I am of course known for many things, not least my sporting prowess and elite athleticism. Only a couple of weeks ago I walked both to and from the public house, and last Sunday I exceeded even my own high standards of activity by not only watching the Manchester 10K (and doing some enthusiastic cheering and glass lifting) but then also refereeing a fiercely competitive few games of bowling at Dog Bowl (and doing some more enthusiastic glass lifting etc etc).
The reason for all this exercise was, of course, food-related - we'd been invited in to try the new menu at Manchester's Dog Bowl, and it seemed foolish not to stretch our bowling arms just a little while we were there, although due to a bad back I had to draft in a male friend to play on behalf of Team Liz. This was a fiercely contested bout, with Team Liz unlucky to go down 2-1; indeed, there was great excitement at one point when Team Liz achieved two strikes in a row - one more, and the next round of bowling would have cost a penny a head. Meanwhile, I was amusing myself amidst all the male grunting and chest bumping by sampling the excellent cocktail menu - I very much enjoyed my sexy Maple Bourbon Smash (essentially Bourbon with dark maple syrup, fresh orange juice, lemon juice and Angostura bitters), which had just the right level of sweetness. You see it here alongside a perky Passionfruit Tequila Mojito, which I was also able to sample extensively due to its owner's foolishly competitive focus on the bowling.
Having built up quite an appetite from all this sporting endeavour, the three of us bagged a prime table in the window and tried out some of the new dishes. For starters we shared the Pulled Pork Tacos (£5) and the Sonoran Chilli Nachos (beef chilli, guacamole, cheese and sour cream at £5.50). These went well together, the dainty tacos elegantly executed alongside the rather sturdier spiciness of the chilli nachos, which were generously topped and had the correct crisps-to-dip ratio. For mains, we each went for a burger - the new veggie offering Green Meany (chick pea patty with lime, coriander, pickles, slaw and smoked paprika mayo), the Beef Dip (smoked brisket and jack cheese, dipped in hot beef stock) and The Deep South (smoked bacon, dill pickle, jack cheese, slaw and Alabama white bbq sauce). All came with fries, but after all that exercise it was deemed necessary to also order sides of onion rings (which were excellent) and Pit Fries (I'm hanging my head in shame as I type that this is a double portion of mixed fries with cheese, gravy, pulled pork, brisket, smoked chicken, bacon, bbq sauce and chipotle sauce). All of these were well-executed, with the exception of the Green Meany which had a lovely flavour but was fractionally on the dry side - a little more of the mayo would have sorted this out. The two meaty burgers were lovely and juicy however, and the brisket was tender and moist with an excellent flavour. My favourite dish, predictably enough, was the Pit Fries - my latent trailer trash tendencies pushing themselves to the fore once again and meaning the boys hardly got a look-in with these.
So, another enjoyable visit to Dog Bowl, which combines a stylish venue (just look at those little dogs on the tray paper) with big fat greedy food and good-value bowling - games are £6 a head, or £4 any night after midnight (when I imagine my bowling skills would be an even lower standard than they normally are). We were invited in to try the new menu but paid in full for our third guest and for all our drinks except for the two cocktails - and I can confirm that a rematch (to be paid in full) has already been arranged to try to salvage some pride for Team Liz...
- Dog Bowl is at 57 Whitworth Street West, Manchester, M1 5WW; tel. 0161 228 2888.