By and large, I'm not a huge fan of change. Obviously I can and will embrace it if there's something in it for me, but otherwise I prefer to stick with what I know, and this is why my best friend and I celebrate her birthday in EXACTLY the same way every year: by going to Moss Nook.
People's first reaction upon hearing that there's a good restaurant on the Manchester Airport Ring Road is generally one of disbelief. Its location, however, is one of its best qualities - anywhere in Didsbury, I have to walk to, and anywhere in central Manchester, I generally bus it to, both requiring the donning of flat shoes when really I yearn for some of the bejewelled beauties waiting resentfully in the shoe pile. No such problems at Moss Nook - a taxi (often of the special, excellent value husband-taxi variety) is needed, and ludicrous shoes can and should be worn. Last night I estimate my height at roughly 6'4''; to be fair, this may be why the restaurant sat us near the toilets, taking one look at our shoes and thinking, "no - they'll never make it unless we put them right there."
Stepping into the Moss Nook is a little like stepping into another world, a comforting, opulent world that remains reassuringly unchanging year after year. The staff always remember us, even though we only go once a year (I can never decide if that is a compliment, or something we should be worried about), and sitting at your enormous white-linen-draped table as your wine is decanted for you it is very easy to pretend that you have gone back in time fifty years (in a good way, although the fact that I checked Twitter when my friend went to the loo perhaps indicates I have not FULLY embraced the whole going-back-in-time thing.)
We went for the seven course taster menu, a good option at £38.50 per head for those simply too indecisive to actually choose what they want to eat. The seven courses do include two amuse-bouche and a selection of petits fours, but the remaining four courses are proper, full-size portions so that even the greediest girls will be full; indeed, we had to permit one of the waiting husband-taxis to come in and help out towards the end.
You can tell the waiter anything you don't like, but it's hard to imagine anyone taking offence at the faultless cheese souffle, fish bouillabaisse, lamb with Madeira sauce and dauphinoise potato, and custard tart with home-made vanilla ice-cream that we were served. AND your main course arrives underneath an enormous silver dome; it's worth going for this alone, and I'm sure the staff have to undergo some kind of training in lifting-it-off-at-exactly-the-right-second - it's very tempting to applaud triumphantly at the sheer joy of it all.
With a decent bottle of red and a champagne cocktail apiece as an aperatif, the bill came to just under £100, although this did include a mysterious but gratefully accepted £20 discount which seemed to be applied to the bill just because they remembered us. The conditions of use were stated as "coming back again without leaving it a whole year"; I will discuss the implementation of a half-birthday visit with my friend and see what we can do.
- Moss Nook is on Ringway Road, Moss Nook, Manchester M22 5WD; tel. 0161 437 4778. Put your best shoes on and go tonight.