Imagine walking into a cavernous, turn-of-the-century goods warehouse and thinking ‘yeah, I can see this working for our next restaurant and bar’. It’s a stretch for me, but vision and taste come as standard at David Waddington and Pablo Flack’s projects.
Their first venture was Bistrotheque in Bethnal Green which opened in the mid noughties and retains a loyal fanbase. Their second was Hoi Polloi at London’s Ace Hotel, which attracts as many locals as it does visitors to the area. For their third project, they’ve upped their game, creating a bold, brilliant space known as Cultureplex in the former Place Aparthotel that’s also home to the second branch of Bistrotheque.
Entering via Ducie Street (a minute or two’s walk from Piccadilly Station) towering glass doors open onto a massive bar and lounge with light cascading down through the atrium of the brand new Native Hotel above.
The space took over two years to convert and opened at the end of September. But it’s already buzzing. Designed by Loren Daye of NYC agency, Loveisenough (Ace Hotels, H Stern), large, sharing tables are populated by workers and friends, while travellers, business people and Manchester types fill low-set booths scattered around the bar and cafe area. Alongside Bistrotheque restaurant, attractions include private dining and meeting rooms, a 36-seater cinema, and the first Blok gym outside London (which has a very limited £25 for 14 days membership offer on right now).
The bar serves gin martinis, and coupes of prosecco throughout the venue, while the beer and wine list takes in intriguing low-intervention bottles and a delightful IPA from Big Drop. Food, meanwhile, is NYC-grill-meets-French-bistro menu. Basically, the kind of stuff you want to eat, day or night.
We try leeks vinaigrette (£7) served with a crust of crushed hazelnuts, and grass-green oil and the perfect cod with chilli, sage and garlic (£17.50). Side orders of note include squash, sage and comte gratin (£7) and crisp, smoky potatoes with gremolata (£5).
I was fantasizing about my favourite goat’s cheese dish – Porta’s grilled version with honey – when I ordered Bistrotheque’s fried goats cheese (£9.50). This one is a safe bet, although the dark crust overpowered the delicate honey and truffle notes a little. Steak fans, on the other hand, will be in their element; Swaledale rump (£22) comes with a smoky girolle jus, while the fillet (£39) has an extraordinary char-grilled flavour. Ask for the bone marrow butter on the side and you’ll be pushed to find a better flavour.
Sour apple sorbet (£4.50), vegan coconut and passionfruit pavlova (£6) and the wobbly panna cotta with homemade honeycomb (£7) are comforting full stops.
Service is impeccable – David and Pablo roam the venue, checking every detail day and night – and the decor and lighting are perfect. As such, Cultureplex is real contender for opening of the year – but more importantly, perhaps, it’s a genuinely convivial space that’s already part of Manchester’s day-to-day life. It says a lot that it’s already my go-to for eating out, drinking coffee, working, cocktails, catching a movie… and well, everything. See you there.
- Ruth Allan
- Published on:
- Tue 29 Oct 2019