Bars without borders, a basement innovation room and rum punch on tap

A new three story eating, drinking and ‘lifestyle’ venue, is to open this week on Thomas Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, on the former site of the short lived Folk & Soul and Odd Bar, which took that space for twelve years prior to that. 

The bottom line was the fact that it tasted good and made us feel even better

It’s the product of an interesting partnership between some of the most experienced hospitality folk in the city. Operations will be headed up by an award winning team including Dan Morris (ex Cottonopolis and Trof Group), Mat Lake and Bart Murphy (both of Junkyard Golf Club and Bunny Jacksons) and Lyndon Higginson (Liars Group, Junkyard & Bunny Jacksons.) Higginson has designed and curated the artwork throughout the space. Mof Gimmers, resident record buyer at sister site Wilderness Record Store, Withington, will booking his favourite DJs and playing new releases, classics and vinyl reissues.

2019 08 14 Wilderness Ground Floor Bar
The ground floor bar area welcomes walk-ins

The team might collectively be known for crazy pizzas, even crazier indoor golf courses and 10p chicken wings, but it seems they have hidden depths and ultimately a deep understanding of ingredients and a respect for the creative process - whether that’s to do with food, drink, service or simply what goes into making sure people have a good time.

They’ve described Wilderness Bar + Kitchen as ‘a welcoming, relaxed space with a modern approach to flavour’ and the team did quite a bit of research in Scandinavia to hit the right notes. You can walk in or book ahead for the ground floor bar, which is headed up by Adam Day,  who has developed a natural cocktail menu pairing house made ingredients, seasonal produce and quality spirits using traditional and cutting edge techniques.

2019 08 14 Wilderness Art
Lyndon Higginson (Liars Group, Junkyard & Bunny Jacksons) has designed and curated the artwork throughout the space

Yes, it’s a place to sit and chill out with a craft beer or house made highball cocktail from one of the many taps on the back bar wall, but the detail is intense. Every day they freshly squeeze juices, prepare various cocktail components in house and batch and carbonate their own keg cocktails which are each charged with different gasses to not only preserve the flavour but to infuse different textures. Every single thing has been created by going into each component to the nth degree.

One look at ‘Apeture’, the cocktail menu, where each drink is given a subject name (such as flor, scorched, escape) and paired with a grungy urban image, reveals ingredients such as foraged mist and ethyl formate – ‘the taste of the universe.’ The rum punch we tried was made with a base of rooibos tea and infused with hibiscus, but the bottom line was the fact that it tasted good and made us feel even better.

2019 08 14 Wildernes First Floor Bar
Bars without borders upstairs - yes, there's a canoe on the ceiling

Upstairs, the first floor cocktail bar looks more like the kitchen in someone’s trendy house and the central space has been designed to remove barriers between those making the drinks and those enjoying them. A seasonal small plate menu will also be served up there.

The basement kitchen team is headed up by James Lord (ex-Manchester House) who will create a menu of innovative dishes, many of which will be cooked over coals. Knock out dishes from the ones we tried include tender BBQ lamb belly skewers, glazed with miso and sprinkled with yeast flakes infused with lamb fat (£5) - lambier than Larry Lamb driving his pet lamb in a Lamborghini.

2019 08 014 Wilderness Lamb Skewers
BBQ lamb belly skewers
2019 08 14 Wilderness Potato
Pressed potato, smoked egg, brown crab and dill pollen

We were also impressed by pressed potato rectancles that seem to defy gravity, topped with smoked egg, brown crab and dill pollen (£5). Not sure how to even begin trying to make those at home. A ridiculously tender short rib of beef with bone marrow, to intensify the flavour, and onions cooked with IPA (to intensify the flavour again) and nasturtium oil (£14) is likely to be a sure fire hit with punters seeking out comfort dishes this autumn as is a stunning pudding of treacle tart with crème fraiche sorbet (£6.) There were also plenty of interesting vegetarian and vegan options including roast cauliflower with pumpkin seed butter and puffed buckwheat.

2019 08 14 Wilderness Basement Pdr
The basement 'innovation room' where guests can dine from a special chef's tasting menu

We ate in the basement ‘Innovation Room’ on a table set to the side of the working kitchen which can also be booked out for private dining, where guests can experience a tasting menu served by head chef James.

All the dishes were paired with great examples of natural and low intervention wines which have all been picked by Bart with the help of Caroline Dubois, Sommelier and General Manager at Stockport’s Where The Light Gets In (read more about her here).

2019 08 14 Wilderness Natural Wines
Some of the special natural wines available at Wilderness

One of the Confidentials team will be going in soon to write a full review.

Wilderness Bar + Kitchen, 30-32, Thomas St, Manchester M4 1ER

Open from 11.30am until 12am Sunday - Wednesday, 1am on Thursday and until 2am Friday and Saturday. Food served 12pm – 10pm.