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A Clandestine Trip Around Manchester's Secret Bars

Home > Manchester > Bars | Cocktail Bars | Nightclubs | Nightlife | Pubs
by John Burns (subscribe)
I am a writer and teacher, out and about in the world but with Nottingham never far from my heart.
Published November 5th 2014
Thought you knew Manchester? Think again
Head into Manchester City Centre of an evening and you will be met with the bright lights and big sounds of hundreds of bars, clubs and pubs whirring into action for the night ahead. You'll see people in their droves heading to their favourite nightspots, and may be tempted to follow them in search of an enjoyable and exciting evening on the town.

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But what about the bars that are not so prominently advertised; the places which are tucked away from plain sight and can provide a welcome surprise for Manchester veterans on the verge of becoming jaded? Following the route below will take you to five of these surreptitious drinking establishments; but keep your eye out for any other hidden gems you might spot along the way!


Our journey begins at the top of Oxford Street on the junction with Great Bridgewater Street. At first glance, Temple Bar looks like the entrance to an underground station, until you remember that Manchester doesn't have a tube system.

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Heading down the steps will take you to a small but beguiling bar in what was once a public toilet. Temple is renowned almost as much for its musical connections as for its excellent beer selection, and counts Elbow frontman Guy Garvey amongst its patrons. It also boasts one of the best jukeboxes in the city.

Finish your drink(s) and then come with me as we turn left and hop in a cab over to Cross Street for the next stage of our trip.


It's time for a little side street snooping. From Cross Street, take a left onto St. Ann Street and then a quick right onto Half Moon Street. It's here that you will find Corbiere's.

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Without getting too deep into a pseudo-intellectual analysis of authentic Mancunia, this is the place to be for those in search of the 'real' Manchester. This cool basement bar with its vaulted ceilings, pinball table and top notch drinks boasts the kind of atmosphere that is not readily available in the myriad chain bars that have proliferated in the city in recent years. And the food is top too!

Spend a bit of time soaking it all up, then head back on to St. Ann Street for phase three of our secret mission into the midst of Manchester's secret nightlife scene.

The Liquor Store

Turn right on to St. Ann Street and follow it down to Deansgate. This – along with Northern Quarter, Oxford Road and Castlefield – makes for one of the four chambers of Manchester's nocturnal heart, but this isn't quite where we are going.

Cross Deansgate and turn right, following the road to the crossroads and turning left onto Blackfriars Street. Here, tucked away just behind Deansgate, is The Liquor Store.

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The Liquor Store burst onto the scene back in 2012 and has rapidly become one of Manchester's most en vogue drinking spots. The brick exterior that you will see as you approach has become one of the bar's central themes, and the bare brickwork extends into the internal décor.

Its position just to one side of Manchester's famous Deansgate is appropriate; this is a bar that will always be somewhere just left of centre, unwilling to be pigeonholed and always marching to the beat of its own drum.

The staff here have a reputation for mixing wicked cocktails, so be sure to put the pints aside for at least one round and sample a few of their creations.

Dusk til Pawn

Head back onto Deansgate and turn left, before turning right at the next crossroads. Carry on for a few more minutes, carefully skirting The Printworks (which is deliberately not a stop on our route) until you reach the edge of Manchester's promised land: The Northern Quarter.

The Northern Quarter can be tricky to navigate; a feature which makes it the perfect place to secrete a hidden bar. It is in this part of the city that we find the last two stops on our journey.

Find your way to Stevenson Square and look out for the pawn shop. If you've spent all your coppers in the first three bars, this is not the place to pawn your watch and your jeans for extra beer-money. It is in fact bar number four on our list: Dusk 'Til Pawn.

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The pawn shop exterior is all part of the bar's charm. The building itself is a former fortune-tellers den which has been converted into one of The Northern Quarter's most popular drinking establishments for those in the know. Previous visitors have praised the bar's Bourbon collection and also its range of American IPAs, so there are drinks here to tantalise even the most jaded of palates.

The Fitzgerald

Also on Stevenson Square is The Fitzgerald, which must surely be at least short-listed for the award of 'most charming bar in Manchester'. Look out for the Hula Tiki Bar – it's fairly easy to spot; The Fitzgerald is situated directly above it.

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If you feel like you were born in the wrong decade and would have been more suited to swilling Pernod with Hemingway and Ford Maddox Ford in Paris in the 1920s, this is your place. The bar's commitment to its Roaring '20s theme gives it a charm that is hard to find elsewhere.

In fact, even if you're perfectly happy in the 21st Century and have never felt a desire to be transported into the past like Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris, the ebullient atmosphere of this bar makes it your place too!

I hope you've enjoyed our tour round some of Manchester's best secret bars. If you think we missed any please let us know in the comments below!

Now then, I know an excellent kebab place by Shudehill…
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Why? Because the best bars aren't necessarily the best known
Where: Manchester City Centre
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