A hidden bar presents a bit of a dilemma. On the one hand, you want it to stay hidden, you want it to be your place, your own spot where you can perch at the bar, get to know the staff. Your little secret. It’s the place you can take the pretty boy or girl you’ve been dying to ask out for months. It’s a bit special.
On the other hand, you want to show off. You want to shout about the spot that you’ve discovered. You want them to do well, and you want everyone to know just how good it is.
Wood & Company was one of those places. You knew to look for the tiled wall and the Turn Off Engines sign. It was somewhere that was quietly gaining notoriety for all the right reasons.
And then sometimes, something like this happens.
Gone is the quietly lit street where you could find them (if you knew what you were looking for), and now it’s lit bright by a sign next door. Which means it’s a lot less hidden and I feel less worried about shouting about it. After all, you can easily find it now, right? Good. Because Wood & Company is one of those bars I need to shout about.
If you’ve ever spent time in the Northern Quarter, you’ve probably visited its older sister sites – Dusk til Pawn and Noho. For me Noho is a bouncy late Friday night/early Saturday morning – party night with the girls.
Dusk til Pawn is where the cocktail mavericks lie. On a quiet night, go off menu, and you’ll see the creativity shine.
Wood & Company is a little quieter, you might even say a little classier, but still with that maverick backbone. Gentle lighting, filled with wood, tiles, and leather, it’s perfectly suited to South King Street. And while the menu features a small (but perfectly formed) list of wines and beers, if you’re savvy, you’ll go straight for the cocktail list.
And I’m nothing if not savvy. Well sometimes, anyway.
There really is something for everyone. We dove first into the sweet and sour Golden Thicket, with strawberries, balsamic and gin – rich, with a good sweetness without being sickly, the shrub used in its creation keeps the balance on track.
Back To My Roots features the current bartender’s favourite beetroot, in a lightly frothy concoction with mulberry gin and cardamon. The soft spice and sweetness of the gin balance out the earthiness of the beetroot. I’m not sure you could classify it as healthy though.
If you’re an afternoon tea fan then the cocktail by the same name is a must. Gin (are you seeing a theme with my selections?) Earl Grey, rose vermouth and bergamot all go into this teacup of delicious floral notes.
And I promise I stepped away from the gin. Mezcal and elderflower might not be an automatic pairing let alone Irn Bru syrup, but in this smoky cocktail they are just divine.
And for those of us who still can’t resist a pretty in pink cocktail, then a Rose by Any Other Name is definitely the one for you. Vodka, white vermouth and rosewater will let your tastebuds dance in soft sweet florals.
But I was only ever going to go back to the gin at some point and a rich finisher for the night. The Spiced Negroni is a heavyweight in texture and flavour, but softer in bitterness than its classic counterpart. Gin, clove and allspice vermouth and amaro mean that this is one to warm you up ready for the way home.
For the cocktail lover, Wood & Company is a great addition to the ‘hidden’ bars in the city.
I’m almost sad that it’s not so hidden anymore.
39 South King St, Manchester M2 6DE