The second instalment of the Liquor Market is coming back to the Manchester Food and Drink Festival this September 27th as artisan, craft and boutique spirits make their way to Elixir Tonics & Treats. First held at the annual festival last year, the success has prompted curator Dave Marsland of Drinks Enthusiast to host another selection of spirits in one of Manchester’s most recognisable bars.
For one day only, the Deansgate based venue will be holding a number of stalls that will hold the likes of City of London gin, the first distillery in the City in over 200 years, as well as the highly acclaimed Italian range of Cocchi vermouth, Colorado newcomer Tincup whiskey and the Mexican styles of El Ron Prohibido rum.
Two sessions are available for the day, with the ticket price of £10 gaining you entry to your preferred time and giving you the chance to mingle, sample and experience a range of spirits straight from the brands themselves. Signature serves and recipe ideas will be available, as will the chance to purchase your favourite tipples directly on the day.
Other spirits available include the first showing of Sibling Distillery into the Manchester area as the young team bring their triple distilled gin. The Welsh Whisky Company are travelling up with their selection that includes Penderyn whisky, Brecon gin, Merlyn liqueur and Five vodka, whilst The Bottle Drinks Company will be showing off the likes of R. Delisle cognac and ‘The Secret’ chocolate fortified wine.
The Spanish style of Licor 43 will be on hand with recipe ideas, as will The Kraken spiced rum, Konik’s Tail vodka and The Irishman whiskey amongst others.
You will also be able to look into the world of drinks related photography at the market as award-winning and Manchester based bartender Jamie Stephenson brings his work for the viewing public.
All ticket holders will also have the chance to enter the Elixir Tonics & Treats liquor party to be held straight after the last session at 6pm. This gives the chance for the showcased brands to be a part of a specially curated menu for the evening and finishes the artisan market off in style.
“There always seems to be something new popping up in the Manchester restaurant scene. New concepts, new ideas, re-vamping tired menus or giving a new lease of life into forgotten venues. These are what seem to define many a city’s food culture. To be fair, nothing against that. It’s what keeps us on our toes – the buzz through social media, word of mouth or a quick e-mail and text after you see the erection of a ‘coming soon’ sign. In Manchester, there is one company that seems to get the most buzz no matter what the concept or idea, and to count their venues to the mid-twenties is an astounding achievement. Living Ventures have proven once again that they can transform even the most quirky of locations into a masterpiece in the form of Artisan.”
You could possibly recognise the above statement. For avid readers of my website, this is taken from my previous visit to Artisan last September, and it’s a statement I still stand by. Why? Artisan is evolving, Living Ventures is evolving. Manchester is evolving.
Bold words perhaps? A visit to Artisan this week could very well prove my point in the coming weeks as the venue opens a second bar within its establishment, following on from the success of opening its original floor plan to accommodate the tipple crowd. That’s not all though. One word could be the buzz of Manchester very soon – Cinema. I will say no more, yet.
My reason for coming back this time around was a simple one though. I enjoyed the food on my first visit, and it is still spoken about today between me and my partner, and anyone who will listen to me, but my only criticism was to be the cocktails. Good, but not what I would call great. I took on board a recommendation I gave previously, ordering the aptly named The Artisan (£6.95) which involves Green Mark vodka, Aperol, pomegranate, mint and apple juice.
No tin cup in sight, instead a hurricane glass to show off the mint and apple pieces. The Aperol dominates, creating a drink that had a slight sweetness to it, but fresh, red fruit flavours burst, resulting in a slightly dry finish. Perfect for what was a humid evening. My partner (once again, to be called Miss J from here onwards) chose The Broken Rose (£6.50), bringing together Beefeater, rose liqueur, almond syrup, pineapple and lemon juice smashed with rose petals. It looked stunning, yet simple, with the dry nose of the rose petals being a great invitation to sip. The almond and rose create a rich flavour blend, although it was to be a rather short offering. Slightly sweet, but ultimately a good choice.
The food menu seemed a little sparse compared to our last visit, but by no means did that mean a lack of choice. If you know me well, I do love a menu that offers you more than one dish to salivate over. Artisan gave me several, and it has me itching to come back to try the one’s that I had to cut from my chosen order, the St Louis cut salt and pepper pork ribs with kimchee and coleslaw (£14.95). To back up a little though, Miss J opted for a starter the Braised meatballs in tomato sauce (£5.95), a dish that, she proclaimed in a simple phrase, came with “awesome meat”. She was right too, being enjoyed with a light sauce, steaming hot, fresh and plenty of heavy meat. No light and airy meatballs here.
I went for a simple dish too, the Prawn salad with guacamole (£7.50). Good presentation, but the prawns didn’t taste fresh, and the pairing with guacamole seemed a little pointless, it just didn’t seem to compliment. For the price, I’m afraid it just wasn’t worth it.
To the mains now, and as mentioned, the St Louis cut with pork ribs was to be my chosen champion from within the multiple choices I could have enjoyed, whilst Miss J went for the Skillet of smoked salmon, poached eggs, green vegetables, hollandaise and crushed potatoes (£10.95). Again, both came with some good presentation, with the smoked salmon looking alive with colour, dripping soft poached eggs and creamy hollandaise, giving off rich, warm flavours. The kimchee and home-made coleslaw complimented my St Louis cut in both look and flavour, with the meat being well-seasoned and cooked, giving a dry pepper and herb edge to it all.
With us both leaving a little room for dessert, the stand-out Hot chocolate fondant with coconut ice-cream (£5.95) came for us each, one with gingerbread ice-cream and the other with salted caramel. Hot, rich and incredibly moorish. A great way to finish the evening.
The food was brilliant, although I do wish I chose another starter. Trial and error though Is what I’ll be putting that down to. The drinks? Well, now I have something to talk about for both sides of the menu. Refreshing, well presented, and above all, tasty. Much better than our last visit, and even though I missed out on the likes of the TwoTone Daiquiri and Cinnaberry, plus classics such as the Negroni and Quick Old Fashioned, I can only imagine that I’ll be impressed upon my next visit, which incidentally will focus on these delights.
Give a place another chance, and you may surprise yourself. I look forward to crawling through the delights within their open planned bar area. Well the chairs and sofas do look like a comfy place to while away an evening. Won’t you join me?
There always seems to be something new popping up in the Manchester restaurant scene. New concepts, new ideas, re-vamping tired menus or giving a new lease of life into forgotten venues. These are what seem to define many a city’s food culture. To be fair, nothing against that. It’s what keeps us on our toes – the buzz through social media, word of mouth or a quick e-mail and text after you see the erection of a ‘coming soon’ sign. In Manchester, there is one company that seems to get the most buzz no matter what the concept or idea, and to count their venues to the mid-twenties is an astounding achievement. Living Ventures have proven once again that they can transform even the most quirky of locations into a masterpiece in the form of Artisan.
Located on Avenue North off Bridge Street, you immediately enter a lobby selling Artisan clothing and adorned with cast iron lamp shades, plenty a stencilled ‘A’ on the walls and what looks like a giant poster advertising Artisan to the outside world. Wander yourself upstairs to be greeted by the welcome desk and smiles a plenty. It kind of reminds you that you’ve been greeted by an office receptionist, and once entering the main restaurant, it confirms your thoughts. It’s a low-level, stripped back office floor converted in the best way possible. Exposed brick walls, iron castings and wooden features blend well to create a warm atmosphere. Makes no sense does it? It just seems to work! Low level lighting gives it that intimate feel, but big parties would not feel out-of-place at all.
I myself came down with my girlfriend (who we shall name Miss J from now on) so although having a table for two booked on a Tuesday evening, we were treated to a table for six to offer us a bit more room to spread out. I like that. Browsing the drink menu you see your usual array of delights with a good selection of beers of both lager and ale varieties, and some tempting wines which don’t come in at a hefty price. We both opted for an Artisan Signature from their cocktail section. Myself been persuaded by the Choc Orange Crush (£5.95) which blended Grand Marnier with Illy coffee and Mozart dark chocolate liqueur, milk and cream, served up in a paint can over crushed ice. Another paint can cocktail arrived for Miss J in the form of a Tropical Julep (£5.95) built using Southern Comfort, peach liqueur, pineapple juice lime and fresh mint, again over crushed ice. Not a bad choice of concoctions, although always the way with crushed ice, the drink just seemed to disappear a little quicker than you expect. Never the less, we enjoyed whilst browsing the main menu.
Appropriately named little plates, big plates, salads and pizzas, you’re, or we especially, were a little stumped of what to ask for. I could have easily gone for what could have amassed as a buffet than a single dish, which I think always says something for a new menu. Starters such as Wood Roasted Sardines (£5.95) or Mackerel and Horseradish Pâté (£5.75) jump out at you, but Miss J opted for the Baked Camembert with Spiced Sugar Nuts and a Beetroot and Red Onion Chutney (£6.50) whilst I had the Houmous with Sugar Spiced Nuts and Crispy Flatbread (£5.25). Miss J’s came served hot on a wooden board, with the camembert housed within a pan, and ramekins for the sides. Nicely presented, with everything looking as fresh as possible. Mine came on what looked like a piece of corragated iron (no other way I could describe it), with each dip of the plate housing either salad, houmous or three long strands of flatbread. Warm and fresh, it took a while to get through them both, but did well to leave enough room for our mains.
Miss J went with the Whole Mackerel Baked on Pine (£12.95), which literally came out as a whole mackerel, complete with head and tail. Great presentation! And it was gone before you could even say “how is it”. Surely one of the best compliments to receive? Myself I went for The Greek pizza (£10) which had toppings including feta, olives, tomato, cous cous salad and mint yoghurt. A rather sizeable pizza arrived, piping hot and looking inviting to devour. Tell you a little secret though, I couldn’t finish it. It defeated me. But it did it in a way that I held my hands up to say “eyes bigger than my stomach!”.
We’d been looked after throughout the evening, with a sole waitress for our set of tables doing what floor staff should do best, be attentive but not too over-bearing. Always with a smile, and making sure we had top-ups as and when. And of course, always on hand with a dessert menu.
Champagne Jelly with an Ice Cream Sandwich (£5.95) and Salted Caramel Baked Banana with Gingerbread Ice Cream (£4.50) looked the highlights, but for us both, we went for a liquid ending. Miss J had herself a Cucumber and Elderflower Cooler (£6.50) which mixed Beefeater gin, elderflower liqueur, mint, cucumber and lime juice then lengthened with lemonade, while I went for a caffeine boost in a Cappuccino (£2). I did take a look over the rest of the drinks menu though, and a couple of cocktails stood out for next time including The Artisan (£6.50) which involves Green Mark vodka, Aperol, pomegranate, mint and apple juice, whilst the Smokey Lynchburg (£6.95) has Jack Daniel’s, Cointreau, fresh lemon juice and sugar, with hickory smoke flavouring for depth, and a splash of coke. Also there is the Chilli Gin Colada (£6.50) which has fresh red chilli shaken with Beefeater gin, pineapple juice, lime juice and coconut cream.
I was impressed. The atmosphere was good, the layout looks great, the 20ft bar garnered attention meaning it needs a proper visit on its own, and the food was top-notch. I’d go again, especially a big group within one of their private areas. Now THEY look artistic. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better.