I love gin in the same way that a toddler loves chocolate. So when I heard that All Star Lanes in Manchester’s Great Northern Warehouse had a summer drinks menu consisting entirely of gin (and accompanying Fentimans tonic), I hot-footed it into town to give it a try.
All Star Lanes is the kind of bar I love. Stripped-back, not too fussy, with a huge, well-stocked section of booze. We arrive early, so we’re directed to grab a drink. Kas, one of the lovely and very knowledgeable barmen, immediately offers us the Gin Pins menu, and suggests that I start with the Malfy – citrus with a hint of Limoncello. At £9 each, they might appear a bit pricey, but they are served in ginormous glasses, are really tasty, and pretty to look at. Housemate starts with a gimlet – a bit like a gin mojito. As we’re waiting, we strike up a conversation with a basketball team from America, offering advice on which gins to swig. But if you’re not a gin-lover, don’t fret. There are tipples to suit every taste bud.
We’re then taken to the restaurant, a closed-off area situated behind the bar. What I like about All Star Lanes is that it doesn’t feel like you’re grabbing a snack in a bowling alley. It’s a proper ‘dining’ experience. There’s a new summer menu on offer and I’d been informed that The High Roller (a 6oz wagu patty) was the one to try. As a veggie, it wasn’t up my street but Housemate – carnivore and burger connoisseur – opted to give it go. While it’s a substantial and tasty burger, it’s hard not to ignore the £20 price-tag. The lobster tail and prawn skewers are delicious (Housemate kindly lets me snaffle some of the crustaceans) but, looking at some of the other burgers the other diners are eating, I reckon Housemate would have preferred them for a fraction of the cost.
I order the Zuccado – panko fried avocado and zucchini (that’s courgette to you and me) slices, creole mayo, salsa and a brioche bun. Our waiter Dimitri persuades me to add truffle oil to mine, joking that veggies are missing out because the burgers are so tasty (“I’ll never understand you people,” he laughs, but later admits that he doesn’t like chocolate. Who’s the weirdo now?) It’s delicious and I scoff the whole lot. As with most burger joints, sides are ordered separately, and we pick the truffle and parmesan fries (so flavoursome that we do that ever so classy thing where you run the tip of your finger over the plate trying to pick up parmesan dust so you don’t waste anything). There are loads of potato-based accompaniments on offer including pizza (pepperoni and lots of cheese) and rueben (salt beef) fries, but, as they both consist of meat, I can’t munch on these. They do look great, though. We also order some house pickles – cauliflower, carrot, and gherkin in a tangy vinegar – because they are Housemate’s favourite.
I am comfortably full by the end of my meal. I’m about to leave it there when Dimitri asks if we want pudding. Housemate orders the M&M cheesecake and, urged by both waiter and best friend, I pick the salted caramel brownies, cursing my decision to wear my new playsuit which has very little give.
“I feel like this pudding is sexier because of the music,” remarks Housemate, dancing about to Prince’s Kiss and shoving another spoonful of dessert in her mouth.
“That is a happy pudding face,” Dimitri remarks as he walks past our table and Housemates is doing the oh-my-go-this-is-heaven eyes. The service at All Stars Lanes is excellent: well-informed, helpful and a good laugh.
I struggle with the brownie. Not because it isn’t tasty – salted caramel is my favourite and this pudding is proper scrumptious – but because my eyes are clearly bigger than my belly.
After being talked into ordering yet another gin by one of the lovely members of staff (he’s whispering over housemate’s shoulder – enablers!) we head off in search of bowling shoes. Now, I love the red and black pumps you are given and, as I hand over my £2 Primark sneakers, I’m thinking I’d rather walk home in these. We’re guided to our lane which is in the far corner, slightly concealed from the rest of the room. This means that victory and build-up dances – of which there are a few – are less embarrassing. Having said that, we are two gins in now, with one more on the way, so embarrassment no longer exists.
Housemate humbly trounces me, we return our shoes, and head out into the night. Thoroughly lubricated, wrapped in gin blankets, we decide that it’s a great idea to head to Brew Dog for a couple with friends. Obviously, this turns into a night of dancing, piggyback races down Deansgate, and a 3am bedtime. But that’s what about I like about All Star Lanes – it’s a fun experience that can serve as an evening out or a precursor to a bigger night on the tiles.
Whether you’re looking for snacks and bowling, a three-course meal, or a tasty cocktail, All Star Lanes certainly knows how to get you to let your hair down.