There’s a reason The Blues Kitchen successfully took the city by storm in just a few short weeks last summer. Taking over the former Walkabout site on Quay Street, near Spinningfields, the venue offers a little something that Manchester was sorely missing: a taste of the Deep South.
Opening for the first time last May, The Blues Kitchen is one of the city’s newcomers – taking the form of a bar, restaurant and live music venue all wrapped up with a big, art deco bow, possessing an impressive grandeur that not only throws back to Manchester’s architectural glory days, but a 1920’s New Orleans, too.
The allure of the venue begins at the building’s exterior before you even walk through the doors, with inviting steps and ‘The Blues Kitchen’ glowing in showstopping lights and marking the large entrance, which leads guests directly into a buzzing bar area. Stepping inside is a transportive experience, where guests are greeted with the sounds of nattering guests as Motown and blues set the upbeat and relaxed tone throughout. It’s kind of like the moment in a Woody Allen flick when the scene fades back to a more glamourous time in the far-distant past, except, thankfully, with less Woody Allen and much more of a jazz-inspired vibe.
Restoring the former Victorian Hospital back to some of its original state, the devil is in the details with the opulent decor, with the new tenants seeking out 19th-century tin plates from a derelict church in Manhattan, a stained glass ceiling from a New Jersey psychiatric hospital, lights salvaged from old Trans Atlantic cruise liners and original ceramic tiles which scream ‘bygone era’.
Every single item placed inside the venue nods to the bar’s inspiration, including the legendary muses that adorn the walls in the form of murals and framed art – with icons such as Ray Charles, Nina Simone and James Brown all brought to life in the most Manc way possible: by the spray can of local street art legend, Akse. Unique to the Manchester venue, the huge murals not only pay homage to the musical icons that live on through their lyrics to this day, but to the city that the bar now calls home – a place seeped in its own, individual culture and a history like no other in the UK.
While I could go on forever about the sheer labour of love it took to create The Blues Kitchen’s breathtaking decor, it’s the food that has stolen the hearts of team Secret Manchester the most. Recreating the mouthwatering dishes of the Deep South that the region has become synonymous with, the venue serves up an array of dishes that are smoked, barbecued and glazed to a point where it stops being ‘just food’, and becomes more of a warm, welcoming hug in every single bite. I’m talking eyes-rolling-to-the-back-of-the-head type flavours that literally compel you to keep tucking in for more, with comfort food galore up for grabs on the concise, yet near-heavenly menu.
24-hour slow-cooked meats steal the show for the mains, with succulent St Louis pork ribs, beef brisket sandwiches dipped in bacon gravy (my personal recommendation), and buttermilk chicken doused in hot, sticky buffalo sauce leading a meaty and moreish menu that’s almost impossible to pick from. For the sweet section, the restaurant’s signature deep-fried Oreo doughnuts served with a caramel sauce grace the desserts menu – a pud that has become so well-loved across The Blues Kitchen various London venues, that honestly, it’s not a trip complete without them. Trust us on this one.
While downstairs is all about the grub, upstairs, guests will stumble upon the hidden gem of the building. The heart of The Blues Kitchen’s joy and passion: The Concert Hall. A place where guests can enjoy live blues, jazz, soul and roots performed by some of the UK’s most talented bands and artists, The Concert Hall is where the venue’s inspiration really comes alive, with an authentic speakeasy-style atmosphere so uniquely enjoyable, there’s really nowhere else quite like it in the city.
Free to visit, The Concert Hall has become the place to be on a weekend, with tables completely booking out many an occasion. It’s pretty easy to see why, too, with fantastic shows such as their weekly Gospel Service bringing the best of soul and R&B, and a weekly house band performing captivating live sets of classic funk, soul and rock n’ roll that genuinely have guests leaving with a big smile smacked across their faces.
Open daily from 12 noon on weekdays and 10am weekends, The Blues Kitchen can be found at 13 Quay St, M3 3HN, and it’s open for reservations now.