Uncovering Manchester's underground bars
Just a two-hour train ride from London’s Euston Station (or a one-stop flight from Australia), Manchester is one of those cities where boredom is not an option. There’s always an event going on, vintage shopping in the Afflecks market tower to be done, or some quirky den waiting to be discover. Although, you might be hard pressed to actually find the go-to bars as they’re mostly underground. Never fear though, part-time Mancunian and UK-based travel blogger Helen Winter gives us her insight on where to find the hippest underground haunts in Manchester's trendy Northern Quarter.
This grunge-style bar on the corner of Lever Street and Stevenson Square runs on a word-of-mouth basis and can only really be noticed by the yellow 'GBA' lettering painted on the brick wall outside and a red neon sign saying ‘Guilty’. Once you’ve found it on Google maps or had a friendly Northerner point you in the right direction, be prepared to walk down some steep steps to earn your place on the packed dancefloor.
Once in, take some time to wait for your eyes adjust to the darkness as you walk straight onto the shoulder-bumping crowd of this quaint club, complete with exposed brick walls and hanging lightbulbs.
After wrestling your way to the bar, make sure to order one of the many unique craft beers or cocktails served in a tin can or glass jar, before calling your place on the classic upcycled car seats. Stitched with tough leathers, these authentic driving chairs can even be adjusted and moved backwards and forwards - a great laugh after a few drinks. Be prepared to have to wait your turn though, as these seats are a popular resting ground in the club.
Just a short walk from Guilty by Association is tikki bar Hula on Stevenson Square. Down another heel-challenging staircase, be prepared to walk into a wall of warmth from the overcrowded room and flaming cocktails at the bar. This hidden venue is for those after the cheesy hits and iconic Zombie cocktail, which you’ll see almost everyone walking around with. The barmen here are especially fun and if you tell them it’s your birthday, they’ll do a shot or three of tequila with you. If tequila isn’t your drink though, be prepared to be sprayed with water from an offensively labelled bottle. Let’s just call it the ‘rhymes with hunt’ spray. And they’re not afraid to use it - trust me.
This is a great club to go to if you’re after a fun-loving atmosphere and the chance to make some new friends up North - whether it’s the staff, other club goers or the bouncer on the door.
Located in the infamous Northern Quarter is the larger Mint Lounge on Oldham Street. This student watering hole may not wow you at first, as you depart with £6 (around $AU11.50) to enter the club via a flight of stairs, but the atmosphere inside certainly makes up for the fee. The club is split into two bars, a ‘social’ room with Victorian-looking leather chairs, and a packed-to-the-walls dancefloor, which is almost pitch black apart from the occasional light strobe.
The music is mostly whatever is in the charts that month, with a few unpredictable remixes thrown in to keep the night interesting. They’re also too cool for separate bathrooms, so don’t be surprised to be queuing for the unisex toilets with a member of the other gender on either side of you.
For a more sophisticated evening, head to the fancier Australasia. Located outside an Emporio Armani store at The Avenue (an upmarket shopping, dining and entertainment centre in the Spinningfields area of the CBD), you’ll find a glass staircase placed randomly in the middle of the pavement and it’s down here where you’ll find this upper-class cocktail bar and restaurant.
Although there’s not a strict dress code, use this swanky bunker as an excuse to wear your best clothes to fit in with the high-flying crowd. There is a great, if not loud, congregation of customers, and you’ll find yourself waiting a while at the bar while the incredible cocktail concoctions are made. Not only are there unique flavours like pear and kiwi, but each drink is beautifully decorated with globes of ice, petals and fruit.
If you like a game of ping pong to go with your drink, then head to Twenty Twenty Two. Also located in the Northern Quarter on Dale Street, this basement bar is great for a night of table tennis, music and drinks as well as enjoying the studenty hipster vibe. If you come on a special night, you might even get to check out an art exhibition or see a live band - this place really does cover all the bases of an intellectual, ping pong-playing, cocktail drinker. Make sure you get here early in order to bag yourself a table for table tennis.