FLOK co-owner Justin Parkinson chucked in a hostage to fortune in the build-up to his new bar in the Northern Quarter when hetold ToM: “It’s aimed squarely at the more mature city dweller while also cultivating the younger crowd. It will be serving a large, interesting wine list and feature a Coravin list, which makes great vintages available by the glass on a daily basis.
“Our speciality will be sherries and Madeira showing you that there’s more to these drinks than your Gran’s dusty old bottle of Croft Original.
“Sherry is also the perfect pairing for so many exquisite nibble foods, especially our hand selected and changing varieties of jamon, along with some other charcuterie, cheese and bar snacks.”
Well does the former Incognito wacky gift emporium on an airy corner of Stevenson Square live up to expectations of clientele and quality of food and drink? Big time on the wine front and appropriately paired small plates; no evidence yet, though of ruddy fortified wine enthusiasts in herringbone tweed or cavalry twill.
On our first visit one Saturday afternoon, to sample the delicious Spanish Vermut on handpull, we encountered a terrace full of a youngish crowd mostly cradling wine glasses; on our second to try the menu one midweek lunchtime inside it was quiet, so perfect for investigating one of the city’s best wine lists.
Justin’s wine buffery is evident at one of his Didsbury establishments Wine and Wallop (there’s a Knutsford W&W on the way) but is taken to new levels here. Vega Sicilia Unico, a candidate for Spain’s finest red is here in the shape of the delectable and unusually approachable 2005. Five years in cask, a further three conditioning in bottle and only released in the best vintages, it’s very much a special treat at £450 a bottle but via the Caravin you can always try it in a 125ml carafe for £75 or in a 75ml glass for £50. It’s got wonderful deep black fruit, minerality, tangerine acidity and a huge grip and length.
For a more affordable complex, rich red, go for the brace of Priorats from Catalonia.
The reds sit alongside an eclectic array of sherries, from aged Palo Cortado to ‘En Rama’ fresh.
Yes, there is an Iberian leaning with excellent Cava, the promised Madeira, a nutty complex Bual, a sweeter Moscatel and an unusual aged, minerally Manzanilla not the usual NQ liquid suspects, but the list roams the globe, particularly at the less expensive end.
You sense the real joy in compiling this list for Justin and his equally wine-centric bar manager Tom Higham. The same degree of enthusiasm and care has gone into the menu, mostly pintxos/small plates.
Stand-out dishes were the morcilla cooked in a vermut reduction on crostini (£6.50), baby octopus with smoked paprika, chilli and garlic (£6) and a refreshing bacalao salad with potato, piquillo peppers and orange (£7).
My idea of Flok heaven, though would be a platter of jamon and salami and a glass of sherry or Vernut. If there is any left. Tom tells us customers are getting through 20 litres of draught vermut and 50 bottles of sherry a week. And they are not all silver surfers.
Flok, 5 Stevenson Square, Manchester, M1 1DN.