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Jonathan Schofield is underwhelmed by a lunchtime at Panacea

Written by . Published on September 13th 2007.


Panacea when it opened a few years back looked expensive. Designed by that distinctive Belgian, Bernard Carroll, the defining feature was a forty mile long golden onyx bar. This was a jaw dropper.

Panacea should give it up. Trying to compete for lunchtime trade on food is taking it nowhere.

But the onyx-sumptuousness meant the place never looked for a second like a restaurant. This was clearly a bar and you expected bar food. One look at the crowd on a Friday and Saturday night, whilst providing an interesting lesson in socio-economics and the human condition, proved, and still does, that dining took a back seat to drinking and display. Not that there’s anything wrong with this. For those of us who don’t like to box ourselves off into tribes on nights out then Panacea will always have its place. The Briton’s Protection, Knott Bar and Panacea on the same evening for instance, makes a splendid threesome.

But food at Panacea is never the first thought on such occasions. Recent history hasn’t helped promote the idea of a tranquil dining experience either. What with violence outside, and a notorious court case, the place became tainted.

But credit where credit’s due, the place keeps trying. Thus after the bad press it went for good press and a couple of months ago appointed Michael Shaw as chef. Shaw was at Gilpin Lodge in the Lake District when it won a Michelin star and was once Gordon Ramsay’s pastry chef – although work with effing Ramsay is fast becoming the most over-used boast on chefs’ CVs.

On a Tuesday afternoon a friend and I went to see what Shaw was doing. Neil Sowerby in the MEN had reviewed him fairly well in August. Confidential wondered how rehabilitation through food might work.
“Is Michael Shaw cooking today?” I asked brightly.
“No, he left, a couple of weeks ago,” came the depressing but not unfamiliar reply in a Manchester restaurant. “Rachel’s in the kitchen today.” Whether Rachel has any connection with Gordon Ramsay remains clothed in secrecy.

The food didn’t start off well. A starter of asparagus soup (£6) with potatoes and lobster needed more seasoning, the flavours merging, blurring and then disappearing. I had to read my notes to remember what I’d had.

For mains my companion had roasted spring chicken (£13.50) with peas and carrots which looked ugly and was drab to the palate too. The flesh was tender but the dish did nothing to lift the atmosphere of a venue empty of anyone save the pair of us.

My main, the crispy five spiced duck legs (£14.50) with apples, prunes and jasmine tea sauce, could have been a right dog’s dinner but was the best thing we had. The duck was good and just as described, the apples and prunes dancing along merrily with the meat. All in all it was a winner, if just a tad over-cooked in some of its elements.

A pudding of apple tart tatin with vanilla ice cream (£6) was grim. The tart seemed to have been cooked several days before and transported over rough terrain through a war zone in a Land Rover with shot suspension. It looked worried about itself, traumatised.

A couple of Pinot Grigios and coffees and we were £69 down. Apart from a salad (£3.50) we’d not gone for sides. As my colleague Gordo keeps saying, sides at outlandish prices are fast becoming a restaurant scam.The whole lunchtime experience made me wonder why some venues bother.

Panacea should give it up. Meals early evening maybe, but trying to compete for lunchtime trade on food is taking it nowhere. Kill the overhead fellas, simplify the menu right down and get ready to go at five pm. Nobody’s interested and nobody will be, other choices at this price range, say Grill on the Alley over the road, the Restaurant Bar and Grill in the building above, will always deflect people away.

In fact it makes you wonder whether Panacea, aside from snacks, sandwiches and the odd upmarket burger to fill the gassy void left by excess Cristal, should bother with food. Bars and restaurants sharing the same unpartitioned space never work. One will always seek dominance over the other. Here the bar wins hands down. Whilst we were dining on a Tuesday lunch the only other people who came in were a couple of women for a martini. Panacea has always done a splendid martini, they should concentrate on that side of the operation.

Rating: 11.5/20
Breakdown: 6/10 Food
3.5/5 Service
2/5 Ambience
(but 4/5 in the evening)
Address: Panacea
John Dalton Street,
0161 833 3000
Open: until 10.30pm for food, the bar stays open later

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

JohnthebriefSeptember 13th 2007.

What are you doing paying money to a venue whose owner tried to kill one of his customers?

markSeptember 13th 2007.

why oh why did you go. run by wankers for wankers and their whores. not a good place

secret squirrelSeptember 13th 2007.

Agree that it is wasting its time trying to be a restaurant.....I never have a problem getting in, but then I don't call the doormen wankers, seems to help.....If it's busy they will 'thin out', if you're a regular you'll get in because you are a known quantity ie. you spend money and don't kick off. No different to any other bar/club that has ever been popular in Manchester or anywhere else..I also suspect that their fire limit is rather low because of the toilets/fire exit ratios that apply to capacity....SS

XXSeptember 13th 2007.

I'v been a twice once on a saturday night and once at new years. Both times i left early. The best way to discribe it is "the emporer wears no clothes."It's not a all luxury surroundings, footballers and celebs. Its middle aged deperados complete with rent a crowd (rented from an escort agencey)Be u male or female you'll find lots of sleze breaking their necks to make eye contact and trying to brush ya up in the hope your wealthy and very few of them are. if u want to be mistaken for a prostitude then this is the place to go..

scottSeptember 13th 2007.

you think your lunchtime experience was bad try this one out for size......I arrived at Kro bar with a friend and sat outside in the sunshine. After perusing the menu , we both grudgingly opted for the "Kro" Burger , a steal at GBP£7.20. The food arrived on our table about 15 minutes later , the glasses of at least two parties previous to us were removed shortly after (thank the ancient danish gods for small mercies!). The chips that accompanied our "KRO" burger were plentiful , bountiful, the only problem was that they had been refried that many times that any remnants of pototo had long ago turned into a starchy magma (a danish speciality perhaps?), the burger , at half the size of the "focaccia" bun was undercooked, greasy and to be frank just not what you expect from a GBP£7.20 burger, more like what you would expect from a "dalepak steaklet" ( just dire!!). The "focaccia" bread , top part broke into many pieces as I picked the burger up, whilst the bottom part resembled a greased soaked rum baa baa. Now the real fun began ( in all honesty I thought this was a wind up), On complaining about our meal , I was initially given an educational diatribe on what "focaccia' bread actually was, the minion then scuttled off ,only to come back and tell me that the chef had checked the burger before it left the kitchen (WHATEVER!), he must have been the same guy that checked the rest of the sorry mess. We weren't happy, we asked for the manager, he arrived, we complained. As with the first guy, no apology was offered, he then offered to refund 50% the meal (unf**ckingbelievable!), I told him I was 100% unhappy with it. He persued this line to my dismay, still no apology!?? On the contrary this guy was a real stalwart, like a devout boy soldier ordered by his general not to retreat from his post at any consequences, the 50% refund was all I was getting as I had, after all, eaten "half the meal". What planet are these people on?!!. I asked him for an address to where I could send a letter of complaint to, he scuttled away and then returned with a scrap of paper with a generic,info@ email address on it. What joke, and still no apology! As with all empires there comes a time when they must start their slow descent into what will eventually become their ultimate demise, you only ever realise this when it is already happening, this steady state of decline is almost invisible until it hits you in the face. It could be the case with Kro Bar that we spent so much of our time moaning about the inane student rants we had to listen while we were waiting for our "danish!??" (puuurleasse!) fayre, or grumbling about how the stripped back floorboards soaked in 5+ years of continental lager splashes could do with a light sandblasting, that we neglected to notice just how awful things had become here.

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2007.

went there a couple of weeks ago.....food was terrible.....only 6 people in the restaurant at lunch but the service was TERRIBLE !!

ashamed to saySeptember 13th 2007.

VILEWent with my partner of six years. We never received such a reaction before. I had men slimeballing themselves up against me all night whilst the women cocked their asses and licked their lips at my partner. I was propositioned twice. We were a couple on our own. It felt so akward and embarrassing. Where did they find these people. Talk about disrespectful, insulting and intrusive. I won't be leaving my name or owning up to ever having been there. not for couples. Try the living room for a good night out or if your into that kind of thing try chorlton st.

ShazSeptember 13th 2007.

I'm no socialite i'm just an everyday gorton gal and i reckon it's as chav as it gets. I went to get away from the estate, the crowd there is'nt much different from what was hangin round the park last saturday.

Hugh JarssSeptember 13th 2007.

come on arny get Ithaca open. zzzzzzz try not to miss two christmas's in a run!!! we're all gagging for a new place, especially to eat!

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2007.

i loathe panacea's doormen - its complete luck of the gods as to whether you will get in - i am hardly a poor scruff bag but my custom the last twice I have tried to enter simply hasnt been good enough - I shall not be going again, which is a shame because it is a great looking bar and a good place to take friends who are visiting manchester - why are the doormen such wankers?????

NeilSeptember 13th 2007.

A supplier invited me here for lunch just the other week but I persuaded her to go elsewhere. Simply for the reason that I was refused entry for the obvious reason that I didn't look fashionable enough one evening (probably quite true!). What other industry generates so much ill-will by rejecting potential customers by virtue of what they consider 'trendy'? The muppets they employ on the front door have to consider that their actions have a direct impact on the business. Striving only to serve the beautiful people does not lend itself to a long term business plan.

johnthebriefSeptember 13th 2007.

A few months ago I was chatting to the door manager at Tribeca, who's a mate of mine - and the most professional doorman I've ever come across. That night he had an assistant on the door with him who usually works at Panacea. This lad had a non-stop supply of amusing stories from the Panacea door, all of which seemed to end with him either smacking a would-be customer in the face, or telling the would be custome to **** off if he didn't want a smack. He was also particularly scathing about people in suits. I have to say he lived up to every stereotype of the Panacea door I've heard.

HellenSeptember 13th 2007.

Last Saturday night whilst enjoying some quiet drinks with professional friends in Panacea, I was approached by a short guy dressed in a dishevelled cream shirt who proceeded to remove a friend's Porn Star Martini from the table. At the time, my friends were visiting the ladies room, and I was simply an innocent woman sat alone. I felt isolated and intimidated by his aggressive and unreasonable behaviour. When questioned as to why a 'stranger' (Jo Akka - Manager) was trying to steal my friend's cocktail, I was told that it had a 'tea spoon' in it. My calm response involved explaining that this cocktail and the previous four that my friend had bought, had all been served with a spoon. His reply was 'I'm taking your drink'. I said 'I'm afraid not'...'it's my friend's'. Within seconds, I was approached by a small 'bald bouncer' who escorted me - without explanation - off the premises. I explained that I was with three friends who would all be concerned as to what had happened to me. I remained cool, calm and collected as I left as the bouncer threatened to physically remove me - 'drag me out' - if I did not move there and then. About ten minutes later, my friends who had not been informed of my whereabouts exited the club to look for me. We proceeded to attempt to discuss the reasons as to why exactly I had been asked to leave. And of course, during this time, there was no sign of Akka. The bouncers had no rational explanation (hmmm, surprising!) as to why I was asked to leave..and as we were very aware of Akka's violent behaviour towards women, we thought it best to leave. We left over £50 worth of drinks on the table - I only hope that Akka got his spoon in the end!!.... It is obvious that Jo Akka suffers from short man syndrome; I suggest in future he picks on someone his own size! Oh yeah, he did with me being a towering 5ft 3” tall!

SuziSeptember 13th 2007.

Panacea - the bar that no one can get in to - is reeling after manager Joe Akka was jailed for a horrific attack against a 55-year-old stuntman.Wayne Docksey, who worked on The Spy Who Loved Me and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, has had a metal plate inserted in to his head and is unable to work due to the injuries substained outside Panacea last year.The attack took place outside the swish bar on John Dalton Street, and the court heard how Mr Akka ran at Mr Docksey, throwing a punch that knocked him unconscious.Mr Docksey was left lying unconscious on the street until a member of the public called 999. He was taken to hospital with serious head injuries and later had an operation to remove a large portion of his skull.Judge Henshaw said it had been a cowardly attack made possible by Akka’s position and that the incident had been an abuse of his power. He added that he did not find Akka to be a remorseful man in the slightest."Nothing can justify this level of violence being used on anyone. It is shocking that Akka, as manager of the club, felt that he had the right to attack a customer, under any circumstances.""When the victim set off for a night out with his family, the last thing he expected was to end up lying in a hospital bed requiring brain surgery. He realises how lucky he is to be alive, but his life has changed completely since the attack and we may never know exactly why Akka chose to attack him in the way that he did."Akka has been jailed for 13 months and ordered to pay £10,000 in damages and legal www.whathappenedlastnight.net/…/Panacea%20manager%20jailed…

SandySeptember 13th 2007.

In complete agreement with John and Neil - the place is far too over-rated - give me a friendly, welcoming place any day!

AnonymousSeptember 13th 2007.

i agree with mark.the place is run by wankers for wankers and there whores.the place is a joke and so is the food.

Judy MawFebruary 11th 2010.

I am Wayne's sister and only now can I bring myself to come on here and say.... you should have been made to go to Hope hospital and see Wayne on life support and fight for his life and the pain you caused his family, what we have gone through and still going through you are a very evil cowardly man don't ever forget that.Wayne didn't die but you took a lot of live's that night.

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