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Cinnabar

Andy Murray is impressed by the bar cousin of top new restaurant Vermilion

Published on December 20th 2007.


Cinnabar

It’s entirely possibly that you might wake up the morning after a night at Cinnabar and wonder if you’d dreamt the whole thing. The very setting has a dash of the surreal to it, lying as it does in deepest Newton Heath, quite literally in the shadow of the gasworks. The striking entrance is all statues and trickling water features. Beaming, helpful staff greet you in the lobby and direct to the lift. And when the lift doors open on the upper floor, a facing set of doors glide open simultaneously, revealing a cool, atmospheric bar that resembles some sort of psychedelic Bond set.

You genuinely could not fault the eye-catching décor, with glowing pastel Buddhas and bead curtains. The sheer elegance on display constitutes an experience in its own right.

Now, I must confess that my own tastes in drinking establishments veer towards the modest and the traditional. I’m a Britons Protection type-man, that classic boozer on Great Bridgewater Street. I like pubs, and fireplaces. I’m happiest when things don’t get too fancy. But whatever your inclinations, there’s really no resisting Cinnabar. It’s not just flash – although it is, as you’d expect from a venue that cost a Small Fortune. More impressively, it’s friendly and welcoming. Class is one thing, but this has oodles of character too, and what could so easily feel imposing comes across as highly accessible.

Punters are faced with a bar boasting a vast range of shorts – all very reasonably priced, too, unless by some chance you’re gripped by the urge to buy it by the bottle. An impressive array of wines, bottled beers and lavish cocktails are on offer, too. The sumptuous bar area itself is softly-lit in ever-changing colours, staffed with roaming hostesses who’ve clearly had sashaying training. There’s some supremely tasteful music, and an appealing variety of seating, from dinky tables to roomy golden pods strewn with cushions. You genuinely could not fault the eye-catching décor, with glowing pastel Buddhas and bead curtains. The sheer elegance on display constitutes an experience in its own right.

As far as food’s concerned, Cinnabar’s in a slightly odd situation. It’s actually part of Vermilion, the much-vaunted new Thai restaurant, and that side of the operation is undoubtedly grabbing the lion’s share of the attention. Indeed, the bar’s balcony overlooks the diners below. So, is the Cinnabar experience akin to being a child with his face pressed up to the sweet shop window? Even those sashaying hostesses seem expectant that their punters are waiting for a table. But for all that, very substantial snacks are on offer here, some of which are unique to the bar. The Tom Yan Talay Nam Saiy (clear lemongrass soup) is fine stuff, and the Khang Kaow Phuek (stuffed honey glazed chicken) is tasty and moreish. And again, the food prices far from extortionate.

The question arises, though: can Cinnabar stand up as a bar in its own right? Despite its indisputable charms, is it somewhere you’d head to for the night, or is it effectively just a wondrous waiting room for Vermilion? People may be willing to trek out for a special meal, but the same might not hold true for a few drinks. (If you’re planning a first date, mind you, Cinnabar’s a dead cert, guaranteed to impress.) It’s a sad fact – and I’ll say this knowing it holds true for myself, at least – that for some city-centre-and-suburbs types, a twenty minute drive off the Beaten Track feels like a journey into the unknown. But in this case that’s a lazy preconception worth challenging.

Cinnabar’s splendid, a fascinating addition to the Manchester food and drink spectrum, and it rewards a wee bit of effort. Indeed, it beats most comparable (cough) ‘handier’ venues hands down.

Rating: 17/20
Breakdown: 4.5/5 Food
4/5 Drink
5/5 Decor
3.5/5 Ambience
Address: Cinnabar & Vermilion Restaurant
Hulme Hall Lane
Lord North Street www.vermilionrestaurant.co.uk
M40 8AD
0161 202 0055
6pm – 2am daily

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14 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AdrienDecember 20th 2007.

Thanks Jonathan, pesonally I don't see the comparison with Panacea. Admittedly Vermillion is in a bit of a strange place and building but I suspect they'll be paying out considerably less rates than that of the more central venues and so will hoefully invest those savings back into establishing a quality brand and clientel based on consistency of service and range of menu, not just good decor. Maybe even offer some decent competition to the supposedly finer eateries in central Manchester which lacks a single michellan star restaurant. However I suspect that Vermillion may go the way of others and fail because few of us can actually be bothered to get a cab 10 minutes down the road, prefering instead to act like the sheep that the marketing machines assume we are, so lets all carry on buying into over priced, over hyped and over pretentious hostesses. speaks volumes.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2007.

Panacea is a joke! full of people trying to be something their not. Vermilion and Cinnabar is the only place up North that can compete with London's big restaurants - no matter where it is! - FACT! wake up Manchester!

VDecember 20th 2007.

Have you all been to the same place i went to?? heard a lot about the opening of this new restaurant, Vermillion and it was all very hyped up and positive. went on a week night with my husband found it very dissapointing. obviously you people dont get out much. the 5 million pounds spent, totally wasted as the quality of food and service was certainly not comparable. and why would a place that had spent that much do a sunday buffet for £9.95??

AnonymousDecember 20th 2007.

Steven, my post was edited, My post was to draw attention to the fact that the weblink was for the Rugby restaurant not Manchester. not adding to any hype.

mark mDecember 20th 2007.

Panacea is over priced, over hyped, and overly full of Manchester's low life.

nadiaDecember 20th 2007.

Ive been to the restaurant a couple of times now and ive been to cinnabar quite often for there drinks, iheard about it through all the press, they did and personally, as a young student in manchester from Alderley Edge, who doesnt conform to all the WAG lifestyle really enjoy this place, it reminds me the atmosphere you get when you go to Buddha Bar, this isnt trying to be anything like Panacea!! And you cant compare it to Chophoraya, the truth is we live in Manchester, where everybody is a wannabe, and people will do whatever the hottest person is doing. Its pretty sad really that we follow other people around. Wake up people, Manchester's got something completely different, and the best part is its out of town away from all the stupidity & madness....Manchester isnt very big! Use your common sense, it's the best thing to happen to manchester in terms of fine dining!

Mr. Fine Dining HimselfDecember 20th 2007.

What a fantastic place in an obscure location. Have to say that no matter what I can see this failing within 3 years...the lure of the city is too much and the sphere of influence too great.

annaDecember 20th 2007.

oh dear, Chandley1976, if it really is so bad up here, why don't you go back down south and time travel forward 15 years again. I don't know who you've been mixing with but you seem to have a very strange idea of what mancunians want these days which seems very generic and stereotypical - teach you that in London did they?

Stephen TaylorDecember 20th 2007.

Why is it always anonymous readers that bump up the hype? I must say that Cinnabar (as well as Vermillion) is the most over hyped place Ive ever been to. The guy has obviously invested a damn whole lot of money so you'd expect the PR machine to roll, but he should have concentrated on quality.. The food was very average, the bar was dead, and the staff looked bored. To be so quiet at Christmas speaks volumes. Panacea, despite its past problems will always get my vote, and my money.

Jonathan SchofieldDecember 20th 2007.

Anonymous, sorry about that. The guy who puts up the stories removed the link and your sentence without posting on here to explain what he'd done. My fault for not telling him to do that. The web link is the right one now and thanks for bringing it to our attention.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2007.

I went to the opening night of Vermillion and Cinnabar and have to say had a great time. Your piece prompted me to pay a revisit.

Chandley1976December 20th 2007.

Oh please, this all really grates on me. Ive only been back in Manchester for a year after a few years down south and abroad, and Ive got to ask.... Why is Manchester so obsessed with 'wannabe VIP' places these days?! They are packed full of people who earn anywhere between 15 and 40 grand, who work in office jobs and have mortgages/pay rent, and want to be 'seen' with the stars, to boost their shallow little egos, if you class Wayne Rooney's fiancee or Scary Spice as a star?! Honestly, its pathetic, and smacks of insecurity, and it seems to be a newly found novelty to have a few decent looking bars in city centre Manchester since its very recent revamp! First it was the Sugar Lounge, then Living Rooms, now Panacea. Honestly, its pathetic, and since when does paying £3.50 for a beer or £7 for a glass of wine, make you rich!? It doesnt! These places are full of pretentious fools with a bad attitude, who want to be 'seen' in the right places, and compare their shoes to other peoples. Ironically, truly rich or famous people DONT want to be seen.Getting back to the food and drink scene in Manchester, as this is a restaurant chat afterall, therefore should be about food, not celebrity... Im a proud northerner, but the fact is that city centre Manchester or anywhere else in the north, doesnt even come close to London's dining/drink scene, as northerners just dont get nice food, regardless of how much cash you have. Thats why there isnt a single Michelin starred place in the city centre! Most people still want a steak and chips when eating out, whether you go to Beefeater or Gaucho grill, whether you pay 5 or 25 quid for your steak. Sure, places like Heathcotes, San Carlo, Stock, Chaoproaia etc are nice restaurants, but theres nothing amazing, and definately not 'fine dining' about them, and you can indeed get steak and chips at all of them! Just decent everyday food! But the more celebrities eat there, the better right? It doesnt matter how you dress it up, but people's eating and drinking habits up here are 15 years behind London's, and there just isnt a market for fine dining up here, as people are not interested that kind of food. As long as you walk out full and the decor was nice, and you feel like youve been to a 'posh' place, it was a fine dining experience right? A woman in work told me in a slightly bragging tone, that she ate at 'San Carlos' the other day. But whats so special about it? I ate there a while back, and it was nice, but thats about it. It really want anything special, and a meal for 2 came to £70, so hardly exclusive. But then, Cristiano Ronaldo and And and Dec were both snapped by the MEN coming out of there over Christmas right? Thats exactly why the best chef in greater Greater Manchester, Paul Kitching of Juniper in Altrincham, is leaving the area to move to London in April! Theres no market for his cooking around here.I love Manchester, as it will always be home, in the same way that you love your Mum, because she always will be no matter what she does, but Manchester has become very cocky, slightly pretentious, and is trying to be something that it isnt... ie, London 15 years ago. VIP bars? Get a life.So yeah, Vermillion. It looks great, the food is nice, but Im sorry, nothing amazing. However, I bet it will be closed within 3 years, once the novelty wears off. They would have made more cash selling £14.99 3 course set meals in city centre Manchester, as thats what people want around here on the whole.

skyebluecityDecember 20th 2007.

Well, the night started so well...... Our party (all 13 of us) arrived and a very nice man came to the car with a large golf umbrella to escort us to the door because it was raining. Upon entry, we were greeted by three lovely (Thai I pressume) young ladies. All of whom were trying to do the others' job in an attempt to be efficient! I handed one of them the birthday cake we brought with us and the candles and away to our tables (up the lift) we went. The restaurant, WOW, what can I say? Beautiful! You can clearly appreciate the amount spent on the decor. Upstairs, Cinnabar was equally impressive. The 'pods', a neat concept until maybe 12 months from now when the fabric and cushions and worn and torn etc.from all the Jimmy Choos (or wanna bes) climbing across them. But all in all, as far as decor...DO believe the hype! It is worth going to have a look! As for the food and service however..... Not all IT is cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong, the food is very nice but not un-similar to any other decent Thai restaurant. The organic brown rice is a nice addition and the Yam Nua Yang Salad (Beef and Mint)was fabulous. On the other hand, general consensus around the table was that the food was decent; nicely presented but NOT exceptional. The Soft Shell Crab main dish was terrible. Tasted like it had been deep fat fried in old grease with a blob of coagulated curry sauce poured over it. It also took over twenty minutes, AFTER the other 12 diners were served their mains dishes to make an appearance to the table. At one point, it also took about twenty minutes for a bottle of wine and five Singha beers to be delivered to the table. Very graciously, the manager, a nice French gentleman informed us that the Soft Shell Crab was complementary, Well thank you very much! I, ate alone because everyone else had finished their meals as well as it being on the verge of unedible. By the time we had ALL finished our meals, another 30 minutes had gone by before we got an opportunity to order coffees and request the cake. We eventually got the staff's attention and arranged for the cake to be brought. Small plates were quickly brought to the table and placed with a desert spoon and fork.... and then .... nothing for another 15 minutes..... At which point we asked for the cake in the box and the bill. Which arrived after another 10 minutes. The grand total came to £420 for 12 of us. Mine was taken off the bill remember and they waived the service charge. So, Three hours, fifteen minutes and only two courses.... I will think long and hard before returning.... at which point will probably just be for a cocktail up in Cinnabar before the fabric gets tatty. In a nutshell... If you dare go, go with plenty of time, patience and a knowing that the decor is better than the food and service combined!

AnonymousDecember 20th 2007.

The weblink was subsequently removed

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