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Whiskey Jar Reviewed

David Blake gets some grub… at the third time of asking

Written by . Published on July 16th 2013.

Whiskey Jar Reviewed

IN recent weeks, I’ve found trying to eat at Whiskey Jar harder than getting a ticket for Macbeth at Manchester International Festival. In fact, it would probably be easier to steal the lead from Branagh than to order food at Whiskey Jar.

On the other hand he had just ferried over a truck load of cheese. And if there’s one sure-fire way to suppress the rabid post-ale carnal desire for pie, it’s a load of cheese

First attempt. It’s 8.05pm on a Friday, prime dining time at every other establishment in the world ever, "Sorry we stopped serving at eight."

"You stop serving food at 8pm… on a Friday night?" I ask. "Well it’s only five past, can I not get a sneaky bite?"

"Sorry the kitchen’s closed." Right.

Whiskey JarWhiskey Jar

Second attempt. Must get there before 8pm. Try a mid-week night. Arrive at 7.30pm on a Thursday. "We’d like to order some food please."

"Oh I’m sorry we’ve stopped serving."

"But last week you told me that you stopped serving at 8pm?" I implore.

"Yeah but we’re pretty busy, and have pretty much ran out of pies."

"Well can we have something else? Maybe something that’s not a pie."

"It’s all pie." Bugger it.

Third attempt. Given up trying to order food. Head over instead to solely review the bar. It’s 8.20pm on a Thursday. Guy behind the bar looks friendly, try my luck. "Any chance of some food?"

"Yeah sure mate." Halle-fucking-lujah, I could kiss him.

"Thought you stop serving at eight?" I ask.

"Yeah usually, but we’re quiet." He’s right – It seems that Whiskey Jar work from the policy that if there’s more than thirty people in the bar, they couldn’t possibly serve you any food. It’s too time consuming. Tonight there’s around twelve, so we’re on.

Whiskey JarWhiskey Jar: Empty seats mean food

Previously, in my review of the Jar’s next door neighbour, Kosmonaut (one of my favourite bars in Manchester), I’d been less than complimentary about the attitude prevalent around many Northern Quarter establishments, and I’m certainly not the only one who thinks it.

One comment on the story read: 'The NQ bar attitude is not necessarily rude or off’ish, you just gain a sense that if you don’t like it then you can lump it. Because they reckon they’ll be busy regardless.'

Our current hosts, Nick, and his mate, an Aussie called Devon (note: Aussie Devon could also have been a South African Devin), were the complete opposite, smiley, helpful, talkative, accommodating and actually served us with some real food. A pleasant surprise. Especially after the earlier experiences.

Chutney jar

Chutney jar

Although even then Devon had to bundle over to our table and say, “I’m sorry about the wait on the pies. Our microwave is playing up.”

Not exactly what you want to hear. On the other hand he had just ferried over a truck load of cheese. And if there’s one sure-fire way to suppress the rabid post-ale carnal desire for pie, it’s a load of cheese (unless you don’t like cheese. You weirdo).

“I’d probably get sacked if they saw how much cheese I’d given you guys. But I felt bad about the wait for the pies.” The pies still only took about fifteen minutes, but cheers Dev.

Cheesus christCheesus christ

This cheeseboard was worth the wait (even taking into account the two previously unsuccessful visits – nearly). At the risk of sounding slightly over-zealous, the cheese board was a revelation. Bloody fanstastic.

The Whiskey Jar Cheeseboard (£12 or £15 for XL) consists of a soft, creamy and tangy blue veined Blacksticks, a beautiful looking firm marble-like Guinness cheddar, a mild and fresh crumbly Lancashire, a sharp and spicy chilli cheese and a questionable sticky toffee cheese. Although not repellent, I prefer my pud as a pud thanks.

The cheese board comes served with four different kinds of cracker, olives, salami, chorizo and a pot of chutney. Although not the cheapest at £15, this cheese board is a game-changer. Not sure which game, but it’d change it.

Possibly chess(e).


Cracker of a cheeseboardCracker of a cheeseboard

The Pieminister pies (£6) accompanied by mash (£2), mushy peas and gravy (£1 each) were as solid and satisfying as ever. However, we spent an entire week reviewing pies last week in Manchester Confidential’s unofficial Pie Week (including Pieminister here). As a result we’re not going to dissect the humble pie again here. We’re in a pie-amnesty. Doesn't stop us scoffing them though. Especially these. Just look at them.

Pietanic £6 Mash £2 Mush £1Pietanic £6 Mash £2 Mush £1

Moo pie (£6) Mash (£2) Gravy (£1)Moo pie (£6) Mash (£2) Gravy (£1)

For a bar named the Whiskey Jar, you’d probably expect them to stock a malt or two. Not always the case though, “When we opened we only stocked about a dozen whiskeys. I think people were a bit confused. Thought we were being ironic.” Nick tells me. Less Whiskey jar, more whiskey glass.

It was hard to imagine a desolate dozen whiskeys on the now impeccably busy back bar. Thankfully they’ve plumped out their whiskey selection since then, 105 of them at the last count.  Surprisingly, none of the 105 stray far over the £7 mark, even the premium imported Japanese Nikka Whiskey. Spend on cheese, save on whiskey. Lidl’s next ad slogan featuring Kerry Katona.

105 different whiskeys105 different whiskeys

They also stock a hearty selection of beer; we were on the unfaltering and reliably expensive Brooklyn Lager 5.4% (£4.60 pint), but could have easily gone for Brewdog’s now ubiquitous Punk IPA 5.6% (£3.90 330ml), Goose Island Honker’s ale 4.3% (£4 330ml) or Erdinger Weissbier 5.3% (£4 500ml).

From the vine, there’s a choice of three white, two red and two rose – hardly extensive, but hey it’s the Whiskey Jar. The choice of the lot probably being Don Jacobo Rioja at £17, but you can buy that in Tesco for about £1.57 a gallon so stick to the barley pop or grain mash.

A brandy you dandy?Fancy a brandy you dandy?

Spread over two floors (the upstairs only open at weekends), this old textile warehouse has been decked out in a manner that befits its breed and NQ roots. Much like Kosmonaut next door, exposed brickwork, pipework and dark leather abounds. But it’s cosier here, more intimate, warm, homely in fact. It’s like entering the debauched drinking quarters of a Victorian dandy.

The fireplaces, the candelabras, the fresh flowers on every table, the hanging whiskey jar lanterns, the piano with a sign lovingly instructing patrons to ‘keep drinks and arses off'.

All Whiskey Jar needs now is a doddering old Uncle Albert in the corner singing a merry navy ditty or two to top things off – Oi arse off the keys, and more cheese please.

Uncle Albert's pianoUncle Albert's piano

No arses pleaseNo arses please

Whiskey jar hanging lanternsWhiskey Jar hanging lanterns

Follow David Blake on twitter.

Follow the Whiskey Jar on twitter.

Whiskey Jar, 14 Tariff Street, City, M1 2FF

Rating: 14/20

Drink: 4/5
Food: 3.5/5
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 3/5

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

Photo credits to Thomas Ingle-Finch

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

Kevin PeelJuly 16th 2013.

I haven't been in yet and after the applicant lied to me and to residents about not attempting to extend his hours in return for supporting his application and then submitted an amendment to open until 3.30am I won't be going in any time soon!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
StephJuly 16th 2013.

I'm with you Kevin. As a local resident it annoys me the way that many of these new bars talk the talk to get their licence but then go back on that once open.

mancadamJuly 17th 2013.

why did you move to the city centre, in particular the northern quarter?

Trish KarneyJuly 17th 2013.

It beggars belief how people move to the NQ then complain about the noise. It's like going on holiday to Spain and demanding a Full English.

AnonymousSeptember 30th 2013.

m.facebook.com/…/10151112880878722… This is what you are dealing with Kevin!! Meet umar the license holder!!

AnonymousJuly 16th 2013.

I dont know how you can like the service when on your first two visits they told you to sod off. Also at £7 a measure that whiskey must come in about £200 a bottle when bought there so why only bitch about the markup on wine?

Nick SpraggJuly 16th 2013.

Service has been shocking in Whiskey Jar in my experience. I was in there on a non-busy evening. Stood at bar, two staff on, one making two ruddy Old Fashioneds (everyone's fave NQ cocktail du jour) the other one popping in and out of the back room without even a "be with you in two ticks." We ended up leaving. They didn't seem to care. The toilet situation is also "challenging" (individual cubicles right next to the bar, trump fans), and on my last visit I asked for a Brahma (stopped selling it) then Aspalls (sorry it's not plumbed in yet) and another lager I forget (barrel's gone). Opted for a Becks out of thirst. Never a lager I'd usually pick. Compared to Kosmo, WJ is too laid back. They also knew bugger all about Scotch when the place first opened, although presumably that has now changed, what with their extended range. To me it just smacked of a couple of guys with some cash finding somewhere in the NQ that had yet to feature a bar so they banged one in there for the sake of it.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Peter SlackJuly 17th 2013.

Couldn't agree more - have waited ten mins at the bar whilst one member of staff makes cocktails and three others piss about on a mac book at the side of the bar without even acknowledging the presence of any of the waiting punters. Shocking service, I refuse to go. Kosmonaut is much better service...

AnonymousJuly 16th 2013.

I didn't realise this place was in a small Cheshire suburb, where they had to close at 11pm.... These "local residents" stifling new and existing venues getting a licence or extending their hours should remember that they have chosen to live in a city centre, and as such, they can't have the best of both worlds, where all life stops whenever they decide to go to bed. The city centre is a commercial, trading and drinking centre first and foremost. The apartments, the trendy young things from Surrey and "Outraged of Newton Street" types came much later. 24 hour city? Hardly - all this creates is NIMBYism of the very worst kind.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
StephJuly 16th 2013.

Ok then how about if everyone moves out of the city centre and leaves the commercial, trading and drinking centre to just that. Any problem I've had with bars opening on my street is purely out of the fact that when I moved in the buildings in the street were purely office or retail, but the change of use of these is the issue. If there was bars there when I moved in then obviously I wouldn't have a problem.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Well said anon. It's a popular and busy part of a city centre. In the current environment, new independents should be encouraged, rather than having petty councillors criticising them.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

As I said, Steph, the commercial activity was there first. Trendy young things like you arrived later. When I lived in the City Centre I knew and accepted there was going to be noise, hustle and bustle etc. It seems a lot of current "City Livers" would be happier somewhere like Wilmslow...

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

actualy the original complaint was that they said something to residents when they were going through the planning process that they have gone back on. the planning aplication process is an important part of local democracy and if you tell pork pies to local residents when gong though planning that kind of negates the efectiveness and integrity of the planning process.

AnonymousJuly 16th 2013.

love this little gem far the best bar around, not tried the food yet but intend on doing so, love being in the place.....3am licence??? hurry up with that one.

Emily BrownJuly 16th 2013.

I love the whiskey jar! I've been for both lunch and evening drinks and had great service every time. The staff are friendly with loads of banter and our pies were delicious! I asked the barman what the sticky toffee cheese was like (my two favourite things combined?!?), and he bought out a plate with a piece for me to try for free! I could have eaten a whole block it is AMAZING! I'm not a fan of whiskey at all, but after chatting to the staff about the cocktails, I decided to try the Jarden of Eden and wasn't dissappointed! I will definitely be working my way through the rest of the menu!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

hmm. on the staff are you dear?

Yian PhillipsJuly 16th 2013.

I think this place is a lovely space with great potential but its been so hit and miss, I'm getting bored of trying now! I had a bad experience with a very rude member of door staff as well as very poor and inconsistent customer service from the bar staff over the 4/5 visits to the place. I have never eaten there, but friends have, and have also commented about their poor "microwave" pie selection. There are only so many "benefit of the doubts" you can give this place. With some very simple changes this could be a great place, they just need to get off their high horse and remember the customer is king! Basically, don't be complacent with a successful opening as this will turn into nothing when you end up with no customer loyalty. There is always some new place, some better place...

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Been in quite a few times and have never really noticed any issues with rude staff - actually found them really good and knowledgeable, especially the gaffer - though I have noticed the delays with food coming out to people. I wouldn't choose to go there to eat, but as a whisky drinker, I do very much like it for a drink. They'd arguably be better just sticking to being a bar and not bothering with the food element, but then that's up to them.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Keep doing whatever you guys are doing, love the crowd and the pies are epic. I'm a happy customer. Lovely relaxed atmosphere.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Any chance you can do Sunday lunch?? I'm also a fan.

Harriet JayneJuly 17th 2013.

I know they've recently just come under new management and since then the service has always been 1st class! The guys are super friendly and, as a cheese lover the food is great! Who doesn't enjoy a mountain of cheese and some healthy banter after a long day at work!? Ignore the negative comments and see for yourself, id definitely recommend!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

Three exclamation marks = another pal of the management

JimmyJuly 17th 2013.

Great place... top atmosphere, lovely drinks, mega pies! Definitely one of my faves! Keep up the good work guys!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

and another, two exclamation marks in two sentances

AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

= same staff member eh, 'Jimmy'

IanJuly 17th 2013.

or just walk to pieminister and get pie, mash, peas, cheese, crispy onions and gravy for £7.95

Brad ParkinsJuly 17th 2013.

Hello Manchester confidential members, my name is Brad Parkins and I am one of the owners of The Whiskey Jar. First of all I would like to take the time to thank you all for your comments and suggestions. We are a young independent bar in the Northern Quarter and your input allows us to grow and learn about how we can provide the best experience possible for all of our guests. We have actively looked at how we can improve within ourselves and are already aware of some of the points that have been highlighted. A few weeks ago we took on a new general manager, by the name of Peter Skelton, who has vast experience In Manchester and across the world; In Manchester he has worked for many years for the likes of Restaurant Bar and Grill and he is now putting in systems that will bring our level of customer service to a standard of which we can consistently be proud. We really do feel that we are on the right track to becoming a fantastic customer focused team and feel that our guests will not be disappointed in our hospitality. If anyone has any other suggestions they would like to share with us please pop in and see either myself or Pete. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Hope to see you here soon. Kindest regards Brad

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 19th 2013.

What does 'within ourselves' mean?

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Beautiful bar, staff are always friendly and knowledgable, only having 2 toilets was a right a pain, but since they opened the downstairs ones its fine. The music and cocktails are worth the visit alone, home away from home unpretensious atmosphere

Alex HillJuly 17th 2013.

I have been in the Whiskey Jar numerous occasions and every single time I have been blown away by the place - one occasion was a quiet Monday night with hardly anyone in there ... the bar man was great, explained that they didn't usually do food at that time but he was happy to rustle us up a couple of pies - which were amazing!! At the same time this was going on, there was a bloke actually playing the piano with a couple of mates ... it made for a great atmosphere - almost like a living room!! The other occasions I have been in have been busier weekend nights. Each time the staff have been more than attentive to my parties but also the people getting served before me. The WJ is trying to do something a little different so int getting the usual orders of 4 Jaegerbombs and 1 pint of Stella - they want people to know what they are drinking, which can take some explaining - I find people on review sites are so quick to criticize, if someone doesn't acknowledge them within 2 nanoseconds then they are crap at their job, have no right to be in business and i hope they fail, kind of attitude!! if we aren't careful we will end up with every bar in the city being a Revolution - we need to support these independents!! All the bar staff have been nothing but brilliant in my experience - I was even asked it I would like to chose the Spoify channel that was pumping out in the bar! Nice touch! The decor is really, REALLY tasteful and very comfortable - when i first went it, i was in there 10 minutes before even going to the bar! Trying out the Chesterfields, looking at the old Manchester pictures and hoping someone would be arriving soon to get on the two vinyl turntables!! As with any new business there are always kinks to be ironed out but I think these guys are on the path to great things, from the experiences I have had. I would urge anyone reading this to give the WJ a go.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

LOADS OF EXCLAMATION MARKS! yup, staff post...

mancadamJuly 17th 2013.

some very enthusiastic posters on this article. almost too enthusiastic, you could say.

AnonymousJuly 17th 2013.

Have to admit, we went there for a whiskey tasting night and found the barmen rude and obnoxious, more interested in chatting to friends sat at the bar than giving us any form of eye contact. Tasting was an hour late (not sure if it actually happened in the end!). Needless to say we walked out and got a refund...

Steeve HobbsJuly 17th 2013.

Only been once and the service was terribly rude, not just from a member of staff - BUT FROM THE OWNER. I complained about the microwaved pie as was assured it had been baked in an oven! The mash was equally dire - that packet stuff that went out of fashion in the 80's. It really is a great space, I love the conversion, but the rude staff and awful food needs a lot of work - Microwaved pie, Smash and peas for £9???

AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

Never had a problem here. I've had to wait while my cocktail was made, or for staff to explain the menu to a customer. The idea of the bar is to be as authentic and real as possible. I suppose it takes time to get the right balance.....but it looks like they've got it right to me. I love the mix of people you get... and I think everyone feels at home. I really like the place.

AnonymousJuly 18th 2013.

I went in when I first opened (time wise) on a Saturday afternoon about a week after it launched. Pretty sure it was the owner / his son working and its clearly a family business. OK its easy to have good customer service when its empty but I really got the impression they cared about their customers and doing something different by specialising in Whisky (for this part of town). Havent been when its busy as I usually default to Kosmonaut for its slightly livlier atmosphere when in this part of town but would much rather eat here, just lower the prices a bit considering the cost of Pieminsters or get some better pies from a local company perhaps?

Axel LariatJuly 18th 2013.

"Goose Island Honker’s ale 4.3% (£4 330ml)". So we've now entered the age of the £4 BOTTLE of beer. And not even particularly strong beer. These prices creep up on you stealthily, don't they?

Jenny CollinsJuly 18th 2013.

Before I start I am NOT of staff nor do I know anyone involved in the WJ as family or friends but I have to say that I have always had a great time and good service (including a free cheese board taster). The staff when I have been there (more than one member) have always been friendly and helpful... in fact I have recommended this place to friends whom also have not criticisms. If you want time and attention then go at a less traditionally busy time, if not we all know it's a NQ bar and on a weekend good luck getting personal attention anywhere!

AnonymousJuly 19th 2013.

The very least I would expect if I'm paying £4 is a bottle of beer is "personal attention" I realise that it's de reigeur to be as aloof with your patrons as possible when running an NQ bar; however the bubble will burst and punters will always return to somewhere with "friendly service" (which is considered oh-so "Printworks" by the NQ...)

AnonymousJuly 19th 2013.

They cant win - "friendly service" as they do when its quiet during busy times and you will moan about having to wait too long at the bar...

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