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Sunday, 10 May 2009

50% Off New Summer Menu at Room, Manchester

Room has long been one of my favourite restaurants in Manchester, with its great value wine-tasting evenings and modern take on classic dishes (oh, and the really cool oversize lampshades). They also run great offers every so often (surely it's almost time for the annual half-price champagne sale?) and now is the turn of the new summer menu, which is available on a deal it would be frankly rude to ignore.

Anyone ordering from the new menu between 5 and 7pm will be given a deduction of 50% from the price of their food bill, and the deal is available every night of the week, including Friday and Saturday. The new starters include Pot Roast with pigeon, apple and hazlenut at £6, and the pick of the mains looks to be the Gressingham Duck with rhubarb and ginger at £16.50.

For reservations, call Room on 0161 8392005.

Theatre Review: An Inspector Calls at The Lowry

I must admit, I approached this with some trepidation, having studied the play at school when I was about 14 and suspecting that my tastes may have matured a little in the intervening years. Also, the charming man in the ticket office had warned us when we booked that the play is still on the English Lit syllabus and we could therefore expect the presence of a good number of school kids despite it being a Friday night.

Still, a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir in Lime beforehand, and I felt pretty much ready for anything. The Lowry was almost full, with just a few empty seats remaining in the terrifyingly high-up upper circle (try to avoid these seats - I saw the History Boys from somewhere near the back, and spent two hours straining to see and hear the action taking place on stage several miles away).

The play is set in 1912, and tells of the wealthy Birling family, who are having dinner to celebrate the engagement of their daughter to the son of a rival manufacturer. The family are overbearing and extremely pleased with themselves, until their smug world is shattered by the arrival of Inspecter Goole, who breaks the news of a suicide of a young woman whose life has touched each of theirs in some way.

Stephen Daltry's production of J.B. Priestley's play has won more awards than any other play, and it is easy to see why from this slick and professional performance. The cast is uniformly competent, with impressive turns from Louis Hilyer as the Inspector and Marianne Oldham as Sheila Birling, and Sandra Duncan suitably matriarchal in the comic role of Lady Birling.

The staging is also compelling, with moody lighting and clever use of the Birling's family home to represent the social standing of the family at different times in the play. The play has now moved on from the Lowry, but is certainly worth a look next time it comes round again; even the school kids enjoyed it, judging from the enthusiastic whooping at the end.

Manchester Spring Market at St Ann's Square

Good news for anyone (me) suffering withdrawal symptoms from the Christmas Markets; a quick change of name and they are back, in the imaginative guise of the Spring Markets and bigger and better than ever.

This year, there are almost 100 stalls dotted about the usual venues - St Ann's Square, Exchange Street and New Cathedral Street. The emphasis on arts, crafts and jewellery remains, but rather than Gluwein you will be able to sip thoughtfully on a glass of champagne or Pimm's whilst browsing the stalls. Foods will include barbecues (naturally), paella, and Dutch waffles, and entertainment will be provided by a steel drum band and, erm, morris dancers.

Also worth a look will be the legendary Dutch Flower Man, bringing a bit of colour to Exchange Street; beware buying too enthusiastically though if you plan to visit the Spring Beer Garden afterwards.

The Spring Markets are open daily 10am - 6pm from 8th - 25th May.