Deansgate will always hold a special place in my heart.
When I first arrived in Manchester, 20 years ago, it was THE place to go out of an evening. Actually, it was pretty much the only place to go out of an evening.
It was a strip of bars where the grown-ups would go. As a student, you’d stick (literally) to the cheap and cheerful bars of Oxford Road but occasionally, you would dare to dream and venture far into the city centre, where people had washed and put clean clothes on. They even smelled good.
I’ve got so many memories of Deansgate, most of them coming from the first job I ever had in the city, as bar staff in the Moon Under Water, probably around 1998.
There wasn’t much I didn’t see in there, and collecting glasses amid several hundred enthusiastic revellers was an arduous and often painful task. I had my bum pinched so much in there by mystery fondlers that I considered padded pants as a possible option.
I threw over-amorous couples out of the secluded booths upstairs, served six or seven customers at once (a dying art by the way) and stayed back to clean up after shift until after midnight. Why? Because the pub, just like Deansgate, was absolutely hammered of a weekend.
It had the posh bars too. The Living Room was a celeb magnet. I even saw Premiership footballers in RSVP (now the Slug and Lettuce) when Mike Tyson fought in Manchester many moons ago. But you’d regularly see Giggsy and Keano out on Deansgate on a Friday night. Prince Naseem even came into the Moon one night, with his entourage.
But in the intervening years, the city centre sort of grew around it. Deansgate Locks, Peter Street (before that street itself fell out of favour, closed down and was reborn recently), the Northern Quarter, Spinningfields.
Deansgate itself remained locked in time, neither greatly degenerating nor improving to such a level to make it stand out, from a food and drink perspective. Some decent casual
There was minor excitement when Red Hot World Buffet turned up on the corner a few years ago. I accidentally broke the taol off a concrete dragon at thee launch do. But I digress. It was investment in the street at least. But it was an anomaly on a strip that was once most lively.
Until now, that is. The Botanist has opened, as Living Ventures takes a punt on the old dear. And Tim Bacon is rarely wrong about things.
If every other operator near The Botanist raises its game to compete with the man with the Midas touch, the whole area could well re-establish itself with a whole set of people who may never have even given it a second thought.
The Botanist may also be joined by another of its sister brands, Red Door. Which would be two big openings in the same building, let alone on the Deansgate strip. We have The Milton Club; an aspirational members club, Elixir, a more discerning cocktail bar than its neighbours (a chicken shop and a bookies may have hoped for), The Liquor Store just off the track and we’d be forgiven for mentioning the celeb haunt Panacea on John Dalton St (just off Deansgate). With the handsome Barton Arcade opposite and the historic art deco facade of the former Kendals department store to its side, the fundamentals are already in place to help a strip of bars that once made Deansgate so desirable enjoy something of a resurgence.
See you in the Moon Under Water?