Always taken with the number of new bars and restaurants opening in Manchester, an article in the Manchester Evening News, promoting the Northern Quarter’s new Allotment Bar, caught my eye. So, the very next time we were in town at lunchtime (OK, it was a late lunch), Mark and I decided to give it a try.
From the outside, the bar is unassuming. We had walked past it on the way in to town without even realising. Mark had noticed the green ‘grass’ in the entrance, but, whilst in material shopping mode (I am looking for some material to cover my wing back chairs), we did not appreciate that we had passed the bar until we were actually looking for it. Mind you, the same can be said of most bars in the Northern Quarter. I have been to so many at nighttime, but try to find them in the cold light of day, and I am lost without my phone and Google Maps! In my view, that is part of the charm, which makes you feel like you have stumbled on a hidden gem.
So, on the penultimate day of August, with the sun failing to find Manchester once again, it was a treat to be able to eat lunch in the garden, and still be warm and dry.
Once inside, the first thing I noticed was that the bar smelled of gin; light, fruity, and fragrant. I don’t think I have ever noticed the smell in a bar before – not a nice smell anyway. I guess it’s not surprising that the bar smells like gin, given that it offers 15 different gins; sadly a fact that it lost on me. I was taught about the delights of gin by a close friend at University, but after an experience with cheap Benidorm gin that I would rather forget, I am still, 11 years later, struggling to remember what it was that attracted me to it in the first place. Mark, on the other hand, will often partake in a tipple – and the other, gin free, cocktails on offer at the Allotment Bar suggest that there is something to satisfy every taste. The names alone are interesting, humorous, and complement the allotment theme – “Wheelbarrow Wanderer”, “`Sulking Shed’ Mojito”, and “The Legless Worm”.
A couple near us were served a cocktail in a watering can, and the mountain of fresh fruit on the bar suggests that the cocktails are made from fresh ingredients. After a heavy Friday night, we will be saving the cocktails for another visit, but we did enjoy a delicious lunch instead.
I had the Warm Roasted Red Pepper and Goats Cheese Sandwich, served with salad and chunky chips. I can be hit and miss when it comes to goats cheese but, on this occasion, it was definitely a hit. The sandwich, whilst somewhat unexpectedly served in a toasted burger bun (I would have thought something a little more rustic, like ciabatta maybe), was tasty, with creamy goats cheese, that was not overpowering. I’m not sure what happened to the coleslaw but the salad was fresh and the chunky chips were tasty wedges served in a miniature flex tub. A quirky touch, which I appreciated as much as the vintage mismatched plates.
Mark had Cumberland Sausage and Creamy Mashed Potato with Onion Gravy. He cleared the plate so I am guessing he enjoyed his meal too.
Food aside, I really enjoyed taking in all the details that give the bar it’s personality. The stripped wood gives the place an agricultural feel, and the planting troughs along the walls, full of plants and herbs, evoke images of summer days out in the garden. I am not sure that the plants will survive for long indoors, but the idea is brilliant and, in a bar, unusual.
I liked the benches, the little seating areas defined by patches of ‘grass’, the garden implements on the walls, and the buckets and sieves that are creatively used as light fittings.
The attention to detail continues in to the toilets, where even the taps are from the garden and would otherwise be used for hosepipes.
Overall the Allotment Bar provided a relaxing and tasty lunchtime experience. I will definitely be sampling the cocktails in the not too distant future; and, for once, I can actually remember how to find it!