Didsbury cafe bar Art of Tea continues to go from strength to strength with its foray into evening dining. It is a measure of how highly this little gem is regarded locally that the launch party, on a freezing cold Wednesday evening, attracted such an impressive turnout (surely not ALL there for the free booze? Incidentally, the party was lovely but NOT a good idea to dish out generous quantities of alcohol with just a few bowls of cashew nuts to line the stomach - that way drunkenness lies). Scroll to the bottom of the blog for pictures of said evening.
The new evening menu is small but perfectly formed, a natural extension of the laid-back dining available during the day. The starters and light bites include chilli nachos at £6 and a selection of mezze (tzatziki, hoummus, aubergine dip and tapenade with three different types of bread at £5.50) which is ideal for sharing, particularly if your companion is not that bothered about starters and has an eye on the pizza menu.
The main courses consist of pizzas and salads, with the pizzas offering such exciting combinations as salami, chorizo, jalapeno and chilli (which brought a manly tear to Mr Liz's eye) and anchovies, capers, olives and parsley. The salads include chicken and avocado (my choice) and goat's cheese with walnuts and honey, all at around the £6 mark. This is a clever menu - just a few different ingredients, perfectly cooked, and served in generous quantities in relaxed surroundings.
The newly introduced alcohol selection is also well-chosen and achieves a pleasing symmetry: four vodkas, four gins; five rums, five whiskies; three brandies/cognacs, three tequilas/sambucas. There is also a wide range of decent wines, and an imaginative beer menu that samples the best from both Britain and Europe, including the Belgian Orval and Chimay Red at £3.80 each.
Even on a Monday night, the place had a pleasing buzz, with a mix of coffee drinkers and diners sharing the small split-level premises. Another admirable move is the decision to showcase the work of local artists; the current exhibition, "The Master of Complications" by Roy McCarthy and Zoe Byrne is on view until May 4th, and looks perfectly at home adorning the walls.
In these days of doom and gloom, you could do a lot worse than spend £20 in The Art of Tea - find them at 47 Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury.