From the outside alone, The Whim Wham Café has promise of becoming an important addition to any Manchester bucket list. Situated under the railway arches along Whitworth Street heading towards Deansgate, the café and gin saloon embodies British vintage-feel décor, lit by chintzy lamps and further illuminated by live music on Friday evenings. After opening last June, Whim Wham has developed a good word-of-mouth reputation amongst my foodie associates as being a great place to eat, drink and soak up some great atmosphere.
I first visited The Whim Wham Café for drinks, in need of some mid-week escapism. The gin cocktail list takes drinking to a new level with a mixture of new, old and innovative mixes, all with a real attention to flavour – not to mention extremely generous measures. I particularly enjoyed the Black and Blue, a mixture of Hendrick’s Gin, blackberries and pink lemonade with a hint of mint. Other highlights include the Vimto Smile and the Gimlet, and all the drinks are presented in glasses that somehow seem perfectly suited to their relevant contents. Priced at £6-£8, don’t go expecting to get much change from £20 for a few drinks, but The Whim Wham Café far surpasses the sickly mixes that pass for cocktails in many places.
Having salivated over the desserts menu over drinks I quickly seized the initiative to return for food when my Dad rocked up a couple of weeks later to feed me.
The food menu is hearty British fare sourced as locally as possible and changing every three months to reflect the seasons. Expect to pay about £11.50- £13.50 for a main and not to leave feeling hungry. Smaller plates are available for lunch or if you don’t want a big meal, and the platters to share over drinks also look mightily tempting.
I ordered the special of Shredded Pork in GB sauce (a blend of Great British ingredients such as cider, ginger beer and Worcestershire sauce) served with roast potatoes, coleslaw and corn bread. The generous portion of meat was tender and the accompanying sauce was beautifully flavoured and deliciously rich. At £13.50, it was decent value as the accompaniments meant that side dishes were not necessary. However, since Father Dear was paying, I chose not to deprive myself of wholegrain mustard cabbage and minted peas at a respectable £2.50 each.
My dad tried the shin of Cheshire beef with baby onions, bacon and mushrooms, served with a horseradish dumpling and was similarly impressed.
For dessert we had the sublime sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream, as well as an indulgent bowl of marmalade on toast ice cream.
Following dessert, the friendly and effortlessly cool owner, Alix, offered to let us sample some upcoming spring cocktails. Visitors in the next few weeks will have the opportunity to try Gin Fashioned, an Old Fashioned style gin drink with a hint of marmalade liqueur or the Whamble, a raspberry bramble cocktail.
The only criticism that can be aimed at the Whim Wham Café is that, with each meal being prepared fresh, waiting times can mount – although sitting in the delightful surroundings and listening the occasional train rumbling overhead whilst enjoying a cocktail, I would hardly have noticed were the staff not so apologetic about the wait.
I am frequently asked by Erasmus friends where to go for good British food, to which I normally respond that a good pub Sunday roast is probably their best bet. No more. I will be taking every visitor I have between now and graduation to The Whim Wham Café for a great eating and drinking experience.