Expect ski chalet and cable car style seating areas and watermelon mojitos
Manchester's Northern Quarter was once a run-down scattering of streets on the periphery of the city, its main selling points being neon-signed sex shops, cheap rice 'n three cafes, plentiful sex workers and lots of drugs - it also had a downside (boom boom!)
All of those elements are still there to varying degrees of course, but the hipsters have since made it profitable and put it on the likes of the Lonely Planet guide as a "vibrant, Bohemian neighbourhood" (probably).
Mala gets its name from the Hawaiian word for garden
Its transformation through the years has been fascinating to watch. First becoming a sort of artsy extension of Afflecks for its cheap shop rental options (far from it nowadays), then the trendy cocktail bars and burger places popped up along with a revolving door of ambitious indie clothes shops. Now it's enormously successful for all kinds of businesses from mini-Mancunian-empires to corporate chameleons while those brilliant curry caffs keep their hard-earned stronghold and karaoke continues to blast out of The Millstone pub.
While Thomas Street, Stevenson Square et al have thrived, Lever street has never quite caught up. The likes of Ply and Foundation Coffee light up the top end, while the main draw of the Piccadilly end is the bus home. There's also a beautiful but humble cafe-cum-bookshop called Chapter One which in "the before times" hosted art classes and other social events and served a mean slab of carrot cake and great coffee. Like the sadly closed Nexus, it whiffs of the golden era of the NQ when it was all joss sticks, old books and beaten up sofas.
It's here, in association with Chapter One, that a new "secret garden" has popped up. While everyone tries to stay warm with big coats and beer coats while resigning themselves to eating their food Steve Austin style (stone-cold) no matter how hot it was when it left the kitchen moments before, the beer garden is big business.
Mala gets its name from the Hawaiian word for garden, and this walled-off area with a covered terrace is the last thing you expect to see down that end of the NQ. All ski huts, cute cable car carriages and plenty of trees, it really is a pretty little haven away from the bus fumes and street party vibes of the nearby streets. There are no cigarette fumes either, the whole garden is non-smoking.
It's dog friendly too, local resident Daisy the Frenchie is a people-pooch and will greet you on arrival if you're lucky.
Cocktails are the main draw with crowd-pleasers like porn star martinis as well as watermelon mojitos and a Summer of '21 (a play on the summer of '69) with grapefruit, lychee and vodka. There will also be a range of spritzes including the good old Aperol as well as elderflower and passionfruit. Food will come from a range of local restaurants - to be announced - but for now, it's drinks only.
The project comes from Buzz Ventures who were behind the roof terrace that never was on a car park rooftop in First Street - though apparently, this one's still on the cards for at some point in the future. Buzz describe Mala as, "An escape from city life within the city".
Mala is walk-ins only, no need to book, and the soft launch is on Tuesday 27 April.
Mala 19 Lever St, Manchester M1 1BY