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01 January 2003

Kro2, Manchester

Wine magazine (UK) January 2003 issue: Kro2, Oxford Road, Manchester M1 (next to BBC).
Tel. 0161 236 1048.

Range: very good wine list, plenty of whiskies and decent continental beers. Atmosphere: spacious, very lively but stylish. Clientele: students with money, 20/30-somethings on the town. Bar snacks: good selection and well-priced, restaurant area too. Drinks list: 4/5.

This independently owned mini-group is churning out sequels faster than Hollywood. Kro Bar opened to acclaim a couple of years ago further down Oxford Road in the heart of the University, and a third is being constructed occupying part of the Manchester Museum nearby (Kro3 perhaps?). But who cares when they look this smart and offer good quality drinking and eating.

Clever puns aside, the name is actually derived from the Danish word for pub, and a glance at the menu confirms a Scandinavian twist: owner Mark Ruby has family origins in Denmark. Kro2 is a huge stunning space, housed in the right hand ground floor portion of the National Computing Centre. The ceilings tower above you, emphasised by simple but elegant hanging lights, tall chunky concrete columns and metal struts boxed around silver air conditioning ducts along the glazed frontage. Painted mostly white offset by dark brown wooden chairs and wall banquettes, the marble floor and occasional high tables also add a touch of class. There’s plenty of room for hundreds in here, plus heated canopied seating outside too (well, it is Manchester).

The wine list features a wide, even bold selection and isn’t expensive. The only criticism is the lack of wines by the glass: just the house red, white, Cava and Champagne in fact. Otherwise prices run from £12 a bottle – Bellefontaine Viognier from southern France and False Bay Pinotage/Shiraz from the Cape – to £35 for Vallet’s Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Cazetier, actually not a bad price for this silky charmer. There are ten whites under £15, including two from Alsace, and eclectic bottles such as Ninth Island Pinot Gris from Tasmania (£19). They offer even more reds: Pasetti’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (£13) was quite rich and very Italian, smothered in dried morello cherry fruit. Pity about some dodgy spellings – can any establishment get Taittinger right?

The after dinner drinks’ list has 12 malts from £2.50 to £7 for 21 Year Old Glenmorangie, taking in several island and Islay drams. The Scandinavian influence shows with a limited range of vodkas – only Finlandia and Absolut on view (the ones with the biggest marketing budget probably?) – and absence of a cocktail list (“we don’t really do cocktails”) could be a let down for some.

The food we ordered was decent enough, well priced and substantial: 3 types of marinated herring with a shot of Akvavit (£4.25); reasonable, generous salad Niçoise (£3.25); Danish Frikadeller (£4.95), tasty but salty pork and veal meatballs; and Spinach Cakes (£5.95), totalling one large one.

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