It’s All Rosy In MAD-Land

Rebekah Spratt | 2nd June 2015

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Always one step ahead, MAD’s bar game is so strong that their growing empire is set to spread across Manchester and throughout the U.K. Renowned for their creative themes and originality, the group has confirmed with VIVA that the company is currently completing concepts for their two new sites due to open in the Northern Quarter this summer. Elusive as ever, Mark Andrews and Jon Hawkins have described the upcoming developments as ‘authentic’ and promise that both will be ‘like visiting a new world.’ This is an exciting time for Manchester’s quirkiest bar scene.

Avoiding the mundanity of draft beers, MAD’s venues use only premium ingredients. Finding Tequila harsh and believing that wine bars may have almost had their day, Mark’s bar empire emerged from humble beginnings in 2004, when he opened his first bar in Didsbury, Mtiki. (recently rebranded as Hula, West Didsbury) The ongoing popularity of rum, perhaps due to its hedonistic reference to sun, sand and salty air, has definitely played its part in this great success story. In 2007 Mark set his sights on the hip Northern Quarter, opening Walrus on High Street and followed with Hula on Stevenson Square in 2009. The stylishly whimsical restaurant Rosylee opened just eighteen months later and The Fitzgerald Cocktail and Champagne Bar followed shortly after. When did a bar stop being, well, just a bar? In 2014 Mark realised that commercial changes were going to take the group to a whole new level. They needed a visionary, experienced with large brands, to make the changes work and to help Mark to navigate the Journey upon which MAD was about to embark. In Jon Hawkins Mark saw exactly the man that MAD needed and within no time at all Jon began to make those very changes happen. In an increasingly commer-cialised world guests need the thrill of the visual and any excuse to share their whereabouts on social media. Enter MAD. From their expertly handled cocktail menus to their transformational décor, the company delivers a sensational experience every time.

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MAD also hope to expand the Hula brand across the UK but, in the meantime, head to Manchester’s quirkiest bar district to experience a piece of the ‘MAD’ action. Offering an eccentric atmosphere, tropical cocktails and pure hedonistic wonder, Hula – in the Northern Quarter – promises plenty of late night antics and debauchery. The original – and still the best – tiki venture in Manchester, this slice of underground paradise brings you ‘shake your booty dance beats’ from resident DJs Gareth Brooks and Greg Turner. Famed for its treasure chest of drinks, be sure to brave an iconic flaming Zombie, conjured with a heady brew of rums and tonics lively enough to stir the dead.

One of the most original cocktail bars in the Northern Quarter, Walrus – and the adjoining Tusk – is run by a talented team of firewielding bartenders. Rustling up drinks from a premium selection of rums, whisky and liqueurs, this African haven is becoming increasingly popular among the Quarter’s coolest regulars. Unwind with a hot flavoured coffee or try your hand at a fruity mocktail as, by day, Walrus offers a laid back but expertly crafted selection of tempting half plates, homemade burgers, fish, steak and sharing platters. Come nightfall, this bohemian lounge transcends into a hot nightspot with resident DJs spinning hip-hop, house and funk, party anthems and everything in between. Proudly honouring its English heritage, Rosylee works with local suppliers who produce only the finest regional food. With a warm atmosphere and charming English décor, Rosylee opened its doors in late 2013 as a traditional tearoom but has since gracefully evolved into a cosmopolitan restaurant and lounge bar.

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Serving breakfast, à la carte lunch and afternoon tea, the restaurant also offers classic cocktail concoctions, such as the Cucumber and Elderflower Crush, a light and refreshing mix of Portobello Gin, St Germain Elderflower and cucumber. General manager, Abbie Blandale, has managed some of Manchester’s finest bars and restaurants and her recent move to Rosylee has been a huge success. She’s ready to focus her attention on making it the city’s go-to spot for summer dining. The company hopes to create a chain of elegant Rosylee restaurants across the UK, where guests can expect top-level service and an easy going atmosphere. What’s more, the company has also confirmed that they hope to increase their popular Stevenson Square sun trap by a hundred percent in the coming months.

Synonymous with the nineteen twenties speakeasy vibe, The Fitzgerald is a roaring class of decadence, indulgence and defiance. Delivered with a touch of finesse, this mischievous gem is a whole new allusive experience. Showcasing exceptionally well-handled elixirs with infusions from a bygone era, such as The Aviatrix, a feminine twist on The Aviation, made with London Dry Gin, violet liqueur, fresh lemon juice and Luxardo Maraschine, this mas-terpiece is served laced in a clairvoyant fog. Hidden in plain sight, you’ll find your way in on Little Lever Street and, guided by twinkling chandeliers and champagne cocktails, lose yourself to the enchanting décor and bewitching atmosphere. ?

photos: Karin Allbinson