We enjoyed our recent tour of Manchester’s cocktail bars so much that we had to go back for a second sip and stay longer.
Black Dog Ballroom
There are two Black Dog Ballrooms, one in Manchester’s Northern quarter and one on Wakefield Street. Together they combine with the Underdog, the Dog Bowl and The Liars Club to form the Black Dog Ballroom collection, founded by Jobe Ferguson and Ross McKenzie. We loved the Liars Club and covered it in our earlier post on Manchester. It has a strong tiki theme unlike the other Dog Bars that centre on Bruce the Patterdale Terrier.
The Black Dog Ballrooms have been designed with New York very much in mind. The cocktail and food menus have a distinct Manhattan feel to them and the red topped pool tables in the Northern Quarter blend a degree of sophistication with hustler chic. The American menu is filled with top quality, freshly prepared burgers and pizzas while the cocktails are prepared by some of the UK’s finest cocktail specialists. There are so many glorious cocktails that it is hard to suggest a favourite but if you really twist our arm, the White Rum Punch might just get the nod, (rum, passion fruit, pineapple, apple cranberry and lime).
Keko Moku is a small tiki bar that is huge on fun. Indeed it is a little like the TARDIS. Not so much larger on the inside than the outside but step through the front door and you are instantly transported half a world away. The straw-topped beach hut bar is a remarkable and very welcome contrast to the Northern Quarter of Manchester. There are barrels for bar stools, simple wooden tables and over 50 different varieties of rum on offer. The smiles of the bar crew and a very laid back atmosphere complete the illusion.
The cocktail menu is extensive with a few familiar favourites complimented by the tiki cocktails. As you might expect rum features heavily on the ingredient list but there are some unique mixes here and it is worth exploring. One to try is the King Kilauea, a great flaming bowl of a cocktail comprising three different types of rum, Giffard Abricot du Roussillon liqueur, brandy and a mix of sugars and spices. It is yummy but be warned it is served in a big bowl to be shared by four people so take a friend or two with you.
Uniquely the Dog Bowl combines great cocktails with ten pin bowling. It is the third venue in the Black Dog collection and it combines everything that is great about the Black Dog Ballroom but with five bowling lanes. Even the family quirkiness around Bruce, the Patterdale Terrier, is there and cheekily manifests itself in the imaginative design of the bowling ball dispensers. The concept would make any dog’s eyes water and it is no wonder that Bruce has buried his head.
There is a distinctly American style to the bar and the restaurant that promotes an easy, East Coast ambiance. Food is definitive TexMex, BBQ steak, quesadillas and the best fajitas for miles around. The cocktail menu compliments the food and our two to try are the Tijuana Sling (El Jimador, Giffard Cassis Noir de Bourgogne, Angostura bitters, lime, ginger ale) and the Pornstar Martini (vodka, Giffard Vanille de Madagascar, passion fruit, butterscotch, lemon and champagne).
Mr Cooper’s House & Garden
Back in 1819, Thomas Cooper was a popular Manchester figure renowned for his hospitality and beautiful gardens. On selected days, the Cooper family would open the garden to the public and invite them to picnic there among the strawberries, gooseberries, apples and flowers. Now the site is occupied by the renowned Midland Hotel and acclaimed chef and restaurateur, Simon Rogan, has opened the doors to Mr Cooper’s House once again with a compelling fine dining offering and a very fine cocktail list.
Mr Cooper’s House and Garden is a very different Manchester experience from those that we have enjoyed so far. The restaurant and bar are light, spacious and sophisticated. The unusual mix of the hotel’s 1903 architecture, clean 21st century wooden garden furniture and the proliferation of large indoor plants, all brought to life with an abundance of natural light, make for a delightful experience whether you are eating or simply enjoying a cocktail at the bar.
As you would expect the wine list is fantastic but it was the cocktail menu, prepared by Tim Laferla, that caught our eye and we went straight for the signature list. It was hard to resist the Turn of the Century, so we didn’t, (gin, lemon, Lillet Blanc, Giffard Crème de Cacao, lavender honey, served with an edible flower). Enjoy!