7/10 • ££
One of the newest stars on the Manchester restaurant and bar scene is Menagerie Restaurant & Bar (Menagerie). Set just on the outskirts of Spinningfields, and while yes it is technically located in Salford, it is just a stones throw to one of the main social hubs of the city. Menagerie became a part of the picture back in August 2016 and within just over 4 months it’s solidified itself to me as one of the top spots for all things food, drink but most importantly atmosphere. Finding a decent spot that has defined it’s own personality is rare, not many places deliver something different amongst the many chain bars and restaurants you find all over the UK now, so when you find somewhere like Menagerie it’s utterly refreshing and I urge you all to check it out.
I thought I’d split this review up into the several bits that Menagerie both offers and excels at, starting with the most important part – the food!
Initially I have to be honest and say I didn’t hear good things about the food that Menagerie had to offer, being a new place I went over to TripAdvisor to see what everyone’s first impressions were and to put it bluntly they weren’t the best. However despite this, a new place getting on it’s feet is most definitely going to succumb to some bad press, and with that I decided to try it anyway. They offer a pretty big menu in which you can either do a traditional 3 course style experience or opt in for the sharing plates which have their own very extensive selection. The menu definitely isn’t your standard chicken and chips from Nandos; medianoche, spiced popcorn tempura, karaage – things I have never even heard before are available for you to try so don’t be scared to leave your comfort zone because you could be very happily surprised!
For vegetarians, it’s not the best selection I’ve ever seen but it’s not the worst – a good handful of small plates and three main dishes should be able to give you enough option without feeling left out. I’ve tried something different each time, I would definitely recommend the Cauliflower Steak but personally found the Pea & Mint Ravioli not to my liking. For the meat eaters, the world is your oyster here (which you can also get might I add!) – they have your classics such as fillet steak with peppercorn sauce to the more intriguing likes of Hawaiian Style Salmon Poke.
The showstopper of the year hands down is the ferris wheel of desserts – after seeing it all over Instagram and in person the first time around I knew I had to come back and try it. Candy floss, frozen dessert hotdogs and coca-cola bubbles to name a few, it’s offers great desserts but the experience that comes with it makes it what it is. If you go for anything off of the menu, make sure it’s this.
This is where Menagerie kind of loses some of it’s value – the cocktails I can’t fault, whilst a little bit pricier than you’re used to, they still hit the spot visually and on the palette. Some do come with fancy garnishing, such as a (fake) twenty pound note that is set on fire because Menagerie know how to do entertainment! However as a whole, what the bar menu has to offer isn’t overly special.
At night I took friends from all over to Menagerie, describing with high hopes how opulent and beautiful the place was however when we got there it just didn’t live up to expectations on the bar front. Cramped in a small space with very little room to breathe unless you paid for a booth, we kind of felt a bit like cattle trying not to have our slightly expensive drinks knocked out of our hands. This was really unfortunate, I’d definitely try it again as it may have just been a bad night to go, however it wasn’t the best first experience of it as a bar as I’d hoped.
This is where everything that’s remotely negative (although I’m trying to be fair) about Menagerie is fully well redeemed and it’s still somewhere I urge everyone to visit. The atmosphere to me is what makes this place such a great edition to Manchester and I hope it continues to do what it’s perfected in such a small space of time.
A big part of the atmosphere is the service and the staff – every time I’ve been, from the doormen to the the waitstaff, everyone has been so lovely, warm and welcoming I’d love to shake hands with their recruiter because they’ve done a tremendous job of picking such a great bunch of people to represent the brand. That alone would keep me coming back however what does set Menagerie aside from a lot of restaurants/bars in Manchester is their desire to entertain.
It seems like their goal is to wow you, put a smile on your face and for you to tell your friends about this amazing place and it did all three for me. From performers swinging from a hoop amongst the diners to a mind reader, they definitely know how to put on a show. You’ll be able to experience this during the evenings, more so on the weekends too so definitely book in for an evening meal or cocktail to be delighted with the spectacles they have to offer.
Just a quick mention on the decor – they have thought about it meticulously and perfected it. It’s girly, it’s opulent and it fits several trends of the year, marble and gold to name a few. There are several seating options from a golden birdcage to a cushy velvet booth and no matter where you are you wont be too far from a neon sign. I’d go purely to stare at the beautiful setting that they’ve created.
Make it your new years resolution to give it a try; night or day, dinner or drinks, I’m sure you’ll have a lovely experience at Menagerie. They’re offering 50% off food Sunday-Thursday through the whole of January here!