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Pics: Rehearsals in full flow for Back to the Future The Musical

If you haven’t yet heard that Back to the Future The Musical (no less) is coming to Manchester’s Opera House on 20 February 2020, great Scott, you’d better make like a leaf and get outta here!

Yes, I did that homage and I’m very proud of my little self…

Starring Olly Dobson as Marty McFly and and Roger Bart as ‘Doc’ , you’ll have 12 weeks to catch the show and from 17 March they even have Sunday matinees (before then, they sleep in on Sundays…)

Oh yes.

As these behind the scenes pictures show, the actors have hit rehearsals at a rate of 88mph (yes it works), with (and this surely stamps quality all over it) original creative team Co-creators and Producers, Bob Gale and Robert Zemekis.

Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes
Bob Gale in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes
Robert Zemeckis in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes
Olly Dobson and Hugh Coles in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes
Rosanna Hyland and Olly Dobson in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes
Hugh Coles and Cedric Neal in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes

Roger Bart in rehearsals for Back to the Future The Musical, credit Sean Ebsworth Barnes (2)
For full details visit http://backtothefuturemusical.com/

Buy tickets here: https://www.atgtickets.com/shows/back-to-the-future-the-musical/opera-house-manchester/

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Bars Culture Events Food and Drink Manchester Photography Preview/review Restaurants

Restaurant Review – Ibérica’s new seasonal menu

Whenever I go for tapas I’m reminded of a probably not that amusing exchange I overheard about 12 years ago in the Living Room, Deansgate.

Two, I’m sure lovely, gentlemen were discussing life and loves (although talking about one lady they met on holiday the word ‘love’ may or may not have been used:

Salt of the earth she is, she’ll ‘love’ anything

Anyway, talk turned from this down to earth lady to where they were going to go for dinner .

Clearly inspired by the talk of all things Spanish, one gentlemen declared

I’ve got the perfect place. I know this lovely little Spanish place…

Us earwiggers were filled with visions of a lovely hidden gem, Spanish eatery, known by only the in the know Mancunians, kept secret by loyal diners who wanted to preserve their discovery at risk of it being too popular. We strained our ears further, ready to commit to memory this wonderful little gastronomic tip-off.

Turns out he was talking about La Tasca next door.

Now no offence to La Tasca, but it was pretty much the only ‘little Spanish place’ anyone knew in Manchester in the 2000s (save El Rincon).

We are now spoilt for choice. Spoilt being the word and very much so when describing a recent evening at Iberica, Spinningfields.

Invited to an evening to launch their new Spring Menu, I wondered if the aforementioned gentleman had been. Perhaps he was quietly introducing those in his trusted inner circle to a lovely little trattoria he found, Bella Italia.

I digress (and wish to add my digressive digs are not at the chains I’ve mentioned – there is a place for all).

Now back to the lovely place that is Iberica. A grand venue, the decor and interior was light and spacious which perhaps isn’t what the usual Spanish restaurant aesthetic is but made for an immediately different feel to the tapas experience.

A true celebration of Spanish cuisine, we were introduced to the upcoming evening’s fayre by Nacho Manzano, the Executive Chef for Iberica Restaurants.

And our menu for the evening was thus

Reading like a who’s who (and who we didn’t know was who, but definitely left knowing who they were) of Spanish delicacies, what was to follow didn’t disappoint.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I invite you to immerse yourself in this gallery of Iberican delights…

Jamon Iberico Juan Pedro Domecq

Contemporary Spanish Tapas

Beef tomato and salmorejo

img_4411

Pear and spinach salad

img_4419

Cod brandada

img_4447

Cantabric tuna salad

img_4450

Poached hake

Much Loved Classics

Patatas Bravas

Chorizo

img_4453

Albondigas

img_4454

An Iberica Icon

Pluma

Desserts

Torrija

img_4456

Carmelised Spanish rice pudding

img_4457

Dish after dish, the combination of the beautifully thought out details and aesthetics were a treat for the senses.

To pick a favourite would be like picking my favourite child. If my child were a Spanish dish, that I’d set upon with just enough dignity to avoid a patatas bravas disaster down the front of my white top.

A weird analogy all round.

But highlights for me from the Contemporary section were the Pear and Spinach salad:

img_4419

and the Cod brandada:

img_4447

From the Classics, the Chorizo:

img_4453

The aptly named Iberica Icon, Pluma – here I must add that I’ve never eaten pork like it. In a good way, of course:

img_4455

…and last but not least, from the Desserts, the Torrija:

img_4456

In summary, I urge all to head to Iberica this summer and try for yourself their astounding line-up of dishes, both classic and contemporary alike.

Just keep it down when discussing it in The Living Room – we don’t want everyone finding out…

http://www.ibericarestaurants.com/restaurants/iberica-spinningfields-manchester/

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Culture Events Manchester Popular culture preview Preview/review The Arts Theatre

Madama Butterfly 🦋 Fatal Passions and Attraction

I last wrote about this topic (in more detail)in my dissertation in the year cough cough etc.

You understand my entire dissertation wasn’t based on Michael Douglas but a small portion of it. I don’t have a degree in Michael Douglas.

I focussed on the femme fatale on film and how feminist theory has been applied on celluloid.

Have that, eh?

It was the lovely Glenn Close in the fantastically, ferocious Fatal Attraction who my attention was focussed on in part of my fancy pants essay. And whilst there are both implicit and hugely explicit parallels to be drawn and homages to be noted between Fatal Attraction and Madama Butterfly, I think that a little of the huge sympathy audiences have for our female protagonist in the latter should also be reserved for her or the former.

I’ll get to it.

Madama Butterfly is my favourite opera. Hands up I haven’t seen ALL of the operas. I work full time and have two cats to deal with. But it is a story and a score I’ve returned to theatres to see multiple times – once through the medium of ballet (those on stage, I mean, I didn’t go pirouetting off to the Opera House).

Last Tuesday I was invited to the opening night of Madama Butterfly at The Lowry Theatre.

My heart leapt in anticipation of what I knew would be a roller coaster of emotions throughout the performance from drama queen over here.

Opera North did duly take me on that ride and tears did duly flow.

You can read more here but, to summarise, Madama Butterfly 🦋 is a tale of the romance between Cio-Cio-San, a young Japanese girl and geisha who falls for the promises made, by visiting American naval officer Pinkerton, and agrees to marry him. This is to the chagrin of her family who are horrified that she is prepared to sacrifice her ancestral religion and embrace Christianity.

Pinkerton is going into the marriage for what he can’t be sure is love or a whim ‘someday I will take a real American wife’, but worries not, given that he is returning to American for an undisclosed period of time.

Three years pass and Butterfly still waits for her husband, and it is revealed that her marriage brought her a son. Together they wait for Pinkerton to return. Return he does, but with the ‘real’ American wife he always intended, here for the child, not Butterfly.

Devastated, Butterfly agrees, with what would be her penultimate sacrifice, the final being her life, using the dagger which took her own father’s life.

With a rousing score by Puccini which devastates me as much as the story playing out, there isn’t a performance goes by of this wonderfully sad story that doesn’t leave me in tears and as said Opera North’s was no exception, with a wonderful orchestra conducted by Martin Pickard.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles, the production was set in the home of Cio-Cio San (Ann Sophie Duprels) which was simply designed with what you might describe as typically Japanese minimalism, allowing the eye to focus on the players and drama ensuing within – not that you would need encouragement to do so.

Along with Merunas Vitulskis (Pinkerton) and Ann Taylor (loyal maid Suzuki) and all the players, I was mesmerised by the passion and emotion displayed through the vocals, body language and even periods of abject silence (the devastating scene as Cio-Cio San waits at the harbour with her son, to no avail).

The audience’s heart strings are tugged to breaking point by Cio-Cio-San’s sorrow and so I return to Glenn Close’s Alex Forrest, in Fatal Attraction.

There are immense parallels, as said some obvious (Alex playing Madama Butterfly at her home as she cooks newly acquainted married lover Dan Gallagher (Douglas) dinner, later trying to make nice by buying them two tickets to said opera.

There is even a nod (bow?) to Japanese culture in early scenes where Dan and Alex’s paths first cross at the launch for a Japanese self-help book.

Everything in Alex’s home is white, crisp, clean simple lines. Her father is dead (there is a double bluff where she proclaims him to be dead from a heart attack when Dan feigns collapse, only to then reveal she is joking and he is very much alive – Dan later learns he is in fact dead). She is spurned by her lover who has an American wife and child (to be fair to Dan, Alex knew of this from the off). However it’s the role that Alex doesn’t have, hers being that of the other half of a two night stand whilst Dan’s wife is at her parents.

There is a child (unborn) that Dan rejects upon being given the news that Alex is pregnant (immediately offering her money to abort). The (unsuccessful) suicide attempt as Alex slashes her wrists when realising that Dan is going to immediately return to his family set-up, their ‘love’ affair lasting only a weekend.

Alex is spurned by her lover but he is not her husband. He belongs to another and was never hers to begin with. Cio-Cio-San was lead to believe Pinkerton was hers and whilst both women are spurned, the latter is wholly more naive to reality than the former.

However, who can fail to be moved by the scene in Fatal Attraction where on the night of the opera performance that Alex had tickets to, she sits on the floor at home turning the lamp on and off rhythmically to the desperate strains of Puccini’s score, face frozen in an expression that is both despair and rage.

It’s terrifying and we’re all cheering Alex’s downfall in the end (not in support of Dan, it has to be said, but his ever so lovely wife Beth (Anne Archer). But shouldn’t we reserve a little of our sympathy for Alex?

She may not have had the naivety of Cio-Cio-San and her reaction to rejection may have been somewhat more outwardly facing than self-destructive, but there are definite parallels to be drawn.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

Or as originally written…

Heav’n has no Rage, Like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d…

We all focus on the fury but rarely the scorn. In both stories, both women scorned suffered fatal consequences, one more directly, one indirectly, by their one hands as a result of their reactions.

Madama Butterfly, a beautifully sad story that must be seen and also heard, not least by Opera North.

Part of the Fatal Passions season at The Lowry there’s that F word again), you can see further Opera North productions such as Saloma at the theatre through to April.

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Manchester plays host to Fizz Club – cava load of this! (sorry)

I’ve been a member of a number of clubs in my life.

Chess club, book club, netball club,

Never has my enthusiasm been so strong, my interest piqued so much, my commitment been so absolute than for this particular club I’m proud to be a member of.

That of course is Fizz Club, as brought to us by the people from the fantastically popular The Fizz Festival

Imagine, if you will, a place you can go where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.

Actually on that point, I’m pretty sure only the lovely ladies who run the club know my name and that’s because I’m like an excited puppy when it hears the tell-tale jangle of its lead – my ears pricking sharply up at the pop of a cork.

To use another canine analogy (and why wouldn’t you), I’m like Pavlov’s dog. The cork is my bell, and at the mere POP I’m salivating, flute in hand.

That’s a bit gross, but you get the general idea.

Anyway, I basically love fizz, sparkling wine, whatever you want to call it.

Actually we need to call it fizz – it’s what the club’s called, after all.

And whilst my favourite is and always will be champagne, I thought that to be educated in all things fizz would be serve me well in two respects:

  • I would have the opportunity to expand my mind as to all of the different varieties and types of sparkling wines there are out there, as well as tasting and learning about different champagnes on the market; and
  • It would hugely justify my obsession with fizz it I placed it within an educational context.

I can drink it because I know a bit about it and I’m in a club and I need to be a good club member. So there.

And so duly did I join Fizz Club as did my husband (men, go join!) and I haven’t looked back since.

Up until this year, Fizz Club evenings had taken part in the suburbs, with tasting events in locations such as Hale and Knutsford.

However, this year Fizz Club is sharing the love further and taking their tastings into central Manchester as well. Perfect for anyone living in, working in, visiting, basically anything-ing Manchester.

Event are open to non-members too but at this point I shall link to all the deets of the advantages of what it means to be a member:

Become a Fizz Club member

Last week I attended the inaugural city centre event. Originally planned to be held at Kiehl’s on King Street, the Beast from the East and Storm Emma put paid to that, causing the store to close and matters in hand relocate next door to the wonderful El Gato Negro Tapas, with a chance to check out their top floor bar and dining space (that of the rather marvellous and infamous retractable roof better utilised in summer).

And so the Spanish theme was no coincidence (El Gato Negro Tapas had already been on board to provide us with delicious canapés to accompany our tasting), Cava was on the menu, with five different wines to taste and pour over.

I personally have a penchant for Cava over Prosecco as it’s made in the traditional method, in the same way as Champagne (note how I capitalise the drink types – fizz is that important) and is generally more dry than its sweeter Italian counterpart.

From the Catalonia region and the area of El Penedes, Cava traditionally brings together three grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

  • Bodegas Sumarroca Cava Brut Reserva

The first was brought to us by the lovely people at El Gato Negro Tapas themselves and on their menu at a cost of £6 a glass.

Decidedly toasty and very bubbly I would happily and unashamedly drink this as a session Cava. That is not to insult it by saying it can be knocked back without due care and attention. It’s to save it was lovely and light and I could drink lots and lots and lots of it…

The next four were brought to us by Codorniu.

I say brought to us – the poor rep and guest speaker joined Kiehl’s as a victim of the weather, and held hostage in Aberdeen. So more accurate is to say the next four were sent to us by the lovely man from Cordoniu and presented to us and poured by the equally lovely Janet who runs the whole lovely fizzy affair.

Incidentally Cordoniu is pronounced

COD-ON-YOU

Got that? Good on you.

My mind is blown nearly as much as a few years ago when my brother-in-law returned from his honeymoon in the Champagne region with news that Moët is pronounced with a hard t.

Yep.

Cordoniu is the second biggest Cava producer, the first being (I’ll whisper it out of respect to our lovely friends at the former), Freixenet (pronounced FRESH – EN – NAY).

  • Codorniu Brut NV

This was described as a Brut non-vintage entry level Cava. Perfect as an aperitif, it was very fresh and again light.

Whilst it had an earth aroma, its taste was the opposite and for me quite fragrant.

  • Codorniu Zero

This next Cava came with a quiz question

What do you think has been removed, thus resulting in its name?

I had already decided that sugar had been removed because I am currently obsessed with a certain slimming club and trying to see how much wine I can squeeze out of my syns allowance. So without even tasting it properly, I declared sugar and whilst desperate to love it as it could be my go to ‘skinny’ cava, I was saddened to learn I didn’t really.

Just why I didn’t like it became embarrassingly clear when the answer was revealed to be

Alcohol. It has no alcohol.

Oops. I’d genuinely rather have a vimto as my alcohol free drink of choice. Having said that, this is personal taste on my part and there were others who liked it.

  • Codorniu Vitcultura Ecologically Brut

The next tasted came with another revelation. Introduced as an organic cava, I immediately thought

Marvellous, no hangover. I shall strive to enjoy this come what may.

However our esteemed host told us that whilst sulphur can indeed provide people with something of a reaction, it isn’t what causes hangovers. Drinking lots of alcohol itself causes lots of hangovers. Nothing to do with sulphur content and so organic whilst a good thing in many respects, isn’t the answer to a hangover free drinking session.

I can hear a pin drop.

This wine is aged between 9 – 12 months and had a distinctly apple-y aroma and flavour. A good Cava to enjoy with traditional tapas and a little bolder (some might say ‘funky’. Just like Mark’s 90s ‘bunch’).

  • Codorniu Reina Ma Cristina Blanc de Noirs Vintage

Last but not least was the 2013 produced Vintage which was actually made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes.

Aged for 15 months, I was expecting not to enjoy this as much (yes I appear to run firmly with pre-conceived ideas in life, must stop this) as I tend not to like champagne on the more vintage side which I think is a contradiction to my liking my reds robust and full-bodied), this was not as complex and heavy as I expected it to taste and I liked it.

Advised it was a good food wine, particularly fish, I could see how it could hold its own whilst not taking over the show.

And so the inaugural city centre Fizz Club night was drawn to a close. But not before we were asked if we would like to enjoy more of what what was left from what we’d tasted and liked beforehand…

As mentioned earlier, Fizz Club is affiliated with and run by the same lovely people who treat us all to the annual event that is The Fizz Festival, held in South Manchester.

If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. Handily, though, I have and am happy to provide you with a run down of what goes on here:

An A in Fizzical Education

So what are you waiting for?

The next city centre event is at Randall and Aubin on 25 April 2018 but if you can’t wait that long, head along back to the ‘burbs to Didsbury on 21 March 2018!

Details of these and all events can be found right here!

Cheers and see you at the next one 🥂

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eXchange Food and Drink Lounge – call me ☎️

It’s a rare day I pick up when my phone rings. It’s a hell freezes over day I call someone else.

I’m not a monster, a social pariah, arrogance personified. I guess you could call me the ultimate screener. But it’s not through a sense of selecting who I want to talk to. It’s more blanket than that – I don’t want to talk to anyone. On the telephone that is.

What is this sorcery? You can hear them, you can speak to them, but you can’t see their facial expressions.

I’m a face reader, ready to add all sorts of dramatic interpretation to your expression in response to my ‘hello, it’s (insert real name here)’. How can I apply a wild assumption without a face to go on?

The telephone ☎️📞. Not my best friend.

But why the random, slightly odd confession? Why it’s my not totally tenuous link to the location of my latest Manchester dining experience: eXchange Food and Drink Lounge. Built on the location of what was a telephone exchange back in the 1890s, I love a nod to the past and eXchange Food and Drink Lounge on Portland Street does this well – not only in its name but in its interior decor.

Whilst I may have a deep neurotic suspicion of the telephone, I do enjoy a tasteful telephone aesthetic.

And so, with no danger of having to use any of pictured receivers, it was a relaxed honorary manc who settled down for an early Friday evening dinner.

There were lots of different groups in – families, couples, friends, dads and their lads (my Manchester United supporting plus 1 (other good clubs available) using his powers of deduction to dramatically declare…

United are at home tomorrow).

And at a glance, the menu caters for all and is what you might categorise as ‘good grub’, offering staple sections of salads, burgers, pizzas and mains including dishes such as rib eye steak, Pieminister pie, mash and gravy, and sweet potato and spinach curry.

And whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with good honest grub, as it were, I actually think to call it only this would be doing eXchange a disservice because our experience there was that it was much more.

The thing that caught my eye immediately on the starters menu was ‘croquette of the week’.

The ‘of the week’ concept rarely stretching beyond sausages and pies, (and the croquette being a rare sight on any menu), it was a no brainer. I was having croquette of the week, no matter what filled its breadcrumby exterior (mixed seafood).

It was everything I hoped for and more. Or, to be more accurate, they were. Three (count them) beautifully golden crunchy croquettes filled with a fluffy, warm potato seafood mix, accompanied by a lovely tartare sauce dip.

Comfort on a plate.

My ‘actual manc plus 1’ diner dived into the fish tacos and declared them delicious.

I ‘dove’ in too and concurred.

Again this isn’t something you’d often see on a menu and, as with all dishes at eXchange, whilst at first sight they are the staples you’d expect, there’s originality and a level of freshness injected to some of its offerings, whilst keeping it simple enough to cater to a wide dining demographic.

Without particular intention (although I did declare I’d start the year vegetarian until I ate a sausage roll by mistake), I kept to a meat-free theme and chose the haddock and chips for my main.

You (I) want to see golden batter, soft white flaky fish and big, bold, ‘crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside’ chips, when I order such a dish. I got it.

The batter was light and the flavours ran through to the chips underneath. A self-declare connoisseur, I really need to write a Top 10 Manchester chips blog at some point, if only to give myself an excuse to indulge. Anyway, I’d put these thick cut chips in that list.

‘Actual manc plus 1’ chose the ‘Good Vibes’ burger and good vibes indeed were experienced from the cajun chicken breast with slaw, jerk mayo and mango salsa.

He also had the good fortune to choose the thick cut chips which also worked for me, as I didn’t have to share a single one of mine.

Before our puddings, our lovely server, recommended a delicious drink. In fact I’m going to halt here just to say what great service we had from our server from start to finish and whose name I wish I’d asked (not in a creepy way) – he was friendly, lovely, polite, infectiously smiley and his recommendations were spot on – thank you.

Anyway, speaking of which we both enjoyed (we being my fellow diner and I, not our server although I would have happily bought him a drink had he not been working – again not in a creepy way) a beautifully presented Original Manchester Gin with elderflower tonic, which was like summer (remember that?) in a glass.

You might be bold enough to question the timing of my gin, given that I had wine with my starter and main. Well, to quote Tony Wilson,

This is Manchester. We do things differently.

And so it was into pudding and what a treat. Admittedly there was something of a wait between these two courses but I didn’t mind this – time to enjoy your drinks, you don’t feel rushed and some waiting time removes the danger of feeling too full and unable to enjoy your next course. Which we absolutely did.

We chose the trio of creme brulee, the trio being chocolate, coffee and vanilla…

and ‘Chef Chris’s’ chocolate brownie, served with chocolate sauce and amazing salted caramel ice cream – Chef Chris? Our compliments…

Throwing myself head first back into the telephone analogy (and putting aside my own personal aversion to telephone calls – it’s important we ignore that for a moment), allow me to liken our experience to such –

eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, we’ve added you to our friends and family.

Sorry that was terrible, wasn’t it?

Let’s keep it simple,

eXchange Food and Drink Lounge, if you called, we’d always pick up.

Not much better.

Just basically go and try their great food in relaxed surroundings – you won’t be disappointed.

Telephones etc.

All the deets

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*MCR Event* Burns Night in style – Chivas Regal with Paul Smith

Dear old Rabbi Burns

Chivas Regal celebrated Burns Night at Paul Smith on Cathedral Street this year.

Whisky never tasted so stylish…

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Culture Food and Drink Manchester Marathon People Photography Popular culture The Arts Travel Uncategorized

My Manchester in 2017 – in pictures

The highs, the lows and the love that stemmed. Beautiful Manchester.

.

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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.

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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 Hotels Manchester Photography Preview/review

Fall fork first into autumn at Malmaison

After a summer of outdoor activities, beer gardens and sun terraces (yes, even in Manchester, naysayers), October heralds a time for taking it back indoors .

Personally happy to see the back of light summer salads, all I can see ahead is a series of extended Sunday lunches with friends and family and delicious decadent dinners.

Autumn is when the gates to foodie heaven are thrown wide open as there is no dish too grand, or temptation too realised that a huge winter woolly cannot compensate for.

When Malmaison kindly opened their dining room doors at Chez Mal for a preview of their new autumn menu, the stakes were high and the quality of the steaks were…well, high.

Much as I’d like to talk about myself, as I so often do, I will throw spotlight onto the food. When invited to try, I expected a mere morsel. A soupcon. An amuse bouche, if you will.

I have never felt so fed and this is testament not only to the dishes on offer, but my inability to stop trying all facets of the new menu.

Before I lay bare the Autumn 2017 dishes (or Fall collection – yes I know it’s american but we’ve got students all over Manchester having just started their first ‘semester’ and we all talk in ‘seasons’ now, not series, so let me have this americanism as it suits the fashion show analogy I’ve literally just thought of) to those on the ‘frow’, we’ll start, as did I that evening, with a cocktail.

And no ordinary cocktail, but one especially created for our fine city of Manchester.

Behold the Beehave!

 

If you like your gin of the Hendrick’s variety, mixed with Cointreau, honey, lemon, egg white (I used to balk at that, believe me, but it’s not what you might expect) and ginger ale, you will enjoy this delightful little mancunian tribute in a glass. And extra points to those who picked up on the Stone Roses homage.

The new menu offers everything you’d want in the way of warmers, comfort foods and beautifully put together steaks as cooked on the Josper.

Feast your eyes, and ‘fall’ (yes, still going with that) in love with what Malmaison has to offer to Mancunians, honorary and actuary, and visitors alike, this autumn.

First to the catwalk, the starters…

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Seared sea scallops – Bury black pudding, celeriac puree, apple and Jerez vinegar
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Buffalo mozzarella, roast warm squash, pumpkin, charred onion
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Pepper seared rump carpaccio – celeriac puree, sauteed potatoes, pickled mushrooms and black truffle oil

 Introducing the mains

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Josper winged rib
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Josper prime rib
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Josper fillet steak
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Mushroom and black truffle macaroni – gruyere and parmesan cheese sauce, topped with brioche herb crumb
 

And so to the puddings…

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Valrhona chocolate pave, salted caramel ice cream and caramel sauce
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Classic vanilla creme brulee
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Treacle tart and cornish clotted cream
All the deets