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The NQ Review

77 NQ bars. 5 friends. 1 mission.

Month

December 2016

The Crafty Pig – An NQ Review

On the cusp of our self-enforced NQ boundaries, The Crafty Pig is a relative newcomer placed precariously on the edge of Piccadilly Gardens. Pitching itself as a place that caters for all of your craft beer needs, it’s no surprise to see a blackboard with the latest offerings behind the bar and a variety of young and old patrons in attendance.

The problem is, the place looks a bit tatty now. We don’t mind a bit of rough around the edges here at TNQR but we do mind a place where collecting glasses and wiping down tables seems a bit of an afterthought as it was on our visit. This may have been down to the lack of bar staff (a single girl on this particular day was trying to serve pints, spirits and cocktails to about eight people at one time) but for any city centre boozer especially at this time of year to be so horrendously understaffed is particularly poor.

When we arrived it was also full of ‘locals’ who had already imbibed way too much, shouting and swearing as they swayed, all at 5.30 in the afternoon. Yes, we know this happens everywhere around the NQ on occasion but it really didn’t help to make a pint in The Crafty Pig desirable. We persevered and took a couple of sofas at the front of the bar, and the place suddenly transformed – the lighting was dimmed, the tipsy crowd fell out of the door and a slightly different clientele gave the place a better aura. Yes, it was still slow to get a pint but things definitely improved.

The other disappointment about The Crafty Pig though is the beer choice. For somewhere that boasts about stocking unique and local brews, the taps contained a load of generic lagers as seen pretty much everywhere else (Heineken, Amstel, Moretti). There were only two casks on too, one of which was the omnipresent Hobgoblin, although it was good to see another boozer stocking Lagunitas IPA. Looking at the aforementioned “Craft Beer” chalkboard it was obvious the place was struggling; where similar places would have eight or so interesting brews on tap, The Crafty Pig included Guinness’ own Hop House lager on their list alongside standard bottled fare like Vedett. Decent enough beer but by no means “craft”.

We didn’t partake in the food offering but the menu at The Crafty Pig looks dangerously extensive. So often pubs take on too much rather than specialising and you wonder how good the food can be when there is such an array of burgers, platters, pies and assorted pub classics like sausage & mash and fish & chips. Even so, we didn’t eat a thing or see any food brought out so it would be unfair to pass judgement on quality.

There are some nice things about The Crafty Pig, but we can’t help feel its location will drag the wrong kind of punters in. It’s next to one of the busiest bus stops known to man and opposite Sachas so it’s always likely to get an anti-NQ crowd in, despite the decor and theme aiming for just that. Hopefully the bar can sharpen up its image and get back to its original ideals in the not too distant future.

The Crafty Pig

Classification: Bar

Food: Sharing platters, pub classics, burgers, sandwiches and pies

Drinks: Cocktails, craft beers, spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 4/10

Koffee Pot – An NQ Review

Since its early days on Stevenson Square, Koffee Pot has long been an NQ Review hangover buster of choice through its extensive breakfast menu and independent attitude.

Now relocated to the far end of Oldham Street, KP is bigger and more ambitious, opening for longer each day to provide late night boozy fun for the Northern Quarter faithful.

The larger premises definitely lend themselves to big groups and we took a long bench in the middle of the candle-lit bar. It might just be a pre-Christmas lull but having closed the kitchen, the place was extremely quiet on our trip; a real shame as the evening food menu looks tasty, offering burgers, melts or boozy snacks like nachos, chilli and wings.

Settling down with pints of Shindigger and East India Pale (which at £3.80 each are pretty good value these days) and a beer stick (salami at £1.50 a pop) we ended up being the only people in there, but not ones to be deterred we enjoyed our tipple and snacky pit stop nonetheless.

Numerous offers and events are scrawled on the giant blackboard, from 2 for 1 cocktails, Open Deck nights for aspiring DJs and gigs from various artists as well as elongated happy hours, so it appears you’re likely to get something that suits everyone here, and we’ll definitely be back in 2017 to check the place out at night again.

It may be unfair of us to review KP as a bar, and we did um and ah over whether to include it in our list. It would definitely get a higher score if rated solely on its daytime food offering, but as a bar it remains to be seen whether Koffee Pot can match its meritable ambition.

Koffee Pot

Classification: Cafe/Bar

Food: Fry ups or burgers, sandwiches and snacks

Drinks: Cocktails, craft beer, wine and spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 6/10

Bluu – An NQ Review

A Co-op Bank leaving do location back in the day, unfortunately Bluu has been stuck in an early 2000s rut since.

Despite being an early NQ forefather, Bluu has long been the gatekeeper and stalwart of the Shudehill NQ entrance and not always in a good way. Wideboys and coke sniffers spill out ahead of us on our visit and the beer choice is horrifically steadfast and true to how it was over a decade ago.

Generic beats spill out over the PA and shirted townies thinking they’ve discovered the NQ spirit frequent the front bar (don’t go round the side, you won’t get served) and the place feels hollow and non-descript.

As a place that keeps the Printworks and pre-black cab crowd away from the rest of the NQ, Bluu works but for all other purposes it’s worth avoiding for lack of character alone.

Bluu

Classification: Bar

Food: Ribs, burgers, salads

Drinks: Cocktails, lager, wine and spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 3/10

Matt & Phreds – An NQ Review

Okay I admit I’ve lived in Manchester 15 years yet I’ve somehow missed out on this iconic venue for that entire time. Must be time to rectify matters.

The first thing that hits you on a Tuesday night in this place is a) it’s rammed for an early midweek night and b) they’re offering free pizza with every two boozes purchased. As offers go this is pretty impressive, and despite the taps being full of generico-lager, the band still get attention to the stage without preventing back-of-the-bar conversation.

A brilliantly acoustic’d venue at the best of times, everything feels right in Matt & Phreds despite the narrow and squashed conditions. Beer flows and quick pizza delivery ensures moods are kept high and although it’s a bit cramped and cosy, it still feels like a well-run and unique venture for the NQ.

Matt & Phreds

Classification: Jazz bar

Food: Pizza

Drinks: Cocktails, lager, wine and spirits

Price: ££

Related City Centre establishments: None

Bongo rating: 6/10

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