"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, March 26, 2007


I love to mooch. In fact, I don’t think there is anyone who mooches better than I do. I am The Mooch Meister, The Moochatollah. The, if you will, Uber Moochen Fuhrer.

So, on Friday, when I had finished the EAT MY GLOBE part of the trip to Bury to see the people of the mighty Bury Black Pudding Company, Dawn wanted to head off to see her Dad who lived close by, I was more than happy to occupy myself for a few hours, use the health club and then head into Manchester.

On the tram, no less and while reading a copy of The Manchester Evening News I found on the seat next to me. By the time I arrived, I was practically a character in Coronation St. Er, happen.

Bar a brief visit to see Ricky Hatton hit someone a few times, I have not set foot in Manchester for twenty years and it has, as is much documented, changed out of all recognition (pause while the entire population whines in a nasal way “we’ve got a Selfridges”) and I spent an entirely agreeable few hours pottering around Chinatown, The Gay Village, The Printworks etc only disconcerted by the fact that the female population seems to be entirely orange. Not a healthy tan orange, but full on Tango man orange. Like they have eaten sweets they shouldn’t have at Willy Wonka’s factory and are about to be dragged off by the Oompah Loompah’s ( and, if you have ever been dragged off by the……… well, you can finish that one yourself)

After about four hours, I needed an drink so headed to the Arora Hotel in Chinatown and their pleasing basement bar, Obsidian. Apparently, it has the biggest back bar in the UK outside our fair capital and it was well worth a visit for a number of exemplary cocktails made by a well trained staff.

By this time Dawn had joined me and, a few drinks to the good, we headed off to supper at Mr Thomas’s Chop House on Cross St. A friend had texted me “ignore the theme park silliness and order the corned beef hash” He is a man of good taste, so I did.

In truth, I didn’t find the room too theme park. I rather liked it. But, the menu does have lots of silliness with references to “food like your mum used to make” and “ perfect for rainy days” They even describe HP sauce as “legendary” which is one step from “our world famous sauce” after which, it would not just be Ricky Hatton getting violent.

Still, service was charm itself and our starters were not bad at all. Fish cakes were plump and filled with decent ingredients and, even better, the corned beef hash came as a small, perfectly fried cake with smooth mash and house made corned beef that is as good a mouthful as I have had so far this year. The little comma of “legendary” HP sauce was a welcome addition.

Unfortunately, from here, the meal went downhill alarmingly. Dawn’s steak was cooked to order but came with an announced, but unnecessary topping of cheese which smothered any flavour. My dish was apparently “ back by popular demand” which makes me think Manchester still has a way to go. A honey coated belly pork should have been everything I adore but instead was stringy. It was topped with a few slivers of crackling, so hard they could live in Moss Side. The five spice lentils had been over cooked to the point of mushiness. A big fat flop of a dish.

Talking of big and fat. The chips were of that annoying variety and not great either. A bit flacid and floury and we left most of them as we did an overdressed salad that had transgressed another of my rules and was harbouring some raw peppers.

A pudding of crumble took things down an extra notch with the dish being long on stewed fruit and short on crumble with a blob of non descript ice cream on top. We left most of it.

The wine list is short, but well formed and a bottle of something from Navarre was well priced at £17.50. Service could not have been more charming if it had been to finishing school and it deserved the 12.5% which helped make up the £71 final tally.

Unusually, my friend was wrong. I didn't mind the theme park silliness, I should have just ingnored the food.
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