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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Restaurant Review: Jade Garden, Didsbury

Had enough of trying to cut down on all the things you enjoy this January? Me too. Hence an impromptu Tuesday night trip into Didsbury, firstly to sample the remarkably good half price wine sale at The Pitcher & Piano. This is meant to end on Thursday, but the staff seemed to think it might last another couple of weeks so get yourself downthere while you can still snaffle a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape for an astonishing £12.50 (or a stupid £6.95 for Nero d'Avola if you're still on a post-Christmas budget). The P & P has recently been done up, and although the atmosphere downstairs feels a little sterile as a result, the new seating area upstairs is impressive (and frankly with wine this cheap you can surely create your own atmosphere anyway).

The P & P also does a nice line in bar food, but we required stronger sustenance than this and made the short journey to Jade Garden Chinese restaurant, which was empty on such a wet January night. This meant we had the undivided attention of the charming staff, who were helpful when needed but retreated to the other side of the room when not, thus avoiding that awkward we're-the-only-people-here-so-keep-your-voice-down scenario.

Jade Garden is pretty much reckoned to be the best Chinese in this area, and the food is reliably good: we had Banquet D at £25 per head and found only one item (the filo prawns) to be disappointing. All the rest - crispy duck, mixed starters and four main courses - went down a treat, the undoubted highlight being the fillet steak in Cantonese style sauce. They offer a full range of beers and the wine list isn't bad either - we had a bottle of Shiraz at £14.95. They also do takeaway for those too weary to vacate the couch. None of this matters as I really, truly am returning to the gym next week.

Jade Garden: 743 Wilmslow Road, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6RN (tel. 0161 4456979)

Pitcher & Piano:
1D School Lane, Didsbury, Manchester M20 6SA (tel. 0161 4489326)

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Take This at the Bolholt Hotel, Bury

One of the drawbacks of living in a celebrity-obsessed culture, where people can earn a living by bearing a passing resemblance to Posh or Paris, and Graham Norton is given a prime-time Saturday night show to celebrate such individuals, is that we have come to misunderstand the notion of a tribute band. After all, a tribute band makes no promises other than to play the songs of a certain artist: there is no obligation that they should look like them too.

However, they could at least try. The Bolholt Hotel in Bury was packed to the rafters on Friday night, full of women of a certain age (I estimate the members of my party were the youngest there by a good decade or so) desperate to get as close to Mark, Gary, Jason and Howard as they were ever likely to. Indeed, having sat and endured the vision of a fat hen giving pretend oral-sex to a well-equipped blow up doll on the dance floor for the last hour, we were all ready for some distraction.

Rather disappointingly though, the four scruffy lads who had earlier conducted the sound check turned out to be Take This, and came bounding onstage dressed in suits ready to relight our fire. None of them looked remotely like the band they were pretending to be, and thus although they gave their all to their performance, they were ultimately just four boys doing some admittedly tuneful karaoke up on the stage.

Doh! I have been sucked into the age of the lookalike: I'm off to watch Graham Norton.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Jan/Feb 2008 at The Lowry Theatre, Salford

A couple of things worth seeing at The Lowry Theatre over the next few weeks. Firstly, Harold Brighouse's classic comedy Hobson's Choice runs from the 23rd to the 27th January 2008. Although the Eccles-born Brighouse wrote the play in 1915, and the setting is Victorian Manchester, the humour in this play of class and gender issues remains largely relevant and is well worth seeing. Sadly lots of people will probably go just because the lead role of Henry Hobson is being played by John Savident (Fred Elliot off Corrie).

Staying in the same time period, February sees the arrival of Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, a play really much too well known for its own good (just count up how many of the wags in the audience will be enunciating "A hand-er-bag?" to themselves during the performance) but is still actually very funny. This play is also set in England during the Victorian era, but is more a commedy of manners than Brighouse's; you surely don't need me to tell you the plot, just that it stars Tony Britton and runs from the 4th to the 9th of February.

More details from the Manchester Theatres website.

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Harvey Nichols Brasserie 21 Offer

Don't miss the opportunity to dine at Harvey Nicks' fabulous second floor Brasserie at a frankly ridiculous price between now and February 2nd. Their legendary "twenty one" offer is making a welcome re-appearance, offering you a three course meal and unlimited (yes, really) house wine during the meal.

The catches are as follows:
  • you can't choose from the whole menu, just a special selection of three starters, three mains and three desserts
  • the meal can last a maximum of 90 minutes
  • you have to book
  • you will probably have to go to work the next day
Otherwise this is pretty much risk-free: the food is lovely and so is the house wine, and the staff are really generous with keeping your glass topped up. Beware though of leaving the restaurant at around 9.30, already full of wine, in the company of a friend who brightly says that as she has paid the baby-sitter until midnight, we may as well pop across Exchange Square to Sinclair's and have a couple more bottles of wine...uggghhh.

Full details and reservations at

Monday, 14 January 2008

Ode to Manchester

Rather than take the trouble to compose my own Manchester poem, here are the words of West Didsbury resident Paul Heaton!

From Northenden to Partington it’s rain
From Altrincham to Chadderton it’s rain
From Moss Side to Swinton hardly Spain
It’s a picture postcard of “wish they never came”

And whilst that deckchair in the garden it makes no sense
It doesn’t spoil the view or cause offence
Those Floridas, Bavarias and Kents
Make gentlemen wear shorts but don’t make gents

So convertible stay garage-bound
Save after-sun for later
If rain makes Britain great
Then Manchester is greater
As you dry your clothes once again
Upon the radiator
What makes Britain great
Makes Manchester yet greater

From Cheetham Hill to Wythenshawe it’s rain
Gorton, Salford, Sale pretty much the same
As I’m caught up without my jacket once again
The raindrops on my face play a sweet refrain

And as winter turns reluctantly to spring
For the clouds above the city there’s one last fling
Swallows build their nests, chaffinch sing
And the sun strolls into town like long lost king

And the mood of this whole sodden place is melancholy
Like the sun came out to play, shone through the clouds
But dropped its lolly
And everyone looks so disappointed, so, so sorry
Like the rain blew into town, kidnapped the sun
And stole its brolly.

  • From "Manchester" by The Beautiful South - don't believe a word about the weather - it's beautiful here!

Manchester Versus Cancer 2008

This year's Manchester vs. Cancer - the third annual outing for this increasingly star-studded event - will take place at the MEN Arena on Saturday 23rd February. The fund-raiser is once again being organised by Andy Rourke, formerly of The Smiths and seemingly adept at roping in showbiz mates - previous performers have included New Order, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller and The Charlatans.

So far, four acts have been announced for the 2008 gig: The Fratelli's and Fun Lovin Criminals (both of whom are presumably honourary mancs for the night), plus Manchester legends Happy Mondays and Inspiral Carpets,

This is Manchester's biggest fund-raising event, and last year raised £250,000 for cancer research and awareness. Tickets are £40 and are available from

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Hacienda 25: The Exhibition

If, like me, you got to Manchester too late to witness the Hacienda in its glory days, there's just over a month left to visit its commemorative exhibition at the Urbis museum in central Manchester. On the one and only occasion I went to the Hacienda it was well on its downward slope to closure, most memorable for the persistent and unwanted attentions of a hairy student whom we imaginatively named Johnny Red Stripe after his beverage of choice.

This exhibition allows you to walk through the famous doors of Fac 51 and admire various items from the club itself along with artwork and personal possessions from some of those involved, including the late, great, sorely missed Sir Tony of Wilson.

The exhibition runs till 17th Feb 2008 and even has its own Fac number: fac 491. Full details at

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Restaurant Review: Piccolino, Didsbury

Apparently, it's rubbish having a birthday on New Year's Day. Either everyone is away, or they're too tired/hungover/starting a healthy new regime. So what do you do? Wait until the week after, and arrange to go to Piccolino's in West Didsbury.

Despite it being a cold, wet Monday night the restaurant was far from empty, but the waiters were able to lavish plenty of attention upon us (deservingly so) and were understandably delighted by my attempts to discuss the finer points of the menu using my rather rusty Italian. Everything in the restaurant is new and shiny, and we were worried the food would be on the generic side; this is after all an offshoot of the existing branch in central Manchester. I was also personally a bit sulky as Monday night is not an ideal night to play out, what with the having-to-work-four-more-days thing hanging over one's head, but then I wasn't the birthday girl.

However, everything was most impressive. The starters each cost around £6, and included such staples as calamari served with roast garlic mayonnaise and crostini topped with sauted chicken livers. The mains are a bit pricier unless you go for pasta or pizza; highlight of our choices was the slow-roasted duck served with caramelised apples. The meat and fish dishes don't come with any potatoes or veg, which have to be ordered separately at £2.95 a go, but the portions are generous and two people could easily share one side dish.

Some of us (unusually, me) were too full up for pudding, but others managed tiramisu and semi-freddo at £4.95 each. The wine list is reasonably priced, and tap water was willingly brought rather than bottled. Service was charming; one of those places where your wine glass is magically refilled when you're not looking.

This is not a cheap option: six of us paid £249.04, but this did include the service charge and three bottles of wine.

Piccolino Didsbury is at 6 Lapwing Lane, Didsbury M20 2WF, tel. 0161 434 7524 - apparently it's packed at weekends so make sure you book ahead.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Spice Girls Come to Manchester

It certainly seems a good time for musical (I use the term loosely) comebacks. No sooner have the recently reformed Take That departed the MEN after a string of triumphant live dates, but the Spice Girls juggernaut prepares to roll into town. They will play the MEN arena on January 23rd and 24th.

The disappointing performance of their comeback single Headlines may suggest that in a pop chart dominated by fresher girl bands like Sugababes and Girls Aloud there is now no need for Ginger, Scary, Sporty, Baby and Posh (posh my arse), but the demand to see them live has been phenomenal - tickets for the Manchester dates sold out in just 18 minutes.

Going to the gig? Let us know afterwards what you thought.