The Deaf Institute narrows its mascara coated eyes and draws a long drag on a slim, lilac cigarette. "I'll be whatever you want me to be, sugar" it whispers huskily into the ears of the curious twenty-somethings crossing its drawbridge-like threshold and entering into its weird, wonderful and ever changing wonderland. Diner, cocktail bar, gig venue, nightclub, day club, cafe. The Deaf Institute is all things to all people, and boy does it know how to give them what they want.
If Prince and Zooey Deschanel decided to co-habit, one can only imagine that The Deaf Institute is what they would have in mind. Disco balls, evil Dolly Parton wallpaper, indoor bird houses and walls of vintage speakers give the venue a thrown together, kitsch aesthetic - somewhere in between a kooky teenager's bedroom and bad ass disco den passed through a vintage Instagram filter. Starting in the basement you'll find an intimate, dimly lit cocktail cellar and club room - all plush velvets and exposed brickwork. Going up a level to the ground floor is the most dynamic of its rooms - a large diner/cafe which doubles as a DJ bar and second club room at night time. And then making your way up the grand wooden staircase you'll arrive at the cherry on top of this particularly sweet cake (let's face it, it's all cherry. It's a cherry cake) - the music hall. A double height gig and club room complete with stage, mezzanine, theatre style tiered seating and a large smoking terrace out back. Oh, and a giant disco ball presiding pendulously above it all. Obviously. All of these areas are available for private hire - making Deaf a great option for birthday parties, quirky events and even rock n' roll weddings.
The Atmosphere and Clientele
We visited early on a Wednesday evening for some dinner and cocktails, when the ground floor diner was full of stylish students and young hipster types on sabbatical from the Northern Quarter. However you'll find a different clientele every time you visit The Deaf Institute thanks to its multifarious nature - from alternative music types watching gigs upstairs to pop princesses dancing around their handbags to guilty pleasure tunes at the venue's monthly 'Pop' night, to the fun loving hip-hop fans who pack out the Deaf Institute each month for Manchester's biggest hip-hop night, Juicy.
The Food and Drink
Cocktails start at just £4 - or £3.50 during Happy Hour - with a selection of 'Premium Cocktails' coming in at a happily un-premium £6. Classics such as the Mojito and the Dark and Stormy are well accomplished - the Trof family are more than adept at mixing up a great cocktail - while the House Cocktail list features a more playful selection of drinks including the Honeysuckle Scotch, the Solero and the Rude Cosmopolitan. As well as the cocktails, there's also a good selection of hand pulled local ales, and Trof's own lager, cider and wine, which help to keep the bar tab down. We grabbed a couple of Gingerbread Daiquiris (rum, lime and gingerbread) and settled down in a large booth to scan the food menu.
Like its sister venue Gorilla, The Deaf Institute does a great line in comfort food - though with a slightly more casual approach. One side of the menu is pleasingly dedicated to the Great British Breakfast (served until 4pm), while the rest is made up of an ample selection of gourmet sandwiches, salads, burgers, dogs and Sunday Roasts. Even the most simple dishes at Trof are served up with creativity and flair, with interesting ingredients and accompaniments. I opted for the colourful Beetroot, Goats Cheese, Walnut and Roast Pumpkin Salad (£7) served with spinach, rosemary and honey dressing, while my companion succumbed to the irresistible allure of the World Famous Trof Cheese Burger (£8.50), handmade using a secret Trof recipe and served in a brioche bun with plenty of juicy toppings.
The Deaf Institute (so called after the Victorian charitable institution which once called this building home) has just celebrated its 5th birthday, and is now well established as a Manchester institute of a very different kind. A veritable palace of good music, good food and good times, this beautiful venue remains one of Manchester's most consistent night spots, still pulling in the crowds every week and never losing its cool edge. Here's to another five years!