Sneak preview inside 1761 & Lily’s Bar – Manchester’s new £1m champagne bar and restaurant

Credit Carl Sukonik
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1761 is the date that signifies the birth of the Industrial Revolution in Manchester and saw important developments such as the opening of the Bridgewater Canal, which is often described as England’s first canal.

It is also the name of a new £1m champagne bar and restaurant which will open its doors in the city centre this week, bringing modern British food and fizz to the former Avalanche site on Booth Street.

On the ground floor is a 130 cover restaurant serving modern British dishes with a nod to Manchester’s history, while downstairs Lily’s Bar has been designed to create the sense of stepping back in time, offering luxurious cocktails and Bollinger champagne.

The man behind the new venue is Phil Healey, who grew up in the shadow of Belle Vue Zoo and has owned the Victoria Lounge in Glossop for three years.

“I wanted to create something that is truly of this city,” said Phil. “For me the whole concept of 1761 is something that has come from Manchester, in Manchester, for Manchester. It’s not cheesy or themed but about creating a real feeling of pride in and warmth for this city.”

The refurbishment, which cost in excess of £1m, includes drapes hand made locally and over 500 pieces of furniture hand crafted by Glossop based Company No 9, creating an inviting space in the city centre complete with comfortable Chesterfield sofas and sparkling chandeliers.

Spearheading the project is general manager Emma Greathead, who has worked in the city for seven years, most recently for local operators Beautiful Drinks, the people behind Almost Famous and Home Sweet Home.

“This has been such an exciting project to work on,” says Emma.  “ I was hooked from the second I met Phil. We hope to create something really exciting to reinvigorate this huge space which has been empty for so long.

“The menu is really enticing and we hope it will bring something a bit different to the people who live and work in the area. It’s really important to us that we source as much fresh produce as we can from independent Manchester businesses.”

Driven by seasonality, the food menu will include enormous open sandwiches piled high with Manchester Three Rivers gin-cured trout, and flat iron steak with blue cheese and rocket on sourdough, alongside snacks of deep-fried popcorn cockles, homemade pork scratchings and oysters.

Diners can also expect heartier dishes such as comforting corned beef hash topped with an oozing fried egg, Three Rivers battered haddock with chunky beef dripping chips and Manchester caviar – mushy peas – or slow-cooked lamb shank with polenta and toasted almonds.

Desserts previewed at the weekend’s soft launch include Manchester Tart, a nostalgic classic updated with the addition of everyone’s favourite local cordial – Vimto.

“For me this menu is all about Manchester as a place,” says Salfordian head chef Oliver Walker, who has worked with some of the city’s best operators.

“I want to create dishes which are industrially inspired, using great local suppliers, while bringing back some traditional home comforts.”

To the left of the main bar, visitors will find a mural of Lily Bollinger, the renowned owner of Bollinger champagne, with stairs leading down to the decadent Lily’s Bar.

Once completed, the bar will be home to a 118,000 litre marine fishtank with freshwater fish – but without the originally planned stingrays which provoked fierce criticism – and Lily’s Library, a secret drinking den available for private hire with its own bar, projector and fireplace, due to open in December.

Drinks will take the theme of ‘a moment in time’ with each one inspired by a story from the past, with cocktails including one inspired by an early form of penicillin discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1928 and made with Woodford Reserve, Domain de Canton and lemon, served with a pear and ginger syringe.

“1761 is very much about the city’s identity and culture, whereas Lily’s is based a lot more around ‘The Golden Era’ – a place where you can lose yourself for hours,” says bar manager Jon Kloman.

“Having researched different historical movements and artistic cultures, we will deliver moments in time which will resonate with customers, using abstract references to help tell a story. This combined with full table service in a relaxed atmosphere will give the customer an experience to remember.”

The restaurant will open on Wednesday 22 November daily for brunch, lunch and dinner, 11am-10pm, and Lily’s will be open from 12pm to 12am daily.

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