A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, many of the TNQR team worked in the same building, and it was with the 5:05 Friday drinks club that our on again/off again love affair with Apotheca began. Fast forward several years, a couple of refurbs (for Apotheca not TNQR) and we arrive at our latest visit.
You’ll find Apotheca behind its unassuming facade at the top end of Thomas Street, close to the junction with High Street. Convenient for a first or final cheeky snifter for those of us getting trams or buses from Shudehill to the suburbs. Deceptively spacious, it often doesn’t feel so with punters often filling the front or the narrow space along the bar rather than finding space at the back or indeed migrating downstairs (although in their defence downstairs is often closed). Styled on an ancient apothecary the decor is a unique break from the NQ norm, the dark interior hosts a multitude of seating options, from comfy sofas in the front window, intimate booths in the bar and the more traditional tables & chairs at the back, there’s something to keep everyone comfortable.
Whilst there is a selection of taps, and some decent craftier beers in the fridge, the main event here at Apotheca are the cocktails, and rightly so; the list is one of the best around and they are rarely poorly made and always use top notch ingredients. Staff are helpful & always happy to provide suggestions to those less confident in their booze choices. The downside to all this of course is that sometimes there can be a bit of a wait at the bar which is a bit jarring if you just want a couple of beers.
They have a limited food menu of pizzas & sharing platters, served up from the kitchens next door at Dough, where the pizzas are easily as good as Apoth’s cocktails. Whilst the food is good, for me Apotheca is a bar, and therefore you will get a wider selection & a better overall dining experience elsewhere, saving Apotheca for the obligatory after dinner drinks.
Whilst the bar staff are great, on the flip side the door staff have been hit & miss on occasion, particularly I’ve found on Saturday nights. Whilst I know venues & door staff have policies & I understand the desire to keep out the miscreant portion of Printworks overspill it is disappointing to turn up to a venue & be turned away simply because you have more than 3 friends, or you didn’t all bring your better halves along.
Apotheca has an outstanding cocktail list, and when not too busy it’s an equally perfect date spot or group gathering point. However when busier, the music will inevitably reach a volume that makes real conversation difficult, and the lack of a proper dance floor space means you can’t have a boogie either, leaving the venue in my opinion at least with a somewhat confused identity at times taking the edge off an otherwise well put together place.
Food: Pizza, platters
Drinks: Cocktails, craft beers, spirits
Related City Centre establishments: Dough, Bakerie, Pie & Ale
Bongo rating: 7/10