Pubs of Manchester

All pubs within the city centre and beyond.
A history of Manchester's hundreds of lost pubs.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Mash & Air, Chorlton Street

Brew Britannia, Jessica Boak & Ray Bailey. (c) [1].

Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey's (aka Boak & Bailey) first book, Brew Britannia, is a highly readable account of the Strange Rebirth of British Beer.  It connects various groups who have all contributed - from eccentrics like the SPBW, the Firkin chain and CAMRA, to the floundering big breweries, and the modern-day 'craft brewers' who have rejuvenated many pubs, bars and off-licenses.  You can read reviews of it elsewhere (e.g. here, here and here), but it comes highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in beer, pubs and social history.

Mash & Air, Chorlton Street. (c) Boak & Bailey [2].

Manchester, of course, plays its role in the story, and one strange, short-lived bar (1996-2000) is featured.  In the mid-'90s, Oliver Peyton, London restauranteur, decided to expand north and in December '96 opened Mash & Air (Mash, the bar; Air, the restaurant upstairs) in an old warehouse on the corner of Canal Street and Chorlton Street.  The interior scheme was a futuristic white with a garish lime and orange theme... and revealing portholes [1,3].

Mash & Air, Chorlton Street. (c) Isometrix [3].

Peyton admitted the design was a reaction to the traditional nature of CAMRA and Firkin pubs, but like the latter, beer was brewed on site.  Mash & Air's space-age brewery was visible throughout the bar and restaurant, and could spit out 18,000 pints a week - none of it real ale though, with a bias towards lager.  Although Mash & Air closed in 2000 and ended up a comedy club, it lives on through the keg and bottle-only Meantime Brewery, as it was Alastair Hook who ran the bar's brewery [1].

Former Mash & Air, Chorlton Street, 2008. (c) p3 Property Consultants.

Pleasingly, there is still a review from Caroline Stacey in the Independent from January 1997 online [4], so before it gets lost in the ether, here is an extract:

Just before Christmas, Oliver Peyton, owner of two such London gaffs - the Atlantic Bar and Grill and Coast - opened Mash & Air in Manchester. Launches like this don't happen every month, or even year, here, yet a week after the opening junket, the number of customers was surprisingly sparse. Maybe Mancunians are harder to impress.

After all, there is civic pride and the tradition of dissent to uphold. And though eating lags well behind drinking, designer bars are two an Ecu in a city that's been transformed by EC funding. But, barely off the starting block, Mash & Air quickly impressed me. The design, by Australian Marc Newson, is in a similar Sixties-futurist mode to Coast. And it's beautiful. The large-windowed Victorian mill, in the middle of the gay quarter, is entered up steps and through glass doors with handles like jumbo orange taps. You arrive in a bar painted pistachio-meets-lime-green (even the floor), and furnished with Duplo for giants.

The name Mash & Air comes from stages in the brewing process, and a central well that appears to run from the top to the bottom of the building, visible through huge portholes, houses brewing equipment painted orange. When it's working, this brilliantly contemporary looking engine room - a canny tribute to a place that understands the attraction of manufacturing like no other - will pump out its own beer [4].


  1. Mash and Air caused quite a stir at the time. I used to drink in there fairly regularly. It was just a bit ahead of the craft beer curve and considered very expensive at the time

  2. Personally I never thought the beers delivered enough in the way of flavour.

  3. I only went there the once, for a publishers' launch party, in my pre-beer-loving days. My main memory is of the tiny cocktail burgers they served as finger-food.