Canvas Kitchen - part of the Canvas collection of events spaces - is serving up a global menu
Like buses, you wait ages for a new venue and then a whole herd come along at once.
In the case of Canvas in the Circle Square development it's not just one new spot that has opened but a "collection of new spaces". In practice this means a state-of-the-art 600 capacity music and events room, a members’ lounge, a ground-floor bar and kitchen and secret experimental dark matter research facility. Ok we made that last one up but in a site so whole-heartedly dedicated to collaborative thinking and creativity, anything is possible.
An environment that young creative and grassroots talent are excited to be part of
Canvas is operated by the team at BeSixth, the "live experience agency and event specialists" founded by Dean James and Gavin Aldrich in 2019. The team are also behind Oval Space and The Pickle Factory in London, both stellar gig venues.
The owners say that, "With authenticity at the forefront of everything we do, our key ambition is to provide the most innovative space where emerging music and new talent can grow." The live venue will host gigs, album launches and listening parties, and the bar is open until 2am (4am for members).
But while Canvas is very much about the music, today we are here to check out the food.
After a sneak peek into the underground spaces, which are still in preparation for Friday's opening, we settle down to take in the restaurant which goes by the name of Canvas Kitchen.
Under the direction of the team from boutique hospitality consultancy Miam Miam Glou Glou, the space is light and bright thanks to ceiling-height windows, with a palette of sea blues, sage greens and natural finishes. This is quite a contrast to Miam Miam's other Manchester venue, Peru Perdu, which is soaked in hot pink.
What's for lunch?
The menu bills itself as "globally inspired small plates for sharing". The feeling behind the menu comes from Manchester's own multiplicity. "With a dynamic and international audience on the doorstep and we want anyone from anywhere to be able to walk in, feel welcome and resonate with our menu," say the Canvas crew.
Dishes such as slow chicken thighs with sweetcorn fritters and collard greens or duck legs with sweet and sour roast plum and cucumber salad certainly showcase that global inspiration, while we got to grips with sweet and sour dumplings, salt-baked beets, Korean fried chicken, slow tuna with poached hen egg, tomato and olive and just in case we were getting too worldly wise, good old fish and chips.
Plant-based eaters and veggies are also well catered for with a separate menu of small plates under the heading "planta" (though some of the plates from the main menu are also vegetarian, should you want to mix and match). The chilli squash with hazelnut, watercress and agave looks tempting while the grilled tender stem broccoli with sesame and tofu delivers the requisite dose of chlorophyl.
How could we forget the bar? Open until 2am (4am for members) it promises "the newest breed of bartending; meticulous preparation, speed of service, clean drinks with a global outlook". The wine hits up Argentina, California, Oregon and Italy on its international travels, letting you explore some lesser-known regions mixed with classic varietals and exemplary new age wines.
The cocktail menu is split in to three sections - Aperitif, Sundowners and Highballs - many of which can be made non-alcoholic thanks to some special Three Spirit zero alcohol mixes. We tried a couple of our bartender's favourite concoctions, including the Aloe with green Szechuan, cucumber and aloe, and the Chinola Picante, a vegan drink made with Bacardi Cuatro and scotch bonnet peppers.
Unlike stuffy ideas of a member's club keeping people out, the Canvas peeps like to reimagine it as "a community" dedicated to nurturing talent. While hobnobbing with like-minded folk is obviously part of the appeal for some, Canvas have thrown music and technology courses led by world-class artists in to the mix.
Workshops will allow members to listen, learn and seek inspiration from top producers, musicians and DJs and will be suitable for all skill levels. Members will also be able to sample panel discussions, one-off events and wellness classes.
In a bid to be more accessible, Canvas has kept costs lower than your average members' club, with memberships starting from £15 per month for under 30s. For this you get access to two gigs a month, a private late-night bar, discounts and the wellness programme.
According to a Canvas bod, "our long-term vision is to forge an environment that young creative and grassroots talent are excited to be part of." Part of giving back to the members includes monthly parties, and free membership for the first three months when you sign up.
Canvas, Circle Square, Oxford Rd, M1 7FS
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