Blank Canvas is an independent restaurant opening in the Printworks this May, which will undergo entire transformations throughout the year and provide customers with a completely new experience every few months.
“Bar and restaurant groups spend a fortune on refurbishing places and it has to stay the same for a certain amount of years before you change it again but every quarter, we’ll just change the whole venue,” says the owner Joseph Bolger who previously worked at the Lake District’s Michelin-starred restaurant at the Gilpin hotel.
“The drinks will change, the food will change, the way everything’s served will change, and the decor will change. It’ll be whatever we decide to do, so it could be a cuisine or part of the world or a storybook, just wherever we fancy going with it really.”
Joseph first looked at the space on Withy Grove, opposite the Corn Exchange and close to the Hard Rock Café, around 18 months ago.
“We weren’t going to go for it because we thought it would take too long to open and it has, it’s taken over a year to secure this place,” says Joseph.
But he’s hoping that his patience will pay off given their prime location and unique ambitious vision.
“Manchester’s on the rise. There’s a lot of building going on and space for some more quirky bars. There are quite a few already but I think if we can do it a little bit different to what everyone else is doing, I think we’ll do ok, especially the location we’ve got here.
“We’re the only independent place in the whole of the Corn Exchange and Printworks, and I think the Printworks is ready for something like this.”
Blank Canvas will be a vast space, with a capacity of around 160 covers inside and a further 40 outside.
“We’re the only one on this stretch that gets the sunlight all day,” notes Joseph – and they’ll be maximising the light with bifolding doors, creating an indoor-outdoor effect across the ground floor space.
The downstairs will be focused on dining where a large tree is set to dominate, its canopy stretching across diners where pendant drop lights and vintage bulbs will create a cosy ambience.
Joseph’s working with local florists on the displays and foliage, as well as artists who will be tasked with encapsulating the venue’s different concepts on panels hanging from the walls.
“We’ll basically have measurements of the boards and then the artist can work on the new theme and then when it’s time to evolve, we’ll close at night, the old boards come off and the new ones go on, the menu will change and we’re a brand new venue the next day,” says Joseph.
“There will be little things we can do as well. For instance, the Printworks has the Harry Potter weekend convention coming in July, so we’ll change for that.”
The upstairs lounge will “be more relaxed and casual” and is set to incorporate an urban jungle theme “with a light wall, foliage, Chesterfield sofas, telephone boxes, old street lights and street art,” says Joseph, who’s brought the bar manager from the Gilpin to oversee Blank Canvas’ drinks menu.
It’s currently a work in progress but there will be a selection of wine and lager, including Barcelona’s Moritz beer and guest ales “that reflect the weather and season and what theme we’re going for”, as well as cocktails with “lots of fire, lots of smoke”.
“You’ve got places like The Alchemist that are pushing the boundaries of drink, which I think is great, but we’re going be putting our own twist on it,” says Joseph.
The food menu might set the new theme or adapt with it but will include staples and “very good sellers” such as burgers, ribs and wings that promise a wow factor, and salads that you can customise yourself.
There will be freakshakes, too.
“Big, big milkshakes with icing and then you can choose your sweets to put around the rim of your glass, and cakes and cookies on top. All very Instagrammable,” says Joseph.
With less than a month to go, he readily admits there’s still a lot to do but he’s excited about the possibility of what they can bring to Manchester’s food and drink scene.
“That’s the thing with being independent, we can do what we want when we like, which is a real blessing.”
Blank Canvas is opening in the Printworks in early May.