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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Cheese and Pate at The Royal Oak, Didsbury

There are of course many downsides to having to go to work during the week, but ranking high on the list of inconveniences is the fact that The Royal Oak only does lunches Monday to Friday. Rather ironic, then, that the only chance to visit has been this week, during a month when my average daily calorie intake presumably nestles somewhere in the high thousands.

Never mind - take the chance to go when you can, even if this necessitates some kind of fraudulent time off work. The pub itself doesn't look anything special - a traditional boozer situated on the main Didsbury drag and populated largely by people over the age of 90. However, the real draw here is the legendary Cheese and Pate Lunch, served from 12pm - 2.15pm every weekday and costing a mere £5. For this you get half a loaf of soft, fresh granary bread and two choices from the vast selection of cheeses and pates spread out along the bar for your delectation.

There are several potential pitfalls here. The portion control is non-existent, and if you have a pleasant chat with the lovely lady, or eye up a cheese that is either rather unpopular or has around a portion and a half left, she is apt to pile even more onto your towering plate. You will now understand why the cutlery table by the bar also carries empty bags - these are doggy bags, to allow you to avoid heart failure by taking some home with you. The smart luncher opts for one pate and one cheese; bear in mind that cheese travels far better than pate. Above all, beware how easy it is to shove it in your handbag and forget all about it, only to discover a bag full of dolcelatte lurking in your Prada at an unexpected moment.

  • The Royal Oak is at 729 Wilmslow Rd, Didsbury, tel 0161 4344788

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Has the Credit Crunch Dampened the Christmas Cheer?

So, a Saturday night in central Manchester, just before Christmas. Everywhere should be full. Yet the normally jam-packed Christmas concert at The Bridgewater Hall was conspicuously un-heaving, with around 600 of the 2400 seats empty.

Is this because the prices at the Bridgewater are starting to look unreasonable in these money conscious times? The cheapest tickets for last night's concert were £18.50, with choicer seats costing upwards of thirty quid, an outlay that gets pretty prohibitive if you have a large family or are on a tight budget.

That said, the concert was as good as it is every year, allowing cheery souls full of mulled wine from the nearby Christmas Market in Albert Square to sing along with Christmas songs in a suitably undignified manner. And where else could you see a full orchestra and a couple of highly esteemed West-End singers performing songs from Slade?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Manchester Christmas Markets 2008

Are the Manchester Christmas Markets as good as usual this year? As I look forward each year to their arrival with breath that is actually bated, I am loathe to be the one to voice doubts, but it just all seems a bit too samey this year. The stall selling mulled wine or hot chocolate with brandy and whipped cream is as good as ever (and particularly heavy-handed with the brandy this year, ideal in all this cold weather we've been having), and the hog roast stall is still doing a roaring (oinking?) trade, but the problem is that all the other stalls are selling the same stuff as well. There are the lovely steel clocks, one of which already sits proudly in my living room; the frankly bonkers hand puppets that so charmed my nephews a couple of years ago; the slightly over-priced but rather lovely amber jewellery - it's all here again, just as it was last year, and the year before, and the year before that. As I've already bought the choicest items in previous years, either for myself or my loved ones, the Markets are no longer the easy option for Christmas shopping that they once were - please can we have some new stalls?

As a social occasion, the Markets remain as irresistable as ever - just try to feel bah humbug when you're clutching a cup of mulled wine and listening to the brass band playing carols. But the stalls need an injection of new life... and that Father Christmas atop the Town Hall in Albert Square looks way too much like a big scary Zippy in a santa suit.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Morrissey Comes to Manchester

Hurrah - time to fill your pockets with gladioli and rush to the Manchester Apollo to book your tickets to see King Mozzer himself. The singer will be appearing on Friday 22 May and Saturday 23 May 2009 as part of his "Tour of Refusal" (nice to see he hasn't changed) and will no doubt be playing plenty of songs from the album "Years of Refusal" that will be released on 16 February.

Tickets are already on sale, priced at £32.50, and are available from the usual places online (try as well as by calling The Apollo on 0161 8321111.

Expect to see plenty of misty-eyed nostalgic folk of a certain age, wearing faded Meat is Murder t-shirts and burbling on about "back in the day".