Before I begin writing I must confess that this was my first ever visit to Albert Schloss, even though it’s been part of the Manchester landscape for what seems like ages now. The reason for my lack of attendance is timing – around the time it opened, I moved down to Walthamstow and only recently returned up north. Since then I just haven’t found the time or inclination to go in, until that is, Wednesday night at the launch of their weekly Baby Grand Slam evening.
When I first set foot in Albert Schloss I was immediately impressed with both the size of the venue and how packed out it was. I’m sure every single person in Manchester is used to this already, but I was amazed at just how busy it was, and the atmosphere was buzzing – especially for a non-descript Wednesday at the tail end of April. Perhaps it was the prospect of 2 duelling pianos on stage, or maybe it’s just the food and booze. Time to find out I say.
To say that Albert Schloss is a ‘themed’ venue is a bit of a disservice. It’s not like those places you imagine in the town centre of Bolton, where a beach theme means they have an inflatable palm tree in the corner and a bag of builder’s sand piled up on the dance floor to soak up the vomit. It’s more of a German ‘style’ venue or to be more accurate – Bavarian.
Located in the downstairs bit of the old Brannigan’s pub – just like Germany, this place has a long, dark history – usually involving bloodshed. But the Albert Schloss folks have turned it around and it is a truly spectacular place, with a huge bar, open fire, fantastic stained glass back wall and little Bavarian touches that evoke a Cold War era James Bond but without the bad puns and stupid eyebrows.
Immediately upon being sat down, I spied a rather elaborate red curtain up on stage – definitely there to hide the two grand pianos that were to be the centre-piece of the evening. Every Wednesday will play host to these duelling pianos – offering a sort of ‘live jukebox’ where punters request songs (handily written on the back of their beer mats) and the very talented musicians belt out some all-time classics. I was looking forward to it – but first, I was hungry and thirsty.
Being a Bavarian style place, you can obviously expect German beers to flow faster than George Best at Oktoberfest. I’m not sure how many of them there are because I can’t be arsed counting but there are enough styles, brews and strengths to keep anyone happy. I started on the brilliant wheat beer Paulander Hefe-Weissbier (£5.20) before moving on to bottles of Hacker-Pschorr Munchner Kellerbier (£5.60) which tasted pretty much like no beer I’ve ever had. I sprinkled these with a couple of their fantastic cocktails, including the Spiced Apple Strudel (£8.00) with Kraken rum, apple and pear liquor and cinnamon which was truly divine. My girlfriend seemingly fell in love with their Espresso Martini (£8.00) which she looked at adoringly in a way she never looks at me anymore.
The food, again is inspired by our Germanic brothers, and we decided to fully embrace it and give it a try. I started with a frankly huge Haus Pretzel (£3.50) which came with sweet mustard and pickles. It was great – but not one to buy if you’re trying to cut out carbs. Additionally we also ordered the Beetroot Carpaccio (£6.00) which my girlfriend described as “bloody amazing” in a way that she never speaks of me anymore. For mains I went full-wiener and ordered the Bratwurst (£13.00) which came with chips, mustard and sauerkraut, while my girlfriend went for the Chicken Schnitzel (£11.50).
To be truly honest, I’ve had a lot of sausages in my time, but this Bratwurst was one of the best – not only was it deliciously meaty with the perfect level of spice, but the mustard and sauerkraut complimented it perfectly. Unfortunately due to me eating a full pretzel earlier – I couldn’t eat the bread – next time I will go for Cologne style (which is a much lighter carb-less option). The Schnitzel was also fantastic, the chicken was still juicy and moist – something that can sometimes be sacrificed when frying it in breadcrumbs. A word goes out to whoever invented the Parmesan mayo that came with it too – bravo.
While we were scoffing and boozing, the main event – Baby Grand Slam began and it was the perfect accompaniment to the evening. I’ve always quite liked the idea of one of those basement bars in 1930s New York where you have some fit bird in a red dress draped over a piano while people chat and get pissed up on little tables. It’s very much like that, but a lot louder, better songs and a lot less cholera.
The two pianists were fantastic and the songs they performed were excellent. Sure, there was a little bit too much new stuff for me – but that’s just me being selfish and the addition of some Billy Joel, Marc Cohn and Stevie Wonder balanced it out perfectly. I also want to give a big shout out to the person who requested George Benson – Gimme the Night – one of the best songs ever. Cheers! By the time they got to their 3rd set, the pianists were joined by a little band, complete with guitars, drums and obligatory pork pie hat. By now people were up on the little dance floor/corridor – most of them doing the standard Mum Dance that Aunty Stella always does at weddings – brilliant.
I’d highly recommend the Baby Grand Slam to anyone looking for something a little bit different and unique to do on a Wednesday night. Not only is the venue great, with some belting drinks and food available, but the whole atmosphere was fantastic. On top of this, the staff were amazing; with people dancing and with it being so busy, at no point did my throat get dryer than a Gammon dinner – the geezer Alex was always there to help us out. So get yourself down, it’s free and would be a great place to take the work lot after a boring day in the office, or even better as a first date place. My girlfriend said she had a great night in a way that she never has with me anymore.
Alberts Schloss, 27 Peter Street, Manchester, M2 5QR