Private Members Clubs; They're a little like Marmite. Those who love them keep them close to their heart; those who hate them abhor them with such vitriol, it's liable to have their temples throbbing à la Stressed Eric. The difference is, anybody (within reason) can access Marmite should they so wish. The exclusivity of a Members Club means that only certain folks can experience life inside.
The Milton Club, situated on Difficult Deansgate (rarely do venues that aren't Wetherspoons, Slug & Lettuce or Café Rouge survive beyond a few months when it comes to running a thriving business), is housed in an utterly gorgeous building thought to have been built in the early 1900s. If it wasn't enough that when queuing outside that you have the breathtaking John Rylands library opposite you, this former Congregational Church meeting chambers offers a stunning marbled entrance hall once you've made it past the impeccably-attired doormen.
Between entry and careful coat-taking, the staff introduce you to the club in a friendly and informative way. This warmth extends through to the design once you make it to the interior, where dark furnishings are offset with strips of orange, impressive large lampshades and some splashes of cream. They've taken the building's sumptuous original features and showed them off with care and love.
Clientele and Atmosphere
Dubbed ‘a private members club for professionals over 25’, it's safe to say you're not going to encounter students or artsy creative types in the Milton – it's about as far removed from the Northern Quarter as you can get. Depending on how much cash you're willing to splash, you can stay in the general area, put down around £300 on drinks and upgrade to a roped booth against the back wall or with approximately £1,000, you could find yourself in one of the private rooms partitioned off with gold curtains. Fancy!
In terms of the people you're likely to find here, you'll understandably see a lot of suits and sequin dresses. Age-wise that +25 mark did seem to be closely adhered to, and on guesstimation we got the impression that a more mature clientele (mid thirties and above) seemed to have taken to the privacy of the place. That said, the main floor isn't somewhere to expect to have a private conversation with your nearest and dearest; the music is boisterous and pumping to encourage everyone to have a good old dance.
The cocktail menu is small but carefully put together, with some interesting and unusual combinations. A Twisted Barrel will have you enjoying red wine alongside whisky and apple juice – not something I ever thought I'd drink beyond my experimental student days but it really worked! My companion enjoyed Passionate Dreams (careful now), containing elderflower cordial, prosecco and St Germain with passionfruit sugar. It was a delectable drink that slipped down far too easily.
Mocktail-wise, for any teetotallers or designated drivers there are three fruity options, and as for the champagne, you can definitely push the boat out. Got a spare £3,500? Invest it wisely in a bottle of Remy Martin Louis XIII. You know the drill, drinks here aren't going to be your £2 Font bar mojitos, but that's kind of the point. And if there's something you'd like that's not on the menu, the bartenders will whip up whatever you want. I was offered a whisky or amaretto sour should I so desire... I'm still regretting not picking one up now!
Manchester has had few and far between Members Clubs over the years, with varying levels of success. The Milton Club seems poised to succeed where others have failed – it's situated in the part of town where most of the urban professionals work, it's easy to find yet offers a sense of exclusivity and being part of something special, the drinks are solid, it feels quite 'London' (where the whole VIP deal has done exceedingly well). What level of exclusivity you enjoy depends entirely on how much you spend, but it goes to show that if you're not willing to part with gargantuan amounts of cash, you can still enjoy a treat night out there.