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The NQ Review

77 NQ bars. 5 friends. 1 mission.

Month

March 2016

Twenty Twenty Two – An NQ Review

There’s a typical cycle that most NQ bars go through (unless they have a big marketing budget from the outset). First there’s the days or perhaps even weeks before the official launch when the place is still finding it’s feet. The staff won’t know where anything is, the atmosphere will be a little odd and you’ll get the occasional freebie because they want you to come back and that first meeting with the accountant hasn’t happened yet.

Then it’s the opening night itself. Cheap drinks galore and a bunch of people who will probably never go again, but they will tell enough of their friends to put it on the map. The penultimate stage, otherwise known as the glory weeks, is what follows as the early adopters enjoy the perfect balance of a not-too-busy bar filled with the right people.

Unfortunately Twenty Twenty Two seems to be in the final phase. The dickhead phase. It’s when a once promising venue (that is still great at the right times) gets swarmed upon by people who have heard it’s cool but were not cool enough to venture in when it actually was cool. The debut album is a distant memory, welcome to the difficult second album.

It’s only on recent visits that the NQ Review team have got this vibe and maybe it’s just us getting old, but the spacious basement bar where you could casually sample a game of beer pong and get to the toilets without fighting your way there seems to have gone recently and that’s a shame because 2022 is everything an NQ bar should be, even down to the revolving artists work adorning the walls (remember that, Common?).

This current incarnation of 2022 is actually the second coming, it opened in 2012 (ten years ago) and we’ll be honest, it didn’t really get on our radars as we were mostly hanging out at Kosmonaut. However in 2014 (eight years ago), when 2022 more-or-less doubled in size by opening up a second room containing four ping pong tables, it piqued our interest again. This addition of sport does seem to have brought with it an unusual smell but it certainly sets it apart in the NQ (sorry Kosmonaut but your wiff waff table just gets in the way). The pitched seating and alcoves that form a makeshift viewing area being a particular highlight if you’d rather not take part in the paddle action.

Compared to some of it’s peers the beer selection is a little limited, a few smaller brewery ales and the usual selection of bottled craft beers make up the menu, but it does seem to be a little cheaper than the going rate and if you’re going to use it for beer pong who really cares about the quality?

2022 used to feel like a small gig venue without the band, lately it’s turned into more of a club. Open until 4am, it’s certainly a preferable end of late night destination to Black Dog Ballroom, but we’re all in bed by midnight anyway. Perhaps we should start visiting earlier on in the night, those old sofas do look darned comfy after all.

Twenty Twenty Two

Classification: Arty bar & Wiff Waff Locale

Food: None

Drinks: Small selection of draught beers, lots of bottles, cocktails

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: Cherry’s

Bongo rating: 6/10

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Hula – An NQ Review

Hula

One of Manchester’s growing number of Tiki havens, we recently hit up Hula on Stevenson Square on one of those, accidental all-day bongo fest type of days, and what a day it was! Descending the stairs into Hula’s basement transports you through time & space into a 50s-inspired Tiki heaven, and whilst the décor is distinctly (as you would expect) tikified, it is still somewhat unique & definitely a step up from the cut and paste bare brick & reclaimed wood that is so pervasive in these parts; run of the mill this place is not.

Drinks wise it’s all about the cocktails as one would expect, and largely rum based ones at that. You’ll get no complaints from me about this, that sweet dark nectar is my spirit of choice so mashing it up with tropical fruits & setting it on fire will always go down well. The selection of sharing drinks is impressive, if pricey, and the “Volcano” we ordered is a drink of epic proportions, it’s just a shame they no longer have the volcano shaped dishes of old, apparently all broken or stolen over the years. Whilst with all bars of this type, the selection of rums available is the main event on the back bar, it’s well enough stocked with other choices that there should be no need to go thirsty, and the fridges have a selection of bottled & canned beverages for those unwilling to partake in the cocktails.

The atmosphere in here is all about the party, and that is reflected in the clientèle & the music. The funky beats were even enough to get some of our crew up & dancing (which is not a common sight) but speaks volumes for the fun atmosphere they manage to create down there. Of course this also means it can be a bit on the rowdier side on Friday & Saturday nights & don’t be surprised if confronted by a gaggle of Hens clucking about the dancefloor either.

Overall, Hula is good for a quick fruity pit stop or indeed a destination bar in its own right, which is why I suspect this place normally has a queue thronging outside on the weekends. If you are looking for a bit of fun, some dancing & fire in your drinks then you could do a lot worse than putting in a visit to this place. Yes the Zombies at Keko are probably just that little bit better, but Hula has got space for you to bring more than just a couple of friends, throw some shapes and have a real party.

Hula

Classification: Tiki Bar

Food: N/A

Drinks: Rum cocktails, spirits, beer

Price: ££

Related City Centre Establishments: RosyLee, Tusk, Walrus, InFamous Diner, The Fitzgerald

Bongo Rating: 7/10

Montpellier’s – An NQ Review

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Montpellier’s has previously been a bit hit-and-miss with us here at TNQR, so on hearing it had been taken over by its burger-slinging neighbours Solita, it was a perfect time for us to pop in and check out what’s changed.

There’s only been a quick touch-up from the new owners, so decor-wise it’s still the bare brickwork NQ template that existed before, but there are promises from Solita HQ that it is due to be transformed with their trademark neon creations and colourful artwork.

The first change that is very noticeable is the new range of beers. Hallelujah! The selection of beers provided by the old owners was so uninspiring – the only thing we can remember is not wanting any of them and feeling distinctly awkward at the length of pause when asked by staff what we wanted. Now there’s the same long pause as we try to decide which pint to have – Paulaner, Beavertown Gamma Ray, or Moretti? If none of those take your fancy, a hand pump has arrived which on our visit had a Summertown beer on board, or alternatively the fridges have had an overhaul and now house Sam Adams, Corona, Brooklyn, Fruli and Amarillo amongst others.

As you’d expect with Solita now at the helm, the menu has been overhauled too, with hot and cold sandwiches, pot pies and soup now available. The Chicken and Chorizo Pie and Philly 4 Cheese Steak Sandwich are already tempting us back to be tried, although we may need to enjoy them while we can as it’s rumoured that Solita owner Franco has lined up this place to house his long-promised authentic Italian pizza restaurant in the NQ.

Arguably the best feature of the old Montpellier’s was the sports den in the basement – although sound and signal problems interrupted many games and caused customers to look elsewhere for a more reliable sports viewing establishment. Good news is that the sport is staying and Montpellier’s now list all their scheduled sports games on their website. Don’t worry if your game isn’t scheduled to appear, as they’ve promised to try to get it on one of their screens for you – you’ve just got to ask. The downside to the basement sports bar is that phone signal is non-existent, so keeping an eye on other results and checking the cash out on your weekend bets is a nightmare; fingers crossed for some good wi-fi working down there to give the complete package.

Another tidy little bonus with Solita taking over is that you get 10% off drinks while you’re waiting for a table next door. This is a great touch, although the worry is that Montpellier’s will just become a Solita waiting room. To get this bar going it needs to be a destination of its own, and not a place where people are just passing time before getting to where they really want to be.

There’s still some work to be done, but the initial changes are definitely a step in the right direction. If they deliver on their promises it will be everything the previous incarnation failed to deliver, and no doubt a regular haunt for TNQR.

Montpellier’s

Classification: Bar

Food: Pies, Hot & Cold Sandwiches, Soup

Drinks: Beers, Wine, Spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre Establishments: Solita NQ, Solita Steakhouse

Bongo Rating: 6/10

Crown & Kettle – An NQ Review

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The Crown & Kettle represents exactly what this little escapade was set up for – to uncover a gem of a bar that we’d never usually visit in the NQ.

The glazed windows on this Grade II listed building means you can’t really see in, so you’re not sure whether you’ll be greeted with a welcoming pub, or a scary inbred-locals place. Luckily, we discovered the Crown & Kettle is very much the former, and we’ve never looked back.

The first thing that hits you is the now infamous ceiling. It has seen better days, and there’s a net to stop bits of ceiling falling on the drinkers below, but you’ll catch many a patron staring upwards admiring its height, and imagining its former glory, as they sup their pint. Layout-wise, the pub is split into three areas around the central bar; the snug, which has a cosy log fire during the winter months, the cider vault, which does what it says on the tin; and the main bar area. The overall feel of the place is that it’s a little rough around the edges and in need of some TLC. The floorboards creek, tables and chairs can be sticky and a little rickety, and there’s scuff marks on the walls. This may put some people off sticking around, but in my book that’s half the charm of the place.

One possible reason for the lack of effort on the interior of the Crown & Kettle could be that their attention is focused solely on nurturing their beer and cider offering. As mentioned earlier, there’s the ‘cider vault’ that houses 25 different ciders, and the main bar provides nine cask pumps, six keg pumps and 30 bottled and canned options for the beer lovers. Keg is priced at around £5.00 a pint, and cask is a wallet-pleasing £3.00 a pint, meaning you’ll often find students here enjoying ales, as well as locals, CAMRA folk and the more adventurous of the NQ clientèle.

Ossett Brewery’s Silver King from Yorkshire is a regular feature at the Crown & Kettle, and the other pumps rotate between numerous breweries including Magic Rock, Darkstar, Thornbridge, and Tickety Brew. The Crown & Kettle have also branched out further afield, and in the past year have held beer festivals dedicated to showcasing beers from both London and Bristol-based brewers.

With their evident love of pint-sized beverages it’s no wonder this place is high on CAMRA’s radar. The Crown & Kettle was the CAMRA Greater Manchester regional finalist last year placing it in their top 16 pubs in the country, and most recently it has picked up ‘Best Cider Pub in Manchester City Centre’ from the North Mancs CAMRA group.

To keep focus firmly on the drinks, the food offering is kept to pork pies, crisps and nuts, and similarly, there’s no distraction in the way of live sport – although there are TV screens about where they’ll show the odd United or City game if asked.

As with a lot of older buildings, the toilets need sprucing up and it’s such a shame as they really let the place down. The ladies are a tight squeeze (and often out of order), there was no soap available on our visit, and the urinals in particular were in a gruesome stained state on our visit – we’ll spare you the photographic evidence on this one. There’s some outside space for the smokers, but if you’re looking for a pleasant beer garden this isn’t it. It’s basically an enclosed concrete yard with the main feature being a noisy air conditioning unit.

There’s no doubt the Crown & Kettle needs freshening up to make the place more comfortable, hygienic and attractive, however, if the environment isn’t important to you, and your main goal is to sample a great range of quality beers and ciders in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, then this is the place for you.

 

Crown & Kettle

Classification: Pub

Food: Pork pies, crisps, nuts

Drinks: Beers, Cider, Spirits, Wine

Price: ££

Related City Centre Establishments: None

Bongo Rating: 7/10

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