The Pen & Pencil Northern Quarter - Manchester Bar Review

Published . By Kiran Flynn.

A slice of Mad Men Manhattan beams at the end of the Northern Quarter’s Hilton Street offering inspiration to thirsty thinkers and late night drinkers near and far. I sauntered down for a drink in true martini-fashion.

The Venue

Suave 1950s chic, meets New York street-style on the corner of Manchester’s quirkiest bar scene at The Pen & Pencil. The dining side of the restaurant bar has an iconic feature wall with an intriguingly sceptical looking lady painted on it, blowing smoke rings from a cigarette. Clean, crisp but also street, Pen & Pencil’s seating mixes curvy white chairs with giant, polished wooden benches. Understated and simple, there's still a cool and contemporary edge to the venue that echoes of the Northern Quarter. No, the theme isn't overt, but I don't think that it was meant to be.

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Suave and sophisticated, Mad Men inspired drinking is The Pen & Pencil's bread and butter.

The Atmosphere and Clientele

The Pen & Pencil had a quieter atmosphere whilst we were dining, but the lighting was turned down and the beats were cranked up at about 8pm when crowds of well turned-out Northern Quarter punters arrived. We were ready for a cheery Thursday night out. It’s a well-known fact that any man in a leather trilby is an extremely cool badass – and that’s the sort of person you can expect to find at Pen & Pencil. I’m sure the people around me would have been able to tell a good story or two, whiskey in hand. The upbeat, bright music consisted of 1950s Rock n Roll, Funk, Motown and Dub, which was perfect for bopping along to after our meal.

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Inviting and social, The Pen & Pencil boasts that awe-inspiring 1950s feel.

The Food and Drink

Given the casually swanky 1950s vibe, a martini was certainly in order. The Cucumber and Sake Martini was subtle, elegant and all too easy to drink. A great start to this vintage inspired affair.

The Pen & Pencil caters for varying appetites with large or small plates on offer. We went for the crab cakes, with a mouth-wateringly hot chilli jam and fiery kimchi, served on a slick, black slate. The prawn lollipops with avocado also hit that Thai-spice sweet-spot before our Steak Frites main courses followed. We also tried the Fig Julep cocktail made with Buffalo Trace whiskey, which was served in a heavy tin cup with a fresh fig garnish. Pen & Pencil has an extensive list of bottles and cans of beers and ciders if you don’t fancy a cocktail.

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Crab cakes make palates cower with a delicious hot chilli jam and kimchi.


After a great night of music and cocktails, I really recommend that you head down to The Pen & Pencil to whet your whistle. It’s definitely worth a scribble in your diary, and may even become an NQ staple.