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…

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.

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

All hail Tariff and Dale

Thursdays are my favourite day. You’ve gone through the drudge and tedium of the start of the week. 

The creation of calling Wednesday hump day and celebrating its middle of the working week ‘ness’ does nothing for me. It’s still not the end of the week and produces nothing more than an internal struggle to not party like it’s Thursday. It’s the equivalent of, I’m reliably told, the 20 mile point of the marathon. Make or break. It’s dangerous. If you break and go down the path of ‘having a nice time’, you still have two more days at work. The regret and guilt of ‘having a nice time’ is palpable and not cushioned by it being part of the weekend by any stretch of the imagination. Not like a Thursday is. In fact if you go out pre-Thursday, you may as well shoot up at your desk at 9.30am on the Monday morning, such is the size of the veil of hedonistic shame that is drawn over you (no drama to see here, move along).

Thursdays are good. You’ve earned it and have the whole weekend still ahead of you.

This particular Thursday I decided to ‘have a nice time’ at Tariff and Dale.

 

don’t be put off – my friend and i had an early reservation, it soon filled up

 
As the website and indeed dining literature says, its 2 Tariff Street address is a creation of their own, yet the building is steeped in industrial history, and its infrastructure is a fantastic testament to this. 

see mum, it’s not rude to read at the table after all
 
A bit of a labyrinth finding your way round, once I’d finally found my way from the restaurant to the rest room and back again, I was relaxed enough to enjoy the quirks of the building, especially the exposed nature of the ladies room (I’m talking bricks and mortar, do not fear).

Candles are the order of the day, feeding my preference for mood lighting (going out straight from work does nothing for the bags under your eyes and my friend and co-diner is younger than me and very pretty).

 

she’d gone to the loo, i’m not inventing friends

I’m not intending for this blog to be a full on attempt at a food and drink review, more a commentary on Manc life and all that’s going on. This is a good job as enjoying our food so much, I forgot to take pics until the end and my friend selfishly forgot to remind me (her pork belly special, I’m told, was great and she’s a self-confessed food snob). I went with the air dried ham, goats cheese and red onion sour dough pizza. 

you get offered three types of oil for your pizza! three.

The open kitchen is there in all its glory and pizza oven in full flow. Service is fantastic – non-intrusive and incredibly tolerant of two people still not having chosen their drinks. And then their food. And then their desserts when asked for a third time (we hadn’t seen each other for a while), and even went off menu when a smaller measure of wine was requested, which was not optioned on the menu (I’d love to pretend I was involved in this exchange).

their pizza shovel is better than our pizza shovel.

 

bread and butter pudding – I’m told it was delicious. i just don’t understand the concept myself but Tariff and Dale clearly do

To sum up, don’t be silly like me and be put off by having to book via an email. A lover of the online booking system, this minor inconvenience led me to swerve their fantastic 50% off food January offer for a convenient click elsewhere. But then I am very, as I say, silly and glad I got over myself. 

Having taken a cocktail in the upstairs bar previously (anyone read the hilarious review of Tripadvisor recently where someone was very sad having been refused service after knocking her drink over at the end of the night? She was not drunk, no siree), I’m glad I cottoned on (there’s a tenuous link I’m drawing on for this pun – read the literature) to the restaurant.

 

Hotel Football (bloody hell*)

First job is to clarify I’m not a red. I’m not even a blue. I’m a blue and white halves. Declaring yourself as an honorary manc is one thing. Should this be extended to declaring yourself to be an honorary Manchester United fan is simply just… I was going to say ‘glory hunting’ but I forgot about…

My husband (let’s call him the Rabid Mime) is a red and for that reason I thought I’d give him the honour of spending Valentine’s Day with two things he loves: Old Trafford and Vimto (you get free fizzy Vimto!).

 

mini-bar with free sweeties

 

Should you want to, and can, ignore the big football stadium next door, Manchester United is not in your face. To be honest there is a thrill involved in opening your curtains to this view, no matter what your persuasion.

 

Morning glory (glory Man Utd…)

 

It would be foolish to not extend the brand to football in general, so as not to limit its appeal, and from the Panini sticker book decor in the corridors to the beguiling artwork in the bar, the hotel celebrates the beautiful game well but not too well, if you see what I mean.

 

“Bobby Moore wasn’t ginger.” “Yes he was?!”

 

Basic housekeeping – check in was swift, polite (allowing us into our room a couple of hours early), the room was great and, well, the housekeeping actually not so basic. I’ll be bold and even say ‘good’. Lovely comfy bed and Sky Sports in abundance on the TV (yay…).

bet you thought you’d have to sleep under a giant Man U top – you don’t

 

hair left lovely, soft and clean by number 2…

 

an early shower worth fighting for

 

Brief foray into Cafe…Football, yes, for some Valentine’s dining. Once we’d stopped basically just listing chocolate bars, we took the time to order. My overriding memory is my glee at the notion of a three pie starter.

count ’em

 

birds in a basket

 

All in all, it’s a very nice hotel, good at its usp and you feel very well looked after. Watch the prices as they fluctuate, depending on what the neighbours are upto.

To paraphrase the late, great George Best, we spent (not a) lot of money at Hotel Football on booze, birds in a basket and pies. The rest we just squandered.

*someone please get this

Lost in Tokyo – don’t send out the search party just yet…

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for a cellar, basement, anywhere that involves a descent to a drink, bar. This is one of the latest to hit the Northern Quarter and had me at the title. 

  
Three visits in and I’m sold. From the mix of intimate tables and booths (Lord am I a sucker for a booth), the pretty low-lit lanterns and the elegant but verging on tongue in cheek touches to the cocktails, the hideaway on Stevenson Square delivers classic NQ with a different enough twist to keep things fresh.

  
And speaking of such things, I shall return to the cocktails.

I am by no means a cocktail bore. My general philosophy has always been why ruin a perfectly good spirit or glass of champagne by adding all and sundry. However, I have had my head turned a little here.

Tapping into the new penchant for  vanilla vodka, Memoirs of a Geisha not only delivers beautiful flavours but a prop no Japanese Doll should be without – a pretty, paper fan (step aside, ironic umbrellas).

 
Whilst I would also recommend the Asa Akira (a picture, a peg and some prosecco – it’s all there) and the Spirited Away, I am by no means finished with making my way through the menu 
  
Having previously visited with a drinking partner who was drawn in by the Japanese Lager on offer, it wasn’t until my third visit with my imouto that i realised that to buy two of these wonderful creations, is to pay just £10. 

I’m advised that the bar also does a mean line in Japanese whiskies. All I can say on this front is they do sell them, yes. I’ve not had them and this isn’t a press release. 

I can’t describe the soundtrack really. Rock-y? Pop-y? I recall Queen and Michael Jackson. Unexpected, but I don’t know exactly would have fulfilled my probably cliched expectations; the Kill Bill soundtrack? The Vapors’ anthem for onanism?

To conclude, and paraphrase my latter, lazy Japanese-related reference, will I return ? I really think so. 

  

Honorary Manc – Exploring the best Manchester has to offer so you don’t have to. Although you probably should.

I’ve been a lucky resident of the glorious city that is Manchester for nearly 20 years.

Since I made my first move here in my first big grown up media job out of uni  in 2000 (remember when Deansgate Locks were good?), I’ve made it my business to gorge myself on this fantastic city. I think, certainly in terms of food and drink, Manchester has never enjoyed such an innovative and exciting time – not a cellar has been left unturned, or a loading bay left unlicensed (hurry and open!) so I’m off out and ready to share the spoils, honoured that I am to be a Manc, honorary or not

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