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Chopin Bar

Andy Murray wonders if a classical music bar is an orchestral movement in the dark

Published on October 23rd 2007.


Chopin Bar

If your average Chorlton watering hole is, in a theoretical sort of way, the bar equivalent of listening to your iPod – or, at a push,Radio 4 – then Chopin represents a change of tack: the opportunity to immerse yourself in Radio 3. Thus far, having only recently opened, it’s a slightly uncomfortable mission. Chopin is trying awfully hard to be sophisticated, and appeal to the appropriate crowd. In truth, it’s trying a bit too hard.

It’s taking the idea of classical pops too far. We heard Orff’s Carmina Burana at least twice in the space of an hour - which, if nothing else, had me pining for a splash of Old Spice.

It’s not the tea-lights on the marble-effect tables, or the home-cured meats and cheeses on the menu. But it might be down to the décor: a wall border made up of musical scores, framed classical LP covers, and even –yes – instruments strung up high. Will discerning punters really go for somewhere that’s trying to herald its classiness quite so loudly?

The drinks on offer aren’t anything exotic at this stage, although plans are in place to branch out from the obvious. Vodka lovers are already well served, though, with a genuinely expansive collection from which to choose. In the wine department it’s all very promising, too. The food’s more along the lines of refined nibbles than full-on fare, but it certainly does the job. Quality coffees and teas are also available, for those of a non-boozy persuasion, which is presumably part of Chopin’s key market.

Even at this early stage, likely punters are discovering the place. An actual real-life book club was meeting on the evening of our visit. Disabled access is excellent, too, and clearly some thought’s gone into the lay-out. Plans are in place to introduce live performances. But if intends to be a cosy meeting place for the cognoscenti, there’s something rather cold and clinical about the place so far. It’s not unlike the kind of austere, somewhat soulless bar you’d venture into when visiting an East European city: a little bit lost for an identity, or else lost in translation. Yes, there’s a classical music soundtrack. And yes, it’s at a pleasing low, conversation-friendly volume. But it’s taking the idea of classical pops too far. We heard Orff’s Carmina Burana at least twice in the space of an hour - which, if nothing else, had me pining for a splash of Old Spice.

It’s not all bad though. Far from it. The service is friendly and helpful, and the long bar/small tables arrangement may yet prove conducive to a quiet drink. Prices are very reasonable, too. The intentions are good. You’d have to concede, though, that Chopin has its work cut out to create a welcoming atmosphere of culture and intellect right opposite Chorlton Baths.

Clearly though the owners have identified a genuine gap in the market for a certain type of local drinker – most likely the early doors type. In due course, it’ll become clear whether it can walk it like it talks it, and if the gods smile Chopin will connect with its full intended audience and learn exactly how to cater for them. Then perhaps it’ll grow into a less artificial venue. But for now, unfortunately, it’s a rather underwhelming, half-baked sort of experience.

Rating: 12/20
Breakdown: 4/5 Food
3/5 Drink
2/5 Decor
3/5 Ambience
Address: Chopin Bar
127 Manchester Road
0161 862 9949
Mon-Thu 4.30-11.30pm;
Fri-Sat 4.30pm-12.30am

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superdog500October 23rd 2007.

It would be good for Chopin to work as of course it's a shame to see any small local business fail. However they do need to up their game a bit and give the space some much needed 'warmth'. And change the name to Titanium Monkey Gym. That's all. Can I have my consultancy fee now?

LafwandaOctober 23rd 2007.

I was very much looking forward to this bar opening, as I thought that the promised live classical music would make a welcome change from all the earnest boys/girls with acoustic guitars that predominate in South Manchester.So I was rather disappointed when on my first visit I found nothing but the piped Granny's Favourite Classics mentioned in your review.I also agree with the comments made about the decor. I was hoping for something a bit more cosy and relaxed: an antidote to the clinical minimalist 'chic' which interior designers repeatedly tell us is attractive and inviting. Truth be told however, the majority of us just want somewhere comfortable and easy on the eye in which to relax and converse with our friends. The majority of pubs now blare out pounding music which is prohibitive to conversation, and thus makes going out with friends pointless, so a classical music bar would on the surface of things look like a viable alternative. However, when the interior is an unsettling blend of coldness and twee gift shop, and the looped music the kind of collection you would generally get free with a gallon of petrol, it all rather falls flat on its face.Come on Pascal, you can do better than this. Bring in some comfy seats, warm colours and a live pianist or string quartet, and give this venue the appeal it deserves. It's a great idea. It just needs a bit more work.

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