As much as we love a gentleman’s pint here at TNQR, we’ve also been spotted on more than one occasion down the backstreets of Salford in the dark and mysterious corners of Corridor and even longer ago under assorted neon in one of the finest bars Manchester has ever seen in the shape of Socio Rehab.
These days, cocktail bars have tended to be outside of the Northern Quarter vicinity, preferring instead to prop themselves near larger office blocks to pull in the post-work suits, but the game changed a couple of years back with the arrival of Dusk Til Pawn.
Sister bar of ‘only ever seems open on Saturday nights’ drinking hole NoHo, DTP‘s Pawn Shop exterior is confusing punters to this day; on more than one occasion I’ve seen chaps taking guitars and other items in there, emerging shortly afterwards scratching their heads as they try to locate the nearest Cash Converters.
It’s quite easy to be intimidated on entering DTP with its long bar on one side and booths on the other, but as you start walking that gauntlet your eye is taken by the excellent back bar. You’ll need to grab a menu to begin working your way through these spirits and on our visit, eyes were taken by the Pawn Star Martini with its champagne sorbet accompaniment as well as the Brass Balls (whisky, marmalade, ginger and bitters). Both drinks were cobbled together with a smile and served up in quick time and both really did taste excellent. The Old Fashioned flavours of the Balls came through brilliantly minus the stirring wait, whilst the Pawn Star felt luxurious with its butterscotch kiss.
If you’re not after a cocktail, there’s a selection of decent beers on offer (Beavertown, 13 Guns and the old Almost Famous favourite Dos Equis amongst others) along with a couple of wines but you probably wouldn’t pick here to sit and quaff a bottle of pinot noir with many other better options around.
The question with DTP as with Socio before it is whether it can survive solely from weekend trade and cope when only a couple of thirsty boozehounds cross its threshold midweek. Weekday drinking at DTP works for us as we can take our time perusing choices, chatting to the barkeeps and enjoying a drink without deafening music being rammed down our lug holes. DTP also used to do cocktail roulette on Wednesdays where you simply told the bartender what sort of stuff took your fancy and he’d rustle something up for a fiver. It was a great way to get a crazy drink at a decent price (we once said we’d had a dream about Lady Gaga and they knocked something together inspired by that), but we’re unsure if it’s still a thing and it can get dangerous with work the next day, so be warned…
If you look at the top cocktail bars in town, places like the aforementioned Corridor or Liquorice, DTP does hold its own with quality spirits mixed with a twist, and there is a suitable quirkiness to it. It just doesn’t quite have that certain something to take it next level but given a few tweaks might just make it the bar it could be. At the moment it’s a good pit stop rather than a place to settle in for the night.
Dusk Til Pawn
Classification: Cocktail bar
Related City Centre establishments: NoHo
Bongo rating: 6/10