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Thursday, 21 April 2011

Sad Times (but Decent Starters) as Mr J Departs The Didsbury

Anyone who has lived in South Manchester for a considerable period of time is likely to have been to The Didsbury Pub. Set behind its own green towards the East Didsbury end of Wilmslow Road, my first brush with the mighty Didsbury was no doubt in the 1990s as part of a series of deeply unwise "Didsbury Dozen" pub crawls - or thirteen pints in thirteen pubs for the uninitiated. As students we cursed its aloofness, set away as it was from the other pubs and therefore requiring us to WALK, ooh, probably several hundred yards to get back to the main drag; I now realise that this short enforced walk is probably the sole reason I survived ANY Didsbury Dozens at all and live to tell the tale *puts on stern, anti-drink face*

Anyway, as I grew up, so did The Didsbury - or perhaps it was always grown-up and I was just too drunk and over-excited to notice the horrified expressions of the other patrons as I rampaged the premises looking for whatever clue the Maths department had left for their fellow Didsbury Dozeners (they were ALWAYS organised by the Maths students - you really do have to watch the quiet ones.) And then for some reason, I stopped going as often; perhaps newer, shinier places opened up and turned my shallow and superficial preferences away from a pub that was perhaps starting to look a bit tired, a bit...dull.

But then seven years ago, a genial host by the name of Paul Johnson took over, and The Didsbury began to be fun again. As well as being a general all-round top bloke, Mr J is that most rare of things - a pub manager who actually listens to his customers. One staggering summer, he stocked Prosecco by the glass, BECAUSE I ASKED HIM TO. True, I think I was the only one that ever actually ordered it, but then I never claimed to be a businesswoman, and I did gamely try to drink as much of it as I could (ALWAYS helpful, ALWAYS selfless, that's me.) Paul is also a constant presence on Twitter, making the most of social networking's insidious ability to make a sensible girl turn bad - it's a canny manager who tweets about the lovely weather in his beer garden just as an otherwise pure, clean-living sort of girl is leaving work after a hard day.

In short, The Didsbury is now at the heart of the village again, always bustling with cheerful souls having a drink outside or cosying up inside with some of the good-value food. But now, the skies have darkened and the storm clouds are gathering, for Mr J is off to pastures new. In just a few weeks he will be taking over at The Axe & Cleaver in Dunham Massey, a fact that makes me so maudlin that I am tempted to produce a small violin right now and play a mournful solo in his honour. He has made it clear that whilst it's not his decision to leave The Didsbury (should think not!) he is pleased with the pub and the area that he's off to, and promises us that we will always be just as welcome there as at The Didsbury.

After such heart-felt sorrow, it seems a little trite now to review the meal that Mr Liz and I consumed there last night in the company of the ever-fragrant Didsbury Life. So, I will summarise.

Starters: excellent. Meze platter for the "ladies" (no sniggering at the back), chicken skewers for Mr Liz, chicken & honey pate for Mr D-L. All very good, although husband, I notice, quick to finish chicken skewers and start on nearest available dish, namely my meze platter.

Mains: mixed. My barbecue pork shanks with sweet potato chips were fine, as was Mr D-L's salmon. Mr Liz proclaimed the steak in his mixed grill a little chewy (although I noticed he ate every last scrap) but he enjoyed everything else. The only dish that really let us down was the sea bass with herb risotto, offering rice that you could plaster your walls with and fish that, in an emergency, you could resole your shoes with (there's a joke there actually, but I am too classy to stoop so low - you may go there if you wish.)

Puds: again, mixed. The boys ate their choices with enthusiasm (one x boozy mocha ice-cream cake, one x sticky toffee pudding), but the ladies fared less well with their slim-line choices of, ahem, a chocolate brownie and a piece of cheesecake. In truth, the portion sizes here seem to have got a little large, and if someone as greedy as me couldn't eat all her brownie, you may confidently surmise that it was probably big enough to have been laid as the foundation stone in a new-build property of your choice.

Luckily, all this greed was negated by the ten-minute stroll home, after another convivial evening. One can only cry a little at the thought of how many calories the walk home from Dunham Massey will be burning off in a couple of months time...

Good luck in your new venture Mr J; everyone here in Didsbury will miss you.

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