I bumped into a friend from ASDA in Manchester city centre. I was in Albert Square checking out the last weekend of the Manchester Food & Drink Festival when I met Louise, who works in the personnel department looking after all the people who work in the store. She was with her husband Paul, and they were in the city to celebrate her birthday. They were going to have some lunch and then go shopping for a birthday present. Louise is fond of Tiffany’s, she’s my kind of girl! We chatted for a while and then they went off to explore.
An hour later, just after I’d videoed Matty and Matt, I ran into them again at the bottom end of Market Street, where the tram station is and the street opens into Piccadilly Gardens. We chatted again and I asked if they had decided where to have the birthday lunch. They hadn’t. They know the main bits of the city centre but, being from out of town, they don’t know all the little places in the back streets.
They had never wandered into the N4 before so I took them down Thomas Street pointing out various places where they might have some lunch. We decided to go for a drink so I took them to TROF N4 which, as people who read this regularly know, is my favourite bar in the N4. It was busy and buzzy with the trendy, coolly beautiful denizens of the N4 out in force having some lunch and a drink and chatting with their coolly, beautiful friends. The atmosphere was good. The town where Louise and Paul live has a bar culture as well but the bars are full of scally and chav types who are bent on getting drunk as soon as possible and the best thing you can expect in the food line is one of those dreadful kebabs made from reconstituted meat that can only be faced having had about 10 pints of strong beer beforehand. Louise and Paul liked to relaxed atmosphere of TROF and the N4 generally.
We talked more about where Louise might enjoy her birthday lunch. I thought she might like a grander restaurant to the ones along Thomas Street so we finished off our drinks and I took them to King Street. Its only 5 minutes for the N4 but, lined with the grand Victorian commercial buildings of Cottonopolis, it feels like a very different city from the cool, chaos found in the N4.
I showed them Rio Ferdinand’s restaurant, ROSSO, beloved of the would be football WAGS of the city with their orange tans, tiny dresses, clunky gold jewellery and big hair. The guys are the same but substitute tight trousers that show off their gym honed butts instead of the dresses. Then we crossed the street and looked in Jamie’s Italian, spiritual home of the middle class Didsbury set but, on Saturday afternoon, something of a family restaurant with a scattering of people from out of town looking slightly overawed by the grand setting they are in and the ease that middle class Manchester exhibits when they get together in a social setting, the women and girls in Kath Kidston, the guys in preppy Brook’s Brothers weekend casuals. Further along the street, Louise didn’t want to experience Parisian rudeness and and the limited menu of La Relais de Venise.
We wandered along through the shops of King Street and looked at Brazilian buffet restaurant, Bem Brasil, and then onto Sir. Alex Ferguson’s favourite restaurant in the city, Italian San Carlo. Paul is a Manchester United fan and, as they weren’t playing that day, it might be that he would be in there having a vanilla pannacotta with Lady F.
I wanted to buy Louise a birthday drink so I suggested a trip to Harvey Nichol’s cocktail bar. Louise liked that idea a lot so we went. She wondered what to have and could I suggest anything? I said I liked their mojitos. She’d never had one so she ordered one. It went down well. Mr. Mojito is now Louise’s new best friend. I ordered a Mai Tai which they do really well and Paul had a trendy, Peroni beer.
We got talking to a couple at the next table. A very rich looking elderly gentleman and his much younger, beautiful, blond, Russian wife. Not sure what was going on there but they were very nice and we swapped sips of cocktails as you do.
Mr. Mojito, Louise’s new best friend.
My Mai Tai.
If you want to learn how to mix cocktails, Harvey Nichols style, they have classes you can join. My kind of lesson….
Louise decided that she wanted to try Bem Brasil for her lunch and I got invited along. That was kind. Its a good place. You are seated and then directed to the salad and vegetable bar to choose your food. You can go as often as you like. You are give little discs, green on one side, red on the other. While the green side is up, Brazilian waiters (mostly students at the university earning some extra money) come round and carve slices of BBQed meats that are cooked on a huge BBQ at one end of the restaurant. Meanwhile, little trolleys make their way around the restaurant fixing cocktails at your table. Louise had another visit form Mr. Mojito. The restaurant went down well. They have this one behind Kendal’s off Deansgate, another in the N4 and they have one now in Liverpool.
They never did get to Tiffany’s…..