The highs, the lows and the love that stemmed. Beautiful Manchester.
The highs, the lows and the love that stemmed. Beautiful Manchester.
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
(Good one, me. Who just wrote that too. About me)
… but I was there.
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).
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.
Well very good, since you asked. And we’ll be back next summer.
All the deets.
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:
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.
*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:
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.
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.
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…
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:
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.
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 –
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
Manchester, you’re killing me man, you’re killing me. Your 50% off food this, and 50% off food that…well it’s February now so…deal with that. Manchester.
Like a cliche, a glorious cliche, I was battling all the 50% off restaurant shenanigans as I resolved away, this January, and opted for the rare and untapped resolution that is to be more healthy.
Healthy – yes, you heard right! Where do I get my imagination from?
Aiding me in my bid has been my trusty Fitbit and on a none gym day, decided to veer from the treadmill to tread past many a mill (Yes. Oh yes.) and take my steps to the streets of our glorious Manchester.
Where old meets new, goose meets duck (fight!) and street art sits alongside many a sign telling me to watch my head, this was
Manchester on my lunch hour…
The clock tower and red neon is synonymous with sweeping camera shots of Manchester. It used to be, anyway. Whistling Beetham Tower has taken over. And soon, its sister. Its massive sister.
In fact red neon adorned buildings used to be the thing. My old employer and first love Granada TV and its lettering used to welcome you into the city (assuming you were arriving on the train. From a certain direction).
However the Palace Hotel and its neon and its tower remains and has a new lease of life.
Bit of brief history (thanks Wiki) on the building which the hotel is nicely bringing to the fore in its rebrand and furbishment:
Honorary Manc didn’t infiltrate the city proper until 2000. This is my excuse for not actually realising that the building hasn’t always been a hotel. Maybe not always but definitely for at least longer than just over 20 years. My actual Manc husband apparently did know this, highlighting his authenticity and my own outsider status.
Anyway I’ve stayed in my share of hotels in Manchester, but never here. And to be honest, it was getting a reputation for being a bit tired and little more than a hub for conveyer belt office Christmas parties.
But it’s had a £7 million makeover befitting of its architectural beauty and it’s just lovely.
They’ve kept the doorman who is bedecked in tweed and flat cappage which, don’t worry, is a nod to its Victorian heritage rather than to being grim up north and pigeons and to quote Partridge;
cotton and guns
The lobby is grand and the welcome is to match.
I’ve stayed in hotels where my bags have been taken to my room both accompanying me and arriving later. The loveliness and convenience oft in direct relation to my usual tipping tensions – is it enough? Is it too much? Am I meant to do a silly secret handshake to secrete said tip?
Anyway, on this occasion, I was accompanied in the lift and all the way to my room by a lady. Despite my usual concerns over whether I should speak to her and, if so, what about…
Do you like cheese?
Ooh that ruddy rain, eh
Anyway I had no bag to carry, no awkward exchange in the room – I was simply shown to it, door opened, left to enjoy my stay.
On that theme our friends, upon arrival, were shown to the bar where we were waiting (research), upon leaving we were shown out (consensually).
The rooms are Victorian luggage chic. They just are. It’s a thing. I reckon.
There’s a fridge containing complimentary water and fresh milk and enough room to store your bottle of champagne – granted we had to remove a shelf (carefully and yes it twas though it had never been removed by checking out time – I’m not an animal)
I really enjoyed the lighting, good lighting.
The Palace Hotel actually does three things well: showing, lighting and water.
Upon check-out we were asked if we would like to take a bottle of water with us. Would I? The previous night I had forgotten myself attending an indie disco until 4am, if you please.
Yes. Yes I would.
Reader? It was cold. Water never tasted so good.
As with all good amateur writers and reviewers, I timed my stay to coincide with the new bar and restaurant not yet being open for a couple of weeks. However, the bar that was open was lovely, grand and you could spend hours choosing between the various styles of sofas and chairs.
Naturally I chose the sofa that I was later to awkwardly depart with the grace of Bernard Bresslaw in drag.
So I’ve ticked off my second red neoned building in my career as a Manchester dweller.
Any talk of my having ticked off a third are pure rumour and heed should not be paid.
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.
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.
The fixtures and fittings, are iron, in general and both impressive and a little unnerving.
Let us look at these 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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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…
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.
To paraphrase The Thick of It‘s Julius Nicholson, The Blue Pig is positively hoggish.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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).
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).
They do a fine Malbec, table service at quiet periods and also food of which I have not tried.
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.
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…
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).