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The NQ Review

77 NQ bars. 5 friends. 1 mission.

Month

November 2016

El Capo – An NQ Review

El CapoYou can’t beat a bit of Mexicana. Think of all that tequila. That sun. That suspicious meat inside a burrito the size of a small child. Those big wobbly hats. Everything about the place is fun, so it’s no surprise that Manchester’s been dabbling in bringing a little slice to town, most recently with bar and cantina El Capo.

Perched on Tariff Street between Whiskey Jar and Kosmonaut, El Capo has already been through a few tweaks since it first opened a couple of years ago. Gone is the fussball table (which admittedly got turfed out into the cold at weekends anyway) to make room for long wooden benches, and the place has been gradually spruced to feature more skulls, more neon and more floral décor, aiding the authenticity and making it a cosy little spot.

The bar area isn’t gigantic but still has seating for a good 50 or so, and the drinks offerings are decent. The star of the show is the tequila menu featuring over 100 different varieties and it’s complimented by South American bottled beers, cocktails and a few usual suspects such as San Miguel, Mahou and our old friend “Generic NQ Lager” on the taps. You can also take advantage of the daily 4pm-7pm happy hour too and nab a couple of wines, tequilas or bottles of Sol for a fiver, or cocktails at two for £10.

Controversy arrives in the form of the food. Some of us love it in El Capo; you can order cheaply (especially on Taco Tuesdays where it’s unsurprisingly £1 per taco) and it’s a fun, casual dining experience. Some of us have had slightly ropey experiences though; when it first opened, the cantina downstairs was so full and the tables so poorly laid out you couldn’t get an enchilada in your mouth without elbowing a fellow diner, and the service left a lot to be desired, waiting ages for each course as well as the bill. The food itself though is good. Maybe not as gluttonous as the portions seen in Liquor & Burn or some of Manchester’s other burrito establishments, but there’s still plenty on the menu to give a more wide-ranging choice than the others. From chilli to nachos, wings to tortas, there’s a lot to pick out. Only a little peckish? Get a few small plates, Mexi-tapas style. Looking for a good stuffing? try the £30 giant burrito, featuring 24 inches of your own choice of fillings.

The variety encourages a mix of clientèle and on our recent visit, a middle aged couple enjoyed a couple of drinks in a booth whilst a post work crew stretched across two tables and a small family with two young kids still in school uniforms sat next to us in the upstairs bar. As you can probably tell, all these signs point towards El Capo being a good casual spot suitable for all shapes and sizes, but at weekends the bar does get busy with the usual party crowd and the restaurant gets busy; this is where online booking, a great and rarely-seen-in-the-NQ plus point, comes into its own. We’d still recommend El Capo though for one of the more unique and laid back spots in the NQ to enjoy a drink on any day of the week.

El Capo

Classification: Mexican bar and cantina

Food: Mexican

Drinks: Cocktails, lager, wine and tequila

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 7/10

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The Green – An NQ Review

We used to have a soft spot for The Green. Back in its Golftorium days it was the only modern boozer in the NQ that tickled our fancy, refusing to go down the usual hipster vibe. It was always relatively simple fare, with lagers, ciders, wines and spirits, but they showed all of the sport on giganto-screens and even let you order Domino’s in.

This was about six or seven years ago and since then, The Green‘s gone through a few changes. For one, it’s obviously renounced its Golftorium moniker and although the virtual golf is still a big sell, this is a sports watching bar first and foremost. Everything is wipe clean with a mixture of sofas and high tables positioned around a command centre of tellies and the place is one of the lighter and more spacious bars you’ll find in Manchester.

There are also now three pool tables upstairs alongside the bandits and quizzers whilst the downstairs bar remains for stags, weekends and big, late night boxing events. This place is big, and the testosterone hits you smack in the face upon entry.

Sadly the clientele is a little rough around the edges. Belching ‘lads’ (and by this we mean guys old enough to know better in too-small polo shirts who have got a rare pass out from the wife) sink pint after pint of fizzy lager whilst lower league football plays in the background. They’re joined by wannabe footballers, footy mates and a few more hipster-y sports fans but one thing’s for sure, women are conspicuous by their absence for the most part. Later on during our visit, a few ladies do trot up all dolled up to the nines and it seems odd to see them in such a male-orientated environment.

Booze wise, things are decent if not spectacular. Guinness’ delve into the lager market, Hop House retails at around the £4.30 mark, and it’s joined on the taps by more lager than you’re ever likely to see. Mahou, San Miguel, Tuborg, Brooklyn, Carlsberg and Tetley’s adorn the pumps along with Guinness and Somersby cider, whilst the fridges are stocked with bottles and shots ready for the Saturday night party crowd to hit. A food menu is brought round mid-afternoon and it’s a crowd-pleasing mix of pizza, burgers and hotdogs that’s not going to win any Michelin stars but will keep hungry sports fans from getting ruined too quickly.

The Green has a place in Manchester, and indeed in the Northern Quarter. It’s handy to have a place you can swing by and catch any sporting event you feel like, and it’s not the most expensive place out there. Unfortunately it’s not that original, and the atmosphere is annoying rather than buzzing as all manner of idiots barge their way around, ruining a decent sport-viewing experience.

 

The Green

Classification: Sports Bar

Drinks: Beers, Wines, Spirits, Shots

Food: Pizzas, burgers, hotdogs

Price: ££

Related City Centre Establishments: None

Bongo Rating: 5/10

Crazy Pedro’s Part-time Pizza Parlour – An NQ Review

It’s been a long old struggle keeping up with the NQ’s changing shape in the few months we’ve been compiling this little blog. We’ve already seen some of our reviewed boozers change hands or names and some have even closed down completely. On the other side of this we’ve had to keep up with new openings, the most recent of which, Crazy Pedro’s, we swung by on a recent Saturday evening.

The original Crazy Pedro’s Part-time Pizza Parlour was launched tentatively during the Manchester Burger Boom in an old Starbucks off Bridge Street. Needless to say it took off in a big way with its bonkers selection of frozen cocktails and pizza by the whole or by the slice, and now finds itself packed to the gills with thirsty post-work crews and late night chompers.The whole attitude, look and feel of Crazy P’s was so Northern Quarter it always felt like only a matter of time before they found a space in the area so it’s no surprise we’re here underneath Affleck’s Palace in the Black Dog boys’ latest venue.

Pedro himself will guide you to this den with his neon face gurning away down Small Street, which is fortunate when so many NQ backstreets look the same. Despite it being a Saturday and very recently opened, we found a large table near the front easily and settled down for a post-rugby feed.

Some of our group settled for a couple of choice slices whilst others indulged in giant doughy fun like The Cuban (ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard) which is one of the more sensible items on the menu. We’ve indulged in the Chicken & Waffle and Hotdog pizzas before as well as the specials featuring turkey dinosaurs and potato smilies or chips and gravy among other things and they’ve always been tasty and quickly served. At 16″ and £15 (£3 for a slice) we’d say the food is decent value, even more so if you land during the extended happy hours (5pm to 9pm Sunday to Friday) where pizza comes down to £10 a pop.

Similarly, drinks are reduced with cocktails 2-4-1 during happy hour (try the frozen raspberry margarita for all manner of brain-freezing fun). The offers help Crazy Pedro’s come across as somewhere you could go just for a few scoops of your favourite tipple with its vibe very much pitched towards underground drinking den that happens to serve pizza rather than restaurant proper, although there are a couple of minuses we should mention.

The pizzas we had were great but the nachos (£6) seemed a little lazy and were burnt on top. Also, our old friend the schooner makes an appearance in Crazy Pedro’s, and it’s always pretty galling paying £3.50 for two thirds of identikit NQ lager (see also Kosmonaut’s Special K, GBA’s Guilty Lager etc). Other beers are available in cans but are the usual steep prices, with Kona Big Wave and Red Stripe retailing at £4.50 each.

Overall, you’re going to have a good time at Crazy Pedro’s. The atmosphere’s fun, the drinks flow freely and the food might save your life on a big sauce session. Our advice is to hit during Happy Hour for optimum crazy times.

Crazy Pedro’s Part-time Pizza Parlour

Classification: Pizza Parlour/subterranean drinking den

Food: Pizza and nachos

Drinks: Cocktails/lager & spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: Black Dog Ballroom, Black Dog NWS, Dog Bowl, Xolo, The Liar’s Club, Cane & Grain, Crazy Pedro’s Part-time Pizza Parlour

Bongo rating: 7/10

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