Mark Ludmon explores Mahiki’s new tiki destination in Manchester. Pictures by Carl Sukonik
It is 12 years since Mahiki first burst onto the scene, bringing its blend of tiki and late-night partying to Mayfair in London. With a customer base dotted with royals and international celebrities, it continues to thrive, with outposts in Dubai, Marbella and Sardinia, but only now has it begun to expand in Britain. London welcomed its second Mahiki in November, created in the former home of Bodo’s Schloss in Kensington, but Manchester was the first to see the brand spread its wings with the launch of Mahiki near Albert Square in the city centre in October.
The tiki paradise – named after the Polynesian path to the underworld – is in the basement of the One Central Street building and has been developed by Mahiki’s co-founder Piers Adam with former Manchester United defender Gary Neville, now a director of GG Hospitality with Ryan Giggs. Mahiki just happens to be located opposite the site where the two football legends are planning their 39-storey St Michael’s development which is due to include a five-star hotel.
They enlisted the expertise of CT Creative, the design and fit-out company headed by Jamie Wilson and Anjy Cameron who, as Cheeky Tiki, designed the original Mahiki Mayfair. The new club is described as “a next-generation tiki concept” but still captures the essence and elegant fun of the original 1950s Polynesian tiki bars. “We have moved the design of the original Mahiki forward a bit whilst keeping that traditional tiki bar vibe,” Jamie says.
Accessed down a short flight of stairs via Southmill Street, the venue is spread across one floor, with the bar packed with rums and other premium spirits on the left as you come in. This is faced by a long burnt orange velvet banquette with high tables and chairs, backing onto the main dining area. “We have tried to create a separate area for people at the bar and to provide a holding area while they wait for a table,” Jamie explains. Currently open from 5pm Wednesdays to Sundays, this basement space benefits from high windows that open out onto the street, bathing the space with natural light during the daytime. A newly installed kitchen serves up a menu of Pan-Asian bar snacks and sharing platters.
Bespoke lighting includes bamboo pendants and unique shades made from bar cloths imported from Hawaii. There are no lights shaped like pufferfish although you can spot the fish in the wallpaper design in the bathrooms. Along with plenty of tiki artefacts and barware supplied by Cheeky Tiki, other features new to the brand include ceramic Chinese jade tiles, manufactured from scratch and inspired by classic tiki bars such as the original Trader Vic’s. The ceiling is also covered with a variety of tiles at different heights with patterns based on the bark-based tapa cloth that comes from the Pacific islands.
From 10pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, a pair of doors opens up to the Aloha Party Room at the back, which has its own entrance in Central Street. Open to 3am, the club room powers up the party atmosphere, soundtracked by live DJs. It is furnished with large circular booths, upholstered with floral Polynesian designs plus matching shades above.
As in London, the drinks are big on tiki theatre, with a variety of striking Cheeky Tiki vessels and magnificent garnishes. Signature serves include the Pieces of Eight Treasure Chest, served in a small treasure chest with eight servings, made with Mahiki Grog rum, brandy, peach liqueur, lime juice and sugar and topped with sparkling wine – priced at £75, or £140 if you upgrade to Lanson White champagne. Rum cocktails feature big on the menu, including Mahiki’s own versions of classics such as a Zombie, Mai Tai and Piña Colada, as well as the likes of the Krakatoa, combining Mahiki Grog, berries, cloudy apple juice and citrus and served with a flaming cascade and cinnamon sparks. Other cocktails priced around £8 to £9 include a Bajan Fire Bird with Mount Gay Black Barrel rum, fresh pineapple, homemade sorrel wine, Aperol and citrus.
Other spirits also get a look-in. The Pahulu Oki Oki is made with Don Julio Blanco tequila and Vida Mezcal with fresh clementine juice, Re’al Pineapple syrup, homemade orgeat and Lanai bitters. There is even a gin concoction in the section devoted to the “tiki gods” – recipes created by leading bartenders. Priced at £11, The Winchester, created by Brian Miller at Death & Co in New York, is named after Angus Winchester who was instrumental in the genesis of Mahiki. It mixes Tanqueray, Old Tom and William Barentsz gins with grapefruit, elderflower, pomegranate, ginger syrup and aromatic bitters.
It all adds to the theatre of the experience, which is already attracting celebrities both local and international to the new nightspot. Gary Neville says Mahiki has brought a new exciting vibe to the ever-growing nightlife scene in the city centre. “Mahiki has long been known in London and overseas for offering a unique fun experience, and now Manchester will be able to offer that too.”
Mahiki, Central Street, Manchester M2 5WR
Tel: 0161 667 2392