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The Fitzgerald, Northern Quarter, Reviewed

David Blake shouts loudly about this NQ speakeasy

Written by . Published on March 20th 2014.


The Fitzgerald, Northern Quarter, Reviewed
 

SINCE Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s (the inspiration for the bar's name), The Great Gatsby, exploded everyone’s eyeballs in a pop of pleasure gloop, there’s been a wave of cultural Gatsbiasation, or Prohibitionisation.

F. Scott Fitzgerald would have deeply approved, being, as he was, one of literature's greatest ever piss-artists.

There’s something very current about it. The celebrity, the glamour, the façade, the shameless opulence, the sharp-parted hair, the three-pieces and the promiscuous empowered party-girls. All so applicable today. Jay Gatsby could be Simon Cowell or a brattish oil-rich Russian oligarch, Daisy Buchannan one of those Kardashians.

It’s everywhere. Only last month I received my 47th invitation to a Roaring Twenties/Flapper/Prohibition/Gatsby themed party. It’ll pass. Much like fondue, Jack Sparrow fancy dress and Eurovision parties.

In fact, a colleague has just informed me that the Gatsby party is out and the Wolf of Wall Street party is now in (anything with Leo in then). Dollars, strippers, white chinos, white powder, white yachts and multi-billion dollar Ponzi schemes. Could get pricey.

The Fitzgerald's entrance on Little Lever StreetThe Fitzgerald's entrance on Little Lever Street

Gatsby may have been ousted, but one element of Prohibition America that both predates and outlives the blockbuster is the speakeasy bar.

Through the 20s and 30s speakeasies were the illegal drinking dens of Prohibition America, with false store frontage, secret passwords (hence the name) and barely drinkable bootleg booze. They were lawless gangster operations that took on a mythical status with an air of devil-may-care post-WW1 glamour doused in gin, jazz and sex.

Today’s imitations are more urbane, more polished and much more legal. They're also popping up absolutely everywhere. Seems any old bar with a New york cityscape on the wall is now a speakeasy of sorts.

Some are doing it right (from Dusk ‘til Pawn across the road is a good’un), some are doing it adequately, some need to be slapped about with their own laminated licence.

The Fitzgerald though, is doing it fantastically.

20s New York speakeasy bar20s New York speakeasy bar

They opened for permanent business only two or three months back in a hushed word-of-mouth manner befitting the speakeasies of old. Before that they’d opened only now and then, special occasions, one-off events, a Friday here, a Saturday there. Nobody knows for sure when it became permanent. It just did. It adds to the credibility.

The Fitzgerald, unlike many speakeasy knock-offs, has retained a certain underground back-room aura (or overground in this case), with a darkened staircase accessed from underlit Stevenson Square off-shoot Little Lever Street (the entrance lays behind Rosylee Tearooms and Hula, all of which, along with NQ bars Walrus and Tusk, belong to the same operator).

The bar has, as yet, managed to fly mostly beneath the radar. When we arrive on a Thursday evening there’s four people in there. When we leave there’s six.

The FitzgeraldThe Fitzgerald

It’s not as though the bar has been made purposely inconspicuous, there’s a lit sign above Hula, there’s even a sandwich board outside pointing upstairs. Granted, that’s not very authentic for a speakeasy, but then this isn’t Prohibition America, this is a business. One that needs people and their lovely money. Those that say (and they have) ‘if it’s a speakeasy why has it got a sign outside?' can, quite frankly, remove their heads from their own anuses.

Sign above Hula, Stevenson SquareSign above Hula, Stevenson Square

The Fitzgerald’s interior is bob on. Period 20s furniture on dark wooden flooring, glinting crystal mini-chandeliers, heavy purple curtains, black industrial beaming, crushed velvert upholstery, nudey flappers on the wall and chairs, chairs and chairs.

The area in the far-right corner makes me want to put on a burgundy smoking jacket, crack open the port and Cohiba Esplendido cigars, rest my feet on a daft old Basset Hound and talk policy with a chum called Theobald the Third. The chairs are so deep James Cameron tried taking the Deep Sea Challenger down there but had to turn back.

The Fitzgerald is a serious contender alongside the Sculpture Hall in Town Hall for Manchester’s ‘Best Corner to Have A Sit’ category.

Deep crushed velvet seatsDeep crushed velvet seats

The bar is heavily focused around table service. It'd certainly explain all the tables.

And what service.

Our server Glenn was as sharp as the collar of his shirt and the slap of his braces. Efficient, helpful and a good sport throughout, he was a lesson in what so many Northern Quarter bars fail to nail. Engaging and high-quality service. When asked to 'bring us something interesting' he turned up with a steaming suitcase filled with Aviatrix cocktails (£6pp, main picture).

It was so unnecessary that it was extraordinary. If the creme de violet and champagne cocktails inside had tasted as good as they looked we'd have been blown away. I'm against champagne in cocktails. Actually, I'm against champagne in most situations.

The next two cocktails though were winners. The smoked rum old fashioned (£8) came beautifully presented and was smoked at the table for theatrical effect while my companion could have happily drowned herself in the candied sacred negronis (£8) accompanied by a sweet Campari sorbet. They did forget the sweet vermouth marshmallows, mind. A rare hiccup.

Candied sacred negroni with Campari sorbet (£8)Candied sacred negroni with Campari sorbet (£8)

The menu is a handsome thing indeed. Leather bound with gold leaf text, detailing and artwork inside. There's around thirty cocktails to choose from (£6-£10) and champagne from Mumm Cordon Rouge (£8 glass, £52 bottle) to Belle Epoque (£155 bottle). There's a respectable selection of wine: six reds, five whites and a lonely token rose (all from £4.50 glass, £18.50 bottle). There's beers too, a choice of five bottled from Brooklyn lager (£4) to an Anchor Porter (£5), a robust beer with touches of coffee and liquorice.

They also do Kopparberg cider (£4.50), 'orrible sickly sweet enamel-bangers that should only be touched when stumbling out of a 45°C dessert gasping having ate only salted beef jerky for days

Handsome menuHandsome menu

The Fitzgerald is a speakeasy bar delivered with finesse and aplomb. It plays to our sense of mischief. Alcohol has become so readily available in modern society that we're now seeking out experiences that make the whole process of getting boozed feel more underhand. It lets us feel like we're getting away with something. It helps to distract us from buying twelve cans of Skol from Asda and thrashing around in the gutter biting each others ears off.

F. Scott Fitzgerald would have deeply approved, being, as he was, one of literature's greatest ever piss-artists.

Follow @David8Blake on twitter

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

The Fitzgerald, Little Lever Street, Stevenson Square, M1 1DB. 

@TheFitzgeraldNQ Open Thursday to Saturday

Rating: 17/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Drinks: 4/5. Beautifully put together 

Service: 5/5. Although quiet, service was impeccable

Ambience: 4/5. I could sit in that corner for weeks

Concept: 4/5. Speakeasy overdone, but this is best of the bunch

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.

The FitzgeraldThe Fitzgerald

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

AnonymousMarch 20th 2014.

This review should of been edited by at least 80%.

rinkydinkMarch 20th 2014.

Should have been, Anonymous. Grammar please!

Barry MaginnMarch 20th 2014.

Pretty much everything on this site needs to be edited by 80%. In fact the editorial team needs to go on a writing for the web training course. People don't read walls of text on screen guys. Write for your readers, not for yourself.

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

Ooh you're in danger of inciting a cutting and patronising response from the writer here..!

Barry MaginnMarch 21st 2014.

Well it would hardly be cutting given their seeming inability to use any kind of efficiency of words. A tirade of bile perhaps.

Poster BoyMarch 21st 2014.

I'll volunteer to sub-ed. Willingly...

LukewarmdogMarch 21st 2014.

Actually I really enjoyed this article and articles on here in general. My iPad approves of your walls of text which help provide much food for thought when thinking about where to go for food.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
SpennerMarch 23rd 2014.

I agree LUKEWARMDOG. Perhaps Mr Maginn should only read every fifth word?

Barry MaginnMarch 23rd 2014.

Unlike you two individuals, I don't just base decisions on my own personal viewpoint, but rather wider understandings of how society at large engage with and read text on websites. If you have the time to read walls of text then you are an exception.

AnonymousApril 2nd 2014.

I'm with LUKEWARMDOG. Great article. Bazza - I am basing this decision on my own personal viewpoint.

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