It was a sad day when Manchester’s Green Room theatre closed last year after nearly three decades serving up comedy, cabaret, music and dance alongside a rather cool bar. But the venue, inside two converted Victorian railway arches, has been brought back to life as Gorilla thanks to the company behind the city’s Trof bars and other venues such as The Deaf Institute.
The Trof group has opened Gorilla in two phases, starting with a bar and kitchen featuring reclaimed timber, vintage brickwork and 1950s-style booths. The interiors were designed in-house by owners Joel Wilkinson and Adelaide Winter, sourcing reclaimed furniture and fittings from local suppliers such as In Situ Manchester. It is a welcome addition to West Whitworth Street, just up from Oxford Street and the universities – in an area that was once home to the legendary Haçienda nightclub.
Open from 9am to 3am weekdays and 10am to 4am at weekends, Gorilla is serving up food from breakfast through till late, from chargrilled burgers and gourmet sandwiches to steak on the rib, chicken kebabs, and spatchcocked chicken with lemon and fresh herbs. Like Trof’s other venues, Gorilla is served by its own in-house bakery which means a ready supply of fresh sourdough, brioches and maple and pecan muffins.
Upstairs is the Gin Parlour, offering over 30 different gins, including some not stocked at other Manchester bars. Alongside the bigger brands, you will find small-batch gins such as No 209, Aviation, Jensens Old Tom Gin and Sacred as well as Wees genever and the bar’s own house-produced buttered gin. The menu includes twists on a standard gin and tonic, made with Fentimans Tonic but adding ingredients such as pineapple, coconut, elderflower, rosemary and sage.
The Gin Parlour is strong on classic cocktails, from The Last Word, Corpse Reviver No 2, Martinez and Martini to relatively more modern drinks such as a Bramble, Ramos Gin Fizz and a Ginger Gin Sling. A broader selection of classics – many with a twist – feature on the main bar’s menu such as a Sazerac made with both Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey and H by Hine cognac, and a Mary Pickford combining Bacardi Carta Blanca rum with maraschino liqueur, grenadine and pineapple. Several are made with homemade ingredients such as tonic syrups.
The drinks list, presided over by general manager Dan Morris, also offers a good selection of interesting wines, ciders and bottled beers such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Odell 90 Shilling Ale, Augustiner Helles and Thornbridge Brewery’s Indian pale ale Jaipur. A short list of canned beers ranges from Red Stripe and Asahi to Brooklyn, BrewDog Punk IPA and Maui Big Swell IPA. Being open all day, it puts as much focus on choosing good-quality coffee which is supplied by Has Bean and ethically sourced from a family-run single-estate farm in Bolivia.
In line with the site’s Green Room past, the owners have now embarked on the second phase of the development, re-opening the back part of the space as a performance venue and club in September. Gorilla plans to remain involved with the local arts and theatre community by supporting a diverse range of performance and music, with October already boasting American band Dirty Projectors, San Francisco drag artiste Trixxie Carr and an audio-visual show celebrating the north’s shipbuilding heritage. The stage and club part of Gorilla will host bands, DJs and club nights so that it joins the group’s other venue, The Deaf Institute, as one of Manchester’s leading night-time venues.
54-56 Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5WW Tel: 0161 407 0301 www.thisisgorilla.co.uk
Originally published in the September edition of Bar magazine.