News that a ‘gravy bar’ is apparently opening in Manchester’s Northern Quarter has generated much discussion both online and off – but if your mouth is watering, you're in for a disappointment.
There is a fine line between new hipster food trend and irony, and a gravy bar perfectly straddles it.
A ‘deluxe cuisinery’ – whatever that means
It has become a cliché that Northerners love gravy and put it on everything. Chips and gravy is a Northern staple many Southerners just don’t ‘get’.
Manchester pizza joint Crazy Pedro’s even had chips and gravy as a topping for one of their specials last year.
So, if Gravy Bar is real, Manchester would be the perfect spot for it – and especially the Northern Quarter, a hipster haven which already has a cereal café and is about to get its first dedicated sherry bar.
Describing itself as a ‘deluxe cuisinery’, the Gravy Bar promises to pay homage “to the finest part of the Sunday roast: gravy”. They say they’re opening this week, and our guess would be 1 April.
Gravy in hip-flasks might be a step too far
The contents of Gravy Bar’s menu (craft ales, a choice of ‘concept’, prices written as 2.5 rather than £2.50) is akin to any other trendy new restaurant’s offerings, but a few odd items stand out.
The menu states that the bar’s partner microbrewery is called ‘Penweiss'
While classic gravy seems reasonable, ‘founders reserve’ – which is apparently “finished” in a sherry cask – seems a little far-fetched.
Chips (going beyond the ubiquitous triple-cooked and lesser-spotted quadruple-cooked) are “quintuple-shallow-fried” at Gravy Bar.
The menu says customers can bring their own Thermos to be filled with gravy.
“Forgot your flask? Our gravysmiths have branded hip-flasks behind the bar.”
Gravy from a hip-flask might be considered a hipster beard hair too far, even for gravy-guzzling Mancunians.
Toppings include quinoa – described as “the popular pseudocereal, with a delicious ‘oniony’ tang” – and sugary hundreds and thousands sprinkles to “make gravy fabulous again” if you so desire.
The choice of biscuits on Gravy Bar’s menu – “Grasmere gingerbread or homemade oat cookies” – is a humorously far cry from the popular US dish of biscuits and gravy.
There is no address on their website (just directions to the Northern Quarter) and a tweet about the premises refurbishment shows a stock image of a mason jar lantern.
The ongoing rise of single item restaurants
The gravy bar is a parody of hipster food trends, and it’s a very good one and a lot of work has gone into it.
The trend for single item restaurants has boomed in recent years, with launches of various cereal cafes, a pop-up Crème Egg café, and London’s first crisp café, HipChips, becoming talking points across the country.
Many people initially assumed those concepts weren’t serious, but they have since become popular dining destinations.
One slightly bizarre outcome of all this is unavoidable – many people desperately want the Gravy Bar to be real.
If it were a genuine restaurant, plenty of people would be aboard this particular gravy train.