Sophie Rahnema is bowled over by a brisket volcano at this cricket themed bar
My boyfriend and I met about five and a half years ago. From the night we locked eyes in a bar in Didsbury during his football team’s end of season "do", I knew that sport would take top billing on any telly we would end up owning together. While I have my footie faves who get me through the full 90 minutes (have you heard of a thigh, I mean guy, called Jack Grealish?), cricket’s charm also won me over.
After an hour of thwacking rubber balls with absolutely no technique whatsoever, I want to try it. I want to get my meat on.
So now I’m a fledgling cricket fan. And as with many noobs, I was eventually lured in by the excitement of the super over in the final of the Cricket World Cup in 2019. Ben Stokes has done so much for the plight of the gingers, hasn’t he?
Sixes is fairly new to Manchester, opening in August and replacing Alston Bar and Beef in the Corn Exchange with cricketing simulator batting cages. The faces behind it are a couple of Scottish butchers, Andy Waugh and Calum MacKinnon, who ran online meat delivery Mac & Wild and a now-closed restaurant in Fitzrovia, London. Nae bother lads, let’s see what’s you’ve got, shall we?
Activity bars aren’t much known for their menus - and why should they be? A sloppy bowl of nachos is perfect pre/post game fodder and most people are only going to show off in front of their mates anyway. But this menu is pretty alluring, actually. Yes, burgers appear in their usual spot under “Classics” but so does something called “beef brisket volcano”. So after an hour of thwacking rubber balls with absolutely no technique whatsoever (£70), I want to try it. I want to get my meat on.
My boyfriend and I are joined by a mate, let's call him Lumpy Stevens, so we can thoroughly investigate what Sixes' kitchen has got cooking. At first glance, this is a pretty carnivorous menu, with steak and nuggets and beef gravy. But there's more. Coronation bubble and squeak pakoras (£7.50) are a towering pile of cruciferous crunchiness concealing a sweet mango chutney and delicately spiced mayonnaise beneath. The little trio of ox cheek mini buns (£9.50) look like sliders, but are stuffed with pleasingly sticky pulled meat and a sort of sweet and sour slaw before being doused in more meaty juices making them practically impossible to pick up, but oh so satisfying when they eventually make it from plate to gob.
A “from the ashes” sweet potato (£9.50) is not only a classy cricket pun but a lovely surprise right off the bat (I can do puns too). A large whole sweet potato is charred and blistered on top, but once sliced open reveals a creamy almond ricotta filling sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts and a delightful "green sauce" that I can’t quite put my finger on. It raises eyebrows around the table before we dive in for second helpings.
The vegan grilled aubergine (£14.50) is served whole, cooked Hasselback-style, and sits in sweetly spiced carrot puree. A dollop of smoked coconut yoghurt rounds all the flavours off wonderfully. This is clever and sophisticated barbecued food. You won’t find any doughnut burgers here.
When the beef brisket volcano (£16.50) is presented it becomes clear that the part of "volcano" is played confidently by a large upstanding bone of beef - the marrow inside, you are invited to scrape out. I obediently poke around with my knife extracting all the extra flavour. Braised burnt ends of beef, Applewood cheddar and crispy onions are all so flipping delightful in this dish - and then the little bombs of fresh chilli hit.
A whiskey glazed short rib (£16.50) boasts a smart mirror glaze that would dazzle Paul and Prue. It sits neatly next to a zesty summer slaw with kale and pomegranate that is a fitting antipode to the luscious meat. More freestanding bones balance on top of flatbreads (£2) and the marrow is now the butter in a ludicrous short rib and slaw sandwich.
No scrap or morsel is left when we are done. We haven’t come up for air for 25 minutes and our table has been in relative silence save for a few delighted “oohs” and “aahs”. As we lick our lips and suck the remaining sauce from our fingers we nod approvingly at one another. It’s simply brilliant sharing food.
Dessert disappears as quickly as it arrives. Bread and butter pudding (£7) is paired with curious sounding charcoal-infused custard and whisky syrup that give the crispy-on-the-outside-soft-in-the-middle pudding a glorious, not-so-subtle sweet and smoky flavour. Charred pineapple and coconut cream peek through an aquafaba meringue teepee (£7) that gives no hint at all to its veganism. A fresh, fruity finale to an evening of flame-grilled fancy.
Come for the cricket, stay for the meat volcano, I say. This place will have me running back. In fact, I’m getting all googly-eyed at the thought. I’ve been absolutely hit for six. And so on.
Sixes Cathedral St, Manchester M4 3TR
Follow Sophie Rahnema on Instagram @sophieshahla
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Coronation pakoras 8, ox cheek mini buns 7, grilled aubergine 8, beef brisket volcano 7, whiskey glazed short rib 8, bone marrow flatbreads 8, from the ashes sweet potato 9, bread and butter pudding 8, vegan pavlova 7
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Lively with a front row seat for the cricketing action