Cane & Grain celebrate their 5th birthday on Thursday 4th July with a three-floor extravaganza – 6 pm til late
Cane and Grain hails from Blackdog Ballroom and the Liars Club in Manchester’s northern quarter – but what exactly does it do differently?
Cane and Grain is the bar equivalent of a department store. To explain: following a mega, bells and whistles kit out (we’re talking a carefully tessellated wall of wooden crates, tailor-made leather banquettes and a giant, novelty swordfish), Cane and Grain has just opened its bespoke front doors onto not one, but three distinct bar areas, contained within a single space. They all have separate drinks menus – two of them have their own staircase. This isn’t edgy, effortless cool – Cane and Grain is all about fully blown intensity, but boy is it impressive.
Its main selling point is try-it-on-for-size-style drinking; if the casual, skater hangout atmosphere and tap beer of the ground floor feel too laidback and loose, ask if there’s a free table in the first floor speakeasy. True to theme, you’ll be taken through an unmarked door to sit between wood lined walls and sip prohibition liquor, in mixes we suspect are several shades more sophisticated than the illegal, bottle-in-a-brown-bag offerings they hark back to.
It has three distinct bar areas, all with separate drinks menus – two of them have their own staircase
The menu here boasts cocktails at either end of the flavour spectrum: from the potent, spirit smash of the classic Sazerac, to altogether more delectable and dangerous blends. Take the City of Gold; if it were a person, this citrus and rhubarb rum-based looker would steal your heart, and possibly your wallet. Cane and Grain’s menu, meanwhile, is a do-before-you-die thing. It ain’t healthy – even the vegetarian watermelon and feta salad, beautiful and lonely like a gunslinger’s girlfriend, was gin soaked – but when you settle on a ribs joint, that’s really not the point.
A bar snack of bacon-flavoured popcorn came first, in a gimmicky – but quite sweet – blue-striped paper bag. The taste was as addictive as you could wish, but a bit of a bully to the drinks. There was a choice between a half and a whole slab of ribs: go for the whole and you get a whole lotta pig, essentially. Slathered in St Louis sauce and rather unnecessarily dusted with beat-up pretzels, the meat was meltingly well cooked, if enough to double your own body weight. Truffle mac and cheese, tiki salt fries and cornbread were all steady sidekicks – the tiki salt, to quote Jay Rayner elsewhere, “the edible equivalent of crystal meth”. The only small complaint was crockery – rather than culinary – based: using a serrated knife to cut ribs against a tin tray was a bit like scoring the side of a Chrysler with a nail. So fingers were used, instead. All hail the mighty wet wipe.
Food pressing up behind our eyes, it was time to gravitate to the chilled, beach bar surrounds of the Liars Lounge. This bit of the bar has the blow torched zombie cocktail smell of the two other Tiki bars that are a hula hip’s distance from it – but it also has a secret alcohol lab. And it’s where the swordfish we mentioned lives. They’ve basically gone one bigger and better, with awesome homemade cordials and mixes that are a leisurely two fingers to cheaper, straw-sucked others. Don’t worry though, dude, they’ll still get you wasted. Just don’t try to do skate tricks after you exit.
That’s the thing about Cane and Grain – you can be three different kinds of drinker in an evening, or stick with the style you like. As with decent shopping centres, it all comes down to taste.
This is an independent review, but our writer didn’t pay for her meal. For more info on our editorial policy, read our About page.