If you are ever in Manchester and fancy a decent glass of wine, Hanging Ditch is my recommendation. The only negative is that, even in this alco-city, where poor restaurants barely survive next to pubs, bars, lounges and drinking dens, Hanging Ditch has the temerity to close at 8pm, even on big nights. On the plus side, they know their wines and you can enjoy a wee glass in their tiny premises largely undisturbed whilst one of the guys advises you how to spend your hard-earned wedge on Burgundies, Albariños and Godellos. At least, that is what I was persuaded to walk out with on a recent visit that included a whopping £40 for this Morey-St-Denis.
It’s hard not to feel charmed by Olena Zabornikova. Walking into her restaurant is like visiting a lovable but slightly dotty aunt. The entrance draws you in from a quirky and quiet part of university town, and once you work out how to avoid being snared by a Spar supermarket, it is like walking through a time portal. To be blunt, the decor is old fashioned. The tables laid in the style of a 1960’s Inter-City train, and the dishes in which the food is served give the impression of having been collected over many years from Portobello Market. And just as you sit there admiring the old pictures and Russian relics, the volume of the Eastern Europop is racked up and mirror balls reflect the disco lights, discolouring your dining partner’s face and turning the room into a cross between Peristroika and Studio 54. Apparently there is live music here at weekends, news of which has entered St. Petersburg high up on my list of weekend “must-dos in Manchester”.
Since reviews of the Mark Addy across the web seem to have divided opinion, I thought I would split my own personality and visit twice before drawing any conclusions.
On Mayday I returned to my Manchester flat and found blackbirds nesting on the balcony. What better way to celebrate this joyous event than go to the only place in the city that is serving hand picked (maybe ‘nest robbed’ is a less elegant but more accurate description) gulls’ eggs.
In the world of dining out, if there is one place in Manchester where you could pretend you are in London, it is on the banks of the dirty Irwell. I say dirty in the sense that if you jumped in a canal barge and headed south you would find yourself at Old Trafford, home to a certain team that plays in red.
This is exactly what the majority of residents of the hotel were doing on Sunday 8 May. Not all by boat. Some chauffeured by limousine, taxi, helicopter or rickshaw. Chelsea and United fans altogether, all up for the day from London.
But it is more than the famous and rich patronage of the hotel that is capitalesque. The restaurant ambience, service and food bring to mind upmarket places in Notting Hill and Knightsbridge, rather than Cheetham Hill and Chorlton-cum Hardy.
The River Restaurant is styled a bit like Boxwood Café (RIP) with the atmosphere of Scott’s of Mayfair, only with more daylight flooding in, and a larger ratio of famous faces to plebs.
My choice of aperitif exposed my desire to join the elite, an aspirational effervescent bubble short of London pricing, Billecart-Salmon at £10.50.
Beans on toast. One of life’s staple meals. So simple, so healthy, so cheap, so erm, studenty? Of course there are only two types of baked bean, Heinz and shite. And there are only two types of toast, the type that sets my smoke alarm off, and the type that is undercooked and flabby. The absolute secret to beans on is to make sure the toast is as crispy as possible before you soggify it with the beans. Also helps if you cook the beans over a low heat for a decent amount of time to reduce the sauce.
So sitting in the flat to the tuneful, albeit duotonous, harmonies of Manchester Fire Brigade’s finest, my mind inevitably wanders. My challenge over the last couple of years has been to find the perfect wine match for this honourable meal, and I think I may have just succeeded in Spades.
I assured some French friends who visited recently, that ignorant southerners who claimed that it rained in Manchester 24 hours a day were plain wrong. In my experience the average precipitation is a considerably more modest 23. I am looking forwards to tomorrow between 8 and 9am when we are promised a refreshing spot of light cloud.
So Man City’s UEFA dream survives after clinging by the loosest of threads for 90 minutes plus extra time and penalties.
I never supported the appointment of Mark Hughes. However, I have held my tongue whilst others have defended him. Apologists are fine, but with the budget he has, I think the fans deserve more.
I was at Sam’s Chop House in Manchester earlier this week. Pat and Martin were kind enough to chip in and buy me a decent bottle of wine in memory of my birthday. One from the year of my birth and reduced by an impressive £50 from the normal price.
Riojanas Monte Real Reserva 1964 had a dodgy cork, took an age to decant and was served too warm for me (about 23 degrees – I would serve at 18). But it is probably the oldest wine I have ever drunk, so I was intrigued.
This may be made from M. Burguet’s favourite old vines but I am not that impressed.
The first bottle I opened was cloudy as a January day in Manchester (any day in January, take your pick) and as bitter as a teaspoonful of chicory essence – remember that wartime coffee substitute? No I don’t either.
The second bottle wasn’t cloudy but failed to live up to its price tag of £26 from the cyber-shelves of the Wine Society.
I will give the second bottle the benefit of my detox tainted palate, but I will be writing to Messrs Johnson and co to get my £25.95 back for the first.
For the record it was a little soapy although had a few redeeming flavours of radishes and Eton Mess. I would expect more from a £7.50 bottle of Chilean Pinot.