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Keko Moku

Lynda Moyo grabs her hammock and heads to the Northern Quarter for a taste of the South Pacific

Written by . Published on January 29th 2009.

Keko Moku

Keko Moku. Keko Moku. Keko Moku. Keko Moku. Keko Moku. Keko Moku.

Keep saying it and eventually it might sound right eh? The fact is, Keko Moku, meaning Monkey Island, clearly wasn't meant for my Lancashire tongue, despite once having spent months in Tonga and Samoa. But forgetting the name and looking at the actual venue, I can at least confirm that this South Pacific beach hut bar has been airlifted from one of the two aforementioned islands. It's spot on.

Formerly the Mexican themed Rodeo tequila bar, they've kept it as a cocktail spot but moved it across the ocean because apparently Manchester didn't appreciate Rodeo's Latin cocktails as much as anticipated. That’s what they say. So the door was slammed on Manchexio and opened to this new cheeky tiki bar.

Traditionally, tiki bars are exotic, colourful and flamboyant, and that applies to both the surroundings and drinks. Specialising in rum creativity, the tiki trend was popular in past decades. Now High Street in the Northern Quarter is reviving this pleasure. Simplicity is the key: the space is small with barrels for stools, understated wooden tables, fairy lights and pin-up girls aligning the walls. Precisely your holiday hideaway standard and as you’d expect, an impressive list of cocktails awaits.

Starting off with 'safe' cocktails (cocktails we'd heard of or had before) the Watermelon Daiquiri came, watery as expected but with a Bacradi rum drop-kick in the mouth and a generous chunk of watermelon to sooth the beautiful blow. Dark and Stormy, mixed Appleton VX rum this time, with lime and ginger beer. Whilst there was too much crushed ice for my liking, (I don't enjoy fighting Mr. Frosty to get to my drink), it still makes for a sexy, fresh and firey blend when you do find it, and is a storm in a glass.

Away from the drinks for a moment and the music, isn't the Haiwaian island reggae, you may expect, but breaks away into what you'd normally hear in somewhere like Common around the corner. Mellow hip hop and relaxing soul. It works.

Like the music, Keko Moku is as laid back as it is serious about its menu too. The barman serving took his time to create cocktails as pleasing on the eye as the tastebuds. Both drinks convinced us of Keko’s authenticity as a cocktail bar, but so far perhaps nothing you can’t get around the corner at Socio. Sounds negative but it's something Keko should take as a compliment, given Socio's reputation and added to the fact that they're owned by the same people.

On a second look at the menu, we decided to take it up a notch. Most bars have their signature drinks and Keko is no exception. The tiki cocktails cost £6.50 and really show you what this bar is made of. You’re supposed to be in the South Pacific remember. We tried Zombie (light, dark and overproof rum with apricot pineapple, orange and black magic) and See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Drink No Evil (a blend of vodka, coconut cream coffee liqueur, white chocolate, banana and cinnamon). Both are firecracker cocktails with no skimping on ingredients. One comes in a skull mug, the other you drink from a monkey's backside. It's all very authentic you see.

It was suggested we try the King Kilauea, a £25 flaming bowl of what they so accurately describe as 'devastation'. Sugar, spice and all things nice, including three types of rum, apricot liqueur and brandy. This is a drink made to be shared between about four people, not two as I warn you from personal experience. Unless of course you really want to take the edge off? In that case it could be the merriest £25 you've ever spent because this is a very satisfying, cheap night in a bowl.

As my partner pointed out "this would be a wicked venue for a private party" and that's something which should also be noted. Seating about 20 with enough space for maybe 30 more to stand, this is as intimate and intricate as it gets when it comes to cute little bars in this city. It manages to mix cool with class, mix tiki with tacky and most of all, mix cocktails superbly. Everything you'd want from your Hawaii holiday bar and everything you'd wish for when you returned home. Give me a hammock and I'll be staying the night. It's that good.

So off I’m going, back to Coco Muko... Koka Moco...Kuku Moku….Kaka Makka...or something like that. Whilst the name may never naturally fall out of my mouth, at least the cocktails will always go down well, thank goodness.

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

Sugar Cane FairyJanuary 29th 2009.

Great little bar - spot on with the vibe and the drinks - love this place friday after work - it goes off and gets you in the frame for the weekend - one of them volcano bowls and its party time!

AnonymousJanuary 29th 2009.

Great place indeed...I really liked Rodeo and thought I'd miss it more, but this place is superb!

very impressedJanuary 29th 2009.

I have always found the opposite; overly helpful and cheery staff and the cocktails created there really are to die for. Best addition to the manchester scene in a long time IMO..

ZombiaManiacJanuary 29th 2009.

The cocktails in there are lick aviation fuel .. Very string and long!!!

not impressedJanuary 29th 2009.

Although the cocktails are pretty good it is unfortunate that the barman is not. I have been there a couple of times now, but never again. He appears to find smiling difficult and is more interested in serving his mates...

cocktailmonkeyJanuary 29th 2009.

I think this is a great new addition to Manchester and have had many a fun night with the tiki cocktails, the monkeys are classic! A great night out highly recommended for friday nights straight out of work!

ancoats girlJanuary 29th 2009.

Yes but... if the bar starts off by loading up your glass with mostly ice and then freepours spirits in, it always seems like you get less alcohol. I've had the same SR cocktails at Spektrum (club above Sankeys) and it was gone in a few sips.

manchesterbarfiendJanuary 29th 2009.

Good review - pretty much spot on! You didn't mention the huge rum list though; biggest i've ever had the pleasure of working through, ask them about the rum club.Best bar to open in Manchester for a long time, amazing what a great night can come from such a small place. CHEERS!

rum monkeyJanuary 29th 2009.

i am a newly converted rum monkey! Keko'l do that to you, crazy place, crazy staff, crazy drinks, I love it. Original, different and very special. It's out new must go for after work drinks on a friday, one cocktail or volcano thingy and all the weeks worries are forgotten and the party is being planned!

Sugar Cane FairyJanuary 29th 2009.

Great little bar - spot on with the vibe and the drinks - love this place friday after work - it goes off and gets you in the frame for the weekend - one of them volcano bowls and its party time!

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