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Cloud 23 Refurbishment: Gallery And Cocktails

Jonathan Schofield has a look around and enjoys cocktails

Written by . Published on November 27th 2012.

Cloud 23 Refurbishment: Gallery And Cocktails

FIRST let's talk about the interior design of the re-opened Cloud 23 and then it's time for cocktail descriptions - skip to the yellow box below if it's the grog you want.

Back to the Cloud 23 design.

Usually good architects and interior designers go one of two ways. They are ‘the big I am’ or they show subtlety.

To go back a decade in Manchester, we have the Imperial War Museum North by Daniel Libeskind and Manchester Art Gallery by Michael Hopkins and Partners.  

For the general bar-goer though, visits will take place during the evening, when subtle lighting will put the focus less on Lloyd Chapman’s restrained interior and more on the people watching opportunities, the cocktails, and the patterns of street lights stretching north, south, east and west.

The first is show-off design, bold and ballsy, but shouting everything else down. The second takes the softly softly approach, stays in the background, and is a gentle presence letting the art steal the show.

Lloyd Chapman, designer of the new Cloud 23 interior, seems to favour the softly softly rather than the show-off.

The senior designer at Hirsch Bedner Associates of London has gone for restraint rather than excess.

Gently does it for Lloyd ChapmanGently does it for Lloyd Chapman

In the new Cloud 23 there are booths, settees and more modest seating under primrose walls. A big tonal theme comes from predominant pale gold and light silver. The odd blast of black leather comes as a relief from all this fairy-delicate colouring.

The gold and silver is perhaps supposed to fit the idea – the hotel owner being a Greek Cypriot – of Cloud 23 being a Mancunian Mount Olympus. The four main areas of the refurbished sky-high venue are named after Zeus, Apollo, Eros and Iris – the boss god, the sun god, the love god and the rainbow goddess respectively.

But if so, this is a very cautious Olympus, hardly like the scenes dreamt up in Hollywood movies. Maybe Chapman is thinking that a cool, laid-back design has a longer shelf life than any number of over-the-top marble-addled, fake rococo interiors.

Indeed, at its best the new Cloud 23 captures a classic late fifties, early sixties atmosphere as though Sophia Loren or Steve McQueen are about to walk in and order Cosmopolitans.

It doesn’t however match the pre-refurbishment announcements. 

These stated that Cloud 23 was to undergo 'a complete style overhaul which will see it transformed into one of the most glamorous venues in the north west of England'.

Maybe there's designer muddle here.

The owner wanting Olympus and the original design statements from Lloyd Chapman stating: "We thought about the huge influence that the cotton industry had on Manchester during the industrial revolution and worked on the idea of cotton clouds which will be used as a key concept feature.”

The cotton clouds ideas appear perhaps with the ceilings and the too-garish carpets, but they seem a million miles away from the other notion of this being a northern Mount Olympus. 

Cloud 23 - north side, shame it's not always open as standardCloud 23 - north side, shame it's not always open as standard

The real regret is a failure to permanently reverse the axis of Cloud 23 from mainly looking south to mainly looking north. The exciting view is the one into the city centre rather than out to the Cheshire plain, but most of the north side will still only be used as overspill for the main bar, rather than being automatically open.

The views have always been the prime reason for a visit to Cloud 23.

This place is all about the views.

The views darling, it's all about the viewsView into the city centre

That’s why on a Monday afternoon this week Cloud 23 had fifty two afternoon teas booked in (£19.95 or with Champagne, £27.95).

For the general bar-goer though, visits will take place during the evening, when subtle lighting will put the focus less on Lloyd Chapman’s restrained interior and more on the people-watching opportunities, the cocktails, and the patterns of street lights stretching north, south, east and west.

Cloud 23 is undoubtedly a city asset - a once every three months visit, at least.

Given the prices, given the design, given the service approach, for those blinkered individuals who constantly carp about San Carlo Restaurant and the like, spewing out clichés about ‘wags’ and ‘the Cheshire set’, it's a no go area.


Cities can’t afford to be narrow-minded. They have to be about variety.

They need dress-up places as well as dress-down places. Choosing varying nights out is part of the fun of city life. Common bar one night, City Arms pub the next, Cloud 23 the third.

Yea, at Confidential three booze nights a week is absolute minimum.

David Race, Cloud 23 managerDavid Race, Cloud 23 manager

As Cloud 23 manager, David Race says, “I want this place to provide a sophisticated, even an elegant, experience. Drinks are brought to guests rather than people packing out the bar. We’ve improved the service so we can make sure people are served quicker. There’s food coming on too from our chef David Gale and that’ll be about comfort also with a range of small bites. We want this bar to different from others in the city because it has to be. Look what we have outside our windows, look at our location.”

Finally there's a cute bit of toilet humour in the new Cloud 23.

From 230ft up in the sky people are diving into the city centre. Maybe they're doing the ultimate runner.

Diving man from the toiletsDiving man from the toilets

Cocktail magic and industrial mixologists

The cocktails are exceptional in Cloud 23, even for a simple wine, whisky and beer man like me.

The manager of Cloud 23, the affable Scot, David Race, and bar manager, Matthew Soares, were inspired by Manchester’s past and took a trip down to the nearby Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). This also reflects interior designer Lloyd Chapman's ideas  - see the article above.

The IndustrialistThe IndustrialistThus for £11 you can get The Industrialist with Bulliet bourbon, vermouth, mescal bitters and maple syrup served over candy floss. It’s a quite remarkable bit of theatre as well as a fabulous drink, the liquid melting through the candy floss and gaining sweetness.

Apparently this came about, after the MOSI visit, because ‘Sir Richard Arkwright’s vision turned artisanal watermills into mighty power-driven factories’.

I'm not quite with the boys there, but their drink is a wonder, however they choose to dress it.

Just as impressive is the Berry Black Smog, a glorious mix of bison grass vodka, blackberries and raspberries, chocolate spirit and a single malt Islay Scotch for £10.50. 

Sweet presentationSweet presentationMore refreshing again is the Alexandra Park at £9.75 a cunning combination of Ketel One vodka, basil, cranberry juice, balsamic vinegar, fresh strawberries including one dipped in cracked black pepper.

Of course as well as the exotica of the mixologist’s trade you can indulge in classics such as a Cosmopolitan for £9.25 or for the same price El Diablo.

You can’t move for champagnes as you’d expect, or whiskies, rums and vodkas.

There are bottled beers such as Curious Brew for £4.90. 

And if you're looking for sky-tickling brew, you can even have a cup of tea - for £3.95.

Cloud 23 is at Hilton Manchester Deansgate, 303 Deansgate, City, M3 4LQ. Reserve here or call 0161 870 1670. It's open Sun-Thurs noon-1am, Fri-Sat noon-2am. 

Follow Jonathan Schofield here @JonathSchofield

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Cloud 23Cloud 23

I've forgotten the name of this cocktail - oopsI've forgotten the name of this cocktail - oops

Sunny view eastSunny view east

Vodka Martini and Alexandra Park cocktails


Vodka Martini and Alexandra Park cocktails

Cloud 23Cloud 23

Woman on the edgeWoman on the edge

Cloud 23Cloud 23

The viewing window with toy-like cars belowThe viewing window with toy-like cars below

South west to MediaCityUK. The viaduct on the right stretching into the distance is the one campigners propose to fill with gardensView south west to MediaCityUK. The viaduct on the right stretching into the distance is the one campaigners propose to fill with gardens


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

AnonymousNovember 27th 2012.

Beige, beige, beige and beige, with beige.

I know they have dressed it as 'gold', but I see beige. Not keen at all.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2012.

The best view is over the city looking towards the hills. Why it isn't orientated that way I'll never know......very odd?

Claire LeamanNovember 27th 2012.

Eeek looks like a Miami Pimps apartment!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Susan MemoryNovember 27th 2012.

how many of those have you been in?

Susan MemoryNovember 27th 2012.

But I'll take your word for it!!!!

It's the city,duffusNovember 30th 2012.

Hahaha - bang on Claire.

Kate YardyNovember 27th 2012.

Yes it's all about the views, certainly not about the booze! When I visited recently they didn't know how to make a smokey martini and couldn't even manage to make a decent classic one. I wanted a dry gin with a splash of brine (which I had to spell out to the waitress) and olives (of course). The martini arrived far too dilute and with an olive garnish plus a lemon twist...

Theresa EvansNovember 27th 2012.

The orientation has always been a let down.
The decor would have looked better a bit more subtle and a bit more fifties but i will have to be there to properly judge. One thing is for sure, the carpet is vile!

Trent ThomasNovember 27th 2012.

I hope nobody from NYC who comes to visit needs to use the toilet there...

1 Response: Reply To This...
Theresa EvansNovember 28th 2012.

I don't find those figures amusing at all. They are rather disturbing.

Simon TurnerNovember 27th 2012.

Any photo of Cloud 23 that doesn't include either a hen party or a sweaty group of financial services husbands looking for cheap skirt on an out of town jaunt isn't doing the venue justice.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2012.

1990's are back then?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Susan MemoryNovember 28th 2012.

Anonymous eh?

Poster BoyNovember 27th 2012.

The decor can best be described as; confused.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2012.

Fantastic refurb, I can't wait to get down to Manchester from Scotland to see it again. I especially like the illusionist cocktail (very clever) and absolutely love the human statues on the outside of the glass. Good work.

AnonymousNovember 27th 2012.

I meant the industrialist.

AnonymousNovember 28th 2012.

CamPIGners? oink, oink!

1 Response: Reply To This...
EditorialNovember 28th 2012.

Thanks changed

Calum McGNovember 28th 2012.

It all looks a bit... naff :(

AnonymousNovember 28th 2012.

It just does not have the wow factor it had when cloud 23 first opened. It was definitley in need of a refurb, but now it looks like just another Hilton hotel bar, sorry its lost its appeal. Shame with those view's potentially it could of been amazing the best bar in Manchester, but now its just another over priced hotel bar

Andrew GibsonNovember 28th 2012.

At best its a Middle Englanders Posh Lounge circa 1989 - Manchesters Bars need attitude!!
This is more Marks and Spencer than Mick Jagger

Daniel JamesNovember 28th 2012.


JoanNovember 28th 2012.

I like Mick Jagger and M&S, though probably not together.

Andrew GibsonNovember 28th 2012.

Did you have a posh lounge at Chez Joan circa 1989...?
If so Cloud 23 is for you!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Susan MemoryNovember 28th 2012.

if you did, prob need to be home with a cocoa?!!

IanNovember 28th 2012.


Steeve HobbsNovember 29th 2012.

New decor, BUT same awful staff!

rinkydinkNovember 30th 2012.


AnonymousDecember 2nd 2012.

My god what have they done to the place? It looks vile!! It was beautiful when it first opened - blacks, reds, sharp iconic furniture. It looks ruined now, in a sea of sickly creamy beige.

Gerard NealAugust 6th 2019.

Love it,one of my favourite places to go out on a special occasion. Great service and love the views of the city. Also great for afternoon tea or just having a hot choc on a cold day. run3az.com…

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