I have spent today in the delightful environs of the MacDonald Manchester Hotel and Spa; sadly not as a berobed guest, padding from hot tub to treatment room with muddy face and steamed pores, but as an altogether different guest, there to learn all about last year's A2 English Language paper from the exam board. Oh well. The homemade fairy cakes at tea time were quite outstanding, and I shall be sniffing around for any forthcoming courses that may provide opportunities to access the elevenses rocky road bars again.
Apart from baked goods, the other advantage of attending a course in Manchester is, well, that you're in Manchester, and a four o'clock finish allows for plenty of bonus shopping time. It is hardly my fault that I found myself in the Selfridges shoe department, the lone shopper amidst a great baying gang of helpful sales assistants, who clearly wanted to ply me with every shoe imaginable. I am to be commended, really, for only buying three pairs.
Mr Liz then joined me for a swift drink at All Bar One - you try hiding two enormous yellow bags behind your small wooden chair - but the place was packed with loud men in suits and expensive watches, so we drank up and moved on to our dinner destination. Now, nine times out of ten I prefer to eat at an independent restaurant rather than a chain, but some chains are pretty good. Felicini is one; Giraffe is another, and inspired by the oh-so-cute new baby giraffe whose picture graces tonight's Manchester Evening News, we set off for Spinningfields.
First off - Manchester City Council, please install a few streetlights. Yes, the blue twinkly tree lights are very pretty, but all of Spinningfields is a little bit dark and a little bit scary. Luckily, the welcome at Giraffe was shiny and smiley, and although it was reasonably busy, the giant yellow bags clearly worked their magic and we were shown to a lovely large booth with lots of space for unwieldy boxes of new footwear.
There are a couple of things you should know about Giraffe. Firstly, if you go between 5 and 7pm, Monday to Thursday, selected drinks are half price on the Bar Buddies promotion, which means you can have a decent bottle of red for £7.48. Secondly, if you join their Hug Club via the website, every so often you get vouchers like the 40% off one we used tonight (although, it does have to said that I've not had any actual hugs yet - disappointing.) It is also an ideal venue for hungry boys, as the portions are generous and the menu suitably meaty. We had potato wedges topped with cheese, salsa, sour cream and guacamole from the "sharing dishes" section for starters; my husband sulked a little about being forced to actually share food with a girl, although when it arrived even he was forced to admit that six pounds of potatoes would be a little too many for one person.
For mains, we both had burgers - Rodeo Chicken Burger for him, Lamb Focaccia Burger for me, both served with fries. I didn't really get near the Rodeo Burger, which seemed to be some kind of chicken/onion ring/bread tower for giants, but my lamb burger was lovely, and came with plenty of tzatziki and feta cheese, just so I smell really fresh for work tomorrow. I couldn't finish the chips, but luckily a gust of wind must have carried them off, as they seemed to disappear at some point when I wasn't looking.
The bill came to £25, although do bear in mind we had 40% off our food and 50% off our wine. Still, Giraffe is a good value night out, and I feel confident in saying that the money I've saved tonight almost entirely wipes out the shoe debt - winner.
- Giraffe is on Hardman Square, off Deansgate, Manchester M3 3AB, tel. 0161 839 0009.