Tokyo Industries has pushed the boundaries of invention with its Manchester bar Impossible. Pictures by Richard Southall
From its edible cryogenically frozen cocktails to its eclectic, unconventional décor, everything about Manchester bar Impossible aims to live up to its name. It is the latest venue from bar and club group Tokyo Industries, headed by Manchester-based managing director Aaron Mellor. “Impossible is an interpretation of a celebration of the city – a city from which many incredible, near-impossible, achievements have grown,” he explains. “I’m super proud of Manchester. I’ve lived here my whole life. It just feels we do the impossible daily in Manchester.”
Tokyo Industries has invested £3 million in transforming the former Bar 38 site in the Great Northern complex off Deansgate. On the ground floor is the main 280-cover bar and restaurant, while a mezzanine is home to the “gin nest”, stocking 63 different gins, accessible only via a payphone. After opening in June, Impossible was completed over the summer, with a new entertainment-led nightlife destination, Theatre of Impossible, launched in the basement in September, with a catwalk, theatre, and private VIP areas.
For the interiors, Aaron turned to Julian Taylor Design Associates who he was worked with on numerous venues for Tokyo Industries over the years. Julian started with the original full name of the venue, the “house of a million impossible questions”, which set the concept of what he refers to as “evocative escapism”. He adds: “It reinvents a very challenging fully glazed triangular site. It is eclectic and at times random.”
Key features of the ground floor include an eight-metre-high fireplace, a wall of a million “impossible” logs and dramatic velour curtains that frame views and soften the space. This is all overlooked by the mezzanine’s balcony where you can retire into a winter escape, encased in reclaimed timber. A fractured-mirror back bar has been designed to distort views “much like a circus trick”, Julian points out. A suspended light feature acts as a link between the spaces and leads the eye through the length of the site. To improve flow, a new entrance into the main bar has been created directly from Great Northern Square and Peter Street.
A full kitchen menu operates from midday to 9pm with a separate “impossible Taco” kitchen serving guests through to the early hours. As well as a range of well-known favourites, the menu includes unusual dishes such as kangaroo tacos as well as salt and pepper crickets. Otherwise, the main restaurant menu is relatively conventional, ranging from salads and shared plates to burgers, steaks and beer-battered cod and chips although a few options such as the crocodile meat burger – called the Mick Dundee – jump out.
The drinks aim to be just as impossible, with a cryogenic freezer turning spirits to solid form at minus 74 degrees to create edible frozen cocktails. More inventiveness comes from the bar’s “molecular cocktail laboratory” such as an alcoholic mist condenser and the “Impossibubble” – a machine that produces lickable champagne bubbles.
The “Ginpossible” gin nest has a comprehensive menu listing some little-known gins alongside better-known names, each with their perfect serve. G&T flights are “impossibly” served frozen, under the name of “Lady Rhoden’s Fella Repella”, while there are also gin-based cocktail specials alongside wines and an impressive selection of beers for those needing a break from the gin.
On the main menu, twisted classic cocktails and simple serves are available – listed under the heading of “The Probable” – ranging from a Pornstar Martini and Cucumber Collins through to a Kiwi Cider Mojito with Plantation 3 Star rum, kiwi, lime and mint leaves, topped with Stella Artois Cidre.
For those feeling a bit more adventurous, there are more listed under the heading of “The Improbable”, from a Godfather Sour and Peach and Cinnamon Julep to the Portocala, made with Olmeca tequila, Cointreau Blood Orange liqueur, Pinot Grigio wine, hibiscus and pink grapefruit. Taking it to the next level are “The Extraordinary” cocktails including the Chocolate Chilli Cheesecake combining Russian Standard vodka, Mozart chocolate liqueur, half & half, mascarpone, vanilla and chilli.
The bar’s array of inventive techniques are taken to the extreme under the banner of “The Impossible”, with exact details of how they are made kept under wraps. They include “Impossicones” which come in flavours of strawberry shortcake or mint chocolate, served in an ice cream cone, and the Mother of Pearls which presents mango and strawberry pearls submerged beneath a blend of prosecco, limoncello, Passoã and Cariel Vodka. The Goober, inspired by the classic American peanut butter and jam spreads, is made with Old J Spiced Rum, Disaronno, peanut butter and “rum jelly”, topped with a strawberry foam – you decide whether to eat or drink it.
Open from mornings till as late as 3am at weekends, Impossible is a place for a quick lunch or coffee through to late-night cocktails and partying in decadent, quirky surroundings. It is grandly described as a “palace of impossibility shrouded in a tapestry of dreams made true”. As the menus point out, Aaron and his team – headed by general managers Chris Bateson and Dave Khan – have a bold vision. “Here in this place”, the menu proclaims, “we offer shelter to the visionaries, to those dreamers of dreams, who, like us, wander in a land between the impossible and the improbable.”
Impossible, Great Northern, 36 Peter Street, Manchester M2 5QR
Tel: 0161 661 0103
Behind the scenes
Design and architecture: Julian Taylor Design Associates
Main contractor: Yorkshire Build
Furniture: Carlick Furniture, Style Matters
Originally published in the October 2017 print edition of Bar magazine.