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Felicity Clarke on a bar that distils the essence of Saturday night and serves it up in a Martini glass

Published on September 24th 2008.


Saturday night has a character entirely different from Friday night. There is a manic energy to Friday; a desperate hurtling into the weekend at full speed, a mission to throw off the dowdy work shroud and revel in a glorious, multicoloured celebration of the weekend landing. Friday is urgent acclimatisation to not being at work, whereas Saturday is more at ease. There's time to get ready and relax into the evening before making a considered assault on town.

The difference out and about is subtle but palpable. Friday is charged with anticipation. Saturday exists in a state of in-the-moment hedonism. The job of a good bar is to facilitate this weekend rollercoaster with style and lubricate it with great drinks. Based on a Saturday night visit, I can report that Boutique successfully fulfils its role.

We arrived at peak time Saturday night (around 9pm) and it was busy. Not irritatingly busy where the words 'excuse me' mean nothing, but buzz busy and certainly bar queue busy. Waiting to be served is a standard element of any weekend night out, yet the experience varies from place to place. There's being crushed up against people you'd generally avoid proximity with, strategising on how to get closer to the bar staff. And then there's places like Boutique where personal space is still invaded but the drinks performance art delivered by the bartenders quashes the desperate impatience.

The speed and dexterity with which the young men behind the bar created cocktails was mesmerising. And they were creating a lot of cocktails. Boutique's eight page menu was developed by award-winning mixologist Gary Hayward, a National Bartender of the Year finalist. However, sticking solely to the menu is for Delia-ites. Our bar guy gave us a consultation and worked his magic, creating two drinks which, annoyingly as a reviewer, he wouldn't name.

Drink 1 (£6) was a kind of caprinha manifested as a snow cone of perfectly balanced cachasa, ginger, rum, lime and bitters. It was refreshing stuff, marred only by the inevitable diluting as snow became slush. Drink 2 (£6) was a raspberry concoction in a sugar rimmed Martini glass that was deep and velvety with threads of tequila, peach, apple and vodka running through.

Obviously we went back for more. As I waited, Team Cocktail continued their drinksy cross between art, science and sport. It's a testament to their passion and professionalism that even with a queue of people, they welcome a cocktail order with enthusiasm rather than frustration.

For the second round we got names. The Strawberry Daiquiri (£6) was an edgy combination of sweetness and sour with a lemony tartness and certainly whacked a punch. But Original Pornstar Martini (£8) stole the show. This smooth orange-hued mixture with passion fruit garnish was like concentrated Solero underpinned by vodka. Offsetting the intense fruity syrup was a side of champagne. This drink in two parts was Saturday night hedonism distilled, and has gained a place in my personal pantheon of memorable drinks.

But what of the atmosphere? Erm, it's ok. The décor is turquoise-lit gastro pub and the music was loud and of an uninspiring funky house nature.

Far better was the outdoor area. Boutique can be found down Hirsts Yard, a cobbled lit alley linking Call Lane to Briggate that's got something of Brighton's The Lanes about it. Sitting out on the black leather poufs among party people and plants, sipping fabulous cocktails as the beats pounded inside, it felt a little bit like being on holiday...and that's precisely the aim of any Friday or Saturday night.

All Manchester Confidential reviews are paid for by the company and are impartial. They reflect the dining experience on the review visit. Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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