Palace Hotel – put on the red light 

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).


Now that’s gone (sniff).

However the Palace Hotel and its neon and its tower remains and has a new lease of life.

credit : PH Hotels

 

Bit of brief history (thanks Wiki) on the building which the hotel is nicely bringing to the fore in its rebrand and furbishment:

  • Originally built as offices for Refuge Assurance
  • Opened in 1895
  • Grade II listed
  • Removated in 1912 and 1932
  • Refuge Assurance went away
  • 1994 PH Hotels bought the buildings and away they went

all the deets

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.


Two things struck me from my night’s stay; the service and the lighting but more about the latter later (more being some pictures, basically).

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 bathroom; a masterclass in Victorian elegance (granted the discretionary 21st century necessity thrown in, courtesy of Neal’s Yard and the shower):

the royal wee – sorry my level of taste will always give way to a good pun opp

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.

Rude.

The Greater Manchester Marathon (it’s not Snickers. Heathens) 2016

This was my third marathon. My hat trick.

There, any kind of remote feelings of wonderment towards me must end (only in this regard, of course, carry on for the other reasons).

My third as a spectator, bag looker afterer, next of kin, meerkat impersonator as I attempt to spot my partner in crime (the Rabid Mime) proud supporter and, it has to be said, worrier.

My first was the Greater Manchester Marathon 2013, my second the New York Marathon 2015, and this the third, the Greater Manchester Marathon 2016. 

My marathon (supporting) career resembles a kind of New York sandwich. Which would make it a Reuben.

The journey on the day begins with the actual journey. Early rise on a Sunday, on public transport with fellow runners and fellow supporters – do they feel as embarrassed as me to be in civvy clothing? Probably not as they are sure to be well adjusted and more self assured than myself.

None more so than the couple who swanned on at Cornbrook.

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

This, revelation, mind, was bellowed as the doors were opening. Everyone, not having had a chance to create space. 

We then approach Trafford Bar.

Open the doors! Open the doors and let me off. This is the stop for the Marathon.

A kindly soul gently explains that they are best to get off at Old Trafford Cricket Club, that being, in actual fact, the closest to Old Trafford Cricket Club, the start of the race.

This was met with silence and a refusal by the couple to make eye contact with everyone.


Great weather was matched by a greater location for the race village; Old Trafford Cricket Club. Yes I know its full name includes its sponsor but I’m no corporate puppet, no siree.


I do understand that the baggage collection element of the ‘Manchester Marathon didn’t go brilliantly, but this didn’t affect this blogger and her charge, as this blogger also serves as supporter and packhorse at races.

As always, it was heartwarming (read ‘soul-destroying’) to see all these fit and sporty people, smiling, laughing, and milling right before running 26.2 miles.


It’s important to have a pre-arranged meeting place after any well-populated race. Where better than in the Pavilion with this view:


Goodbyes said, the runners make their way over to the Start Line whilst supporters plan their vantage points, consider how they’ll spend the next few hours, wonder if their phone batteries will last the course (me), where the nearest loo is (me), whether they’ll find somewhere to linger and write, that won’t judge me (see Foundation Coffee House post) .

Most of all, whether they’ll ever find themselves running a marathon (me and no).


After having the brilliant idea to go to the Costa Coffee down the road (did you know that it’s an actual drive-thru?! I’m still getting over my first visit to a McDonalds one, two years ago – what a seamless magical routine they have), I quickly discovered that pretty much everyone had the same idea.

And so it was to the 5 miles mark that I headed, right opposite the infamous Lou Macari’s Chip Shop. Here were lots of fervent supporters and whoopers and there I stood, and filmed, and photographed, and clapped, and managed to miss seeing my runner.

Come on! Hooray! Well done.

You get the general idea.


I and my fellow self-loathers did see plenty of other runners though and magnificent they all were. Two boys behind me made me smile as they listed the characters who were so far beating their dad…

Batman and Robin!

A gorilla!

118 men …

and

Wait for it

A man in a skirt!!!

yes, we’re looking at you man and indeed all men from Scotland.

Some hours later, the runners, they did run and emerged back at Old Trafford Cricket Ground tired, magnificent, happy and victorious.

Whilst this blogger and supporter got out of breath walking over to Salford Quays and back, these runners had been here, there, everywhere and essentially to Altrincham and back.

As I sat in the ground on our pre-arranged spot I was just considering whether a spot where my runner had to walk up steps, immediately after finishing, was wise. And so just as I was looking around for a plan B, up those steps he did appear.

With a personal best of

3.45.03

the Rabid Mime did become the Rapid Mime (brilliant, eh?).

And so another wonderful day for (Greater) Manchester as Mancunians joined with non-Mancunians who came from far and wide, to run, see South Manchester, achieve personal goals and raise money for charity in the

Greater Manchester Marathon 2016.

 

Final mention and word, however, must go to fellow supporters, little George, and his mother, as we were all leaving the race village…

George, you’ve pulled your pants up with tomato ketchup hands!

Congrats to all (especially George)!

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.

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