First look: Libertine, Withington – open fire cooking in a former bank

Eatery and bar set for Grade II-listed former Natwest bank

“You’d think with an old bank there’d be loads of original features but the thing is they covered everything up.” Marc Farrell, Head of Ops for Libertine, Cottonopolis and Edinburgh Castle, tells me as he walks me around the bowels of the former Natwest bank in Withington.

“We’ve revealed a lot. All of this is original but it was painted over so we’ve had to chip away at it,” he says, revealing charming stretches of original tiling.

The menu is global with a Middle Eastern vibe to it

A labyrinth of corridors stretches out underneath the Grade II building, eventually leading to one of the bank’s two former vaults. “This is where we’ll have our pizza dough machine,” says Marc, “The dough can prove down here for 48 hours.”

Libertine, a 70-cover restaurant and bar is set to open on Friday 12 August, bringing Middle Eastern-inspired food, wood-fire cooking and a community drinking space to the heart of Withington village. The restaurant will be the latest venture from some of the heads behind Cottonopolis in the Northern Quarter and Edinburgh Castle in Ancoats.

Front Door Detailing At Libertine In Withington Manchester
Feeling fancy on the way
Image: Confidential

Interiors At Libertine Eatery In Withington Manchester
Parisian chic
Image: Confidential

Banking on a winner

When the work finishes next week, it’ll have taken roughly six months to refurbish the Libertine site. Walls have been stripped, painted and sanded to give a “Parisian chic” vibe while the beautiful ceiling has been painted a much more agreeable forest green. Most of the original wood remains, as do plenty of tiling details.

A dramatically restored roof light above the bar, a finely carved frieze and a balustrade parapet wall at roof level are standout features.

As Marc walks me around the site he points out a space that will become a potential dining area for larger groups, secluded in the darker part of the building. Meanwhile, the open atrium side next to the bar, with its large windows, will host smaller tables.

Fireplace Detailing At Libertine In Withington Village Manchester
Lots of original features
Image: Confidential

“There’ll be more of a daytime feel [in that side of the building]. The light comes in and you get a great atmosphere, great shadows. We’ll have marble top tables too. Coffee, brunch and a real community feel. Come in for a pint, come in for a roast.” Marc says.

“With a grand room like this you start thinking of places like The Worsley in London but we don’t want to be doing eggs Benedict or Florentine. Just like the food at Cottonopolis is a bit of a contrast to its home in a former mill, the food at Libertine will be slightly different to what you might expect from its surroundings too.”

The Pumps At Libertine In Withington Manchester
Some of many pumps
Image: Confidential

Middle East-inspired dishes and open-fire cooking

Visitors walking into Libertine will immediately spot an open kitchen to the right. While not the main focus, there’s a pizza oven which will also be used for roast potatoes and flatbreads. The main focus will be the open grill. “The menu is global with a Middle Eastern vibe to it,” says Marc.

“One of our chefs is from Pakistan and he’s bringing some family favorite dishes with him. There’ll be a wood and charcoal burning grill. There’s going to be a big emphasis on cooking vegetables on that.”

“It’s not going to be all about massive pieces of meat. It will be chucking the leeks into the charcoal, burning them, peeling them and getting those flavors out of the vegetables.”

Parisian Chic Walls In Libertine Withington Manchester
Big windows and natural light
Image: Confidential

Sneak peeks at the menu also reveal dishes including chargrilled mackerel, smoked Jersey Royals and ashed asparagus. Expect a roast on Sundays too with the daily menu mixing snacks and small plates.

Beer will also be a prominent feature of the Libertine offering. Twenty keg lines and 4 casks. Wine and cocktails will also be on offer with a menu mixing classics and signature mixes.

The Open Kitchen And Pizza Oven In Withington Manchester
The open kitchen area which will feature wood fire cooking
Image: Confidential

Nick Muir, director of Libertine, said:

“Myself, Hayley and the team hope to be a welcome addition to Withington. Libertine is a prominent building in the village, much-loved by the locals. With considerate attention to detail, we hope to have done justice to this beautiful building. In creating a warm and welcoming space for all to enjoy, we will bring both quality and comfort, with a stylish twist on a traditional setting and exceptional standards.”

“We are thrilled to be a part of this neighborhood and look forward to opening our doors in August.”

Libertine, 437 Wilmslow Road, Manchester, North West, United Kingdom, M20 4AN

Follow Davey on Twitter and Instagram: @dbretteats


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