During the Manchester Food and Drink Festival last month, a Manchester based company named The Liquorists held 3 different trails around the many bars and restaurants Manchester has to offer. The Liquorists themselves are Jody Monteith and Tom Sneesby, 2 guys who know everything and anything about drinking in Manchester, so ideally the perfect hosts for 2 nights of exploring!
Due to commitments for the London Cocktail Week, I missed out on their ‘Trail of the Flowing Bowl’ which involved some of the city’s best rum bars. Never one to become distraught over missed opportunities, I signed myself up for their ‘Nominees Trail’ on the Saturday. This trail involved visiting a selection of bars and restaurants who were nominated in the festivals awards including best bar, best restaurant and best newcomer.
After gathering in the festival’s hub in Albert Square, Tom lead us to our first stop of the night, Vertigo. The site of the ex. Japanese restaurant Ithaca, it nows houses a modern European menu created by Head Chef Ian Armstrong. Making our way up the stairs to the top floor (the restaurants split over 5 levels), we all gathered round the rooms center bar, where Tom gave us an introduction to what the night had to offer, a little about the company he works for and the drink he was creating in front of us, a Jameson’s whiskey sour. Now I have to admit, I didn’t finish mine. I’m not a fan of whiskey sours but there were plenty of offers in the group to finish it off! We also enjoyed a small beetroot risotto with a herb sour cream to accompany.
After making our way down the flight of stairs, we walked over to Australasia in Spinningfields. Located underground, the entrance looks almost like a shard of glass sticking out of the paving stones. Walking down the flight of stairs, a long, sand coloured room is ahead of you where the seating of the restaurant is, with the bar behind. Here we enjoyed a Grey Goose mix in an Australasian Iced Tea or Fonzerelli’s Punch. Whilst sipping a two rather delightful cocktails, platters of Sushi were brought out (my heart sinking as I’m not the best when it comes to chopsticks!). Rather cunningly, I used the safe bet and re-named the platter ‘finger-food’!
The Alchemist was next on the trail, located just round the corner from Australasia (check out my review on The Alchemist here). The new Bacardi Oakheart was on the agenda, with Oakheart Mojito’s being crafted for us while we enjoyed crispy King Prawns on skewers. After taking in the wonderous setting, we hopped into a taxi and travelled to The Lowry. Their first floor bar was host to Galliano Ristretto Coffee shots that were handed out to be sipped and savoured, followed by a new creation named the Black Forest Gateaux cocktail. We enjoyed the ‘dessert’ part of the night on the balcony overlooking the River Irwell, while waiting for us inside were chocolate fondant’s with salted caramel, and I can safely say they were being made short work of!
The last bar of the night was a short taxi trip to Blackdog Ballroom in the Northern Quarter. Brugal Golden Mojito’s were created for our arrival as we made our way past the bar to the pool tables. A very sweet Mojito cheesecake finished the offerings off well, with a few games of pool to round off a great evening.
The next night, The Spirited Ventures trail took place (the theme of the night was that all the restaurants we will be visiting are owned by Living Ventures). Once again, we met in Albert Square and Tom hailed a taxi for us to travel to our first port of call – Grill on New York. A smaller group than the previous night, we were able to sit round one of the restaurants circular tables, and enjoyed the cocktail White Lady. The drink called for the use of Oxley gin, Cointreau and lemon juice to create a great appetizer! Duck spring rolls were brought out for us to compliment while we introduced ourselves to each other and Tom talked a little about The Liquorists and Living Ventures.
Grill on the Alley was next up, just a short taxi ride away off Deansgate. Sitting next to the bar on high tables and boothed-like seating, we were served a PPP Caiproska (pepper, Pernod and passion fruit) and Thai fish cakes, both being given thumbs up by the group! Live music entertained us from a far, with the restaurant bustling both upstairs and down. A short walk to Australasia (see above for last nights visit) culminated in an Australasia Pornstar with the use of Grey Goose vodka and a range of Sushi to tickle the taste buds.
Unfortunately, Living Ventures new restaurant, The OastHouse was not completed by the time the Manchester Food and Drink Festival rolled around, so we made our way round the corner to The Alchemist for two different offerings in the same bar. Hot Cognac laced mulled wine was a great winter warmer on a chilly night, with chicken skewers being brought out as we sat on the Union Jack leather couches at the end of the bar. Now me being me, i talked about one of The Alchemist most popular drinks, the Smokey Old Fashioned, pretty much all night. Low and behold, a tray of Makers Mark Smokey Old Fashioned’s were place on our table! Fantastic! A round of applause was given to our host as he had to scoot off to help de-construct their tent at the festival hub, while we finished the night sipping and enjoying our Old Fashioned’s, Cognac muld wine and some tasty looking mini burgers.
Two very good nights were enjoyed by all, with Tom showcasing the best that Manchester has to offer in a relaxed, yet almost without knowing it, busy night. Hard to believe by the end of one night, you’ve enjoyed 5 bars, 5 fantastic cocktails and 5 different light-bites.
The Liquorists are hosting a Vodka Trail next, and you can bet you’ll see me on that one!
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