Oh, Hold Fast! I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve sat down to write this review, I really can’t work you out. Where to begin?
Lets start with the interior and theme – a Northern Quarter bar “inspired by the deep and the tales of Jules Verne”. As you descend down from the Hilton Street entrance and emerge into the basement bar beneath Hatters Hostel, I can’t say that this theme is immediately obvious. You’re greeted with a dimly lit room full of NQ-issue high tables, chairs and booths. Along the right hand side of the room is a nice long bar to get served at – a definite bonus, as there’s nothing worse than having to manoeuvre your way through stacks of people to get up to and away from a tiny bar – Allotment, we’re looking at you here.
Once you look closer there are some nautical references around noting the theme of the bar and keeping it the right side of tacky; interesting naval equipment, an octopus mural across the back of the bar, appropriate lighting, and touches like a porthole looking through to the kitchen all keep this place on track.
One place the nautical theme is very apparent is in the cocktail menu. ‘Mermaids Kiss’, ‘Knots and Sails’, ‘Siren’s Song’ and a personal favourite ‘Nautilus’ are just a few of the tasty concoctions on offer. The show stoppers are the big sharing cocktails with ‘The Kitchen Sink’ providing thirst quenching booziness for 6-8 thirsty sailors. No cask ales spotted on our visit, but draught-wise there’s Hold Fast home brew, Goose Island IPA, Beaverton Gamma Ray and Kona Big Wave among many others to keep everyone happy.
Onto the food. The menu is home to a short list of sandwiches available with a choice of side salads. Most importantly, in my opinion anyway, they have Space Raiders behind the bar – quite possibly the greatest snack of all time. A popcorn machine adds a different snack option and free popcorn is available during Happy Hour (16:00-19:00 Mon-Sat and all day Sunday).
It’s no secret that we like a quiz at TNQR, and so it was awesome to get a little trivia fix in the form of Trivial Pursuit cards dotted about the place on our visit, and that’s not where the Hold Fast entertainment ends. There’s a stack of board games behind the bar, a fine selection of retro video game consoles towards the back of the bar for all patrons, and regular film showings in the cinema room. Unlike other bars, these games and consoles don’t sit about gathering dust either, as Hold Fast hosts a popular Cards Against Humanity competition every Wednesday, and regular console competitions including a recent Mario Kart championship.
Going through the various features and criteria, you have everything I could ever want in a bar Hold Fast, but for some reason I just didn’t enjoy my visit. It feels a little grubby for my liking, maybe that’s the strong student-y feel about the place, or the dim lighting in an underground space? Either way, I guess you’ll just have to be my weird marmite bar, and I’ll leave everyone else to enjoy your entertaining underground shenanigans.
Drinks: Beers, Wines, Spirits, Cocktails
Food: Sandwiches, Crisps, Nuts, Popcorn
Related City Centre Establishments: None
Bongo Rating: 6/10