Sandbar is an old favourite for many – but finding it is like turning up trumps if you’ve not yet discovered it.
Going to a new bar is like playing a game of cards. Think about it – in both cases, it’s likely you’ll sit around a table for several rounds, wondering what the chances are of things going your way. And, mostly, both are something you go and do when you’re bored. Which is why Sandbar, an alcove of ale, artful décor and, well, more ale, is the Royal Flush for anyone who hasn’t been before.
Lovingly set into a row of renovated Georgian town houses just off Manchester’s Oxford Road, the bar boasts an independent streak complete with gratifying fireplaces and exposed brickwork. It has a grand drinks selection and a recently developed food menu, offering feel-good meals at feel-good prices – a wide range, from paella to pizza via Shepherd’s pie, is served from 12-9pm.
There’s a lightwood circle bar, backdrop candles in the evening and what look to be a poet or two scribbling musingly in the shadows
Oddities and quirky shelving units decorate the walls, while carriage-like seats salvaged from retro school-buses are mixed in with other assorted chairs. The lack of space feels cosy, rather than crowded. That said, it’s worthwhile having a look at Sandbar’s scheduled events ahead of a visit; with the bar hosting a busy array of life-drawing, music nights and beer festivals, the capacity can hit a peak even mid-week.
On the right night, though, Sandbar is an aesthetically-driven, if a little care-worn hub, with plenty of features to admire. There’s a lightwood circle bar, backdrop candles in the evening and what look to be a poet or two scribbling musingly in the shadows. Coffee, tea, served with a complimentary Caramel Wafer, and larger cakes at teasingly minimal prices make this a conceivable corner-hideout for day hours, too.
Pitch up and drink up seems to be the righteous manifesto of this laid-back, intimately-scaled bar, infused with the sentiment of “anything goes”. Shuffled Deck, decorated with an Ace of Spades, is, appropriately enough, one of the bar’s popular brews. It’s joined by an excellent range of other ales on tap, ciders by the bottle – and even a spirit and mixer or two, if you ask nicely. These, and along with Sandbar’s great whisky selection, can add up to many an evening wasted by accident.
It’s funny how this bar, so understated in the grand scheme of things, is actually host to large-scale events and intimate meetings alike. And this, in a way, is the true spirit of a venue that plays its cards exactly right.