London may like to think it has it all, from great grub to beard-wielding hipsters, but after a night spent being chill at a bar so cool its entrance is disguised as a laundromat (The Washhouse, if you were wondering), I can safely say that's not the case. Manchester is rivalling the capital's claim to the throne with a melting pot of cool and quirky venues and mouth-watering-ly delicious food options. The latest of these is Alston Bar & Beef, which takes a paired-back, artisanal approach to good food and good booze in the sexiest of surroundings.
Venue & Atmosphere
Located in Manchester’s recently revamped Corn Exchange, Alston Bar & Beef is in the very heart of this vibrant city centre. Despite this, as you step off the street and descend into Alston’s subterranean dining room, you enter a world entirely its own. With a cosy, Chicago-in-the-forties vibe, amplified by yellow lighting, table lamps and lots of decadent marble, Alston Bar & Beef offers a warm retreat from the busy streets beyond.
The clue is in the title and the restaurant specialises in beef – offering a variety of ways to have your steak and eat it. Alston’s founders are also firm believers in the powers of good gin; offering up to 60 varieties, including their own botanically infused artisanal range. Hung from the walls in huge globular decanters, these gins - which are often lovingly curated by the staff themselves - are a wonderful new take on the latest trend.
Food & Drink
We kicked things off with their Strawberry & Vanilla Gin (£8.80) and were not disappointed as the sweet and soft tone of the two flavours undercut the gin's bitterness. Appetites warmed by our aperitifs, we moved on to the food. The menu is steak heavy, as you’d expect, but still offers a mouth-watering selection of alternative dishes. I ordered the Soup of the Day (£5.50) to start – which was leek & potato and so divine I almost hopped into the bowl – and the Grilled Bream (£16.00). My partner went for the Octopus & Chorizo (£7.00) starter, followed by a Rib Eye Steak with chips, veg and lashings of stilton sauce (£30.00), opting for a medium cook on the advice of the staff.
The fish was cooked perfectly, something not all steak joints can do, accompanied by dhal sauce, crispy onions and coconut rice. The steak too, was excellently done, with the extra time in the pan caramelising the fat and sweetening the juices – and proved just how well these guys know their meat.
Dessert was a triumph: Chocolate, Almond & Sea Salt Brownie (£6.00) and a Lemon Meringue Sundae (£6.00), to share. Why have one dessert when you can have two? The brownie was one of the best I’ve tasted served with a luxurious side of melted chocolate sauce while the Lemon Meringue Sundae was tart and sweet, hitting on the perfect flavour combo to end a meal.
Atmosphere with a side of exquisite food and drink; Alston Bar & Beef isn’t just a dining experience, it's a place to lose yourself… and lose track of time. Escape from the usual humdrum of Manchester to this world of unique gin, delicious steak and gorgeous decor; this is escapist dining at its very best.