Anyone who lives in the vicinity of West Didsbury will surely know of the legend that is Crazy Wendy. Indeed, when I lived just off Burton Road I was a regular fixture in her restaurant, then called the Thai e Sarn, and was often to be found standing perilously aloft a table doing my very best Shirley Bassey. Some of my most memorable nights have taken place here; I moved house the day after visiting for my 26th birthday and suffice to say the bed had to be moved last, chiefly because I was still in it, unable to move.
But in recent years, I have let Wendy down. I don't live quite so close any more, and have become lazy, often staying at home - SingStar has a lot to answer for, allowing people to pretend to be incredibly talented in the privacy of their own homes rather than jostling for microphone time with a lot of very drunk girls on hen nights at the Thai e Sarn.
So we went, on Saturday night. The place has doubled in size since my last visit, and service is much better - Wendy has taken on a whole fleet of charming and efficient staff who keep the food and wine coming without hesitation. The place was packed, but as soon as we walked in Wendy remembered us - no mean feat considering it must be five years since I last saw her, and one reason no doubt why her restaurant remains so popular.
This is not a place to go to for a quiet or romantic night, or indeed if you are a shrinking violet who dislikes attention. However, as I currently have tonsilitis my visit on Saturday was my first ever encounter with Crazy Wendy when sober (me, not her) and the food was actually very, very good - there is a choice of three set menus (one of which is veggie), all reasonably priced, and all well executed; I swear that the hot and sour soup we started with did me more good than the antibiotics I've been on since Thursday.
Once everyone has finished eating - around 10.30 - Wendy slips away and reappears resplendent in one of her feather-boa draped party outfits, orange beehive wig perched jauntily atop her head, and serenades the appreciative crowd with Elvis classics in the special way that only Wendy can. The microphone is passed around as beered-up customers vie to perform Tom Jones or Shirley Bassey, often in a version entirely devoid of anything resembling the original tune, but this doesn't matter at all - everyone gets cheered, no matter how well or abysmally they sing. I had no voice at all, and found it painful not joining in with everyone else; we also had to slip away before the end before I physically expired and slumped under the table.
So sorry Wendy, for not saying goodbye, and sorry for having stayed away so long. I absolutely will not leave it another five years before I'm back, I promise.
- Crazy Wendy's is at 210 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester M20 2JW, tel 0161 445 5200. Or if you're feeling brave, visit the website at www.crazywendy.co.uk - beware, some of the pictures WILL alarm you and Elvis WILL start singing at you....