Like many Mancunians, I shed a small tear when the Green Room closed its doors. I had various happy memories of performing there as a child (I had my first dance recital there aged 7. I had to pretend to be a gust of wind to Patrick Swayze’s ‘She’s like the wind’) as well as being dragged there by school to watch Shakespeare plays in preparation for my GCSE in English Literature (my entire Year 10 class was taken to see ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and erupted in laughter when – at a key point of the play – Romeo was seen to be sporting an erection through his tight Venetian pants). So, I was quite pleased when I saw that the space was being saved from slow desecration by being incorporated into the ever expanding empire of Trof, who have decided to rename the venue as ‘Gorilla’.
Trof appear to be on somewhat of a roll at the moment, having bought this space and the former Brannigan’s situated on Peter Street. While it’s nice to see them buying former buildings that were at risk of falling into a state of ruin (or – even worse – turning into yet another Wetherspoons), particularly in areas of Manchester that aren’t particularly well known for their drinking establishments, you could be forgiven for thinking that they’re contributing to the increasing homogenisation of the city’s bars. Which begs the question – when a bar is part of a chain, even if that chain is a small one – can it really be unique?
Unique or not, Gorilla is certainly stylish. The décor is decked out in lots of tasteful wood, there’s a gin parlour upstairs, and various model-pretty waitresses are all too ready to scoot up to you to take your order and offer you post-work Negroni’s. As I was just popping in for a quick dinner and glass of wine prior to catching a train back to Liverpool, I decided to pass on the cocktails and just go straight to the food instead.
I opted for the Chermoula Chicken Kebab (£10.00) with a glass of the house white to wash it down with. While I couldn’t taste much of the ‘African spice rub’ it was allegedly marinated in, it was cooked well, and the harissa yoghurt was delightfully piquant. The accompanying puy lentil, tomato and green herb salad was equally tasty – albeit slightly on the small side. In true kebab style, I greatly enjoyed shoving all of the components into the huge flatbread and shovelling it down my pie hole while trying not to get any spillages down the front of my dress.
If I have one niggle about Gorilla, it’s how they serve their wine. They’ve chosen to forgo wine glasses in favour of small tumblers, which puts me more in mind of a student party than a city centre bar. While it’s all very quirky, it seems a bit at odds with their refined vibe. What’s the point of positioning yourself as being a stylish gin bar which serves elegant, perfectly constructed cocktails in dainty glasses if you’re going to be pouring wine in the kind of vessel which looks as though it should contain toothbrushes? Plus, when you’re paying £4.35 for a small glass of the stuff, it does feel fairly cheap. After I left, I wondered if it was just me getting on my high horse about this, but it seems that others feel the same way I do. Apparently Gorilla do ‘Happy Hour’ caraffes of wine for £8 from 5pm-8pm every day, so maybe I’d feel differently about the issue after drinking one of them.
As it is, after one visit, I’m quite fond of Gorilla, if only because it’s nice to see somewhere on Whitworth Street serving up relatively inexpensive food and booze which isn’t the dodgy kebab shop next to Harry’s Cycles. I’m looking forward to paying future visits where I intend to indulge in one of their (excellent looking) burgers and a huge malt. And seeing if they ever decide to sort out those wine glasses.