The Blues Kitchen Manchester, 13 Quay St, Manchester, M3 3HN – Visit Now
It’s safe to say The Blues Kitchen Manchester has a lot going on. Downstairs, the restaurant and upstairs the bar and live music space, which can be transformed into the perfect clubroom for one-off events, holding a good few hundred party people. But is it any good? Spoiler: yes. It’s very, very good.
The Blues Kitchen doesn’t put a step wrong
The venue itself is magnificent. Everywhere you look you’ll beautiful examples of Art Deco design, retaining plenty of original features from the days when it was owned by the Post Office, and prior to that a hospital (let’s skip over the years it spent as a Walkabout). Everything about it feels grand, from the way you walk into each room through heavy doors, up wide staircases, underneath stained glass windows – it’s no stretch to say that this one of Manchester’s best-looking venues.
First, the food. Expect an American-style feel, but towards the higher end of things, with some standout vegan options, not something our Star-Spangled cousins are necessarily known for. The waiting staff are superb, cheerful, friendly and know the menu inside and out. We begin with ox cheek nuggets and really, if you just buy four portions of these you’ll leave full and contented. As you’d expect from the name, five dark brown balls containing slow-cooked ox cheek, so soft the contents border on liquid, scattered with thick chunks of sea salt and a side pot of silky chipotle mayo. They’re exceptional.
It’s hard for the Cajun popcorn squid to match up but they do a fair job. Crispy, fresh and hot, with an appealing sprinkle of shredded spring onion and a pot of red-eye mayo, they’re as good as any crispy squid you’ll find in town.
For mains, the vegan cheeseburger is easily one of the best vegan burgers in Manchester. It’s made up of a Moving Mountains patty, in a soft bun with a nicely sweet and tangy sauce, and somehow never feels too heavy or unhealthy. However, if you’ve got an appetite and a taste for meat, go for the beef short rib for 2. Easily enough for two people, probably more, this hefty platter comes with an enormous plate of beef short rib that tears off the bone with ease, coated in an incredible tasting layer of charred and caramelised coating that I’ve never tasted anywhere else.
As well as this, a few hunks of grilled corn cobs smeared with crab butter, a thick wedge of iceberg lettuce covered in a buttermilk and blue cheese dressing; and last but not least, a skillet of mac ‘n’ cheese that contains yet more brisket at the bottom. This last load of meat is probably a step too far for most, especially if you pair it with the cornbread with honey butter, which while I’m assured is a common staple at American barbecues, simply tasted like a nice honey-coated sponge cake to these anglo-fied tastebuds and kinda odd to pair with such rich heavy meat. But still, worth trying at least once.
As great as the food is, the upstairs bar and live music part of the evening is what truly blew me away. To the point where I spent the next few days telling all my coupled-up friends to book in there for a date night, pronto. It’s something Manchester doesn’t have, certainly not to this standard, yet clearly craves. The bar is top tier, all quality drinks, a range of cocktails and practically every liquor you could desire, with a bunch of tables spaced out, like some kind of fancy Prohibition-era speakeasy, all facing the stage where the Blues Kitchen house band play sets throughout the night.
The band is superb, running through a tight set of soul and funk classics (very little in the way of blues, interestingly and correctly, after the grimmest year in modern history), and far be it from me to be a grass, but one of the most memorable semi-post-covid moments so far was witnessing a room full of people so taken by the act of being out and hearing amazingly-performed live music that they couldn’t resist standing up at their tables and dancing for the sheer joy of it.