Like to graze while boozing? Then you've never had it so good
It seems pickled eggs and pork scratchings might be a thing of the past. Thanks to a recent influx of top quality Spanish and Catalonian restaurants, we seem to have fully embraced the idea of grazing through a menu whilst boozing. In most new restaurants, smaller sharing plates have now almost replaced the more formal concept of starter, main and dessert.
And with an increased interest in premium beverages, with bar managers and mixologists putting as much effort into the liquids as chefs do with the food, it seems that wine, beer and cocktails are no longer just something to wash down the scran but have equal focus.
As a result, bar snacks have evolved accordingly with many of Manchester’s bars and restaurants offering a special and creative bar menu to try and entice guests who have ‘just popped in for a drink’, to stay for the longer haul.
Below we've listed ten of our favourite bar snacks currently available around town. (Let us know about your favourite below in the comments.)
Where: The Midland Hotel
What: Ox cheek and blue cheese croquette (£5.50)
As part of a £500,000 refurb, Manchester’s grade II-listed Midland Hotel has relaunched its cocktail bar. The Octagon arch on the ground floor has been repainted in a vibrant blue and features a brand new Art Deco style central bar and a revamped lounge area. The drinks menu has had an overhaul too and with it an updated informal bar snacking menu (available between 5pm-11.30pm), the pick of which is a bar snack with a long name: the ox cheek and blue cheese croquette with sundried tomato pesto. 16 Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS
What: Popcorn cockles (£5)
When it opened in 2004, this bar was one of the original Northern Quarter drinking spots. But sensing a need to stay ahead of the game in a neighbourhood where a new bar opens every four days, it has since undergone a transformation and turned 'bar, bakery, coffeehouse and eatery'. But never mind all that, what about the bar snacks. Though their Korean fried chicken with kimchi and hot ssäm sauce is not too far behind, the best of the bunch are the popcorn cockles, crunchy in salt and vinegar and a little heat with chill. They claim it’s the best bar snack in town and we’re not arguing. 39-41 Edge St, Northern Quarter, M4 1HW
What: Josper smoked chicken wings (£4.50)
This spanking new restaurant in First Street, owned by 2015 Masterchef winner Simon Wood, welcomes both snackers keen to grab a bite before a show and serious diners in for the full tasting menu treatment. Nibbly bits include one of Simon's favourites, spiced chicken wings cooked in their superduper indoor barbecue, the Josper, and one of ours, the toothsome Josper smoked gnocchi (below). Jack Rosenthal Street, Manchester M15 4RA
Where: The Refuge
What: Lamb shawarma (£9.50)
The whole food offering at this place is set up for sharing with a drink in your hand. The ‘kitchen counter’ offers various adaptions of classic snacks such as crispy whitebait with kimchi mayonnaise or an elegant meat board which includes smoked mutton and truffled lardo. The Refuge menu has been overseen by the same chaps behind the award-winning Volta in Didsbury, so you'll find some of their most popular dishes have also made the journey to the city centre. The 'Voltini' (small plates inspired by Volta’s global travels) include crispy duck and watermelon, daal makhani and scorched mackerel, though our favourite has to be the shredded lamb shawarma with harissa and yoghurt. The Principal, Oxford St, Manchester M60 7HA
What: Seafood Seekh (£6)
This popular upmarket Indian restaurant has just launched a special Bollibar menu featuring snack-sized portions of some of the dishes they serve in the restaurant. Situated on the lower ground floor, the Bollibar offers a blend of Dubai glam and European refinement. Enjoy a selection of exotic house cocktails along with snacks such as venison samosas, tandoori broccoli, Indian spiced calamari, or our favourite, seafood seekh; finely chopped fish and prawns, mildly spiced with green chillies and aromatic carom seeds. 47 Peter St, Manchester M2 3NG
What: Juan Pedro Domecq (from £11)
Obviously we could just fill this list with top quality tapas from Manchester’s Spanish restaurants, but we’re trying to give you a varied flavour here, so we've picked just one Spanish snack, but what a snack: Iberica's very special dry-cured Serrano ham, made from 100% pure-breed, free-range, acorn-fed pigs, this is not for mindlessly grazing upon. Otherwise known as ‘Pata Negra’, named after the typical black hooves, the ham comes from pedigree pigs that have roamed free in the Dehesa for almost two years, prior to slaughter. The hams are then hung in specially conditioned cellars for a minimum of 42 months before being cut paper thin by an expert. Juan Pedro Domecq ham has been awarded three gold stars four times for being the best Ibérico ham in the world, so this level of quality needs to be savoured with a perfectly matching cool Manzanilla sherry. 14-15 Hardman St, Manchester M3 3HF
What: Short rib nuggets (£7)
Hawksmoor’s beautiful wood-panelled bar is arguably the best place to sit and sip in Manchester whether on your own or with company. Their dedicated bar menu is a thing of beauty too, with excellent sarnies, burgers and the cuisine-straddling chicken tikka poutine (chicken, chips, tikka sauce and cheese curds). What we like most though are their short rib nuggets (£7). These rich Scotch egg lookalikes pair prime beef with a melted Ogleshield cheese centre encased in a crisp crumb and accompanied by kimchi ketchup. 184-186 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3WB
What: Grilled octopus with Roquito pepper sauce (£5.00)
When Confidential went to review this handsome new Oldham Street restaurant, the standout dish from the Fress bar snack menu was the grilled octopus. It was cooked to perfection and given delightful heat from a Roquito sauce. It’s another great Northern Quarter spot for a drink and a bite to eat; the tiled interior is as sharp as a pin, the bar has impressive shine and the seats are comfortable. Make sure to get this dish if you visit, it won’t disappoint. 62 Oldham St, Manchester M4 1LE
What: Ham hock bon bons with honey and mustard dip (£4)
It’s no surprise that this Spinningfield’s restaurant, run by the affable Richard, James and Heather, is a lovely place to hang out with a drink. This 45-cover ‘urban farmhouse’ style restaurant features dark grey walls, huge floor-to-ceiling windows and white and wood furniture, but customers can also choose to perch on a bar stool at the chef’s table overlooking the two open kitchens with a few nibbles and a locally produced beer or bottle of wine. Pick of the snacks for us is the slow cooked ham hock, shredded and formed into biteable bon bons for dipping in the accompanying sweet and creamy dip. Irwell Square, Leftbank, Manchester M3 3AG
Where: San Carlo Fumo
The Spanish might be the masters of bar snacks, but as usual the Italians take it in the style stakes. 'Aperitivo', the ritual of going out for post-work pre-dinner drinks, is an opportunity to spend an enjoyable few hours, generally between 4pm-7pm, relaxing with a glass of something cool and refreshing, along with a few light snacks and a bit of people watching, whilst working up an appetite for dinner. Prop yourself up at Fumo’s marble bar and order a classic Aperol Spritz, or Prosecco Hugo and help yourself to a range of complimentary Italian bar snacks such as assorted pizza bites, bruschetta and arancini with drinks.