Hidden away in a village of shipping containers on the outskirts of Ancoats is one of Manchester’s most gorgeous new drinking experiences.
The natural progression from an at-home wine delivery service started during lockdown, the new bar takes the name ‘Le Social’ to a whole new meaning.
It’s truly impossible to spend an evening here without being drawn into conversation with those around you, and that’s exactly the point.
With room for just six covers inside (nine at a push), it’s wonderfully intimate.
The walls are lined with beautiful bottles of wine, in fact, there’s probably more room dedicated to the wine than the guests – but that only adds to its charm.
Tucked away behind a muslin curtain, owner Jerome bustles in the kitchen preparing small plates which, just like the majority of the wine list, are created using responsibly sourced ingredients from French, Spanish and Italian producers.
The first bottle, Le Social sparkling, is a wine hand-selected by Jerome from a vineyard high up in the mountains just inland of Barcelona. Very dry with lots of acidity, technically it’s a cava but as he says it’s a “high spec” one.
With no sugar added, it’s very fresh and floral, sitting somewhere between Champagne and prosecco.
There’s a great story about the label, designed by Jerome’s friend – an artist and Go-Go dancer for Manchester’s queer block party for all, Homoelectric, called Tony Sanchez.
Showing us the design, he tells us: “During lockdown, he was clearly missing cuddles very much so he was drawing lots of erotic drawings […] I really liked what he was doing and I picked the more PG 13 one, which is just a nice innocent cuddle between a few different people”.
Their heads are replaced with flowers, and the colours – mostly red, yellow and black – echo the artist’s own Spanish background, as well as the heritage of the wine, but there also nods to time spent in Japan through the calligraphy.
Jerome adds that he intends to showcase more of Tony’s work in an exhibition later this year, at which point the PG 18 illustrations will also be revealed – drawing a collective laugh from our little groups of twos and threes.
Served with crisps, also from Catalonia, plump green olives and salted almonds, Jerome tells us that the idea behind the pairings is designed to mirror how it’s done in France or Italy.
Borrowing on the tradition of aperitif or aperitivo, where typically you might meet with friends after work for a few drinks, order a few nibbles (or, as is the case abroad, receive them complimentary), all the plates are small but delicious. Perfect for picking at.
As we progress through the wine list, more plates appear.
Grilled artichoke halves are served with an easy-drinking Muscadet from Jerome’s hometown, and as it’s poured, we hear how in his village you’ll often tip out of the rave in the morning down to the market to drink this in shots along with oysters until you feel revived and ready to go again.
Olive oil is in plentiful supply. First in the crisps, then on the artichokes, then with aubergine fillets – served alongside a gorgeous French Divay.
Next, an orange wine with tuna fillets (served in yes, more oil) – made in the red wine skin-on style, using white grapes to create a beautiful peachy colour. It all goes down a treat.
Taking a break for a cigarette, we wander out into the shipping container village and realise just how much of a secret this place really feels.
Despite being just a ten to fifteen-minute walk from the city, it’s very dark and quiet, with the exception of a lone drummer practicing nearby in another container.
Festoon lights line the courtyard, and there’s a little picnic bench table on which we enjoy wine as we shorten our lifespans.
In the summer he hopes to extend more outside, telling us the patch gets the sunlight throughout most of the day. We expect by then this spot will be heaving with outside tables all drinking and laughing, but for now it feels very under the radar.
A great place to come to impress a date or any lover of fine wine. Jerome is the only retailer in Manchester dedicated to sourcing high-quality organic wines – albeit not everything on the list is so.
He also sets great store by parity in his producers, proudly telling us that at least half the list is created by female winemakers or couples.
New to the scene, visiting Le Social feels like being let into a beautiful secret.
Open on Saturdays only between the hours of 2 and 10pm, expect an ever-changing menu of natural wines, deli boards and continental plates.
Booking is essential due to the size of the space. You can message Jerome through the Le Social website here.
A new pop-up bar is opening at Kampus – with strictly no alcohol
A new alcohol-free pop up bar experience is opening at Kampus next month, promising a series of events that don’t rely on booze.
This thriving neighbourhood, which is packed full of bars, restaurants and cafes, will soon welcome Love From to its ranks.
The pop-up, open between 12 and 22 October, is founded by Karl Considine, who hosts the What Next podcast and shares stories of sobriety.
Love From will help to pave the way for the rapidly-growing alcohol-free market as more and more people turn their backs on booze.
Events will include a tasting masterclass with alcohol-free spirit brand Lyres, an art workshop and cocktail tasting with local artist Caroline Dowsett, and loads more.
Over the two weeks, Love From will be supported by pioneers including Sober Girl Society, So Let’s Talk and Manchester Pride, hosting a mixer, open mic night and a queer film screening respectively.
Karl hopes Love From will attract those who are already sober, sober-curious, or just looking for something outside of their norm to try, and will challenge the narrative that alcohol-free living can be just as fun-filled as drinking.
He is an Alcohol Change UK (ACUK) Ambassador and has recently left his 15 year corporate job to pursue Love From full time.
Karl has now been sober for more than two and half year, having previously lived a life that involved heavy drinking.
He described Love From as ‘very much a passion project’ and added: “We’re creating a space for people to connect in a setting that serves super tasty alcohol-alternative drinks coupled with hosting awesome events.”
He also hopes that he can use feedback from the pop-up to create a more permanent space in Manchester.
Adam Higgins, co-founder of Capital&Centric, said: “Karl’s a massive champion for change and this run of unique pop-up events is something different for the city to coincide with Sober October.
“It offers a real alternative for those who want to meet up and connect with people in a space that doesn’t revolve around alcohol.”
The menu will consist of cocktails developed in partnership with Lyre’s, Everleaf and Caleno, and alcohol free beers from Lucky Saint and Beavertown. There will also be original cocktails available throughout the two weeks at Kampus where the team at Love From will be testing out some unique styles and flavours ahead of opening a permanent space.
You can follow Love From and Kampus on Instagram for the latest events and tickets.
Iconic Manchester nightclub Panacea reopens as IKaro, a new grill and champagne bar
This week, an iconic Manchester venue will reopen its doors with a brand new concept.
The legendary city centre nightclub known as Panacea is about to reopen as IKaro, a new grill and champagne bar on John Dalton Street.
The move follows an application for planning permission earlier this year and sees a new team into the former popular celebrity hotspot Panacea, which has been closed since 2015.
At the restaurant, diners will find two menus focusing on two different elements, fire and ice. On the first, you’ll find Grilled Lobster Tails, Japanese A5 Wagyu Ribeye, and Australian Wagyu Tomahawk.
On the second an array of Sushi and Sashimi such as Torched Hand Dived Scallops and Bluefin Tuna Otoro.
Behind the menus are talented sushi chef, Lattawan Buchanan, who’s spent time at popular restaurants Ivy Asia and former ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’ finalist, Exose Grant.
Head Chef Exose Grant, said, “Our menu showcases the best of the land and sea. We’ll be using fresh, quality produce in the best possible way. Innovative and impeccably presented dishes that don’t compromise on flavour.”
Behind the bar, you’ll find countless varieties of Champagne including a frequently changing sommelier’s selection of rare bottles which, in keeping with the venue’s reputation as a go-to late-night haunt, will be served up until doors close at 2.30am.
Head of bars, Sean McGuirk, said: “Alongside our extensive ‘by the bottle’ offering, you can expect elevated classic cocktails, as well as some uniquely extravagant options.
“Our team will play with flavours and theatrics to deliver an experience like no other.”
IKaro will mark its launch with a VIP event on Saturday 23 September before doors open to the public on Wednesday 27 September.