Hidden bars? What, don’t they want your money? Yes they do, they’re just doing it differently. And with a city as big as Manchester, sometimes it’s nice to find somewhere that hasn’t been well and truly Magaluffed (hello Northern Quarter). These are the bars for those who want their nights out to be a bit special, a bit secretive, a bit – dare we say – elitist?
Some are simply low-profile and don’t buy into sky-high marketing budgets, some take the notion of ‘hidden away’ full circle, becoming a topsy-turvy PR campaign all of its own. Try them all, for the bragging rights if nothing else.
Here are our picks
Corbieres, 2 Half Moon Street, Manchester, M2 7PS
Serving Manchester’s music lovers for nigh on 35 years, Corbieres has a place in the heart of many a Mancunian. Including no less than Oasis and Mick Hucknall, all of whom used to drink down there back in the dark, pre-boom days before every spare building boasted its very own fly-by-night “pop-up” bar. Stick to the tried and tested and check out this dark little hideaway, famed for its unshowy atmosphere and laidback staff. Go for the drinks, stay for the legendary jukebox.
The Washhouse, 19 Shudehill, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 2AF - Visit now
There’s nothing more secretive than The Washhouse. Nothing about it, from the frontage to the website, suggests it’s a bar. But it is. It’s not a laundrette, it’s a bar. Sorry guys. Your only chance of entry comes from tracking down the phone number to book a machine (aka, a table). Bit too much hassle? Maybe, but you’ll be missing out on some wonderful cocktails in this cosy enigmatic space.
Dusk Til Pawn, Stevenson Square, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 1FB - Visit now
One of the few exceptions to the rowdy Northern Quarter bar scene, Dusk Til Pawn masquerades as a – how did you guess? – pawn shop, complete with deceptive items in the window. Don’t be fooled by those crafty decoys, it’s actually a fairly genteel cocktail bar, with a vintage feel. Think mahogany and well-worn leather, with a classic drinks menu.
Cane & Grain, 49-51 Thomas Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M4 1NA - Visit now
From the makers of Black Dog Ballroom and Liars Club, we have Cane & Grain. And they don’t do things by halves. Behind the unassuming entrance, there are no less than three bars, each with their own unique drinks menus. The ground floor bar has a youthful skater feel, but the true secret-seekers will want to check out the first-floor speakeasy. Ask the barstaff if there’s a free table (tell them Creative Tourist sent you).
The Temple, Great Bridgewater St, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M1 5JW - Visit now
Probably the most well-known secret bar in the city (due, in no small part, to their mention on the 2008 Elbow single Grounds For Divorce). You haven’t experienced true Manchester unless you’ve squeezed your way down here and recoiled in horror at the appalling state of the toilets. And indeed, this fantastic little bar – spread your arms out and you might be able to touch both sides at once – used to be public toilets once upon a time. Don’t be put off, just see it as an example of the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Manchester (complete with a soupçon of grottiness).