The Church Street/High Street axis, in the Northern Quarter, is one of the city’s most popular drinking destinations for locals and, indeed, tourists. The addition of the tiki-inspired Keko Moku provides something not previously seen in Manchester and attempts to add some South Pacific sun to an often dreary city.
This tiny building was previously the Mexican tequila bar Rodeo, which was actually a decent little bar in its own right. It’s situated on the periphery of the Northern Quarter, in direct proximity to Bluu Bar and next door to Socio Rehab. Keko Moku does, however, offer something different to many of the bars in the area; a South Pacific tiki beach bar theme that focuses on rum as its house speciality.
The décor consists of a bamboo thatched hut above a simple wooden bar. It has a style that wouldn’t look out of place on an island far away from Manchester. Very minimalist wooden barrels are used as both tables and seating. It is a very intimate bar with little room to really work with inside, but the barrels utilise the space to its full capacity and the candles on the tables provide enough light and ambience to create the relaxed feel that they are striving to achieve.
The bar staff all don very bright Hawaiian shirts making them easily noticeable in the dark corners of the interior. Sadly there are no grass skirts in sight. One criticism that may be levelled at Keko Moku is that they do not seem to go the whole way with the theme. The pin-up style artwork does seem rather out of place considering the stylish wooden carved faces on a bamboo backdrop located on the trip to the toilets; some may say this a wasted opportunity not to continue this aesthetic in the main bar area.
The music is also a slight letdown as it is simply the same nondescript dance music found in many a venue in town, whereas some more drum-based music may be more conducive to the surroundings.
The bright neon bar sign and the wooden exterior instantly lends itself to a fun loving clientele with very little pretension in sight. The dress code is extremely relaxed, which is customary for this area. On a busy Saturday night, the crowd is quite young with a fair few students and young professionals in attendance. It is not exclusively that kind of crowd as the venue clearly lends itself to local residents and post-work drinkers alike. Overall it is those seeking a fun-filled venue that offers something very different in the way of ambience and refreshments than their usual haunts.
Being a South Pacific-themed bar, Keko Moku is awash with cocktails. The detailed and illustrated menu contains both simple classics with a twist and a wide variety of fruity tiki cocktails containing light, dark and overproof rum.
The bar’s namesake, the Keko Moku cocktail, is a sumptuous mix of guarana, pineapple, melon liquor, white rum and crushed ice (there’s lots of this) served in a tall pot with a Bayon temple type face carved on the outside. This is a subtle tasting cocktail, with the distinctive tropical fruit flavours giving it a very sharp and tart flavour. This cocktail is simply the tip of the iceberg. The menu contains such other tiki cocktails as the popular King Kilauea and Zombie, with the latter being served in a skull mug. The quirky nature of the way the drinks are served really adds a fun edge to the drinking experience. Rum is clearly the main focus but this doesn’t detract from the plentiful array of premium spirits - vodka, brandy, gin, etc - behind the bar enabling it to cope extremely well with the large choice of cocktails and anything the punters may require.
The tiki cocktails are priced at £6.50 which may be a little off putting to some during the current financial climate. But considering that some venues charge similar amounts for quickly dashed together concoctions, it is not unreasonable. A good selection of bottled beers can also be found for those not enamoured with the cocktail list. Negra Modelo, Corona and Bud are all available at prices between £3 and £3.50.
The Final Word
Keko Moku is a good-time bar. It is excellently situated in a very popular area, with its tiki-theme offering customers a unique experience in Manchester. Only time will tell whether this is what people want.