There’s been a lot of talk recently of hidden bars. We had the trend for speakeasies (which hasn’t quite gone away yet) and themed bars (ditto) and now we’re seeing specialist bars appear – we’ve moved on it seems from the single spirit, and we’re now seemingly heading into single cocktail territory with bars specialising in a particular kind of drink.
But I digress. Arcane was a few weeks ago reported in the press as a hidden bar. I admit, it’s not in an obvious spot, but I’d hardly call it hidden. Hidden implies no signage, a secret entrance – like Wood and Company. But Arcane is situated almost next door to La Vina, with a prominent A-board waving at passers-by on Deansgate and signage outside the bar itself. Colour me confused.
Dammit. I’m doing well at going off on a tangent today.
Anyway, having been told of it’s existence and having missed the opening (I was off running a gin tasting and still have yet to clone myself) it only seemed fair to head in just as soon as I could. And post El Gato dinner, myself and my two dates for the evening headed down the side streets of King Street to have ourselves a digestive cocktail or two.
Arcane is a basement bar, but rather than being welcomed by a booming bass and grumpy looking bouncer, we were greeted by a 1960s soundtrack at a comfortable level for us to actually talk. Yeah, OK the serious bouncer was a bit of a given.
Maybe it’s an age thing, or maybe it’s just that the research I’ve just done for an article on music and it’s effect on drinking and dining has skewed my thinking, but this was a big selling point for me. It was still loud, but not at the deafening I-can’t-hear-the-person-next-to-me-talk-and-I’m-just-going-to-nod-and-smile-so-they-think-I-understand sort of level. Incidentally, loud music at the level not only makes you eat/drink faster, but also tends to make you leave a venue faster. Just sayin.
Inside, it almost feels like someone’s living room. With a grandfather clock, books, squishy 1960s sofas that make you not want to move anywhere any time soon, it’s one of those spots that’s ideal for a post dinner relax and chat, or a late night gossip with the girls.
So what about the drinks? Well here’s where it comes into it’s own. There’s a good wine list – one of my dates immediately indulged in a glass of white, but for me, the cocktails are where it’s at.
There’s a little twist on a Death in the Afternoon, with strawberry liqueur and pistachio sugar that will open some new hearts to absinthe (a good thing in my book), strawberries have hints of aniseed often not played with. For me, however, it was the heavier Charred Rosemary Old Fashioned with a Buffalo Trace Rosemary Infusion, mango tea sugar and Angostura Bitters, and the Saffron, Honey and Orange Negroni – with Saffron Gin, Aperol, Campari and orange blossom honey that caught my attention.
The cocktails are quirky, individual – there are handmade ingredients dotted throughout the menu that will please cocktail fans hinting at the skill behind the drink.
There are a few more on the list I want to sample – the Sage & Onion Daiquiri with Diplomatico Anejo Rum, sage and onion sugar and lime is calling me back to try it – but I think this is a good addition to the cocktail scene in the city. It’s not going to be for everyone – the tunnels and bridges visitor to Manchester might not ever head there.
But that’s just fine.
More space for me at the bar.
All drinks were paid for by myself and my dates during this visit.