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The Milton Club, Deansgate, Reviewed

David Blake considers the biblical Fall of Man... into VIP

Written by . Published on February 18th 2014.

The Milton Club, Deansgate, Reviewed

THIS VIP guff troubles me.

It encourages coldness, which, antithetically, occurs in a place that feels like the warm insides of a Terry's Chocolate Orange.

Hailing from Grimsby, the very nature of the VIP is an alien concept, we're all equally unimportant in Grimsby.  

It was only at University that I became aware of this division between People and Very Important People. The need to section off those that knew (or were bonking) the club manager/promoter/doorman/Gary behind the bar. The ones with the boobs, the chino'd bigger Rugby boys, the Princess Eugenies (yeah I went to University with a Princess). 

It’s all so Orwellian, the fat pigs sat up in the farmhouse glugging whisky, we serfs cast down into the bog and forced to scrap it out over crumbs and Carling while poor ole' Boxer gets carried out the door – Some are more equal than others, after all. 

The Milton Club, DeansgateThe Milton Club, Deansgate

But the truth is that VIP areas are, for the most part, utterly crap. Cretinous dens of vacuousness and narcissism that are very rarely anywhere near as much fun as down in ‘economy’ - think Leo and Kate in Titanic dancing a jig in the bowels of third class. They’re all having a bloody great time… you know, until it sinks. 

Trust me; I’ve been in a few VIP areas. I took a friend (masquerading as my ‘photographer’) backstage at a big Heaton Park festival. Bloody boring it was. The ‘VIP’ section - which could be bought into for an extra twenty quid - didn’t have any bands on (which is kind of the point of festivals) and more pissed-up louts than out front, whilst the VVIP section (the backstage bit), scattered with portakabins, media-types sat silent at picnic benches and self-important tossers zipping around on golf-buggies, was about as much fun as being a south-westerly insurance inspector.

The only real benefit backstage was the empty bar. Empty because it was so dull back there. Cast me out with the serfs anytime.

Milton ClubMilton Club

It should be said that The Milton Club on Deansgate, ‘a private members club for professionals over-25’ (a professional: a person qualified in a profession. Surely then footballers can sling their hooks?), is by no means the only venue to bask in its own exclusivity - although you only have to look at the demise of places across the city centre over the last decade to see that Manchester has more about it - but The Milton Club, to its detriment, possesses no less than three stages of VIP. Each roped, and each more V than the last (the value of V being equal to the thickness of one's wedge). 

You're inYou're inThe tendency now is for venues to steer away from the tired 'VIP' tag. It's become distasteful. Roped-off VIP areas have become 'private booths/rooms', as they have at the Milton. Regardless of moniker, they're still restricted areas, they're still going to cost you.

Firstly, there's the through-the-door run-of-the-mill VIP. Providing you fit the bill (don’t look pleb'ish), you’re ushered through into the hugely impressive woody-marbled entrance hall of this baroque former-Congregational Church meeting chambers, built in 1909-1911. (Interestingly, the great biblical poet, John Milton, who lends his name to this bar and married the niece of a wealthy Mancunian apothecary, was not only one of our greatest lettered-men, penning the epic Paradise Lost, but also a god-fearing teetotaller. Funny world ay?).

If nothing else, the building is a belter.

The sign-up process is actually refreshingly painless (and free). Quick scan of the I.D. in a blinky machine to check you’re over 25 and not a non-professional or oik or terrorist or something. Then you're in. You've gained access to phase one of the VIP experience.

Grand entranceGrand entrance

Now, to become a VVIP you'd have to get yourself beyond the middling floor and into a booth against the back wall (roped off, naturally) which will cost you somewhere in the region of £300 on booze, or, as our barman told us: "Just know someone here that can slip you in." Ahh the sweet taste of nepotism.

The curtainThe curtainThe VVIP experience not enough for you? Well then, how about the VVVIP experience? Costing somewhere in the region of £1000, these private rooms come equipped with thick gold partitioning curtains, meaning, thank heavens, that you won't even have to gaze upon the faces nor share the air of the unwashed mere VIPs.

Fuck me. Where does it end? There's only one possible outcome to all of this: the Queen, the Pope and Simon Cowell sat in a bubble astride the Burj Khalifa drinking the blood of newborn unicorns (125ml, £1 million).

This segregation is sad. It's apartheid in a bar. Standing in the way of a good, simple, honest, mingling knees-up. It promotes stand-offishness, detachment and some serious judgement (never have I seen such brutal up-and-down stares as in Milton).

It encourages coldness, which, antithetically, occurs in a place that feels like the warm insides of a Terry's Chocolate Orange.

Milton ClubMilton Club

The thing is, The Milton Club is a very handsome venue. The design, with its impressively clean, dark, sharp lines buoyed by splashes of orange upholstery and huge bold crocheted lampshades has been masterfully finished.

Aesthetically speaking you'd be hard pressed to find fault (even if my companion did think it looked like a 'high-end strip-joint'), it was made for the lackadaisical to gush words like 'plush', 'glitzy', 'chic', 'suave', 'sumptuous' and (the worst) 'decadent', whilst staring over your shoulder for the next 'mover-and-shaker' or soap actor to turn up. 

The staff too were great. From the glamorous hostess in the fluffy red Russian cossack hat walking us through, to the lovely cloakroom gal who took the coats from our backs. Our bar-tender too, well-meaning if slightly dopey, was never to busy to engage or recommend drinks. Hell, we even shared a joke with the cheery doormen.

Something Something (left, £9.50) and Thai-tini (£9.50)Something Something (left, £9.50) and Thai-tini (£9.50)

The cocktails too were carefully crafted, if a touch pricey (£8.50-£10, but what did we expect?). The pick of the bunch being the Thai-tini (£9.50), the mix of Havana rum, lemongrass, pineapple and lychee was crisp, fresh and biting. Over way too quickly, mind (around a quid a sip) - especially considering the amount of effort the bartender put in, he pinched and flicked at that glass like a master harpist.

They've allowed beer too, just, three of them: Bangla (a curryhouse beer, oddly), Bachata rum beer and Sam Adams Boston lager (from £3.95). 

Or, should you be a successful amateur pharmaceuticalist or good at kicking balls and crashing cars, a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII is a mere £3500. Which, quite frankly, is a liberty. I paid £2500 for the same bottle in Spinningfields Australasia last week, 0.16km away. The cheek.

£1000 more than Australasia, 0.16km away£3500 for Remy Martin Louis XIII, £1000 more than Australasia, 0.16km awayLouis XIII in Australasia, a bargain at £2500

Louis XIII in Australasia, a bargain at £2500

So venue, great. Staff, brilliant. Drinks, precise and pricey. Patrons, mostly wearing black. Ideology, wrong. So Very, Very, Very(I.P.) wrong. 'Awake, arise, or be forever fallen.'

Until then, I'll be in the pub with the plebs.

Follow @David8Blake on twitter


The Milton Club, 244 Deansgate, M3 4BQ. 0161 850 2353. Site here.

Opening hours: Sun-Weds (private hire only), Thurs 5pm-2am, Fri 5pm - 4am, Sat 7pm - 4am.

Rating: 12/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Drinks: 3/5. Delicious but pricey. 

Service: 5/5. Top notch.

Ambience: 3/5. Well designed but detached.

Ideology: 1/5. Three tiers of VIP? Sod off.

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.

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

Simon TurnerFebruary 18th 2014.

100% agree about this whole VIP thing, stupid rubbish, and doesn't even make for an interesting space or experience. The kind of people who end up in Manchester VIP bars are footballers, airhead girls chasing footballers, inane and insane property developers. And gangsters. And airhead girls chasing gangsters. Embarrassing.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
PryonicFebruary 18th 2014.

I'm happy with places like this existing so people that want to go there don't end up ruining the experience of the normal non-exclusive places I go ;)

TimbucFebruary 18th 2014.

I came to make the same comment as Pryonic. I think The Milton Club is providing an important public service if they're going to keep together all the people in Manchester (and there are quite a few) who are into these kinds of places. Then there's less chance of me running into them on my occasional forays into town.

IanFebruary 19th 2014.

Great point. If only there was another Printworks to keep those kind of people drifting into the northern quarter, etc.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

"I paid £2500 for the same bottle in Spinningfields Australasia last week" lies!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
CasFebruary 18th 2014.

You c**k!! I bet you couldn't wait to come out with that could you? Oh well, I suppose if you weren't ashamed, embarrassed or both, you wouldn't remain anonymous....!!!

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

I think it was meant as joke

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

In all fairness I think he has totally missed the point with this review in the concept of the product. If you read any of the opening reviews / or website of The Milton there is no mention of VIP. There is a single tier membership system no black cards or anything like that. There is simply an option to enjoy a reserved seated area or a booth with a private group rather than just take a seat at the bar? This clearly comes with a minimum spend agreement it has nothing to do with being VIP whatsoever? Also it irritates me when journalists use other experience's to shoot down another product which is entirely unlinked. After all this as well he goes onto say he spent £2500.00 on a bottle himself which is amazing really after this rant. I personally know some of the staff in The Milton and in all honesty I think they have done a great job in making a stylish and sophisticated product as unpretentious and available to all in the market place. From my experience and it sounds like above the same the staff are really friendly and its a great atmosphere with people genuinely enjoying themselves not people watching like other places ive experienced. It seems David Blake needs to do his research properly as he has missed the trick here totally.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonFebruary 18th 2014.

Nice to hear from the owner/manager of The Milton Club there. I've been in b4 and bob on this review.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

I think it's possible he was being sarcastic about having spent £2500.

TimbucFebruary 18th 2014.

Agreed anonymous. Not one but two comments from people who thought he was serious about the £2,500. Amazing.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

Oh yes....staff definitely

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

'The concept of the product' is the giveaway here

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

He hasn't missed any trick. It's an overpriced bar to be 'seen at'. pathetic

Lorraine ByrneFebruary 18th 2014.

Hilarious that people thought David Blake was being serious about the £2,500!! No wonder their ranting lol

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

They're not their.....2 out of 10 see me

John NuttallFebruary 18th 2014.

I've been in a couple of times and enjoyed it. The staff were all friendly which is by no means a given in those type of places. The VIP schtick is just a bit of bullshit really and not something to be taken seriously. It's just a pleasant bar with a great Bernard Carroll interior. I realise that the Northern Quarter types will hate it but they should be pleased really as it just means less non NQ types in their favourite bars.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJanuary 26th 2015.

Bernard Carroll is behind all these venues...remember Reform and Ampersand. They never last 5 mins, the debts catch him up in the end.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

Not keen on the name. Just makes me think about a club of people brought together by a love of bleaching their work tops Rach s

Joseph CrossFebruary 19th 2014.

Just to be clear, it's a free members club, right? The first six paragraphs outlining the concept of V.I.P. are a little confusing.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

paying a thousand pounds for a room away from all other people? Why not just stay at home?

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.


AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

It looks like a poor mans Alchemist. Walked straight in, straight out. Poorly put together club. Zero atmosphere. Will be surprised if it's still open in 6 months.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

I dread to think what that's like considering how very stuck up The Alchemist itself is... "You're not coming in wearing that"..."no trainers in here"...joke of a place.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

I've only ever been to The Alchemist wearing trainers and I've been around ten times.

Simon TurnerFebruary 19th 2014.

Alchemist, Milton Club, Panacea may think highly of themselves with their ridiculous VIP policies, but who cares? The two most famous venues in Manchester are the Twisted Wheel and the Hacienda. Did they have VIP sections, minimum spends etc? Did they 'eck as like.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

What "VIP policies" does The Alchemist have? Have I missed something? It's just a bar.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

...Albeit quite a posh one. But it's not "exclusive" in any way. They do a fish finger sandwich for like £6!

Charles CohenFebruary 20th 2014.

A VIP area in L.A, New York or London may mean something, a VIP area in Manchester is an oxymoron.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 20th 2014.

because people deemed very important in one place cannot travel?

ShybaldbuddhistFebruary 20th 2014.

They must be very important if they can never leave L.A, New York or London?

AnonymousFebruary 20th 2014.

What a t0sser.

Charles CohenFebruary 20th 2014.

A t0sser I may be, but at least I'm not an anonymous t0sser.

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