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Oku bar, Yang Sing Oriental

Jonathan Schofield feels very comfortable in a smart new addition to Chinatown

Written by . Published on September 16th 2008.


Oku bar, Yang Sing Oriental

This is a lovely calm space. Mellow.

Designer Roberta Fulford has managed to imbue tranquillity into this basement bar. By using a simple palette of honest materials, many of which are part and parcel of the 1882 cotton warehouse which hosts Oku, and gently supplementing them, she has cleverly changed its character.

From being a tough masculine, commercial building she’s softened and feminised it by emphasising the warmth in the brick, timber and cast iron, through the lighting and the supplementary furnishings such as the pale green sofas.

Thus from being a tough masculine, commercial building she’s softened and feminised it by emphasising the warmth in the brick, timber and cast iron, through the lighting and the supplementary furnishings such as the pale green sofas.

Only the bar creates a discordant note but it’s cleverly done with a backlit acrylic stone effect look with according to Yang Sing co-owner Gerry Yeung, a “Chinese grass decoration”. Not sure what Chinese grass is but the movement designed and drawn in by Fulford reinforces that feeling of calmness, that slowing down of the day as you enter.

Oku wants to build a reputation for its drinks with a good wine, champagne and cocktail list. Particularly the latter two. Champagnes include vintage and luxury cuvee with examples such as Champagne Bollinger La Grande Annee for £109.95. There are champagne cocktails too including a beautiful Oriental (£7.50) with lychee liqueur, elderflower liqueur and Boizel Brut reserve champagne.

Cocktails include such delights as Ocean Blue (£5) comprising vodka, blueberries, lemon juice and simple syrup and Agave Maya (£6.50) made up of Tequila, cointreau, fresh lemonade, lime juice and agave nectar. Confidential’s very own cocktail guru Thea Euryphaessa heartily approved of the Mai Tai Roa Ae (£6.50) a mix of Dark Jamaican rum, 10 cane rum, orange curacao, orgeat syrup, simple syrup, and fresh lime juice. For booze-free lunches the Bitter Twist at £2.95 with its sparkling water, angostura bitters, grapefruit juice, fresh lime juice, mint leaves and cucumber makes for an invigorating blend.

Food comes in platters for two ranging in price from £16.95 to £19.95. They include a classic Oriental, a North West Regional, a French and a Middle Eastern. Robert Kisby, well known for his years spent as the chef of Le Mont (now the Modern) atop Urbis, was consulted over these.

They all seem to hit the mark. The Yang Sing qualities (when on top form) of finesse, care and rich flavour seem well to the fore. The Oriental includes deep fried prawn parcel, vegetable spring roll, spring onion pancake, beef dumpling with ginger and spring onion, prawn and pork steamed dumpling, steamed aubergine with minced hake stuffing in black bean sauce and soy sauce and chilli vinegar.

The North West Regional comes with a lot of awkward name-checking but is worth sampling. You get Chris Neve’s home smoked salmon, Woodall’s Cumbrian air dried ham, Cheshire Smokehouse salami, Ann Connolly’s Fedeira cheese and asparagus salad, Butcher Neil’s Hoi Sin sausage and Kidderton goats cheese and croutes.

Proprietor Gerry Yeung wants to loosen the food up a little, split the platters, lower prices and introduce “classic gourmet comfort food such as homemade burgers”. This makes sense; the platters are fine but too elaborate for most bob-in bob-out bar situations.

Overall Oku is a good addition to the Manchester bar scene: comfortable, easy and quality. It is also of course part of the Yang Sing Oriental, the new boutique hotel on the block. This is a lovely hotel but may provide the only slight weakness with Oku. Watching people check-in from certain points in the bar can be read two ways. It can be an interesting diversion as you try to guess what they’re up to, what their jobs are and so on, or it could be a distraction, breaking your mood.

Still, this writer’s feeling good about Chinatown. Or better. After two quality experiences at Red’n’Hot - click here and Oku, the place is looking like a more complete experience. Oku needs to get more of a buzz, but that should arrive once word gets out. One big fat plus is that even on Friday and Saturday nights you can chat comfortably; the tunes aren’t ramped up to ear-drum busting levels to encourage fast drinking in the lowdown way some bars adopt.

Rating: 15.5/20
Breakdown: 4/5 food
4/5 drinks
4.5/5 d├ęcor
3/5 atmosphere
Address: Oku Champagne Bar
Yang Sing Oriental Hotel
36 Princess St
Manchester
M1 4JY
0161 880 0188

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

Julie Lee'sSeptember 16th 2008.

I stayed with a friend in the most expensive suite this hotel, nearly £600 per night and we stayed 3 nights, I have to say that despite that when we arrived everything seemed lovely, attentative and polite,it had all gone down hill within the first night, the mini bar was half empty and cheaply filled, the room service was poor and limited (which is bizarre as this is part of the amazing restaraunt line) in all its all very disapointing, u had to ask for the room to be cleaned, when it was, it was badly done, and after asking for basics to be sorted, ie no tea etc in the room, remember it was the 'best room' they had, the hotel manager, couldnt have cared less and seemed to think that 'teething problems' such as no one bothering to restock or clean rooms, or get back to you if you make a complaint, is acceptable behaviour, all the reception and bar staff agreed that there were a lot of problems yet the management refused to even make any ammends despite a near 2K bill, I would really AVOID and go to the Midland instead, its a very poor mans Mandarin Oriental, bad attitude and bad service.

JamesSeptember 16th 2008.

Can anyone give me an idea of room prices? There is no information on their website. Thanks.

Julie Lee'sSeptember 16th 2008.

I stayed with a friend in the most expensive suite this hotel, nearly £600 per night and we stayed 3 nights, I have to say that despite that when we arrived everything seemed lovely, attentative and polite,it had all gone down hill within the first night, the mini bar was half empty and cheaply filled, the room service was poor and limited (which is bizarre as this is part of the amazing restaraunt line) in all its all very disapointing, u had to ask for the room to be cleaned, when it was, it was badly done, and after asking for basics to be sorted, ie no tea etc in the room, remember it was the 'best room' they had, the hotel manager, couldnt have cared less and seemed to think that 'teething problems' such as no one bothering to restock or clean rooms, or get back to you if you make a complaint, is acceptable behaviour, all the reception and bar staff agreed that there were a lot of problems yet the management refused to even make any ammends despite a near 2K bill, I would really AVOID and go to the Midland instead, its a very poor mans Mandarin Oriental, bad attitude and bad service.

MrsASeptember 16th 2008.

Stayed over on a Sunday night for 2nd wedding anniversary treat, rooms are fantastic and food exceptional ! Champagne bar OKU was v plush and the sutra lounge for residents only was amazing.. staff couldn't have made us more welcome if they tried ...

AvoSeptember 16th 2008.

Totally agree with your resident cocktail guru. The Mai Tai here is really good. Its nice to have somewhere other than Obsidian to go for a nice cocktail before dinner in Chinatown.

CasSeptember 16th 2008.

Sampled the bar area when it first opened - pure class.

TrevorSeptember 16th 2008.

Nice inside but nothing special to be honest other places in manchester do it better

AvoSeptember 16th 2008.

They had an intial offer of £120 per room with breakfsat thrown in. I also had a free upgrade from them too. Normal rack rate is about £180 upwards.

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