Artisan Review


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.

Choc Orange Crush
Choc Orange Crush

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.

Mackerel - Artisan
Whole Mackerel Baked on Pine

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.

Check out the rest of the photos via my Facebook page.

I re-visited Artisan in June 2014. Click here to see if Artisan had become any better over a year later.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Neighbourhood Review


As with any big city, there’s aways something new and exciting to check out. Round every corner there’s scaffolding popping up, huge signs with the words ‘coming soon!’ and a buzz on social media of the venue working its magic. With no exception would be Neighbourhood. An American styled bar and restaurant located on Avenue North, behind Oasthouse, by the same guys who brought you Southern Eleven. Apparently taking its inspiration from iconic New York restaurants and housing around 200 covers, it produced a media frenzy (well social media) on its opening night last Thursday, but a Manchester Confidential invite on the Friday meant I had to wait to see what all the fuss was about.

Down what I can only describe as a posh looking back alley you will find multi coloured metal framed tables and chairs. Intriguing more than anything but I can imagine them being taken full advantage of when summer hits for a week in 2013. Friendly door staff showed me the way to my ticket where I could choose my drink for the evening. As a Drinks Enthusiast, I opted for the cocktail offering – Basil Grande.

A good dose of Absolut, raspberry puree, cranberry and lemon juice served in a Martini glass and fresh strawberry garnish went down a treat with me. Unbelievably smooth with a velvet texture hit the spot, and despite not being the first cocktail of the night to be created by the bartender, nothing was too much trouble. I have to point out that for a night like this, customer service could not be faulted, and there were plenty of them to serve you.

Basil Grande
Basil Grande

Although busy, the atmosphere was rather relaxed. No stressful vibes were being omitted from the invitees as they scattered between the long bar and tall tables. Separating us from the main restaurant though was a magnificent looking lit up organ pipe work connecting itself to see-through cabinets full of weird and wonderful items. A large circular booth dominated the room, which looks perfect for holding large parties, being overlooked by an open-hatched kitchen and mezzanine level which you can apparently hire out. The layout also extends down the back of the venue and to the side, so there’s ample space to enjoy and areas to also have a quiet, relaxed meal away from the hustle and bustle of the bar.

The music also had a good selection. Although maybe a little too loud, the beat heavy tracks of Blondie, Police and Soft Cell do make you realise that it’s not your average restaurant with an iPod on shuffle. When was the last time you heard these artists in the same night at 6pm??

The night wasn’t just for Manchester Confidential though, it was open to the public too with orders flying around for Manhattan’s, Old Fashioned’s, Pornstar Martini’s and Tom Collins galore, mixed with calls for wine and Champagne. There offering on the bar isn’t too bad, with Samuel Adams and Asahi on draught and bottles of Heineken, Cusquena, Moretti and Saint completing the range. Spirit selection is rather varied too, with Beefeater 24, Zubrowka, Olmeca, Hendrick’s, Woodford Reserve, Tanqueray 10, Chase Marmalade and the Plymouth range some of the highlights. The back bar comes complete with a back wall. A noughts and crosses style shelving housing delights such as Dom Perignon, Veuve Cliquot and Belle Epoque – a rather impressive sight.

You may have noticed that I’m yet to mention anything about the food. Truth is, I missed out. Not that they ran out or anything, I unfortunately had to leave earlier than intended however I will say this – some of the smells and aromas coming from that kitchen were absolutely fantastic. No word of a lie.

So Neighbourhood is a rather interesting addition to the Manchester scene, and to Spinningfields which breaks up the Living Ventures monopoly so-to-speak, and I will be back to see what it’s like in a few weeks, see if it can carry on its impressive start, and to try out the food. Oh and the cocktails – they don’t seem to be too much trouble to create.

Check out the rest of the photos from the evening via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.