When four friends of mine said they wanted to open something different in Manchester, it didn’t surprise me. Between them they run some of the most exciting places, not only in Manchester but across the country. Not bad for a bunch of guys who started out working in bars together!
While out together in Manchester, they spotted a great location that would be ideal for their next venture. They were keeping their eyes on it and when it suddenly came on the market, they snapped it up.
Between them, my four friends are a bit special. They have it all, experts in running bars, creating great concepts, great drinks, fun places with fun food. However, they tell me this is going to be different, full-on and way different to their other projects.
Wilderness Bar + Kitchen is born.
“So what is it?” I asked one of the directors
“It’s inspired by a love of food, drink, travel and people. Wilderness Bar + Kitchen is a 3-floor neighbourhood eating, drinking and lifestyle space” he said.
“It’s based on incredibly talented people creating brilliant food and drink from the best possible produce they can find, and I think people always respond well to that. It’s going to be a lot more grown up than the area currently is.”
I was lucky to be involved in helping these guys, not because they needed me, just because I wanted to and because I like ‘different’ and it is different. It has a Nordic feel that reminds me of lunch out in Copenhagen.
The food is of that theme, great products at a reasonable price and not fussy. Its small plates that work well, deep fried crispy fermented potatoes with long pepper mayo, giving them a perfect seasoning all the way through every bite.
BBQ lamb skewers with an intensely savoury miso and lamb glaze topped with crisp yeast flakes glazed in lamb fat to give them a most amazing umami flavour, it’s different. With the chef James who is a talented young chef putting his all into it, it’s also technically very good.
As for drinks, again it’s both different and very good. It’s all about nature and being natural, pairing house-made ingredients, seasonal produce and quality spirits. There’s also low alcohol cocktails, natural wines and craft beers. They have to have craft beers, I think it’s some law in this part of Manchester to have craft bar, and a beard to sell it!
Upstairs they have the most amazing cocktail bar that follows the same story. This space is different and about people, very cool. It’s in the middle of the room, there’s no back to it, it’s all on one level so people can sit in front and behind the bar.
It’s set out to engage better with the customers and give them an immersive experience by talking them through the process and what’s going into each drink.
Very clever to include the customer, there are no barriers between bartender and the customer. This is another reason why customers will return.
The cocktail menu took an age to develop. The aim was to create stripped back drinks that use new techniques and natural ingredients to produce clean but impactful flavours.
They commission a local photographer to travel the country and use his shots as inspiration for the bar to create the drinks. The final menu pairs each drink with its associated image. That’s attention to detail.
Four drinks menus are released throughout the year in which the structure and base spirit of each cocktail remains the same but as the seasons change so too will the fresh ingredients and the flavour profile.
Every floor has a genuine warmth, it makes you feel like you are relaxed at home. It’s personal and its intimacy really comes across, right down to the individually selected artwork, some of which they bought in from their homes and others they have created.
In all, Wilderness is special. If you want to see how you can influence your business, create something special and different and keep the customer wanting to come back, look at what these guys have put in.
Lots of bars open and close across the country weekly, most are similar and nothing that special. They open the doors and expect people to come, let’s give them a reason to come and keep coming back.