENBRO7MCR
Ancoats General Store
A convenience shop may not be the most obvious place to head to for a few beers, but Ancoats General Store isn’t like your typical Spar. Most of the venue is a traditional shop, but a small section at the front is a coffee shop/bar with two large tables and a few window seats.
It’s only a small drinks menu; four beers are available on draught (including options from Bad Co, Firestone Walker and Wild Beer on our visit) along with gin & tonic, wine and one cocktail option as well as hot drinks. Growler fills and take away coffee are also on offer.
The staff were helpful and keen to showcase their range of beers by offering tasters and advice, which is always welcome.
The space isn’t huge but it’s very comfortable and appealing. The decor is mainly wood-based with the tables and benches made of a varnished chipboard-style material, and I liked that the benches had small wheels on for ease of movement. It has a real neighbourhood feel to it – customers were popping in for growler fills and coffees to go during our time in there, and the staff seemed to know a number of them which adds to the friendly atmosphere. Somewhere I’d like to visit again if I find myself in that end of town.
57 Great Ancoats Street, Ancoats – ancoatsgs.co.uk
An interesting day visiting some newbies to the city, some of which I could see becoming added to my roster and some I wouldn’t necessarily make a beeline for. But it’s also good to see bar operators trying new ideas and venues opening in areas that aren’t already dominated by drinking establishments.
And finally, just to prove I’m a creature of habit, after we’d finished exploring some new places our final stop off was The Marble Arch for Lagonda and a cheeseboard. Perfect.