Recently, Manchester has seen the emergence of a new breed of hipster nighttime activity, a revamp of everyone’s favourite childhood party pastime, bowling – but with a twist. Manchester now offers two boutique bowling venues, the latest of which to open being Dog Bowl, located in the up-and-coming Southern Quarter, home to the popular Gorilla and Underdog. We got the chance to check out this new venture of the renowned Black Dog chain at its opening night.
On entering Dog Bowl, you instantly recognise the distinct modern New York speakeasy vibe typical of the Black Dog venues, with its industrial interior complete with exposed pipes and corrugated iron walls, as well as its urban, underground feel, being tucked away in a bridge archway on Whitworth Street West. It may seem like an impossible task to cram a bowling alley, a bar and a restaurant into such a small venue but Dog Bowl combines them seamlessly and effectively, creating a lively yet cool atmosphere in which all three elements can be enjoyed. From the bar and restaurant area you can hear the falling of pins and strike celebrations so whether you’re bowling or not, you’ll still share in the quirky experience.
The bowling itself is what you’d expect but, realistically, how do you improve on bowling? Dog Bowl does give it a go, though, with the addition of quirks such as the balls resembling billiard balls which, when returned to you, pop out of a dog’s bum, naturally.
Despite bowling being the obvious focus of the venture, the food is far from that of your average fast food joint attached to most bowling alleys. With a clear American and Mexican influence, Dog Bowl serves up a range of currently fashionable small plates for sharing, including pork crackling, spiced popcorn and smoked nuts, along with the mandatory Mexican dishes, nachos, fajitas and tacos, and classic American bites such as burgers and chicken wings, which were all finger-licking and filling. Stand-outs include the tender beef brisket served with tangy ‘Mad Dog’ hot sauce and the moreish smoky pulled pork dished up with a confusing yet oddly successful combination of mashed potatoes and coleslaw. While we’re not championing Dog Bowl as a sophisticated foodie hotspot, it serves the sort of unpretentious, hearty grub needed to sustain bowling energy levels.
If bowling isn’t your thing and it’s just a few bevvies you’re after then don’t dismiss Dog Bowl as a good place to drink. The bar offers a wide range of cocktails – we recommend the White Russian, a classic bowling tipple, and the Passionfruit Tequila Mojito, which married fruitiness with a powerful Mexican liquor kick. Beers, wines and house spirits were the standard Black Dog offerings, which are all reasonably priced.
One of the best things about Dog Bowl is its student-friendly pricing. With student discount offered on the bowling, reducing a game to only £5 each, and a generous meal averaging a tenner, a good night out here won’t break the bank. So if you fancy some good old-fashioned fun but with a drink in hand then hit up the Southern Quarter and get bowled over (sorry, couldn’t resist).
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