Discount Suit Company, Liverpool Street

Liverpool Street is a maze of chain restaurants and bars, but if you weave through the backstreets there are some independent gems to be found. Discount Suit Company is disguised amongst the tired clothes outlets on Wentworth Street, housed in an old storeroom of the suit company. It is one of a kind, venture in and you won’t be disappointed.

It is a cosy little neighbourhood cocktail bar with old fashioned furniture and atmospheric dimmed lighting, I felt like I was visiting a magical inn from a Harry Potter book. There is the odd businessman milling around but the crowd is varied and the ambience is a lovely laid back alternative to nearby city boy hang-outs.

Beer and wine are available, but here it is all about the cocktails: bespoke and beautifully mixed variations on the classics, priced at just £7.50 each, I found it all very appealing. The bar staff, obviously keen mixologists were eager to impress, explaining the menu (printed typewriter style on a replica suit instruction sheet) to us in detail. Cocktails are simple but creative and very easy to drink. The Bebbo cocktail is a lovely fruity and light combination of gin, lemon, acacia honey and blood orange while Subtle Peat is a stronger but beautifully balanced drink with blended Scotch, a dash of islay malt and lemon creole bitters.

A lovely low-key bar, that promotes the prohibition trend without the pretentious prices. Just like your favourite suit these drinks are tailored to your exact taste.

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Under New Management, Manchester

Sometimes, I try to recall where my obsession with cocktails came from. Initially it was a fruity and fun alternative to beer, it soon became the drink of choice for my group of girlfriends at University, and eventually, 300 or so cocktails later, I grew fascinated by the science and culinary creative skill mastered to create the most complex of drinks. Years later, at the age of 26, I have moved on from mojitos and love trying concoctions that push the boundaries and test my tastebuds. Trying drinks all over the world it is interesting to see how different nations use their preferred spirits and seasonal ingredients. As food becomes more experimental, the cocktail scene seems to follow with innovative techniques and crazy flavours used to create the most modern and eccentric cocktails yet.

Like most trends, the London scene dictates and leads the rest of the country. Great cocktail bars can be found in every borough of the capital, and there is always somewhere new and exciting to try. When I was at University in Manchester a few years ago, the choice was limited and felt unimaginative. Revisiting my student home this month, I felt inspired and surprised by the new cocktail connoisseurs introducing fine and fantastic drinks to the city.

Under New Management (based at the former Corridor Bar) may be a little distance from the high street, but is well worth seeking out. Secretly located in an unlikely spot down a deserted alleyway, this bar is not easy to find and having only opened in November, is still in its infancy. Yet to be redesigned the bar has begun serving it’s menu despite its unchanged appearance. The friendly and laid back owners, Andy and Brodie, are master mixologists with a drive and passion for making deliciously unique cocktails. With decades of experience between them they develop and offer an ever-evolving menu of inventive but very drinkable cocktails.

The menu is a single A4 page filled with retro writing naming and describing the 14 drinks of the moment. Each one costs just £7.50, half the price of the equivalent in London. This menu changes completely every 6 weeks, so regularly will have to be brave about trying new things! Using their own potions and a range of carefully selected ingredients and flavoured bitters UNM create exquisite, unusual and seriously tasty drinks. I could have chosen any drink on the menu, they all sounds appealing to me… Balanced and creative drinks with a touch of curiosity, wit and charm.

After a round of addictive home-spiced popcorn our first round of drinks arrived. I let Brodie decide our fate and he presented us with two of his favourites from the most recent menu. Salford Cinema Club is a delightfully creamy but light drink, the mix of bourbon and popcorn flavours to me felt beachy, not dissimilar to a piña colada. Awkward Date was a winner, a twist on the classic Sidecar this date, walnut and hazelnut combination is balanced with cognac and lemon and served straight up, with a slight spicy kick from the powdery topping. For our second round the Some like it Hot was a genius interpretation of a margarita with a Malden sea-salt rim and a powerful tequila fuelled liquid. The Dandy Lion was comically served with a lion mask and was a longer more refreshing drink.

The guys at Under New Management cater for cocktail fans willing to traipse a little further in search of masterful mixology. It is without doubt my new favourite place for a drink in Manchester, and the bar alone makes me want to plan a return trip to this city.

More information on Under New Management here:

Many thanks to Manchester Tourist Board for their help with this trip, more information here.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with Virgin Trains.

Typical journey time between London and Manchester is just 2h 7m on one of the state-of-the-art tilting trains, six days a week. Engineering works slow things down a little on Sunday mornings, but by lunchtime they’re operating services – at 2h15m – just a shade slower than Monday to Saturday. Trains every 20 minutes, six and a half days a week.

Booking in advance and travelling off-peak is the best way to get great deals – including some fantastic First Class bargains. Single fares start at: Advance Standard £12.50  and Advance First £38.00, book here.

Dirty Bones, Kensington

A hidden den serving hot dogs and cocktails sounds very much like an East London venture, Dirty Bones however brings the grime and groove to West London’s elite.

With a few notable characters in the Dirty Bones team including Ross Clarke, of Fat Duck fame, there has been much hype about this Kensington opening. The name has perhaps been detrimental to its initial reputation, liable to be confused with similarly titled outlets – Dirty Burger, Bones in Dalston, Bone Daddies, and Fishbone.

From the American diner style exterior, you are led to believe this is just a retro takeaway joint, indeed during the day that is exactly what it is… but at night the camouflaged door leads down to a bright neon lit, vintage-styled drinks and dogs den. An old pinball machine is the welcoming desk and a scruffy drinks dispenser is a secret door through to a dining area. Cocktails are served in the bar, there is a selection of creative long and short drinks. I particularly enjoyed the Mutt’s Nuts: a smoky warming combination of Woodford Reserve and vanilla infused maple syrup, lemon and apple juice. For a pre-dinner tipple, the sugary sweet Big Apple is a caramelised treat.

There is a limited selection of fast food: dogs, bones, sides and salads. Dogs are available in different meats with the choice of pork, beef or veggie sausage. We tried the Mexican with a pork sausage, it comes with pulled pork, cactus salsa, lime sour cream and guacamole. It was a nice balance of soft brioche style bun and meaty, spicy filling. The crispy, spiced fried chicken is a must-try, tender chicken thighs and wings coated in an addictive crunchy coating and spritzed with charred lemon. Fries were a massive disappointment however – a tiny portion of limp supermarket-type chips, but glazed sweetcorn is a tasty alternative.

You’ll want to steal the playlist from the sound system, it comes from miracle music man Rob Wood of Music Concierge. It is a carefully curated soundtrack which adds to the character of the place and will make you want to dance whether you’re sitting or standing.

In the first weeks of service a few discrepancies can be forgiven, though Dirty Bones did try my patience. We waited for over an hour for a table, and nearly another for the food and then got asked to move to a neighbouring table. The embarrassed waiter apologised profusely and offered complimentary cocktails, but the hanging around was a tad tiresome.

Big groups can book at Dirty Bones, which I would definitely recommend. The venue is thoughtfully designed and the vibe is painfully trendy; better still, the food and drinks are tasty and reasonably priced. The grungy retro look definitely encourages a cool crowd and I feel blessed that my side of town finally has a desirable dive.

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