Kosmonaut, 10 Tariff St, Manchester, M1 2FF – Visit Now
There’s a strange disconnect between what people think the Northern Quarter is like, and what it’s actually like. Outsiders might dismiss it as full of penny farthings and regrettable tattoo sleeves, but take a walk down the main strip on a Saturday night and it’s more Magaluf than Michael Gondry, full of lairy revellers in packed-out bars blasting out hip hop and house.
Thankfully, Kosmonaut has been fighting the good fight since 2012. Setting up shop in the then run-down end of the Northern Quarter, or as map-makers prefer to call it, ‘Piccadilly Basin’, it soon became a haven for middle-class millennials searching for their own little Williamsburg. Decked-out with the now-standard exposed brickwork and repurposed furniture, it gradually expanded, now consisting of three large rooms, each with their own bar, and featuring DJs such as the always-excellent Will Tramp (first Saturday of the month, disco fans). You’ll also find irregular comedy events and exhibitions from local artists – although, it must be said, peering at a canvas over a booth full of people drinking does tend to detract from the experience.
The bar is well-stocked, with an especially good whisky selection and extensive range of wine. The cocktails are, in the main, refreshingly simple, though crackpots can opt for the ‘Camping In Collyhurst’ which contains the curiously-unspecific ‘spice’ and fig. The beer selection is a cut above the usual thin corporate brands, featuring the ever-present Brooklyn Brewery (what else?) and a rotation of guest beers.
The venue is laid out well, with enough booths and tables to suit big groups and couples. There’s even a couple of vintage barber chairs. Why? Who knows, but they look nice enough. Kosmonaut were also an early adopter of the ping pong phenomenon – irritating as hell for those around you, but great fun for the grandstanding table tennis enthusiast. In the past, the quality of food ranged from poor to passable but not any more, all thanks to the much-loved Hip Hop Chip Shop, who have taken up residence in the kitchen, providing excellent semi-traditional chip shop fare til late. Night times can get busy, but the firm-but-fair door-staff do a decent job of keeping gangs of lads and ne’er-do-wells at bay.
A haven for middle-class millennials searching for their own little Williamsburg
As with most bars of this ilk, the main annoyance is the service. While the staff are cheery and chatty, it can take a frustrating amount of time to get served. Understandable on a busy Saturday night, less so on a quiet midweek afternoon. Is it a staffing problem or an annoying side effect of the laissez-faire attitude of these bars? Either way, for all their drawbacks, at least the more mainstream bars make the booze-money transaction as quick and painless as possible.
In the true spirit of gentrification, Kosmonaut brought a fresh vibrant feel to this neglected end of the city, and other equally-good bars and coffee shops, such as The Whiskey Jar, Takk and Pen & Pencil, soon popped up nearby. Recently, slow-on-the-uptake journalists from London and New York have proclaimed the Northern Quarter as the next big thing, but as newcomers they fail to see that it’s more like a couple of Northern Eighths. The Kosmonaut end versus the Ibiza-lite end. Choose your poison.