GorillaIan Jones, Food and Drink Editor
Outsiders and old-timers might remember Green Room, the much-loved experimental art, theatre and comedy venue, based under the railway tracks on Whitworth Street from the mid-80s until its closure in 2011. In its place now we have Gorilla, one of the most successful venues in the ever-growing Trof chain, with an enormous backroom club space, home to some of Manchester’s most high-profile clubnights and gigs.
While the back room gets the column inches, the streetside bar and food area has quietly become one of the city’s most popular places for casual dining. Most days of the week both floors are rammed to the rafters with everyone from office workers to tattooed beatniks straight out of Portlandia.
It’s a far cry from Green Room, which while an important part of the city’s arts scene, never really lived up to its potential, with poor sound, harsh lighting and little interest in food. In contrast, Gorilla has a warm, homely atmosphere, with tightly-packed seating that feels cosy rather than cramped. The staff are a delight, friendly and eager to chat, and the place is dotted with enough regulars to give it that Cheers-style ‘local’ feel.
The menu is a touch more unconventional than standard bar food, but fear not, there are enough staples to keep everyone and their gran happy. One item instantly stands out. Bread and dripping is something you don’t see on chic city-centre menus. Thick slabs of heavy home-baked sourdough bread with a pot of salty butter. The dripping isn’t that pasty white, lard-like gunk from Thatcher’s Britain, this is a mahogany gravy, rich and oily, seven days in the making. It’s obscenely good and contains enough calories to keep a team of mountain climbers going for a week. I finish the lot.
The dripping isn’t that pasty white, lard-like gunk from Thatcher’s Britain, this is a mahogany gravy, rich and oily, seven days in the making
The salt and peppers chicken wings are another winner. Salty with a capital S, these are strictly for sodium-lovers only. The wings are from high-quality chickens, crunchy and plump, sprinkled with tender chunks of onion and chili peppers. Vastly superior to anything from your local takeaway.
Burger-lovers won’t be disappointed and the lamb burger is a particularly wise choice. The hefty meat patty is improved further with slices of bacon, and if two life forms aren’t enough, you can even add an egg. The half chargrilled chicken takes a while to cook, but is worth the wait. It arrives on a skewer, soft, juicy and exploding with lemon, thyme, garlic and rock salt. Little pots of green chimichurri (a vinegar-based mixed of parsley, garlic, oil and oregano) and creamy aioli rubber-stamp the attention to detail. This isn’t bog-standard bar food, not by a long shot.
And finally, the Key lime pie. A semi-deconstructed take on the American classic, it consists of a huge billowing cloud of whipped cream, paired with a passion fruit sauce and a scoop of eye-rollingly good coconut ice cream. It could easily feature on some of the city’s high-end restaurant menus.
I’m sure experimental folk theatre had its virtues but I’d choose Gorilla’s bread and dripping every time
With hindsight, the outpouring of sadness when Green Room’s closure was announced seems ill-placed. Years on, Manchester’s arts scene is healthier than ever, boasting everything from gargantuan venues like HOME and Factory International to incredible independent ventures, more of which seem to be popping up every season at the moment. And while I’m sure experimental folk theatre had its virtues, I’d choose Gorilla’s bread and dripping every time.