As it was such a beautiful sunny evening in Manchester last night, it seemed wasteful to stay in and we were therefore forced to head into central Manchester to make the most of it. The plan was a quiet drink; after all, how busy could Manchester be on a nothing-ish Wednesday evening?
Hmm. The answer turned out to be "very busy indeed" - all the local universities seem to be having their graduation ceremonies at the moment, and town was full of slightly awkward looking graduates accompanied by proudly over-dressed parents and just-a-little-bit wobbly grandparents. Still, we managed to find a free table outside the ever-lovely Dukes 92, and spent a pleasant hour or so drinking prosecco amongst a sea of good-tempered Manchester folk enjoying the after-work sunshine.
We were tempted to eat at Dukes as well - the outdoor menu consists of frankly enormous pizzas and hefty buckets of chicken wings, and very nice they looked too as they whizzed past us at increasingly regular intervals. However, as I had really a very good outfit on we decided to walk the ten yards or so from Dukes to Albert's Shed, the classy restaurant that shares the square.
They were very busy, but found us a table straightaway and served us very promptly. The waiter - Alex - couldn't have been mnore charming, telling us that his graduation ceremony had been the day before and that he had chosen to have his celebratory meal at this very restaurant (loyal, but surely a little lacking in imagination to eat where you work?) with his family.
Once the food came, it was actually pretty easy to see why an employee might choose to eat here. The starters of potted duck and mixed mushrooms (£5.50 and £4.50 respectively) were devoured in an instant, and the main courses were even better. We both went for the 7oz fillet steak at £18; this price also allows you to choose two side dishes, much to Mr Liz's delight, who promply ordered two potato items in the form of chips and dauphinoise and considered himself a double carbohydrate winner.
Pudding was not necessary but obviously was ordered anyway; ginger and toffee cheesecake for me and a very exciting ice-cream sundae for Mr Liz (you just can't go wrong with ice-cream layered with brandy-soaked cake). The wine list is decent - lots of bottles at under £20 - and we chose an Argentine Malbec at £19 that went perfectly with the meal (if I do say so myself).
It would be interesting to see how busy they normally are on a non-graduation week-night, but the evening really couldn't have been better. I know that as complete restaurant tart my opinion really doesn't count, but this is definitely my absolute favourite place in the whole world (at the moment).
Albert's Shed is at 20 Castle Street, Castlefield, Manchester. Tel. 0161 8399818 for reservations.