I am trying to cover my home town of Manchester a bit more on my blog, especially in terms of food and drink venues, as Manchester really has an amazing food and drink scene, that is just growing by the day. There are constantly new venues opening ranging from large, well known, branded restaurants to smaller, boutique restaurants just starting out. The thing I love the most about the Manchester food and drink scene is the fact they both get the same amount of coverage, regardless of whether they have an established reputation or not.
I therefore have been trying to get out and about in Manchester more so that I can pass on my thoughts through this blog and hopefully encourage you to either visit Manchester or, if you are already here, get out and try more of the food and drink Manchester has to offer.
So, when Menagerie opened its doors, I had to make sure I had a table booked to see what all the fuss was about.
Menagerie is located in the New Bailey building at the very back of Spinningfields, across the river. As this area is still being redeveloped, from the outside, it really doesn’t look like much and if you didn’t know it was there, you’d probably carry on walking. The building is still pretty empty and it seems to stand alone in what is essentially still a building site. This setting won’t be permanent though, as other occupiers move into the building and the area immediately surrounding is developed, so I won’t dwell on this too much here.
You are greeted at the entrance by a small garden/terrace area (complete with a small plastic flamingo) and a bright pink neon sign spelling Menagerie (a good indication you are in the right place!). As you walk in you are met with a mind boggling array of décor. Your eyes end up darting all over the place as you take it all in. Neon signs, cranes (the bird) hanging from the ceiling, different lighting, a large gold cage and an aerial hoop, all in view as soon as your first walk in.
We were led swiftly to our table, which was a bloggers dream. It was a marble top with gold cutlery, beautifully laid out. We were handed the menus and we quickly started perusing what was on offer. Well, I did, everyone else I was with were glasses wearers and the darkness coupled with the small print of the menus meant it took quite a while and a lot of squinting, and using the light from their phones, to actually be able to read what was on offer! You can probably tell how dark it was due to the quality of the photos (sorry).
I have to say, I am not sure I could class this place as a restaurant. The dark lighting and crazy loud music, even at 7/8pm made the atmosphere more bar like. I found it odd where we were sitting to be eating a full on meal. We were on high stools at a table right by the bar, surrounded by people who were just there for drinks. I think I would have preferred being sat at the back of the building, as this was exclusively filled with people actually dining, and the tables and chairs were normal height!
I started my evening with a Sake and Champagne cocktail, which was delicious. In fact, they really do make stand out cocktails and they should really make more of a song and dance about that. For starters I ordered the lobster and prawn toast, which was delicious. For my main I ordered the steak, which was nice, but I felt like the plate was very bare. It was a piece of steak and some chips, on a plate way too large for just two items. It was missing another side, maybe a grilled mushroom or some sautéed spinach. My boyfriend went for a burger, and again, the plate seemed really empty. It was just a burger and some chips and to be honest, for the price, I would have expected more. Don’t get me wrong though, the food was very tasty, I just think there should have been another side to balance the plates a bit.
Every now and again, the far end of the restaurant/bar would become a hive of activity as one of their live acts took to the stage. This started with a girl singing, and I have to say, she was very good. We could watch this fine from the comfort of our table but the rest of the acts we could not enjoy unless we got up from our table, pushed through the crowd at the bar and made our way to the restaurant section at the back. This really annoyed me, and again, we felt really separate from the main area. In case you haven’t realised yet, I really wasn’t a fan of where we were seated. They should reduce the capacity of the restaurant area to just the main area, not overflow into the bar, which is what I felt they had done and it just completely reduced our overall enjoyment and experience.
They had some amazing acts from a rather steamy dominatrix style set to some amazing acrobatics in the aerial hoop. The team at Menagerie really know how to put on a show! I just wish they didn’t have such long breaks in between acts, especially when I had to keep getting up and down to see them.
Now, moving onto the best bit of the night; the dessert. We ordered the funfair dessert which is a variety of fairground treats from doughnuts to popcorn to candyfloss. Each element of the dessert was delicious and the best bit was that it came served in a mini Ferris wheel. It was just awesome and such a fun way to share food with your friends and family. I was a bit confused by the menu though as it said it came with candy alcoholic shots, which we thought must be the little tubes sticking out of the candy floss. Turns out, these were just bubble blowers, which would have been useful to have pointed out, as one of us ‘shotted’ what was essentially soapy water. Not the best way to end a meal! I am still wondering where my candy alcohol shots went to…
Overall I had a really good night. The entertainment was great, even if it was a bit broken up and far from where we were sitting. The food was also very good, just the mains were basic given the price. I am still confused though as to whether it is a restaurant or a bar, I think my experience here may have been different if I had been sat elsewhere. I was really not a fan of the high stools and proximity to the bar for a full on meal. I would go again but probably just for cocktails and a fun night rather than for a restaurant meal, unless I knew I would be guaranteed to be seated at the back. It is a good place for a night out but I think it is a bit confused as to what it wants to be. If it is going to be a bar and a restaurant, they need a better division between the two in how it is laid out.
Have you been to Menagerie? What did you think? Anywhere else you would recommend I try next?