Big Hands bar
by Daniel Burt
(Beer Delegate, Japan)
Big Hands Bar: give it a big hand
Big Hands bar
Innocuously located at the student end of Manchester's Oxford Road, the eagle-eyed drunkard might just stumble across Big Hands bar.
Awkwardly sandwiched between an overbearing florist and a dubious looking takeaway, it doesn't exactly advertise itself; upon approach I half expected the bouncer to conspiratorially demand I give the booze password before being allowed entrance. Well, I suppose you don't want just anyone coming in, do you?
A quick glance upon entrance shows Big Hands' layout to be what can only be described as relentlessly bohemian. Deceptively lengthy, with lavishly decrepit sofas lurking under unobtrusive red lighting and each table replete with a daffodil in a wine bottle that seemed to just scream retro cool and kitsch intimacy (that's right, intimacy, a little bit worrying for the bloke I was drinking with, but what can I say? I was already tipsy and feeling the vibe).
Another quick glance around at the clientele and I see artists, poets and musicians – all the people you'd usually associate with having Sociology degrees and being on unemployment benefits.
You know the drunken idiot in any given pub that is too loud and may, or may not, start a random fight? Amongst this hipster crowd, I was the one who came closest to fulfilling that stereotype. It was most refreshing.
Upon approaching the bar I was confronted with a formidable selection of imported bottled beers, a reasonable wine list, German Krombacher on tap and an esoteric bounty of Czech brands (oh, and the cherished Black Sheep Ale!).
Shysters be advised though, this isn't a cheap bar. Prices seem to average at around £3. However, three or four of these bottles would seem more than enough for a satisfactory evening staying on just the right side of binge drinking.
And anyways, there's always one of the Wetherspoons chain of Pubs nearby who'd be more than happy to sell you a pint of Foster's Piss-water at a fraction of the price – really, it's just a matter of which path you choose to walk squire, ultimately they all end with fierce hangovers I suppose.
Ostensibly, Big Hands bar is a music place. Relics from bygone musical events are draped across the walls and I see adverts for upcoming events vying for attention against the decomposing thrall of expired music posters, the age of most could only be determined through carbon dating technology (probably).
Monday would appear to be soul night, Saturdays there are live bands and on this overcast Friday night there's a DJ spinning a gloriously eclectic mix of 60s and 70s obscuro rock-pop-blues pyschedelia.
The kind of songs you'd love to own, but fear the DJ's withering stare should you have the audacity to approach and question him.
Unusually for a rock venue, there doesn't seem to be that overbearing urine/musty sweat smell that permeates in so many pubs now that the smoking ban has come into effect. Also, whilst the toilets did have a dictionary (and additional bibliography) of lurid graffiti, the facilities themselves did seem to have been cleaned quite recently which is, let's face it, more important than any of us like to let on.
It seemed a little quiet as we entered around 9pm, though incrementally filled up throughout the evening. This, apparently a cosy little place to meet up before heading into the city centre whilst, contrarily, also an ideal place to return to after an evening's extravagance, due to the laid back coffee house vibe and 2am late licence.
Overall, Big Hands bar is a lovely little place; I don't think there will ever be any form of sporting event shown here and it's maybe a little too laid back to spend an entire evening in when the fast and loose joys of the city centre are so close. But, as a warm-up act for the evening's tomfoolery or as a quiet, weekday debonair indie venue for enchanting that special someone, Big Hands is ideal.
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