It's hard to believe that until just a few years ago, the Spinningfields area of Manchester was a pretty unloved patch of concrete, designed as a business quarter and therefore unknown to many of us despite its prime location between Deansgate and the River Irwell. And I think it's fair to say that, despite its transformation into a public, social space offering shops, bars and restaurants, it has still felt like a bit of a work in progress. Yes, there are some great places there - Manchester House is one of my favourite places in the whole of the city, and The Lawn Club is hard to beat on a summer's day - but the area has still had something of an unfinished air about it.
Well, until now really. There's been plenty written about the recent flurry of big-name openings in recent weeks (Iberica, Fazenda) and there will be plenty more when Tattu (see their teaser video here) and The Kitchens open next month. Just this last week has seen the opening of a new pub, The Dockyard Spinningfields (sister to the already very successful Dockyard Media City), where I drank good house red and ate a huge deli sandwich (above) and sat outside by the Irwell, as well as a downstairs bar area at Artisan (above and below) and a vast new Indian restaurant called Scene. These seem like fine additions to me - Spinningfields needed another pubby venue as The Oasthouse gets packed, and as I find myself able to manage a curry at virtually any hour of the day or night I'm pretty sure that that Scene will be seeing me again.
The arrival of the Artisan Cafe Bar is also good news. This formerly wasted space beneath the main Artisan restaurant is now a very cute little bar offering all the signature Artisan cocktails but in a more intimate setting than the cavernous room upstairs, with plenty of outside seating too. We had a quick look last night, and were impressed with the friendliness of the staff, the quality of the cocktails (we particularly liked The Artisan - Green Mark vodka, Aperol, pomegranate, mint, lime and apple juice) and the moreishness of the canapes (I'm sorry to anyone who was hoping to get any of the pulled pork ones). As there will be a cinema opening above this bar area later in the year it seems possible that one may visit Artisan and indeed never leave, particularly as it seems I will be allowed to take my wine into the film with me. Definitely a case of watch this space.
From Artisan it's just a short walk to Scene - I know this, as we went straight from one to the other. The launch party here was pretty spectacular, as befitting such a grand venue - I don't know what I was expecting, but this huge, airy space with its floor to ceiling windows looking over the river is impressive to say the least. Here we drank champagne and danced along with some infectiously cheerful Indian dancers and ate plates of nicely spicy starters - I'll be interested to try the full menu, as the quality was very good despite the enormous number of covers sent out all at once.
So, Spinningfields continues to go from strength to strength. I still think it lacks a little cohesion, but it is really starting to present itself as a self-contained area of town where you can have a good night out from start to finish. And the rumours that I ate canapes at Artisan and then food at Scene and then returned to Artisan for a full meal in the restaurant are entirely unfounded*
- The Dockyard is on Leftbank, as is Scene. Artisan is on Avenue North. All three of these visits were press or preview nights, except for the meal we had later at Artisan which was fully paid.