In New York City - the Big Apple - the endless rows of fire escapes and friendly heckles from the locals offer a bizarre and welcoming level of cool that is synonymous with the most famous city in the world. Understandably, bars and clubs that wish to capture the famous cult hero status and atmosphere of New York here in the UK have to be very careful to not trash it completely with over Americanised decor and a try hard atmosphere that fits better on the set of a slap stick comedy channel than in Manchester's Northern Quarter. They must be nonchalant, they must ooze style from every orifice, and allow you to feel like you've just stepped into the basement of a bar in New York, lit a cigar and ordered an Old Fashioned. The Black Dog Ballroom in Manchester seemed to tick all these boxes, so I threw on a shirt and some shoes and strutted all the way to the Northern Quarter in the hope that some of that stylish bravado would rub off on me.
Heading down deep under the cobbled streets of Northern Quarter, you enter the Ballroom. The long bar stretches the length of the basement as the contemporary decor and modern black leather booths and seats surround, seemingly only missing Tony Soprano as the final detail of this bad ass underground speakeasy. Pool tables in drinking dens all to often bring to mind dilapidated pubs and working men's clubs on housing estates with rips in the cloth, characterless stains on top and half a pool cue with no tip on. That couldn't be any further from the truth here; the pool tables are an attraction that not only people love, but that fit so well with the Black Dog Ballroom's style and panache that you feel obliged to 'shoot some pool' just to look like you do it all the time. Black Dog holds a secret as well: a pin coded secret ball room, equipped with personal bar tenders, exclusive cocktail menus, free pool and a delicious selection of canapés available for order. Tony Soprano would be proud.
The Clientele and Atmosphere
As you walk through The Black Dog Ballroom you immediately notice the stylish crowds of young professionals and mature students supping down premium beers and Cosmopolitans like they're on the set of Sex and the City. The juxtaposition of the people of Mancunia that frequent Blackdog on a regular basis with the New York style ambience is an important factor in the bar's popularity. The clientele bring that engrossing Manchester charm and wit, giving the entire place a touch of that little something that makes us love this city. The atmosphere is similar, with a liberal use of tunes through the week and at the weekend, catering for the masses and giving everyone a bite of the musical cherry.
The Food and Drink
The drinks in the Blackdog Ballroom are vast and in depth, with a healthy amalgamation of premium beers, ciders, wines and cocktails. Cocktails are pricey but no more so than any other Northern Quarter boozers, and the quality speaks for itself, with bartenders and mixologists teaching and imparting the importance of building a cocktail and not just making one. All the classics are available with Cosmopolitans and Mojitos coming in at between £6.75 and £7.50, and the more extravagant cocktails including the Russian Spring Punch, (a exclusive blend of Finlandia vodka, cassis, lemon and champagne) being a few notes more at £8.
The grub on the menu not only sounds amazing, with its American style burgers, hotdogs and sharing platters, but nothing was priced higher than £8, which for a Northern quarter bar of such standard is unheard of. After a spicy chicken wing starter we ordered a Meat platter including chilli Nachos, more wings, steak strips and a whole host of deep fried and beautifully cooked New York delicacies. We topped that off in true New York style by smashing down a superb Philly steak pizza. The idea behind the food in my eyes is a very simple philosophy that is rarely pulled off in any bars or restaurants nowadays. Good, inexpensive food cooked like it's worth a million bucks.
A sleek and inexplicably cool underground basement nestled in Manchester's Northern Quarter that looks exclusive and stylish but opens its arms to the people to allow them to be a part of the nonchalant and incessant eating, drinking and partying, that this excellent little bar offers on a daily basis. Don't miss out on its sister venue on New Wakefield Street as well; an equally brilliant offering. You can book a table at The Black Dog Ballroom Northern Quarter using the form above.