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Simple Bar

The Northern Quarter trailblazer is still going strong

Published on July 21st 2010.

Simple Bar

Simple has just celebrated its ninth birthday, making it one of the oldest kids in the latest generation of N4 cafe-bars. When it first arrived on the scene, filling the space left by the deceased Pimlico Bar, there was no Odd, no Bay Horse, no Trof, no Bluu. Tib Street was better known for its X-rated shops than its drinking establishments, and Oldham Street was the undisputed centre of this part of town.

This was one of the first Northern Quarter bars to focus on food – in this sense, it set the scene for the area as we know it today.

Nowadays, Thomas Street is as likely to attract the crowds as Oldham Street – good news for Simple as it means it's still at the heart of the action. But a good location alone isn't enough to keep a cafe-bar going beyond the initial interest in the first few years of opening, particularly in an area that's now packed with bars competing for the same custom.

So what's it doing to stay ahead? Simple still has the same independent owners that it had when it opened, and it operates to the same philosophy. According to the manager, 'Simple is called Simple because if a customer wants it, and we can do it, they can have it'.

It's also reflective of their approach to food: apart from the condiments and bread, it's all prepared from fresh ingredients on site daily. Nothing is bought in pre-made – including desserts – they're all home-made.

But although Simple is sticking to the same principles, it isn't letting things stagnate. The food menu and cocktail menu are updated every six months. Recent new additions include Chicken Pot Pie and the pastrami on rye, alongside favourites such as smoky barbeque ribs and the Tib Street burger. Their brunch menu is ever popular, as are their cocktails.

Milkshakes are another new addition. Unusual (but very moreish) flavours include tea and biscuits, strawberry cheesecake and vanilla and honey.

The menus have a NYC slant to them. If you're looking for an American-style breakfast, a crayfish salad or even beef meatloaf, you'll find it here. A scattering of traditional British food makes sure there are options for more patriotic tastes.

Aside from the bar, there's Simple Outside – a catering company for private and commercial customers. They deliver buffets and lunches to workplaces or homes, and they hire out the bar for meetings or parties in the daytime or evening. Large bookings aren't a problem.

On Friday and Saturday nights, music takes centre stage with DJs on until late. Friday nights it's breaks, funk, and hip hop from Disc Break. Saturdays alternate between Electro-tinged indie breakbeat from The Gadabouts, disco twisted modern classics from Harris Crumb, and the funkiest house from DJ ChrisE.

Sundays are a little more mellow – they screen classic Eighties films until 7pm, then get out the board games and the Wii for the perfect distraction from end-of-the-weekend blues.

Whatever night of the week you visit, you'll find plenty to tempt you to stay. This was one of the first Northern Quarter bars to focus on food while offering a laidback atmosphere that keeps the evening drinkers happy – in this sense, it set the scene for the area as we know it today.

Click here for details of how to get £10 off your food and drink bill next time you visit Simple.

Simple, G20-21 Smithfield Buildings, Tib Street, M4 1LA, 0161 832 8764, www.simplebar.co.uk

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