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Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture Preview/review Travel Uncategorized

Bowled over by the Hilton

Brought up by cricket-loving parents. I can boast that I was there at the infamous Headingley Test in 1981. I was barely stringing a sentence together given my young years

what’s new?

(Good one, me. Who just wrote that too. About me)

… but I was there.

img_1756

And so with that grounding, I had no choice but to have a fondness for the game. I have to admit that my love lies more in the memories that it brings for me than the stats and quality of that day’s fielding…

My Dad in the garden, listening to test match special with its permanently crackly, radio interference against the dulcet tones of RP voices, detailing that day’s play.

I might not be able to tell you all the intricacies of the game, but I’ve seen Warne bowl and I’ve seen Beefy bat. And I like Boycott’s bonkers bantz.

And for those who have no interest in the game whatsoever I’ll get to the point which involves one of the newest hotels to hit Greater Manchester;  Hilton Garden Inn, at Old Trafford Cricket Ground (aka the Emirates Stadium).

Just celebrating its 3 month birthday, I recently checked both myself and husband in to celebrate our 9 year anniversary.

We do that thing where we try and come up with some sort of genius yet tenuous link of a gift, according to what anniversary it is that year; i.e. paper, pottery, copper, ketchup, Pot Noodle, titanium and so on and so forth.

To help our quest, we open up the options to both the modern list and the traditional list (we cheat, essentially, as it can be a ball-ache).

This year I went with ‘willow’. We’d both wanted to check out the new hotel on the block at some point and so I forced a link with cricket – (willow being the bat, those who aren’t au fait with the romantic cricketing description…

the sound of leather on willow

Unfortunately our wedding anniversary inconveniently lies outside of the cricket season (or, more accurately, those games played at Old Trafford Cricket Ground this year.

No matter, this could be a recce for next summer.

Booking a room that faced the pitch (imagining dropping the ball on that one), the view was fantastic enough to please any cricket fan (again, play or no play) and impressive enough for those who don’t know their googly from their search engine).

Throwing open the curtains and french doors alike (it admittedly took a number of goes – reassuringly stiff), your balcony is there waiting for you, the pitch opening up from your privileged vantage point.

On this occasion it was the perfect position to watch the sun go down over Greater Manchester.

One can only imagine the thrill of sitting there watching play on a summer’s day, from your room.

With your little fridge available in the room for cold beverages at will, and a bathroom that doesn’t involve queuing with your fellow fans, you could be forgiven for feeling positively like an MCC member (basically fancy-pants cricket-goer decked out in mustard and maroon).

Away from the view, for a second, The hotel itself is modern and stylish. The rooms comfortable, and the members of staff warm and welcoming.

There was brief hilarity in the hotel bar and restaurant when my request for a margarita cocktail was misunderstood for a margherita pizza (to be fair, it’d be a cold day in hell when I rejected either), but a good night was had by all (both).

Throw those curtains wide (making sure you’re decent first)
So your trip to Trafford be for cricket, football, music or just for the sunsets, I recommend the Hilton Garden Inn at the Emirates Stadium.

Howzat!

Well very good, since you asked. And we’ll be back next summer.

And he’s out
And he’s out!
All the deets.

Categories
Culture Manchester Marathon People Photography Popular culture Sport Travel Uncategorized

The Tram Tribes – a Manchester subculture. 

The Manchester Metrolink.

It has its knockers but I’m a fan and think, in general, it’s pretty good. Pretty good doesn’t include when it terminates early at Timperley or Navigation Road (Alty commuters, right?).

But as a service, it mostly works.


Whilst crowding and cancellations can drive you to the brink at times (or not, if the latter), what  you can’t blame Metrolink for is some of its dwellers. users. commuters. inhabitants. species of man (and woman and child).

We all know them.

Cause of many a passive aggressive eye roll and sigh on my part, to be fair, these tribes and types can sometimes also  serve as entertainment to and from work.

(None of the people in this picture fall into that category – it was just a nice crowd shot)

Metrolink recently ran a campaign aimed at trying to bring a touch of civility and respect amongst passengers, identifying and trying to tackle some of the main offensive behaviours.

This caught my eye for two reasons:

  • I was pleased that there was a glimmer of hope that the offending people would take note and stop doing what they’re doing; and
  • the campaign employed fridge magnets amongst the promotional materials which, if you were quick enough, you could find and take from (it was allowed) the back of tram seats – cue much excitement from me at half 6 in the morning – a disproportionate amount, you might say.

They were great and tackled lots of anti social behaviour such as people using their massively oversized bags to either take up the space of a small family, or take you out as they’re swung around the carriage.

And we all know the rowdys, the hammereds, the ‘fragrant’, the selfish space-hoggers.

However, the main three tram tribes which I have encountered and cause my resting heart rate to increase between 6 and 7am, and again between 4 and 5pm, are as follows:

*The Tram Monitor*

It was a cold day in December, when the tram was as crowded as a pavement outside Yard and Coop during one of their free chicken promotions, when you boarded at Brooklands, and started shouting at us all to move down as it’s

so unfair, oh it’s so unfair!

I should point out that since Altrincham three stops ago, us selfish standees had already become closely acquainted enough to identify the brand of each other’s fabric softener and, short of forming Greater Manchester’s answer to the Human Centipede, had nowhere else to go.

I should secondly point out that the declaration of things being

so unfair, just so unfair

were called out from her ample and, you might say, roomy space ON THE TRAM.

I’m also looking at you, couple on Manchester Marathon day, when you swanned on at Cornbrook having just addressed the assembled assortment of crammed in commuters 

Hey everyone, if you move down, it creates space and allows more people on

This revelation was bellowed from the platform as the doors were only just opening, everyone, not having had chance yet to create space.


(my fellow passengers exercising not only later that morning in the marathon, but also their restraint as we were lectured on basic physics by Tram Monitors)

*The Platform Strategist* 

Fair play, if you’re getting the Metrolink twice a day, five times a week, you cannot help but develop strategies, tactics and work rounds, if you want to survive (aka get on or even get a seat).

But there always extremists.

Yes we all know the classic platform points where you will find yourself opposite a door, once the tram rolls in (infrequent passengers who don’t? I’m sorry but to share this information here would incur the wrath of those who have spent years honing this knowledge. There has to be some privileges to being a frequent flyer). To be fair, I’ve done it myself and would probably put myself in this category to a point.

But you’re supposed to retain dignity. It’s got to be subtle. If there’s already somebody stood waiting in one of the golden spaces, suck it up. Stand near there. Know that you might not be first on, but will be perhaps second. Third. Fourth. But you’ve snoozed and so you’ve possibly losed. But there are those who are baying for blood and determined to gain an upper hand on this matter. And the ensuing behaviours are what I can’t deal with.

In fact here they are in list form:

  • the shoulder jostle, the elbow jostle, the basically any body part jostle. Back off.
  • platform creep – yes we can all see you shuffling forward to to the edge, trying to get a stronghold on matters.
  • side-eye. side-eye at fellow passengers to plan your next move, side-eye at the board to see how long you’ve got to get in prime position, side-eye down the tracks to see whether the prize is in sight. Basically side-eye full stop. Stop it.
  • the blocker stance as the tram arrives and the doors are in sight. Making yourself wide in order to achieve pole-position for when those pesky people in your way actually trying to get off the tram, despite your presence, finally leave and you can grab first prize in the getting on the tram awards.

Last and by no means, by any stretch of the imagination,

*The Tram Worker*

I do not mean the largely lovely people who work on or for Metrolink. 

I mean the cretin who sees the tram as an extension of their office and they don’t care who knows it. In fact they want you to know it. Via the medium of the telephone and the loud voice.

Yeah, so it’s me.

Yeah hi. Just checking in. Seeing how it’s going.

You’ll see how it’s going when you get to the office in 5 minutes.

Yeah, yeah, I mean going forward you’re going to need to drill down on that, dig deep, get a feel, flesh it out…

Meanwhile the rest of us are all considering how, going forward, we’d like to take that drill and your flesh, and find ourselves with a need  to then dig deep.

Too much? Imagine that in an over bearing loud voice when you’ve barely been awake 30 minutes.


(My ticket to sigh)

And then pity the person on the other end of the phone. And their fellow commuters. It’s a domino effect of terribleness that has the ability to spread across the Metrolink network at peaktime as rapidly as the news of a free chicken giveaway at Yard and Coop (what? I hear they’re notoriously popular).

However, as I alluded to in the intro of this rant/blogpost, there can be entertaining elements to these matters. Especially when you get to hear this from the person who’s been subjecting you to their work call for the last 6 stops…

Oh absolutely. Oh I concur.

Yeah, I mean, it’s all absolutely under control. Dan and I have been in a huddle, thrown some figures around, brainstormed the sh£t out of the proposal and the headline is, we’re so on it.

Yeah, see you at the office in 2 mins.

(Frantic dialling)

Yeah Dan? We’re f%ck*d mate.

So there we have it. I’m hoping by sharing (venting) I will learn to disengage from these lovelies and instead concentrate on the great sights of the even Greater Manchester from the Metrolink instead…


Categories
Food and Drink Manchester People Photography Popular culture Travel

Mancs vs Food – aka my Saucy Sunday 

Sunday, Bloody Sunday. 

You wake up in the morning, you’ve got to read all the papers, the kids are running around, you’ve got to mow the lawn, wash the car, and you think 

Sunday. Bloody Sunday

With a few adjustments to the woes listed by Alan Partridge , I often do think the same. They’re doomful. It’s a whole day off work, but laced with doom and tedium. Not to be dramatic.
However, my fellow mancs, honorary and by birth, yesterday was a different animal altogether. 

Imagine the scene. 

A bus that drives you around Manchester, dropping you off at various locations for meat treats (it rhymes, you see).

Yeah, bit odd, but yeah…

…I hear you murmur.

But wait. 
Imagine that bus but with the addition of a team of chefs cooking up a storm up top, to provide you with mouth watering meaty morsels (alliteration) as you ride between stops. 

That can’t be real, that’s insane…

I hear you mutter.
It is. But wait.

Imagine all that, all of that, with a saucy side of beers, beats and bantz! Can’t can you?! I knew it.

It happened and it happened to me one Sunday not too long ago (basically yesterday).


The good people at Meat Lust invited me to board their bus, and enjoy their Sauce & the City tour, round some of Manchester’s foodie favourites. 


The ‘dirty food’ revolution is showing no signs of slowing and an integral ingredient of any dirty dish worth its salt is its sauce. 

And us lucky carnivorous commuters couldn’t move for it on board.


It is at this point in proceedings that I should point out that all food and drink consumed was of a normal food colour. You can’t have a meat bus (it’s a bus of meat innit) without flashing lights and strobes so don’t be alarmed. 

Before we’d even set off to our first destination on the tour, we were handed an amuse bouche of beer and pulled pork nachos.


Despite the disco light disclaimer, this dish really was as pretty as it looks.

One wet wipe later and we pulled up to Crazy Pedro’s.


Braving oncoming traffic, we all bounded across Bridge Street and through the doors, for a slice of the action…


Cashew nuts, chillis and curry sauce were the stars of the show. Eye-watering for some poor, soft souls (i.e. me), the slices were hot to trot but tasty all the same. 

Before we got on the bus and caused no fuss…well basically nothing, but it’s good to paraphrase an Oasis lyric in a Manchester blog, despite the passing decades.


Anyway, fuss free, back on the bus we were handed our next meaty morsel: 


Forgive my vagueness but there was a lot of meat going down that fateful Sunday (yesterday) and so I will describe it as thus – sausage, brioche, sauces and loveliness. 

Paired with this delightful morsel, we were handed a Punk IPA as a teaser for our next stop – beer tasting at Brewdog:


Our hops host, Seb? took us through the unique history of the brewer and taught us how to taste beer. 

Sniff, sniff, sniff, sniiiiiiiff and then gulp

Naturally my gulp was more of a sip and a choke (I can’t take instruction) but I did get notes of lemons and limes, I’ll have you know. 

Also have you heard of mouthfeel? Mouthfeel. 

I don’t want to talk about it. I put that word up there with foodbaby and moist.

I’m going to admit bowing out of our beer tasting meat chaser. It’s not Meat Lust, it’s me. Parked up in Stevenson Square, even if I had got past the rabbit and black pudding (albeit wrapped in pancetta), the whipped cream would have sent me and my mouthfeel under. 

However, it has to be said that I heard a number of my fellow meatbusers that it was the best yet. More fool me. 

My photography skills of said dish matched my adventurous approach to it – woeful…


Apologies to all concerned in the making of this dish. 

It was time to move on with a lamb fajita (secret ingredient popcorn which weirdly and seriously worked) and a Tickety Brew set against a delightful denim backdrop…


Like a more civilised, less terrifying, and altogether fun version of the 192 nightbus home, spirits were high and we came to our final stop on our tour, Sugar Ray’s in the Northern Quarter.

Ray and his people specialise in dogs and waffles. Hotdogs. ‘Franks’. It took me longer than decent to work out what a frank was, it has to be said.

All this set against a Studio 54 soundtrack, it’s a great place to visit even when not being taken there on a meat bus. 



Back on the bus (despite our high spirits,  we caused no fuss), we made our way back to the depot (B.EAT St on Deansgate), it was time for our pudding. That is, a savoury pudding.

Now I had an amazing pun all lined up for this last tasting. One of my better ones. Alas, today I realised that my original play on words is the tagline for one of Manchester’s newest food outlets.

Still I’m going with it (good work Taberu).

This last saucy surprise was a fluffy steamed bun, filled with pork and spicy sauce. 

Final foodstuff? Take a bao. 


To sum up my saucy Sunday, Meat Lust served up a top three hour tour filled with mouthwatering meat, fine Manchester beats, a generous serving of bus beers and plenty of onboard laughs along the way.
Sticky fingers crossed, the tour returns to Manchester again soon.


For now, enjoy all the saucy deets

Categories
Celebrity Culture Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture Uncategorized

Brasserie Abode – bringing it home.

It was on a balmy night in Manchester when Brasserie Abode threw open its doors, banged on its bongos and welcomed Manchester into its loving, refurbished arms.

If the recently rebranded bar and restaurant is anything like its welcome party, us mancs (born and honorary) are in for a treat.

Last Thursday I got a glimpse into the mirrored spectacle that is the new Brasserie Abode. On Piccadilly, it’s the bar and restaurant of, yes, Abode Manchester.

My first foray into the Manchester hotel bar ‘scene’ (pretty sure it’s a scene), was back in 2000 and the bar at the V&A hotel (Manchester Marriot) when I worked for Granada TV. A shooting schedule’s throw from the studios, the bar was oft frequented by those who both did and didn’t have homes to go to, after a hard day’s media-ing.
Seeing as you didn’t ask, my top 5 hotel bar moments:

  • seeing Hank Marvin (Malmaison – he looked hungry);
  • being given drinks on the house because the owners were having a dinner party ‘out back’ (B&B in Edinburgh);
  • seeing Tilda Swinton with one of her two infamous (at the time) other halves..or quarters, I suppose (The Mandeville, London);
  • watching a man stand on stage holding an eagle aloft for 15 minutes,saying nothing. absolutely nothing. then eventually walking off again leaving the audience, and eagle, equally confused (Tenerife, obvs); and
  • I can’t think of a fifth.

Despite these examples, I’ve always been a bit dubious about hotel bars – they can sometimes feel a lonely place and a bit of an add-on.

Cliche checklist:

  • Lonely travelling salesman
  • Lonely travelling for work to the other office person
  • Lonely can’t get a drink anywhere else person
  • Lonely person
  • Person
  • Lonely
  • Bit seedy?
  • Lonely
  • The Major ordering his sherry in Fawlty Towers (six o’clock Fawlty!)


Brasserie Abode is NOT that place.


Whilst they don’t guarantee Hollywood stars with unusual spousal arrangements or perplexed birds of prey, they do bring a stylish, French themed, smart and sophisticated destination bar and brasserie to Manchester.

Previous incarnations included Michael Caines fine dining restaurant (not a lot of people know that – they do actually) and a Hotel called the Rosetti. 

Another tick on its mancunian credentials (the main one being actually being in Manchester, of course) which the building brings, is in its DJ history. Amongst others, one Mr Dave Haslam used to play down in the basement (now the restaurant) – legendary night Chica Chica Boom, 2003?

Well the DJs are back on the menu, including VIVA Ems, recently returned from up and coming festival Glastonbury.

Along with some fine friends on the bongos and trumpet, she entertained with a fantastic set at the launch. I understand it’s vocal house and tech house. 

I can confidently say that her house brought the launch night home at Abode.

House puns. Right there ⬆️

I’m yet to sample the restaurant side aside from some fine canapés – oysters. I managed to eat my third lifetime oyster which was a pleasure.The first two, some years back, were taken in the safety of my own home. There was carnage and drama on that occasion. I won’t go into details but think choking, tears and recriminations.

But for now, I can give my two penneth on  Brasserie Abode as a bar –

 Spacious yet divided into areas which feel intimate, the lights are low and the quality of the service, high. 

I think the biggest compliment I can give it (purely in the context of my above musings, you understand ), is that you definitely wouldn’t be depressed here, or here out of desperation. You wouldn’t know it was a hotel bar. And by that I only mean good things. 

Definitely a destination bar, there’s no place like Brasserie Abode.
Another house pun ⬆️

All the deets

All the visuals 

Categories
Food and Drink Hotels Manchester Photography Popular culture

Malmaison brings the Millennial touch to Afternoon Tea 

When I was young, I had two major concerns about getting older:

I wouldn’t be allowed to wear my hair in a ponytail anymore; and 

What would I do about coffee mornings – I hated coffee and indeed tea.

What world I was living in where the latter was a real worry, I don’t know. One of my own making, clearly straight out of a Miss Marple story.

Anyway, it was a concern and whilst I still retch whenever coffee’s near me, two further things have since occurred to me:

You can get your adult badge by drinking herbal tea which is quite nice; and 

The coffee morning isn’t a concept that comes up too often. It’s fine.

What is a thing, and a big thing at that, is the increasing popularity of the afternoon tea. A quaint and quintessentially English affair which has taken hold, and is not just reserved for tea shops, The Ritz or, indeed, ladies of retirement age.

The afternoon tea has entered our bars, hotels and restaurants and, when done well, is a beautiful thing (especially when champagne enters the fray.

Celebrating 17 years since I started working, living in and generally loving Manchester, myself and my husband, took ourselves off to Malmaison. 

Here in the city before even I arrived (imagine!), Malmaison has held its own amongst new arrivals over the years, including The Lowry, Radisson Edwardian and, more recently, Gotham.



Malmaison always reminded me of two things:

Its past connection to another Mancunian stalwart, Mick Hucknall; and

drum roll

Hank Marvin.

Yes he of the Shadows and popular rhyming slang, Hank Marvin was once spotted in the lobby there, by a very excited young lady (me). Speaking of which, when I sat down for afternoon tea I was …hungry.

Thankfully Malmaison didn’t disappoint.


There was nothing cheeky about their Afternoon Tea in terms of taste and ingredients – it’s the perfect balance of pretty and  plentiful. 


It is not for me to use or assume gender stereotypes, but I took a man (it’s ok, we’re married) who, whilst would be perfectly at ease amongst sandwiches with their crusts removed, was reassured by sight of the savoury selection. 
The chipotle chicken and avocado wrap and burger sliders brought the millennial touches to the table, with a nod to the traditional with the smoked salmon sandwich. 

I know, I used millenial again. It’s what I’m doing now.

I’m relevant.

Relevant 

Scones are always my favourite part of afternoon tea (champagne aside), and what I put most stock in. They didn’t disappoint…

Technically a Devonian (born but not bred), the scone debate between Devon and Cornwall is obviously an issue close to my heart. So close that I couldn’t remember which county coveted which – jam before cream or cream before jam?

I hedged my bets, and dressed each half a different way…


A quick Google afterwards reminds me (tells me) the Devonians likes to do it cream before jam (left).
Plenty replenished and happy (but far from finished) it was time for tea (the champagne was, of course, long gone).

And here, I am trying and wanting to use both perfect storm and storm in a teacup. But both sound a little negative and it wasn’t. I’ll just go for it and assume the rest of my text assures that there was nothing bad about it 

The fruit and traditional teas available proved the perfect storm in a teacup.

Look they were good, is what I’m saying,  and beautifully presented. 

We were brought a little teapot each which could be refilled as required.

No confusing apparatus that looks like something out of a laboratory (I won’t name names, but there was plenty of time to ponder their tea brewing process in the lift down to reception that afternoon back in 2015), just a selection of teas, a teapot of hot water and really lovely people to refill it for you.

Between us we sampled English breakfast, peppermint and green. 

And you can’t have tea without cake and happy to report that each tasted as delicious as they look below…

The strawberry and vanilla mini pavlova caught my attention and it was everything I’d hoped. Trust me, I invest hope in such things. And it’s the little touches such as the little sliced strawberry on top which brings the elegance to proceedings.

Whilst each cake brought something different yet equally decadent, it was the pannacotta which stole the show for us both…

Tea for two but with a feast for more, I urge all Mancs – honorary or otherwise, and indeed Manchester guests to book in.

The balance between the classic and modern will suit Millenials, Miss Marples and both male and female diners alike. 

Especially if you’re Hank Marvin.

All the deets

Categories
Celebrity Culture Football Manchester Photography Popular culture Preview/review Sport The Arts Theatre

the King’s Speech – ooh, ahh, an evening with Eric Cantona

Against an apt backdrop of much controversy and mirth, Eric Cantona brought his Evening with… show to The Lowry Theatre this week. 


Prior to taking my red husband (in football supporting terms, you understand, his blood pressure is normal) last night (Thurs 23 February) for his Valentine’s treat, we were treated to a cacophony (about 4) of reports about the catastrophe that was the Bournemouth show.

Auctions! Late Arrivals! Inappropriate Comedians!

…screamed the press, in the biggest  controversy since a footballer Kung fu kicked a man. 

Quicker than you can say trawlers (bet you thought I would go with seagulls didn’t you), reference was made to the Bournemouth Bloodbath in the opening moments by the (very good) local knowledge in-joke laden stand up, and there wasn’t an auction in sight.

Our tickets meant that not even my old reliable iPhone could take a non-blurry photo of the stage and the man (I’ll have you know that £55 applied to every seat – even ours in the Gods, so I definitely wasn’t in the cheap seats here), and so I  have a series of loud, shouty videos depicting hero-worship in all its glory.

He was everything you’d want him to be. The man basically gave good Cantona.

To sum up: great night – we laughed, we chanted and we collectively winced when, during a question on mental health support for retiring players, a woman shouted out 

Ere y’are, what did that ‘ooligan say to make you kick ‘im?!

Together with an oscar-worthy reenactment of the great quote itself and a couple of nuggets which included hearing of Cantona’s upcoming Chinese project (nothing involving £1 million weekly wages) and his love for Loach, worth the pennies.
All the deets 

 
Keegan, Trump, FIFA and Liverpool fans – best you swerve Sunday’s matinee.

C’est magnifique