Categories
Food and Drink Manchester Uncategorized

The Blue Pig (I like it)

I have a friend. Let’s call him Beer (no I’m not metaphorically telling you I have a drinking problem, Beer is an actual man). Beer, I said (typed), give me three words to sum up your thoughts on The Blue Pig.

I like it.

Thanks, Beer, I said.

Beer wanted to expand on this and I allowed him to.

Parisian beer tent

Even better, Beer, I said.

Why are you called Beer, I said.

Beer was gone. He hadn’t died, just gone offline.

 

pig ✔️ blue✔️ (the the is inferred, prop-wise)

 

The first thing to say about The Blue Pig, in the Northern Quarter, is that inside it does give good Parisian bar. Parisian bar in ‘the old days’.

The actual bar area itself is something to behold and for those who haven’t stepped through the blue hue (or heu bleu), you’ll be surprised at how much more compact it is than my picture below suggests. And by that I mean it is ostensibly grand for its size, in quite a marvellous way.

 

credit: @thebluepigmcr on Instagram. I was seated at a jaunty angle to the bar and my own photo would not have done it justice. ok?

 

The fixtures and fittings, are iron, in general and both impressive and a little unnerving.

Let us look at these meat hooks…

 

meat hooks

 

Can’t see them? You’re perhaps distracted by the events and promotions on the boards (more on these later – see how I tease). A closer look…

 

meat hooks but nearer

 

A nod to the pig, I guess. At pains not to embarrass myself by misinterpreting the various styles, nods, homages and raison d’etre of The Blue Pig, I turned to the bar’s website to see if I could quote a summary of its wondrous usp. I’ve lifted this…

…an illustrious drinking hole situated right in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter.

Along with Beer’s summing up of the bar…

I like it

No, the other one

Parisian beer tent

…my own summing up is Pigs in Paris. Swine on the Seine. Erm Hogs in Hermes?

Anyway the heavily scribed ceiling is pig-heavy and fun to read, twisting your neck to a variety of angles in the process.

 

pig, bacon, those hooks again

 

Drinks. Great cocktails. Current rival to Lost In Tokyo for great, good value (not, in this case, code for cheap and nasty) cocktails which are Happy Houred up until 7pm.

My favourite of those tried, both feature on the House Creations page – the exotic Madame and the Quincy, which I sampled only yesterday (bang upto date, this blog, you know).

I was seduced by its promise of vanilla vodka, honey and lime. Only once had the process started did I read the ingredients properly and did CHILLI jump off the page at me.

As I turned white, my partner in crime (let’s once again, call him the Rabid Mime), whispered the comforting words…

It might be alright

It turned out it was alright. Mostly down to the excellent customer care which came from the bartender who either noticed my pallid complexion, heard the reassuring…

It might be alright

or, more likely, is good at his job, and took the time to ask how soft I am (my words) to which I replied very and so bespoke me my own mild version. He even checked in on me a few minutes later.

The Quincy was delicious and made me feel daring. Kind of the same effect that diverting from Beef Monster Munch to Pickled Onion Monster Munch has on me.

 

the Quincy – note the delightful little chilli garnish

 

The bar also prides itself on its craft beers and my two friends, the Rabid Mime and Beer both bear testament to this.

On a final note, The Blue Pig is red hot on its events. A few weeks ago I found myself late to the party, when I walked in on the climax to a loud, lively game of Oink! Punk Bingo. 

 

look at this pig on this flyer. and at the farmyard animal in the bottom right hand corner


Mental Bingo, as I like to call it, is really taking off and popping up all over Manchester.

In this case, the general premise is your bingo card contains band names or singers, not numbers. Bursts of songs are belted out, not numbers, and it’s a race to identify the artist and cross them off your card, if present.

Not numbers.

spoiler – Kanye West got taken out (oh imagine)

 

I arrived just in time to see my friend  victorious, but not before she had danced in a dance off to a dancey tune for reasons I’m still not entirely clear on, but did lead her to walk away with free wine and this…

see that arm? that’s Beer’s arm.

And so there we have it.

The Blue Pig, the Parisian Beer Tent,  is stylish in appearance, fun and extensive in its drinks, its food, according to its website;meaty and luscious (it smells good) and its events calendar lively, loud and on point.

do i need permission to feature this back of head?

 

To paraphrase  The Thick of It‘s Julius Nicholson, The Blue Pig is positively hoggish.

Categories
Food and Drink Manchester Uncategorized

Pen and Pencil – you don’t have to be Mad Men mad to go there…(you actually don’t)

February 2015, around the same time I arrived fashionably late to the party that was the iconic television drama Mad Men, I arrived early to this bar. Very early.

After aimlessly circling a building in pursuit of this exciting new establishment I’d been reading about, some more googling led me to realise I was about 3 months early. Shivering on the corner of a damp Hilton Street, closer examination of the tantilising piece on Manchester Confidential saw me realise my error

…Pen and Pencil looks set to launch this May.

Never has a less sensational, more factually dry statement been pulled out as a quote. I do this to remind ‘last year me’ to learn to read properly (should anyone do ‘a me’ and not note my opening paragraph, don’t wait until this May to go – it’s open. Now).

 

credit : @penandpencilnq on instagram – spent half an hour trolling through Flickr trying to find one I took

 

There were a couple of traits about this brand new bar (again, please note it’s not new now and is definitely open) that caught my (lazy) eye – and both harp back to New York. In fact, the Stevenson Square area, through upto Hilton and Tariff Streets, respectively, is indeed becoming its very own little New York. Bars such as Noho (explicitly) and Kosmonaut (implicitly) take their lead from the NQ’s brother from another mother, and Pen and Pencil follows (sharp) suit.

 

it is, predictably, my flute waiting to be filled

The original Pen and Pencil, I read, was on what was referred to as Steak Row, in New York – one of a number of bars/restaurants such as Editorial and Front Page, so called because of its patronage of newspaper and ad men.

 

Hilton Street may not be ‘Steak Row’, but we did once have an argument over whether or not to go for a burger, outside The Crown and Anchor

 

I don’t know whether Manchester’s own ‘hacks’ are following suit with our very own Pen and Pencil (in my media heyday, back in the good old 2000s, it was always, and sadly, the dizzy heights of the Press Club – influence? a working man’s club, circa sometime way in the past) but it’s in the ad-men, and their spawned Mad Men, where the bar places its roots.

None more so in the drinks and their aesthetically pleasing host menu.

 

actual photo of me and my other half, shortly before our steak row. shame.

 

Accompanying each section is a pleasing, retro, vintage, nostalgic, basically OLD, inspired ad from the past, which have the ability to make even the most mundane of orders (no offence pint of Heineken please drinkers), feel stylish.

this slightly lop-sided image even tells you the address – how clever

 

To quote the most excellent series character Roger Sterling (sorry Mr Draper, your schtick can get a little old and whiney sometimes)…

You don’t know how to drink. Your whole generation drink for the wrong reasons.

My generation, we drink because it’s good, because it feels better than unbuttoning your collar, because we deserve it.

We drink because it’s what men do.

Now I don’t know about you, and leaving aside the gender specificity of Mr Sterling’s statement, I’m definitely a kick-back to his generation. And so, Pen and Pencil offers me plenty of options in order to reap what I deserve. And none more so from the cocktail list…

 

doesn’t she put you in mind of Peggy Olson (don’t zoom in)

 

Here we find a couple of lovely little nods to Mad Men – the Thyme and Life (a play on the famous building in which Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price resides for part of the series, (and where I once saw Boy George – imagine), being one. The John Bruno is actually named after the original proprietor of its NY namesake. This girl can… (use Google).

 

…talk this way. but then stop talking if you’re going through this part to access the loos. people talking to each other through cubicle walls. please stop it.

It’s not a theme bar and not dissimilar to other New York inspired bars and restaurants in the area, and I mean this positively and most sincerely folks (I’ve gone all Huey Green – god I’m old fashioned – he’s the maternal granddad of the late, tragic Peaches Geldof, people of this century).

 

non- Mad Men season finishers, look away now – 🎤 I’d like to teach the world to sing…

 

They do a fine Malbec, table service at quiet periods and also food of which I have not tried.

 

Look, it’s Draper and Sterling! (it’s not)

I’m yet to be too affronted by a bar in the Northern Quarter, granted (although, Cottonopolis, perhaps you’re on the wrong side of town) but I like Pen and Pencil and haven’t yet fallen off the perching stools in the window, closely next to a big sloping gap.

 

credit: AMC/Liongate (I’m a professional, see, and used to make the old Mac crash regularly, on the Granada picturedesk )

 

Since that fateful, daft evening, back in February 2015, I’ve frequented (and actually found and got through the open door of Pen and Pencil) a fair bit and it will definitely remain in the category, alluded to below, by the great (albeit sometimes whiney) Don Draper…

I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I’ve already been…

Categories
Food and Drink Manchester

Foundation – their coffee casa is indeed your coffee casa

It’s 2pm and I’m sat in a coffee shop, writing about the etiquette of working in a coffee shop. The more I worry, the more I write about the worry, the longer I spend here, the more I worry. The circle of strife.

This wasn’t my original intention. I was going to blog about Foundation Coffee House. This is where I am. This is where I worry (it has to be said, not exclusively). I still will.

 

Foundation Coffee House, Lever Street

 

Coffee shop etiquette is certainly not a new topic. It’s been been very well documented and advised upon for years. I, myself, have progressed well since I took my first step some years ago onto the bottom rung of my existing for a period of time in a coffee shop career. Very well. I made it through the door, for a start. I don’t drink coffee. Or tea. And I can’t even say the word ‘brew’. For whatever reason some sort of inner snob comes out and the concept of the brew repulses me (I’m just scared I’ll be made to make one). Therefore I thought the coffee shop would have nothing to offer me but most of all, consider that I would have nothing to offer it. But I soon learnt of the chilled cabinet of the chilled drink, the high calibre chilled drink. Fancy in its name and branding, beckoning me over:

I’ll provide you with an alibi to your coffee shop loitering, a friend, a companion, an excuse. I am your passport to here. And I promise that my aroma will not cause you to be even a little bit sick in your mouth.

 

pretty in pink

Yes, I made it through the door of these new-fangled places some time ago. Yet the length of my stay will never not be an issue for me.

Like a good little ball of anxiety, I do my research before going somewhere new. Pleasing reviews and descriptions of Foundation Coffee House. 

Particular credit goes to manchesterwire.co.uk for getting me through the door

…(Foundation Coffee House) is massive, minimalist and you can stay all day.

Stay all day. All day. STAY.

Don’t get me wrong, I hate any form of loitering or advantage-taking. And the light bulb moment for me (occasionally, the bulb flickers and blows again) is that the coffee house/shop/palace, whatever, is a living, breathing, ever-evolving extension of your home. Everything’s fluid – we work wherever we are, whenever we want (give or take the availability of a plug socket after so long – I’m with Apple so every god-forsaken 5 minutes).

the iphone user’s heroin. and heroine. if plug sockets are like boats and feminine. freud would probably support this

 

Again, the above isn’t a revelatory comment, but a reason why the common or garden coffee shop (sorry Starbucks) has little to do with Foundation Coffee House and an increasing number of other outlets predominately in the Northern Quarter, and popping up throughout the rest of the city. They’re spaces to carry on your day – all for the price of a drink.

that there in the middle be a meeting room

It’s now 3.20pm and the space has filled up nicely and I’m feeling more at ease. It’s a huge space, situated on Lever Street, in a Grade II listed building. It’s sectioned off nicely into different seating arrangements – tables, benches, booths and the obligatory outward- looking window perch. That’s where I decided to base both myself and my worry. I like people watching, I found a plug socket (I’m sure there are many dotted about) and I can’t be seen from the counter. I’m not hiding, per se, more preserving my anonymity for when the inevitable lurking charges are brought against me.

Indeed, from the off, the innocent…

See you again…

from the pleasant man behind the counter had set me off into a ‘oh god I’m not to stay. It’s assumed I’m off type panic, that sent me straight to the other side of the place.

 

the nervous blogger’s eye view

Fears allayed all round. Various groups and individuals come and go. Talking, working, typing, sipping, and basically just being here.

That’s my summary of Foundation Coffee House. It’s perfectly ok to just be here. Don’t go overboard and not buy your ticket to type – there’s a fantastic choice of hot drinks (if you have to like that sort of thing), smoothies, various soft drinks in the chiller; and light refreshments.

desperate stuff – someone else’s coffee cup

I won’t pretend to understand the nuances of coffee culture, and I’m not going to do the title ingredient justice at all,  but the blurb on the back of the drinks menu tells me it’s…

…traceable, sustainable coffee from bean to cup.

There you have it. I’ve been here almost two hours without a hint of judgement or discomfort (not self inflicted) and I reckon I have another hour in me to play with Instagram and work out what the hell im doing with Pinterest, before I move on. I’ll even pay another trip to the counter (although someone guard my plug point…). I’ll definitely be back.

Oh,  a  quality sipping, talking, meeting, reading, writing soundtrack too. The Who, The Kinks, The Zombies and other  various Thes.

So remember, it’s ok to be here at Foundation Coffee House. If you’re like me, there’s no finer praise indeed.

Epilogue

5pm – just finished adding in my photos and I’m still here – without judgement and hassle but with 100% phone battery.

5.05pm – just to add I did buy crisps too, I earned my window seat.

Categories
Culture Manchester The Arts Theatre Uncategorized

Home is where the art is

I’m often outraged by things. It’s my favourite go to emotion. Question Time – outraged, Making a Murderer – outraged, someone getting on the bus and passively aggressively closing a window without thought of whether already present passengers were happily enjoying the cold relief it was bringing – outraged.

When I heard that the Cornerhouse was closing in place of a brand new art space housing cinema, theatre and creative and visual events and all round art – outraged. I stopped sulking, got over myself (truth be told I’d been to the Cornerhouse twice and one of those was just for a meeting in the bar) and booked tickets to a play at Home.

 

arriving home

The tickets were to see Coronation Street (I can’t do the calling it Corrie thing, just can’t) stalwarts Chris Gascoyne and David Neilson (I interviewed him once about Roy Orbison but that’s a weird tale for another time). The play was Endgame, the playwright Beckett, the performances, brilliant.

But that’s almost by the by. I was thrilled to realise that Home is housed on Tony Wilson Place. I’ve naturally been outraged for some time about the lack of Wilson statue in Manchester (I once interviewed him about David Beckham’s haircut and wearing sarongs whilst following him round the newsroom at high pace, West Wing style – but that’s a weird tale for another time).

 

man ruins pic by incessantly wandering into shot. i eventually decide it’s a better thing

I’ve often banged on about how you can have about 6 different nights in Manchester, based on the different quarters (6 of them?), areas, and parts of the town. The one I haven’t bothered with since circa 2000-2001 is the area approaching Deansgate Locks (no offence the Locks, every offence, the tribes who do bother). I’m excited that Home brings a new evening out to that part of town (but not too that part of town).

 

street life

I do love a good plaza and it gives good plaza. On the other side of the railway arches, everything seems big, stylishly bright and, well, cool. There a couple of restaurants, including Street and good old staple Pizza Express (please keep peddling those 241 offers and garlic dough balls until you’re sick – or whatever it is…) and the soon to be opened Dockyard – the original housed at Media City on the Quays, giving justification to its name. Here not so much but no mind.

come round the back

All in all I’m excited to go Home once the dry weather and summer arrives (ha!) as the surrounding offices and restaurants give good shelter leading to good al fresco drinking and dining.
Back to Home itself, on a housekeeping note, picking up tickets at the box office is a swift, friendly and informative affair and I didn’t have to get out my birth certificate and have my fingerprints taken to get the tickets. My word was my bond. Much as I love the old place, comparatively, I’m still scarred by desperate attempts to get hold of my Withnail and I film tickets at the Stockport Plaza box office. Eyed with suspicion by a Mrs Blennerhassett type, in a scene something akin to the Penrith Tea Rooms affair, it took quite some convincing that I wasn’t committing a most heinous fraud and that I was indeed, the genuine purchaser of the tickets.

There’s a charming bar on the ground floor for pre theatre, cinema, all round art drinks and, a restaurant on the 1st floor.

 

low level lighting and industrial inspired fixtures – check

We had a drink before the play, 15% of the time discussing what we were about to see, the other 85%, it has to be said, marvelling at a man who looked like Frank Butcher.

 

he actually doesn’t here but he did

 

The theatre reminds me of when I first went to the Lowry. It’s obviously very modern (well it’s new so why wouldn’t it be) and intimate.

 

sit down, take the weight off

More a post about the venue, but the play itself was fantastically claustrophobic, darkly amusing, horribly bleak and you’ll walk away with a weight on your chest, desperate for air. And i mean this as high praise. At the time of writing, there are still performances so go. Or not. I would. Well I did.

 

yes. this is the back of a cubicle door – my commitment to photography knows no bounds

To summarise, it’s one of those additions to the city that seemingly pops up, making you feel lucky to live amongst the ever evolving cultural landscape of Manchester. I’ve barely scratched the surface and so already looking at the forthcoming season and looking forward to returning Home. Signed up homies, we are (I did that).

 

leaving home

 

#manchester #homemcr #manchestereveningnews #mcr #theatre