Bar review: Manahatta, Merrion Street, Leeds

Manahatta, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Manahatta, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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The bright lights of the Big Apple have inspired songs, movies, books and of course bars all over the world.

In Leeds we’ve seen watering holes and eateries offering ‘New York-style’ burgers and cocktails for years – at present there’s Brooklyn Bar and New York Burger Kitchen, in Call Lane, and Midtown Grill, in Boar Lane.

Manahatta, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe

Manahatta, Merrion Street, Leeds. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe

Everybody knows of New York, it’s an easy to relate to theme, so it’s no surprise to see another taste of Manhattan rearing its head in Yorkshire – this time thanks to the Arc Inspirations group behind the likes of The Pit and Arc.

The firm’s second city centre venture is in the same building as its first, The Pit, at Leeds Grand Arcade.

Taking space in part of the former Gatecrasher club, Manahatta – derived from the original name for Manhattan – is a glorious expanse of basement and ground floor that brings the grandeur of the big city to Leeds. It also has some beer garden seating.

In my experience the New York theme can often be a half baked mix of classic cocktails and cringeworthy US wall art, but Arc has not done things by halves here. The £1million refurbishment of the space is split between a broad basement bar space surrounded by stepped up jade-coloured leather booths, a plush roped off private ‘library’ space and a cosy dining corridor. Upstairs there is a large cocktail bar bordered by yet more coloured booths and dominated by a shining semi circular bar, which tends to open on busy evenings and weekends – on our Thursday night outing, it wasn’t.

There are some lovely stylistic touches in the main basement bar/ restaurant. The walls have glowing yellow panelled lights to simulate the towers of inner city New York, gorgeous stained glass panels, bare brick and gleaming tiled walls, gold metal railings and a smoothed concrete floor brought to life with black and white tiles that could come straight from the decorated walls of the city subway.

Flickering neon blue signs illuminate messages like ‘Manahatta is a state of mind’ into this huge venue, which is added to by funky hotel-style background music.

Manahatta’s food menu is something to behold, and the drinks menu is no different. With help from the head of the American Bar at The Savoy, in London, there is a well-researched cocktail menu that is like no other in Leeds.

Although it is slightly over written, making the contents of each cocktail hard to immediately decipher, each of the 20 mixes has an intriguing little back story. There are about as many wines and champagnes as well as around 10 bottled beers and ciders to choose from, along with a handful of draught choices.

We went for a whiskey, Grand Marnier, chocolate liqueur and Cocchi Americano Sinatra Select, inspired by the tastes of the great crooner, and a rum, orange, strawberry and prosecco Royal Weekend At The Waldorf. Both were delicious, the former a beautiful sweet mix of straight spirits and the latter a delicate and well presented fruit mix. The bill came to £15, which was fair for such quality mixes.

Manahatta exudes a sense of luxury. You could quite easily come here for a fancy restaurant meal, a date night cocktail or an after-work drink, but it offers something different to its neighbours, including its sister bar The Pit.

Another pleasing addition to the land of opportunity that has become Leeds’s Northern Quarter, Manahatta is a well-themed cocktail bar with a sprinkle of Big Apple glamour.


Pub review: Scarbrough Hotel, Bishopsgate Street, Leeds