The new kid on the block? Manchester's latest wine bar, Provence, opened towards the end of last year in Spinningfields, bringing bottomless brunches packed with sharing boards, private hire wine-oke downstairs, and a jukebox for sampling vino that's only usually available by the bottle. As a bit of a fiend for the booze myself, I jumped at the chance to cross this one off my to-visit list.
Decked out in Scandi-style wood panelling, leather sofa seating at the back, globular hanging lights and that all-important jukebox delving out pours, Provence has a relaxed charm about it. We chose to settle down by the window (for a slice of Saturday afternoon people watching, of course) as the bar began bustling at near-capacity once 3pm rolled around. I can definitely see how, once dimly lit after nightfall, this place would give intimate date night vibes. In the daytime though, it had a relaxed, light and airy feel that lacked any of the pretentiousness sometimes associated with wine.
First up, I was in the mood for some orange wine (whites made with skin-contact like reds are for a more robust flavour), which is becoming a more frequent offering as it comes out of obscurity. Both the Romanian Cramele Recas (£11 a glass) and Baglio Antico Bianco Catarranto (£13 a glass) from Italy swiftly arrived at the table. While orange usually only refers to the colour, the former Chardonnay and Viognier blend actually had some hints of citrus, alongside dried apricots. The latter was all the more unusual; a tangy vegan number crafted in Sicily, with a dry apple cider quality and touches of spice.
We also ordered two helpings of the mixed board (£14 each), where you can make four choices from the day's selection of cheese, charcuterie and vegetable antipasti - a lovely personalised touch. The moreish (and perhaps most rich ever) pot of paprika-sprinkled hummus, served alongside a warm rosemary bread for dunking, was a stand-out. Simple, but effective. Salamis and prosciutto brought spice and smoke, while the generous portions of cheese ranged from nutty to mature yet creamy - although I was a little sad to see no soft varieties on offer that day, but that's the luck of the draw. As mid-afternoon snacks go, this one was pretty substantial, so you could probably stick to sharing one between two people if you just fancy nibbles rather than a lunch substitute like ours.
Next, we were keen to delve into our favourite colour: the reds. My partner nabbed the recommended Celio e Terra 3 Passo Rosso (£12 a glass), while I went for Recantos de Lisboa Reserva (£10 a glass). The Italian boasted soft, oaked vanilla notes with delish black fruits, and the Portuguese pour had a silky finish to its juicy berry flavour that made it maybe a little too drinkable. All our choices and the staff's recommendations more than hit the mark here.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Provence's cafe and bar combo has sure been a hit since arriving in Spinningfields, and I can see why. This relaxed destination is ideal for the everyday wine drinker, including having plenty of natural, vegan and sulphite-free options to suit a range of vino fans. Add a sharing platter into the mix? You've got a winning date or get-together.
💰 The damage: Around £75 for two glasses and a mixed board each.
📍 The location: Unit G21, The Avenue, Spinningfields M3 3HF.
👌 Perfect for: Easy-going drinks.
⭐ Need to know: The wine list here is categorised by occasion.
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