Weekend in Manchester

Dec 18, 2015 by

Weekend in Manchester
Stunning views of the city from Cloud 23

I spent a recent weekend in Manchester. Probably not the best time of year to visit any city but my daughter lives there and I hadn’t been over since she graduated two years ago. I have never rated Manchester very highly. In fact I actively disliked it. After this visit, I changed my mind somewhat.

Despite the dire exchange rate, it is eye-wateringly expensive. A coffee in a somewhat upmarket cafe (not a Starbucks or a Costa Coffee) was £2.70. That in today’s money is €3.74. And we moan about paying €2.50. If it was blow the socks off you coffee I wouldn’t mind but it wasn’t.
My daughter lives right in the centre of the city and we stayed in The Park Inn which was a 10 minute walk from almost everywhere we went. At least I was told it was a 10 minute walk…….
The first night we had booked into Mr. Cooper’s House and Garden, a restaurant owned and run by Simon Rogan in the Midland Hotel. We got a “deal” here. An early bird meal, 3 courses for £22. The deal was we were booked in to eat at 6.30pm. Not a big deal as we had travelled over that morning and we had only had a light but very delicious lunch in my daughter’s apartment. We arrived 7 minutes late. The city centre was jammed with traffic and despite the four of us travelling in two separate taxis and leaving half an hour to make the journey (normally 10 minutes max), we were all late (by 7 minutes). Actually we arrived in the hotel foyer at 6.33 but were directed to the wrong end of the hotel; and I was on crutches. How a hotel can direct customers to a restaurant in their own building wrongly I can only hazard a guess but anyway they did.
Jay Rayner had reviewed the restaurant and slated the decor but raved about the food. I thought the decor was pretty inoffensive and the food completely bland. And yes I know we had the “cheapie” menu but as far as I am concerned any chef worth his salt does not put out poor food on any menu. 
For starters they refused us the menu we had booked because we were late (by 7 minutes). They didn’t reckon on our two daughters who argued the toss and eventually after an onslaught times two probably decided it was the lesser evil to give it to us. Now I do not do restaurant reviews on this blog as a rule. I prefer to go out and enjoy the moment. But……

My starter was three meatballs on an apricot puree with I can’t for the life of me remember what the green stuff was (see why I don’t do reviews). Having said that if it was good I would remember every last mouthful. I asked the others what they thought the puree was and I got apple. I certainly would not have guessed apricot. The meatballs were nicely rare though if under seasoned.
My main, salmon. Cooked correctly as in slightly rare with fennel. A tiny portion but not bad. We ordered red cabbage and cauliflower cheese as sides. The red cabbage was spicy and tasty but the cauliflower had obviously been zapped in the microwave and was hotter than hades. I couldn’t taste much cheese but maybe that was because it was molten. It was topped with unidentifiable brown crumbly stuff. 
My dessert caramel tart. A tiny slice. Unremarkable and also lacking in flavour but thankfully no soggy bottom. 
The irony of these menu deals is you end up spending as much as you would normally when you factor in wine and coffees. 
We had eaten the night before we left in a newly opened restaurant (Farmhill Cafe) and I had joked that it would probably be the best meal of the weekend. I wasn’t too far out.
We hopped in a taxi to The Hilton and Cloud 23 for cocktails and the most amazing views over 
Christmas Market stalls all in cute wooden huts
Next day after a potter about the Christmas Markets and a light lunch we ended up in to
a Greek restaurant we had gone to after my daughter’s graduation. We had originally booked a Spanish restaurant for two. I had found it in the top 10 restaurants in Manchester. Before I booked this I had booked Aidan Byrne’s Manchester House but they only do a tasting menu on a Saturday night and both of us decided us we weren’t keen on tasting menus. It turned out that there was going to be 5 of us to eat on Saturday so my daughter rang the Spanish restaurant to let them know. They told us they couldn’t accommodate us. 
The Greek restaurant called Rozafa had been really good when we were there a couple of years ago. Her graduation had dragged on and on and on and it was 5pm. We hadn’t had lunch and were starving. We were due in the airport for a flight at 8pm. There was a Weatherspoon’s pub on the corner of the street opposite the Town Hall but I said “over my dead body”…..and then we saw it. Between service and empty but they told us come on in and served us great food with such charm. 
When we arrived last Saturday we were a couple of minutes late again (the traffic in Manchester is worse than Dublin) but there was no mention of it. Instead a lovely Greek waiter linked me down the stairs to my table. There was live music and plate throwing he told me from 8pm and inwardly I groaned. But it was a great success. The music was fantastic with waiters getting up to dance and then customers. The food, simple but so so tasty and reasonably priced. The house wine served in carafes, Greek but very drinkable. It was such an enjoyable evening. And the service was just faultless. 
Meat meze selection

Vegetarian meze selection

Melt in the mouth lamb shoulder and rice

On Sunday after breakfast we went for a short visit to Manchester art gallery and a quick tour of Spinningfields. Spinningfields has all the high end designer shops and trendy restaurants to keep the footballers’  wives in style and lettuce leaf lunches. If it hadn’t been blowing a gale and really cold I would have been tempted to stay longer but we had lunch booked in an Italian restaurant before our taxi back to the airport. 
Manchester is an interesting city to visit. It’s centre is small and easy to navigate. It has all the high end designer shops. The people are very friendly. The restaurants, well they aren’t bad but they aren’t great either. It’s only when you travel you realise how much we have come on in Ireland. And I am never going to moan about the prices again…….well……..

Hopefully my daughter will move to London. 

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