Formerly TV21, the newly-monikered Bar21 is positioned at the Shudehill end of Thomas Street and has been knocking around longer than most of the other establishments in the area.

Nearly a decade ago, TV21 was a top haunt for the crew here at TNQR and getting to the place early enough to blag the space shuttle booth at the back was always a Friday priority. Caged aliens fought with life-size predators as retro shows looped on little screens, and as we supped our pints the place really felt a little other-worldly.

Today, Bar21 has started pitching itself as a movie-themed party bar. It’s still quirky, just not quite as different and ‘Fab Cafe‘ as it once was. After a recent tart-up, the bar now boasts Rocky Horror pictures under its table tops, and the rickety Student Union window tables have thankfully been replaced with giant spacey booths. Other themes complete different areas of the cavernous upstairs; there are shiny Tetris chairs to the back, music, film and TV posters on the walls and cabinets of memorabilia dotted around the place. It’s quite  a lot to take in, but it does add something different to the usual NQ exposed brickwork brigade.

Downstairs remains the long lost cousin of The Crystal Maze‘s Industrial Zone, with pipes overhead and a subtle blue ambience that lends the place a darkly dangerous tone. It’s a decent option for a private party and at weekends the basement comes to life all on its own with motown, indie and soul banging out until the wee small hours.

Back upstairs, the bar is a touch smaller than it used to be and has scuttled sideways, so rather than being slap bang in the middle like a boozy space invader, it’s now a semi-circle of fun to the left, and there’s plenty of choice on offer. One of the few places to have Cobra on tap, the drinks menu in Bar21 also includes a selection of bottled beers, movie-themed cocktails, pitchers, shots and just about everything else in between.

Food-wise, don’t expect anything out of the ordinary with a menu comprising the usual array of crowd-pleasing burgers, pizzas and sharing platters. We didn’t get around to food on this occasion but it all looked decent enough, it’s just not that different a culinary concept to pretty much every other NQ bar.

The problem with TV21 was always that it seemed to exist solely for the weekend and things don’t seem to have changed too much in recent years. Bar21 takes a hammering late on a Friday and on a Saturday evening, as it’s one of the few places large enough and lenient enough in the NQ to let stag and hen dos in, but during the week Bar21 tends to be pretty desolate. We’ve walked past on many a mid-week night to see it with only a smattering of patrons, whilst neighbours Trof and Apotheca have been bustling with punters. On the Friday we visited it was just about right, with enough space for us to settle into a booth and enjoy a couple of pints with planets glistening overhead, but we probably got in and out before the drunken mobs descended.

It’s a shame that the shabby geek-chic of TV21 has been replaced by a newer, shinier model, but Bar21 has still brought back a little of the quirk that helped it battle against the norm in its early years.


Classification: Bar

Food: Pizza, burgers, platters

Drinks: Cocktails, lager, shots and spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 6/10