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FAB Café Reviewed

David Blake has a drink in The Big Bang Theory and finds the world's worst cocktails

Written by . Published on January 21st 2014.

FAB Café Reviewed

There are two reasons why you should never attempt to eat at the Fab Café.

Doesn't 'theme', much like a monkey enclosure at the Zoo, just mean a load of muck stuck to the walls and ceiling?

Firstly, that’d involve getting in the place. We tried twice (Sunday 5pm and Friday 2pm) to get through those impenetrable metal doors, forged in the fires of Mount Doom and bought on the cheap from Chenobyl, but to no avail.

Secondly, the menu consisting of Super Noodles (£1.30, various flavours), Heinz Breakfast-in-a-Can (£1.80, one of the better options), Smash instant mash (£3 with a giant Yorkshire pudding) and fish fingers with custard (£3, a Doctor Who thing apparently?) looks as appealing as an appraisal with your nephew Kim Jong-un.

As a general rule of thumb you should never start a review with a bunch of gripes. It’s discouraging. And as my colleague has just explained, a FAB regular through the years, it makes you come across as a right miserable acerbic bastard. Quite right.

She also explained that one of her friends was once chucked out of FAB for simulating sex with their life-size Dalek. Right. We'll leave that one for now.

Sexy Dalek and sad looking WookieSexy Dalek, sad looking Wookie and some fish-warrior

Playing it safe the third time around we went along at 9pm on a Saturday night. Optimum bar hours. By this time I was ready to tear FAB a new one for making me visit thrice. But once in, try as I might, I cannot bring myself to be scathing about FAB. It’d be like punching Noel Edmonds. Yes he’s naff, badly dressed and clearly odd, but every so often he turns out to be quite fun. In small doses.

As does FAB. Once down in the belly of the beast you could be walking into a neon-splattered episode of The Big Bang Theory (an American sitcom based around a bunch of sci-fi nerds talking physics, Star Trek and not having sex - even with Daleks).

The bellyThe belly

FAB claims to be the 'WORLD'S FIRST Television and Movie Themed Bar'. Bold but unlikely - despite the bar's longevity, its heritage stretching back into the 90s. The Yanks have been theming-stuff-good since Grease invented it. What constitutes a themed bar anyway? Haven't all bars got a theme of sorts? Doesn't 'theme', much like a monkey enclosure at the Zoo, just mean a load of muck stuck to the walls and ceiling?

If that is the case, then FAB have nailed it.

They have not, however, nailed the drinks.

The beers, mostly of the Calsberg lager ilk (£3.20) were largely unappealing (there was a pale and a bitter but they looked untrustworthy), while the cocktail menu, stuck to the back wall of the bar so they could slip things like 'Romulan' (some Star Trek baddie) into drink names, were God-awful. They were a bit like mixing battery acid with a packet of melted skittles, pouring it in to a small plastic picnic glass and then charging a fiver for the ordeal. It's sadomasochism for the tongue. Like celery.

When ordering a cocktail, if the barman (wearing a Batman t-shirt, naturally) looks scared and says, "Oh right. I've never made any of them," then leave it be. Have a gin. Have a Bovril. Have a bleach. Even have a Carlsberg. Have anything but a cocktail.

Gloop. £5Gloop. £5

The tardis and a bloke asleepThe tardis and some bloke asleep on that bald bloke from Mock The Week

'Television and Movie' is much too broad a term for FAB. This is shameless sci-fi kitsch: Toy spaceships dangle from the ceiling, a Tardis pulses in the corner, there's shoot-em-up arcade machines, posters for things you've never heard of, Pat Sharp's Fun House playing on TV, Commodores and Atari consoles locked away in a cabinet like crown jewels while the DJ (who tonight is the first ever Tracey Barlow from Corrie) sits in a dug-out cockpit with a space crew and a sad-looky Wookie painted on the wall behind.

To my right a bloke snaffles down Haribo with his pint from the bar-cum-tuck-shop like a greedy fat kid given too much pocket money for an after-school club down the Social.

The bar-cum-tuck-shopThe bar-cum-tuck-shopYou soon realise that FAB is very much like an after-school club: Toys, sweets, crisps, mischief, games consoles, cartoons and the whiff of awkwardness.

But one where you're allowed to get pissed. Which sounds dangerous, but when explored can be surprisingly entertaining even for those not into mounds of Sci-fi memorabilia. You have to award it marks for continuing to pull in the punters after all these years and despite those doors.

After all it's hard to rubbish anywhere that holds Star Wars evenings with 'light-saber battles and free cupcakes'. Notorious cupcake junkies those Jedi. Yoda used to mainline. That's why he ended up going cold turkey in a cave on the planet of Dagobah.

I wouldn't have used that reference before. Didn't even know it. By the bowcaster of Chewwie, it's contagious. Better leave in a flash (Gordon). But not before I give that Dalek a quick fondle, sexy mutant bugger. Lovely bumps.

You can follow @David8Blake here on twitter.


FAB Cafe, 109 Portland Street, City Centre, M1 6DN (website here).

Opening hours: 4.30pm-2am Mon-Thurs. 3pm-3am Fri-Sat. 6pm-1am Sun

Rating: 12.5/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Drinks: 2/5 

Service: 3/5

Ambience: 3/5 

Eccentricity: 4.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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, we get carried away.

Some ladies satchelSome ladies satchel

A poster for some obscure sci-fi thing you've never heard ofA poster for some obscure sci-fi thing you've never heard of

Suitably sci-fi looking photoSuitably sci-fi looking photo

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

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

FAB Cafe is great! Needs Tracy Barlow back on the decks on Saturday nights though. Worth a visit if you're in that part of town.

Benjamin MaxfieldJanuary 21st 2014.

Tracys tapes was the best night ever!!!

James Newbert-BreenJanuary 21st 2014.

I find this review very harsh and a little unwarranted. FAB Cafe is great, and have been in many times over the last 10 or so years, both at busy weekends and sleepy lunchtimes... FAB is somewhere you love or hate, so if you hate it, just don't go there, don't leave a bad review like this to put others off!!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 25th 2014.

Errm, this is a site which reviews bars and restaurants in Manchester. Are you suggesting that if they find somewhere crap, then they should write the reivew? Doesn't seem very honest.

AnonymousJanuary 25th 2014.

*shouldn't write the review

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Dawn Acton was the third Tracy Barlow.

James Newbert-BreenJanuary 21st 2014.

Thinking about it, you've really annoyed me... Who goes to FAB for coctails? You go there for a 'normal' drink in a cool, chilled and friendly place. It's a themed bars with people and merchandise that you obviously don't understand or care about. If you don't like it, go back to weatherspoons!

MikeJanuary 21st 2014.

@David8Blake if you don't like it don't go there.. Fab Cafe is absolutely ram packed full of people who love this sort of stuff on wednesday nights for quiz night, friday and saturday nights! You're clearly far too uptight to realise how awesome this gem really is.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Get a life. It's a review done by somebody who doesn;t adore the place. So what. Say it as you see it

LukewarmdogJanuary 21st 2014.

Yes how date someone give their personal review of somewhere that contradicts my feelings about that place. David should go back in time and undo his visit post-haste. Giving this place a great review would undoubtedly destroy it's precious vibe so the two of you who like the place should be greatful.

LukewarmdogJanuary 21st 2014.

*dare not date

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Your reviews are just like their drinks.. largely unappealing, pale and bitter, they look untrustworthy. A well written review should show points of view of both good and bad.. this is just slander

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2014.

I read it an thought it was well ballanced explains its an oddity crafted for certain tastes and its pretty clear that if you like that sort of thing then it will be right up your street.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

@LUKEWARMDOG can you count? 3 people had said it was great..

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

"ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE." - I'd ask for your money back Man Con, this is FAR from impartial.. Fab Cafe can't be scored against others of it's kind, it's one of a kind.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: This rant has been removed. Personal insults will not be tolerated. A month or so ago we published a new comment policy to stop idiot ranters such as the author of this one. www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

here here!! I love this place. I understand most people won't like it, as it's a unique place - I wouldn't slate somewhere just because it wasn't my cup of tea. And where else in the world sell Super Noodles in a bar! :-)

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Fab is not the kind of place you go for a splendid bottle of wine and in intellectual conversation! Fab Cafe is what it is, and people love it! It is always full to the rafters and as the saying goes "if it ain't broke, then don't fix it"!

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Some people love "sadomasochism for the tongue"...

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

The liver is evil and must be punished!

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Look - It's got the word FAB in the title, say's it all.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

Look - it's got the word FAB in the title - say's it all... :-)

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

why waste time reviewing something that's obviously going to be terrible what's next, Bar Wave?

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

This is spot on. I've been in a few times and can only last about half an hour. Unsurprsing a few loyal locals are having a go here. They wont be allowed in any other bar.

MjJanuary 21st 2014.

I nearly fell asleep reading this review. I don't drink but boy did it make me want to reach out for a cocktail to wake myself up. Maybe you should have carried out a questionnaire and got other customers views and then shared you're view with some stats to prove if its really as awful as you say it is. But hey ho not every place is for everyone.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: This whole post should be removed as the review seems to be a personal insult to FAB Cafe.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

You FAB acolytes are getting boring. It may be your local but do grow up. MC does plenty of unfavorable reviews. This isn't even that badder one. Try being Annies.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

So, does anyone know if the licensing authorities took any action against Fab Cafe for allowing a 17 year old onto their premises on a Saturday night prior to him dying?

Carolyn O'hanlonJanuary 21st 2014.

Fair comments I'm sure about the problems but the review did seem to miss the point of the place a bit. It is a fun eclectic place with fun eclectic music.

Jon GarrettJanuary 21st 2014.

A cheap shot at a Manchester institution, full of Sci-Fi puns in an attempt to make it amusing. FAB doesn't need a that sort of review ( a vialed slagging off). It is what it is, the menu is supposed to be tongue in cheek, the cocktails likewise the reviewer has missed the point and I can see why it has offended so many people.

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: This rant has been removed. Personal insults will not be tolerated. A month or so ago we published a new comment policy to stop idiot ranters such as the author of this one. www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

I was under the impression that 'impartial' reviews were supposed to highlight both the good points and bad points of a venue or whatever the reviewer was reviewing, not tear into a venue which was quite clearly not his scene? This 'review' if you can even call it that, is quite frankly an extremely biased and slanderous description of FAB. FAB is not for everyone but I recommend checking it out at least once to see if it is for you. Rant over!

AnonymousJanuary 21st 2014.

EDITORIAL COMMENT: This rant has been removed. Personal insults will not be tolerated. A month or so ago we published a new comment policy to stop idiot ranters such as the author of this one. www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

Peter BrockwellJanuary 21st 2014.

Fab Cafe does the best CosPlay in Manchester. Th'Alchemist it aint, nor is it trying to be. If you like scifi movies, or are a bit geeky, or just like to go places where youre never judged on how you look, and rarely judged on how you dance then you'll love it. if you want a glitzier vibe hit spinningfields or - god help me - the locks.

Ghostly TomJanuary 22nd 2014.

Now I understand why I don't like celery....

AnonymousJanuary 22nd 2014.

Why try and go when it's closed?

Trish KarneyJanuary 22nd 2014.

After reading this, I think I'll stick to San Carlo.

rEddie_brekJanuary 22nd 2014.

Dave, what are your thoughts on Tolkien? *gets popcorn*

AnonymousJanuary 24th 2014.

I think the article is quite well balanced as it does state some positives of FAB while also mentioning the sad negatives - which no-one really can deny. The draught beer is bordering on dangerous imo, the cocktails and spirits are that of oil decent and could be used to torture people by removing the lining of the throat. Regardless of the type of place a half decent well served drink should be top of the list, if you can't do this then why are you in the licensed business. With that said the feel of FAB and the atmosphere are very good and enjoyable, save for the 3 times I have been (around MCM last year) were the 'DJ' has had all of 6 CD's to choose music from. I would include this as the ending to a night out going round 'shite' pubs, ones which are just dive-bars and simply offer a drink and maybe a dance (FAB's drinks being sealed bottles for the reasons above) - including such places as the holy trinity, spoons, anywhere down bottom end of Oxford road etc. I would say people should visit but would also warn about drinks and to expect it to be a little shit I shall be returning around MCM again however as it is now the done thing :)

curtinparloeJanuary 24th 2014.

What a terrible review! I'm not referring to the reviewer's opinion of FAB; I'm inclined to agree with the score it was given, although perhaps it's a little low. Rather, I mean that the article is not well written, filled with errors, and somewhat self-righteous. For starters, it's clear that he only has a passing acquaintance with pop-culture, and yet he tosses references to Sci-Fi around with a "knowing wink" which I find disingenuous. Furthermore, the FAB Café fans may be forgiven for berating the review, as it's almost a textbook example of "damning with faint praise." I was surprised not to see "it's bad, but the nerds will like it" actually written. As a final point, I'd like to rectify a mistake made by the reviewer. At the end of the article he writes "it's hard to rubbish anywhere that holds Star Wars evenings with 'light-saber battles and free cupcakes'" and proceeds to round off with a handful of Star Wars references. In fact, the poster he glanced at was for an event at Satan's Hollow on Princess Street. Review review: 2/5

AnonymousJanuary 25th 2014.

An oddly snarky review. All I can say, is I was actually at FAB that night for a friend's 50th birthday party and we had a great time. We ate sweets, drank, danced and chatted. The tunes were superb, the crowd mixed and friendly. But most of all; it was FUN! And busy, so busy. On our way there we passed so many places that were literally empty. But FAB wasn't. And finally; I understand Wetherspoons can turn their hand to a nice cocktail, but I'd rather saw my knackers off with a rusty sawblade than spend my Saturday night in there as opposed to somewhere that people enjoy being.

Bulbous TremadonJune 26th 2014.

I've never been so sadly can't argue with anyone but I might consider going if they let that bird back in with a passion for daleks

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