First look: Disorder - a new Joy Division inspired bar in the Northern Quarter

The former Walrus site will likely be a hotspot for tourists looking to soak up Manchester's musical heritage.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 16 February 2023

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Manchester is so renowned for its musical heritage, particularly the Factory records/Haçienda years, that you’d think the city would be full of music-themed attractions. Liverpool has made Matthew Street and the Cavern into a world-famous tourist trap after all, and some might argue Manchester has produced at least five bands better than the Beatles.  

So while there’s no Definitely May-bar (although there is an R Kid cafe), there’s no immersive Haçienda experience (thank god) and the Salford Lads’ Club might be a selfie hotspot for Manchester-fixated Americans but is yet to have been turned into a Smiths museum, there is now a Joy Division bar in the Northern Quarter.

We went down to the launch of Disorder in the former Man With A Fish/Walrus space on High Street to have a look at Manchester’s first bar inspired by the iconic band of miserablists. 

A new Joy Division inspired bar opens this week in the Northern Quarter. Image: Manchester’s Finest

Peter Saville’s waveform artwork that became the album cover for Unknown Pleasures has been so xeroxed by all and sundry (including Disney) that there are probably plenty of people that think it’s some kind of fashion brand logo and not the album cover of one of the bleakest albums ever made. 

Does an iteration of the Unknown Pleasures cover make an appearance on the walls of this new Northern Quarter bar? Actually, no, though the name of the album is there in the form of a green neon sign. Far from a Manc cliché-smattered hotchpotch of the kind of overdone iconography that a London brand coming to Manchester might brainstorm in a board meeting, this bar looks a lot more subtle. The only other real nod to Joy Division is a reproduction of Kevin Cummins’ famous Ian Curtis portrait emblazoned on the wall by hugely respected Manchester graffiti artist Akse. A previous Ian Curtis mural sprayed by Akse was painted over by advertisers last year to an outcry of complaints by the general public. This bar is going to attract tourists on the hunt for references to Manchester’s musical heritage of course, but it’s subtle enough that locals should be able to enjoy it too.

Disorder has a pubby feel. Image: Manchester’s Finest

Disorder’s got a pubby feel with a glossy green subway tiled bar, oxblood Chesterfield sofas and wooden tables. There’s a reverence for the seminal band but the references are more understated than you might expect. Owners James Stewart and Sam Koropisz are Stockport lads who grew up listening to Joy Division via their parents’ record collections. James’ mum used to work for Tony Wilson in the 70s so there is a faint line of heritage there. 

One thing that might be difficult to theme around a band famous for making harrowing and important music and the tragic death by suicide of their troubled lead singer, is a food menu. So the team thankfully haven’t tried to shoehorn any song titles into the dishes. A sandwich called Atrocity Exhibition wouldn’t be very appetising after all.

The interior of Disorder is subtle in its Joy Division influence. Image: Manchester’s Finest
A mural of Ian Curtis by Manchester graffiti artist Akse. Image: Manchester’s Finest

Exec chef Bryan Barber is classically trained in French cuisine but says he was hugely influenced by his time spent in Japan’s “piss alley” or “drunkards alley” where there are around 40 Izakaya bars on one street. These bars are laid-back drinking dens with incredible snackable food. Disorder’s food will include Japanese-inspired shokupan sandos, gyozas and meat and veg skewers.

He says the menu will have a touch of British influence alongside the largely Japanese and Korean inspired dishes – think Japanese sandos on the country’s famous milk loaf shokupan stuffed with black pudding. This isn’t some token bit of food to soak up the beer though, meat will be sourced from Littlewoods, the favourite of many a high end restaurant and Bryan really means business with his cooking. Once you try a few plates, you might enjoy them so much you want to make a, er, new order.

The team are currently putting the finishing touches to the two-floor venue which opens on Friday 17 February. Eventually, the downstairs area will be a music venue but that part of the bar is not quite ready to welcome its public yet. Watch this space for news on the gig calendar when we have it.

bars New opening Northern Quarter