06-06-2015-The Waddington Arms, Waddington, Nr Clitheroe

It had soon come back around to night out time for Sue and Paula. Having been to the Higher Buck in Waddington the other week, we had spotted the Waddington Arms ( http://www.waddingtonarms.co.uk – believe it or not, in Waddington near Clitheroe!), and we decided that it was probably worth a try. How right we were! Sue has been off work this week Ÿ?? she has moved her horses from one stable yard to a new one after seven years, so we have had a busy and emotional week at our house. You wouldn’t believe what is involved when horses Ÿ??move houseŸ?! I have also been very busy at work, still battling hard to get a house renovated and onto the rental market. The end is in sight Ÿ?? just! This meant that we were both ready for Friday night, maybe more than usual. I finished work at 5-00pm, had ten minutes on the sunbed, bought a lottery ticket, and rushed home with a new dress that had been delivered, hoping it would fit and look OK. Once home, it was a quick shower, try the dress on Ÿ?? perfect, and then get ready. A few layers of cosmetic product, perfume, jewellery, new dress, stupidly high heels, and some hair. By 7-15pm Paula was ready to travel. Sue had also been going through the same motions, with significantly less cosmetic product being both needed and used, and she also was ready for the off. We travelled the ten minutes or so to Waddington, parked the car, and by 7-45pm we were sat at a table for two. The Waddington Arms is a pub / restaurant. It is focussed on food rather than beer I guess, but it isn’t a silver service restaurant. It’s comfortable with a large wood burning stove, traditional d€÷cor, and stone flag floors. The menu is relative to this, offering a mix of traditional pub grub with a bit of Ÿ??poshŸ? thrown in for good measure. We had got ourselves a drink on arrival, and were shown straight to our table. I had noticed it was pretty busy, but due to the shape and layout, it was difficult to ascertain how busy. We were soon to find out. A rather pensive looking young lady approached our table, looking like she had been asked to throw us out! She started off by apologising for her colleague’s failure to advise us that due to the fact they had just taken an order for a table of twenty, they wouldn’t be able to take our order for another ten to fifteen minutes. In view of the fact that we were early anyway, this wasn’t going to affect our evening in any way, and we told her so. Even so, I think it was a very wise thing to do rather than have us sit there expectantly waiting. True to her word, within fifteen minutes, they were back on track, and ready to take our order. The choice on the menu was good, and we were informed that the specials were on the specials board Ÿ??over thereŸ?. Over there was about 150 yards away in another section of the pub. I could see the board, but I certainly couldn’t read it. As you know, it is one of my pet hates when Chef has gone to the trouble of creating Ÿ??specialsŸ? and they advise you of them by way of a board on the wall. It isn’t fair for the people sitting under the board when half the pub is staring over their heads trying to read it, and it isn’t fair on those of us who really can’t be arsed to get up, walk across, read it, memorise it, and choose from it! The result being I haven’t a clue what was on the specials board, and Chefs talents had once again gone to waste. In fairness the choice on the menu was more than adequate, and I guess had it not been, we would probably have made the pilgrimage across the pub to read the said board. Anyway, let’s not worry about what we don’t know about and concentrate on what we actually chose to eat. Sue decided that she was hungry, so we started off with a Garlic Ciabatta with Cheese. This was followed by Soup of the Day Ÿ?? which was mushroom, for Sue, and Seared Scallops, Curry Spiced Cauliflower Puree, Slow Cooked Pork Belly for me. Scallops and Pork belly on the same dish Ÿ?? I had to work hard not to have a full blown orgasm! The waitresses (of which there were several) were cheerful and efficient, making sure clean cutlery wrapped in a serviette was provided for each section of the meal, offering drinks at the right time, and clearing away crockery and glasses that were finished with in good time, yet without making you feel rushed in any way. There were plenty of other people in the Waddington Arms; with I would guess about 85% of them eating. Nobody seemed to care, or indeed, even to have noticed that they were in the company of a transvestite, and the staff certainly had no obvious issues with it. Sue and I chatted about this and that, with brief pauses as required to accommodate the intake of food. All in all, a pleasant evening so far! Once we had scraped the pattern off the starter plates, they were taken back to the kitchen for cleaning and re-patterning and our main courses made an appearance. Sue had decided that the thing to tickle her taste buds would be the Lancashire Hot Pot, with Pickled Red Cabbage and Vegetables, whilst Paula was intent on making friends with a plate of Pan Fried Salmon with Saut€÷ed Potatoes, Prawns, Parsley and Capers. As you would, we also ordered a side of skinny fries which arrived at the table overflowing from an adequately sized receptacle. For a brief period, silence fell over our table whilst we tackled the job in hand of emptying our plates. The girls checked throughout the meal that everything was to our satisfaction, and overall, I rated the service as good to excellent. I really think they got the balance of attention just right. Once again, we returned well scraped plates back to the kitchen, failing to eat just a few of the skinny fries. Oh, and I left some of the Ÿ??green sh*tŸ? that was draped all over everything. It looks nice, but I really must question as to why they imagine you would want to eat so much grass! As always seems to occur, that time was approaching again. The time when young attractive ladies approach your table, trying to lead you down the wrong path of life. The time when you have lists of sticky, high calorific value dishes thrust in front of you – the time of complete and utter temptation to stray from trying to lead a reasonably respectable life towards a life of greed, self-indulgence and total debauchery. Both Sue and I had commented as to how full we were feeling, and I was quietly confident that on this occasion we would have no problem in sending the temptress scurrying away from our table orderless. How wrong I was! In less than a minute, the menus were pushed in front of us, we were forced to read them, and our waitress was walking away with an order. How the bloody hell did that happen? We really must try harder! The result of this unfair temptation was a dish containing two scoops of Bonoffee ice cream being placed in front of Sue, whilst I had to become acquainted with a portion of Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce and Bonoffe ice cream. Oh well, these things happen. I have to say, my Sticky Toffee pudding was perfect. Sometimes, I think it can be Ÿ??over stickyŸ?, but this was really light and easy to eat. The sauce was obviously hot, which helped to melt the ice cream, resulting in another near orgasm. Two in one night – at my age!! (I wish!). By the time we had managed to eat the above desserts, we really had slowed down. The conversation had become slow and unintelligent, and our eyes had become heavy. We were showing signs of food overload. It was an easy decision to make when we were offered another drink. No thanks! It was time to sit and reflect, and a time to summon the energy to leave our table, pay our bill, and walk the 50 yards or so to the car. We finally arose, and walked across to the bar to pay. The place was far less busy than when we arrived, and I had a picture of people all over Clitheroe and the surrounding area, making their way quietly home having eaten to capacity at The Waddington Arms. Our bill including all the above food with 6 Diet Cokes thrown in (Oh yes, Sue and I know how to party!) came to a grand total of ô?60-50. Add a tip and you purse leaves with ô?65-00 less in it than when you arrived. Blood good value as far as I am concerned! SoŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?í here we go again. The three questions that make it all worthwhile: Is The Waddington Arms TV friendly? It most certainly was whilst we were there, and I have no reason to suspect otherwise. Would I go again? I think you know I would! Value for money? As I said above, I think so without doubt, but only you can decide for yourselves.

18-05-2015-The Higher Buck, Waddington, Nr. Clitheroe

Sue and I are still managing to continue our fortnightly (or thereabouts) trips out Ÿ?? sometimes repeat visits, sometimes pastures anew. The other week saw a Ÿ??pasture anewŸ?, with Sue choosing to go to The Higher Buck, which is located in the picturesque village of Waddington near Clitheroe ( www.higherbuck.com ). As with many of the local venues, the Ÿ??HigherŸ? as we used to call is it was one of our former stomping grounds when, in our late teens / early twenties, we were dashing around the countryside in a white escort van drinking as much beer as we could in one night (and I’m embarrassed to say, dashing home in the same van at the end of the night!). How things have changed! Back in the day, it was a busy village pub that served food Ÿ?? now it is a busy pub, with probably less emphasis on the village, and more emphasis on the food. It has also been extended and offers accommodation as well, and as you would expect, it has been tastefully refurbished to a good standard. Our booking was for 8-30pm, and for once, we were both home in good time, meaning we could get ready at a civilised pace and still be stood in the Higher by 8-00pm. They apologised that our table was still occupied, but we pointed out that we were early, and that we were more than happy to stand at the bar and have a drink. A quick glance round showed that all the tables were occupied, or in the process of being cleared following occupation, and there were plenty of people stood at and around the bar having a drink. A little eavesdropping indicated that most of the drinkers were locals having a couple on their way home. I did stand out as being particularly tall, and had to be careful I didn’t catch my Ÿ??hairŸ? on one of the low beams that I kept brushing against. That said, apart from the obligatory couple of Ÿ??I don’t bloody believe it!Ÿ? looks, I didn’t attract any untoward attention, or at least, none that I was aware of. We enjoyed a chat and a look around, and were in no panic to sit at our table, but the staff kept us informed as to its progress, and it wasn’t long after 8-30pm that we were shown to it, and provided with menus. Unusually, we both immediately chose the same starter Ÿ?? the Crab Cocktail which was pretty much like a prawn cocktail, only it was made with crab instead of prawns! It was nicely presented, and very tasty. Sue followed this with a rump steak, which she likes to eat medium / well done. This came with slow roasted tomatoes and mushrooms, triple cooked chips, rocket & parmesan salad, and she also had peppercorn sauce as an extra. Why the chefs make so much hard work for themselves, by cooking chips three times, I’ll never know, but triple cooked they were. I had gone for one of my good old favourites Ÿ?? Pork Belly. Mine was served treacle roasted, with mash, glazed carrots, and sticky gravy. Note, it wasn’t ordinary gravy Ÿ?? it was sticky gravy! We also ordered a side of skinny chips and shared the triple cooked ones and the skinny ones between us. We know how to party! It certainly didn’t take us long to empty our plates, and I even managed to scrape most of the sticky gravy up with my knife, which had the result of annoying Sue greatly. A double result! A clean plate, and an annoyed Sue. The service was efficient, without being rushed, and our Waiter didn’t appear to have any problems serving a guy in a short dress, long heels, lots of make up and a wig Ÿ?? I didn’t spot the guy, but Sue said there was one in there. They don’t half get around. As you would expect, he was soon approaching the table waving Dessert menus around, trying very hard to tempt us and lead us down the wrong path of life. I don’t know why he was trying hard Ÿ?? he didn’t need to. I have been working really hard lately, and this has enabled to loose a couple of extra pounds Ÿ?? this leaves plenty of room for puddings! Sue, however, was strong Ÿ?? she has been on a no alcohol / watch what she eats regime since New Year, and is doing really well with it. Therefore, I had a sticky chocolate creation consisting of chocolate, stickiness, calories, and more chocolate, and Sue relaxed with an Americano coffee. A perfect end to a lovely evening. We sat and relaxed and chatted, and noted that the place had gradually emptied as the evening progressed. The Ÿ??on the way homeŸ? gang had gone home, and many of the diners had dined and moved on. We weren’t the last to leave, but it was certainly less busy than when we arrived. I’m afraid neither of us required use of the little girls room, so I can’t inform you of their condition, but judging by the bar and restaurant area, I have no reason to doubt their suitability and condition. We eventually left our table and went to pay our bill at the bar, which with the above food and four diet cokes, came to a grand total of ô?60-65. No quibbles as far as we were concerned. All that was left for us to do now, was drive home and reflect on another perfect night out, and all that’s left for me to do now is answer those three all important questions: Is The Higher Buck TV friendly? I felt totally relaxed and comfortable and drew no unwanted attention, and as we departed the gentleman behind the bar referred to us as Ladies and said he hoped to see us both again soon Ÿ?? I think that answers that one! Value for money? I think we’ve already answered that one. Would I go again? Without doubt I would, and indeed, probably will.

05-05-2015-Brady’s Wine Bar, Whalley, Nr. Clitheroe

The Village of Whalley, which is located about 10 minutes down the road from Clitheroe, has had a Conservative Club since the year dot. I can remember as a young girl (hehe!) hearing it mentioned, and Ÿ??Whalley Con ClubŸ? was well known on the local drinking circuits. I must confess, I have never been in, but I have always been well aware of its existence. Like most small Villages, Whalley has expanded rapidly over recent years with an onslaught of modern housing estates being built around its outskirts. You would imagine that this would keep the local drinking establishments busy, but as I have discussed with many people on many occasions, it doesn’t seem to work like that any more. People simply don’t go out drinking like they used to. You have probably already guessed where this is heading, but just in case, I’ll tell you anyway. It’s heading towards the eventual closure of Whalley Con Club basically due to it’s under subscription. It was well documented in the local paper that dwindling membership and even faster dwindling till receipts had caused its eventual demise. Whalley Con Club is no longer. It simply became another property on the Ÿ??For SaleŸ? lists. That was until an enterprising couple decided that it should be purchased, refurbished extensively, and reopened as Brady’s Wine Bar. Brady’s is located on Queen Street in the centre of Whalley and is easy to find. They don’t seem to have a website yet, but I did note that there is a Facebook page. I had heard a few reports that it was well presented, but hadn’t spoken directly to anyone who could give me the full run down on things. I knew food was served, so suggested to Sue that we added it to our Ÿ??places to goŸ? list. Little did I know that an opportunity would arise sooner that I thought! Sue and some of the Girls from the Stables had decided that the morning of Bank Holiday Sunday should be spent firstly getting the horses in from the field and bedding them down for the day, and then secondly, tucking into a cooked breakfast prepared by someone else. They also thought it would be fun if Paula wanted to join them. She did! So, Sue started ringing around trying to book a table for 12 people for Sunday Breakfast. Not as easy as you would think in our part of the World. It was starting to look like it might not even happen! Luck shone through, though. Just as she was in despair having run out of ideas, I was reading the local paper which had run an advertisement feature on Brady’s Wine Bar. And, they were proud to announce that they were open for Breakfast and other foodstuff from 9-00am on Sundays. Perfect! A telephone call confirmed that the advertisement was in fact correct, and they would be happy to see us on Bank Holiday Sunday. Sue and I had been down Manchester to a Wrap Party on the Saturday night, so a lie in might have been nice, but as always in our house, it wasn’t to be. We were up and about first thing so that Sue could go and tend to Dylan and William Ÿ?? her beloved horses, whilst Paula prepared herself for a trip out. Make up was applied, and an outfit consisting of black leggings, a pink fluffy jumper, black knee length boots and matching jewellery was chosen. Hair was brushed, purse was topped up, and I was off in the car at 9-30am to meet the Girls down at Brady’s. Some of them were already in when I arrived, and the rest arrived over the next twenty minutes or so. We were soon a table of twelve noisy, giggling, happy Ÿ??girlsŸ? all busy talking about everything and everybody! It was a lovely atmosphere and I felt honoured to be included in it. The menus were already on the table, so we all chose and wandered over to the bar to order and pay for the food. At first I was disappointed that we couldn’t order our food at the table, but on a practical note, it was easier for everyone to order and pay individually. It prevented the inevitable debate at the end when trying to split a bill between twelve people, some of which had more than others, and some of which had less. Sue and I both went for the full Irish Breakfast, which consisted of bacon, sausages, roast tomato, fried egg, potato farl, a large flat mushroom, baked beans, white and black puddings, and toasted soda bread. All served on a dish type plate which was fairly full to say the least! Sue had a pot of tea, and I had a fresh orange juice. Most of the girls had the same, with just a couple opting for a little less. There’s plenty of choice of varying portion sizes from a simple sausage and egg sandwich upwards. The service was a little slow, but we weren’t in a hurry, and in view of the fact that everything is freshly cooked, I don’t think it would be fair to criticise. It wasn’t too long before the incessant chattering had downgraded to more of a content purring sound. The lady that served our food was fun. She had been working the night before until the wee small hours, and was feeling the pain. She was also quite fascinated by the appearance of a TV at the breakfast table, and I was able to exchange a bit of cheeky banter with her. She wasn’t expecting me, didn’t at first know how to handle me, but ended up hoping to see me again. (Or at least that’s what she said!) By the time we had cleared our plates (literally, all of us!), and finished discussing all the things that girls discuss, it was midday. Throughout the morning people came and went, and I guess there were well over 40 breakfasts served. Brady’s is very smart, with bare brick walls, lots of exposed timberwork, and good solid traditional furnishings. It wouldn’t look out of place in the middle of Manchester. I didn’t check the facilities out, but have since heard reports that they are quite special. I guess we will have to go again and have a look! In all honesty, I don’t think it will be too long before we go again. Maybe in the evening next time. We eventually left the table, giving Brady’s a chance to recover from our visit and ready themselves for the rest of the day. Sue and the Girls went back off to the horses as they inevitably do, whilst Paula went back home, changed into something small and tight, and shot off down into Clitheroe, where she remained until somewhere around midnight. There’s probably another tale or two to tell, but being the Lady that I am, I probably won’t be telling them. I will, however, bob an answer on to the end of the three burning questions: Is Brady’s TV friendly? In all fairness, I don’t think many people noticed me, but I didn’t sense any problems from those that did. Value for money? Sue paid!!!!!! I do happen to know that the breakfast was ô?7-95 and the drinks were extra. That’s probably the going rate for what we had. Besides, you can’t really put a price on sitting with 11 girls having fun. Go again? Watch this space. I’m certain we will go again.

20-04-2015-Urban Cookhouse, Manchester

It’s a long time since my Pescatarian friend and I have eaten out. It’s actually a long time since we did anything together. We both lost a parent within a week, and the associated issues were a little too difficult for us to deal with, resulting in a parting of the ways. These things happen, but I have always been a great believer in the fact that bridges shouldn’t be burnt, so when our paths Ÿ??accidentlyŸ? crossed recently and the possibility of going out one night for a meal arose, I was certainly happy to consider it. Consider it I did, and the results of that consideration can be seen below! Having got the difficult decision out of the way Ÿ?? the fact that we were going to meet up again, all that was left to do was to decide where we were going to go. I was aware that a new venue had very recently opened on the outskirts of The Village called Urban Cookhouse. It is located at 54 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6HS, and can be Ÿ??looked atŸ? by typing in http://www.urbancookhouse.co.uk . It really is just across the road from The Village! I checked out the menu online, and was happy that there was more than enough choice even to keep a Pescatarian happy! So, the decision was made. We had already picked a date, and a meeting time, so all I had to do was make an appropriate booking. This was done online without fuss, leaving nothing else to worry about except an outfit and a slightly damaged relationship that needed a bit of TLC. We were going on a Wednesday, so I picked out a nice outfit based around a bit of purple and silver, nipped into Concord as always for a quick drink, and then ventured forth to meet my friend and proceed to the Cookhouse. I have to admit I was apprehensive, but that had nothing to do with the food side of things. We met, we smiled, we exchanged kisses, and we melted. Nothing had changed! Let’s hope the Restaurant doesn’t let us down. We parked the car right outside, and went in through the front door, where you immediately have to climb up a few steps to the raised level of the venue. It’s very new, so obviously, everything inside is very new. And clean. It really is a smart place. There is a long bar and seating area into which you first walk, and then behind that there is a dining area, with an open kitchen at the rear of the Restaurant. There were about 15 Ÿ?? 20 other people in Ÿ?? all of whom were eating. I do believe you can go in for just a drink, but nobody had. We were shown to our table, offered drinks, and given menus. We ordered a wine and a diet coke, and began the unenviable task of choosing food. It wasn’t actually as difficult as we thought. The menu was varied and interesting, and the only thing that delayed us was the fact that we were sharing one pair of Primarni glasses! This old age thing is getting worse. A Girl can’t even read a menu without glasses nowadays! The glasses were passed to and fro, and options were discussed, eventually resulting in us being able to place an order with our patient waiter. I describe him as patient, due to the fact that it was only on his third visit to the table that we were able to furnish him with the facts he required to enable the Chef to prepare us a meal. I had been totally seduced by the offer of Scallops with black pudding crumble, pea puree, and foam, whilst the Pesco fell in love with the idea of Mushroom Parfait with bruleed pear chutney and chargrilled rye bread. Our starters were served in good time, and for the first time all evening, we stopped talking. Five minutes, and two empty plates later, we were at it again. Talking I mean. No problems so far Ÿ?? the starters were great. Next was the main course. The fish eater had decided that Sea Bream served with coconut rice, tom yum sauce, lime foam, and a crab spring roll might be nice. It was! Meanwhile, I had lost my heart completely to the Pork Belly, which came with roasted apple Ÿ?? an apple that had been scooped out and filled with raisin puree and roasted, fondant potatoes, and cider gel. As I’m sure you could have guessed, we added a side order of chunky chips, just to prove that we could. And chunky they were! They were more like roast potatoes than chips. Once again, the nattering subsided, this time for longer, but we both didn’t take too long in providing our waiter with two more empty plates to take back to the chef. We had another couple of drinks along with our meal, and thoroughly enjoyed our chat and our look around this new and interesting place. It is themed on the old warehouse type of things, with surface run pipework and electrics, and walls cladded with galvanised corrugated sheeting, and yet it remains modern looking as well. Certainly pleasant surroundings to sit in and have a bite to eat. We were served by a waiter and a waitress, depending on who was free, but both were friendly and smiley, and certainly didn’t have any obvious issues with who or what I was. I think they were a bit taken aback by the fact that they had a Pescatarian sat at the table, but then who wouldn’t be? I’ve tried to pad things out a little, but we all know that the inevitable will eventually happen. We all know that at some point in the evening following the removal of empty main course plates, our table will be approached by a representative of the Restaurant owners trying to tempt us with things we shouldn’t have. Sometimes we are strong and manage to resist all temptation of such things, other times we are less strong and fall foul of their tempting offers. This time we fell well and truly foul. Boy, did we fall foul! To make matters worse, we both fell for the same trick. The same sticky, calorie ridden temptation appealed to both our inner weaknesses, and before we knew it we were sat at the table staring down the barrels of two Caramel Trios Ÿ?? honeycomb cr€—me brulee, liquid popcorn, and ras el hanout caramel. For the purpose of completeness, I should briefly describe what this dessert consists of, but I’m actually not going to! If you want to know, you can damn well go, order some, and go through the same mental turmoil I had to go through. I’m happy to go to these places, and I’m happy to write a word or two about them, but I think from time to time, it’s only fair that you should risk your own figures and well being. Needless to say it was to die for, and by the end of the meal there were two happy well fed people sat purring at each other. I did visit the Ladies to powder my nose, and can report that they are beautifully set out Ÿ?? but as I pointed out, they are new, so this probably helped to make them look particularly good. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, and our peacemaking continued onwards as we left to go for a quiet drink elsewhere, so we’ll see how that went in a later Blog no doubt. So all I have to do now with regard to Urban Cookhouse, is answer the following three questions: Is it TV friendly? Yes. But that close to The Village, it would be hard faced not to be! Would I go again? I’m sure I will. Value for money? The meal and drinks described above cost a total of ô?85-00 including an adequate tip. Throw in a bit of peacemaking at the same time, and I reckon that that is more than good value. Only you can decide.

16-03-2015-Bills, Manchester

I’ve had one of those Ÿ??long distance admirersŸ? on my case for quite a while Ÿ?? you may know the type, wants to take me out, wants to wine me and dine me, and wants to marry me and treat me like a Princess for the rest of my life. The problem is, like most men, these desires come and go, coinciding with a rush of blood from the brain down to the lower regions of his body (well, more like the middle regions I guess!). He sends me slushy messages, with all sorts of well intentioned Ÿ??promisesŸ?, but in view of the fact he resides abroad (the Isle of Man is abroad isn’t it?), and bearing in mind the fact that these ideas tend to ebb and flow in time with the rush of blood between his brain and other bits, nothing ever comes to fruition. I’ve always known who and what I am, and have always been willing to help these poor souls along with their little fantasies, however, there is a time when the same slush becomes boring. After a further while, it then becomes a plain nuisance. Yes, you guessed it; he had managed to get an NVQ level 5 in Ÿ??NuisanceŸ?. So I told him. Best way I always believe Ÿ?? let people know where they stand. Or where in fact, they don’t. Basically, I suggested that he Ÿ??put up, or shut upŸ?. He opted for Ÿ??put up!Ÿ? Now that was a surprise. He decided he would fly to Manchester, stay over for a couple of days, and take me out for a meal. Not being one to go back on my word, I accepted his invitation, agreed a date with him, and was prepared to carry on with my life as normal until the fateful day. If only it was that simple! He was now in panic mode. The blood was in the brain, so he didn’t really have the bottle to do it, but every so often it rushed downwards and made it all seem like a good idea. I lost count of the messages he sent me Ÿ?? well over 40, all double checking that I would still turn up. What would I wear? Where would we go? Would he be safe going out with me, or would he be burnt at the stake? Was there somewhere in The Village we could go? And on and on and on. My patience was wearing thin, and I eventually sent him a short sharp email explaining that my outfit would be appropriate for the evening; I would not be eating in The Village Ÿ?? it was Town or nowhere, and if he was scared of being seen out in public with me to cancel the flight and Hotel, and stay at home. I also suggested that he found something better to do than sending me messages about nothing. Looking back, I was probably pretty hard on him, but it had to be done. The man was falling apart! He settled down to life on the Island, and managed to send me less messages, and we eventually had a date, a time, and a meeting place. He also told me where we were eating Ÿ?? I guess he was fishing to see if it would be OK. It was a place I hadn’t eaten at before, and it was in Town, so I told him all was well. He had booked the meal for 7-00pm Ÿ?? an early start so we got more time together, so I suggested we met in Via at around 6-00pm or just after so that I could park on the car park at 6-00pm and get the overnight rate (No. I wasn’t stopping over with him; it’s just a cheaper way to park. Honestly your minds!) Another few messages saw the time draw nearer, and eventually, the day arrived. I wore a nice new purple and silver dress, with matching purple heels, matching underwear (for my benefit, not necessarily his), and some lovely new jewellery that also matched the design of the dress. Topped off with a little black fur shrug, I felt that I looked as a minimum, OK. Within five minutes of meeting, he expressed a slight disappointment that I wasn’t wearing stockings! Why would I wear stockings in a dress that was so short they would show? You just can’t please some people! And bear in mind the fact that this is from a man who has turned up in jeans, a white Tee shirt with a tartan shirt over it and an anorak type jacket. I sometimes wonder! Anyway, never judge a book by its cover, or a man by his anorak. Give him chance; he might be all right once I get him down to the tartan shirt and jeans. I suppose he had one thing going for him Ÿ?? he had at least turned up. He had sent me some pictures so that I could recognise him, but it wouldn’t have mattered Ÿ?? he was good to spot. He was the guy stood at the bar shaking! We said our hello’s, he bought me a diet coke, and we made light conversation, until it was time to walk around the corner and get a cab. We were going to Bills ( www.bills-website.co.uk/restaurants/manchester ), which is located at 8-12 John Dalton Street, Manchester M2 6JP. It was only a 5-10 minute taxi journey, so we were in good time and we continued to manage to make conversation throughout the journey, so all was going well. On entering the Restaurant, we were shown straight in to a table which was in booth type surroundings along with another table occupied by a couple I guessed to be in their thirties. I sat down and made myself comfortable, eagerly awaiting the removal of the anorak, so that I could get the full benefit of the tartan shirt. I had a good view of what was going on from where I was sat, and it was obvious that there was plenty going on. A Hen party of Girls were just to our right, and several other tables were occupied by people various. There were several waiters and waitresses busily dashing around, but amazingly, the first one to come and ask us for a drinks order was a lad I had seen around The Village over the years, so of course, he asked how I was and we had a quick chat. This seemed to unnerve my date Ÿ?? it was almost as if the fact that I had been recognised meant that he had? I ask you! Anyway, I settled him down, and talked through the Menu with him, making sure I got something to eat before he bottled it all together. He wasn’t bothering with a starter, and decided that the Bill’s beer-battered cod, with minted peas, pickled onion, skin-on fries and tartare sauce would be his choice. This sent out a message with regard to budget Ÿ?? a guy takes you out and basically picks fish and chips off the menu without a starter. What was I to do? Should I be polite and also decide that I wouldn’t have a starter, and pick out a cheap main course option, or should I just pick out what I actually wanted and let him suffer the consequences. It wasn’t a big dilemma; after all I deserved something good for the sheer hassle factor of the date! I was having what I fancied! I chose crab, chilli and prawn cakes with baby gem, mango, and spring onion salad to start with, and followed it with pan-fried sea bass with chunky tomato, avocado, and caper salsa with a crispy spring onion and parsley potato rosti. I also added a portion of sweet potato fries just for luck. Lots of spring onion in my choices Ÿ?? hope I didn’t have to kiss anyone later! The food was good, and served with smiles, and we had several drinks over the course of the meal, all of which also came with smiles, and none of the other diners gave us a second glance. The couple next to us left, but not without speaking, and two girls took their place – again, not without speaking. I think in all honesty by the time we were ready for leaving, my date did accept the fact that you can actually eat out in main stream Manchester with a Transvestite without being chased out of Town. I also learned that a man in a red tartan shirt can be reasonable company once you’ve got over the initial nerves and fear. We managed to make reasonable meaningful conversation, and I learnt that he was an ordinary guy who had gone one step further with his fantasies than many others would ever do, so I respected him for that. Anyway, don’t be misled; the food bit isn’t over yet. We’ve had the Starter and the Main Course, but I haven’t mentioned the dreaded Dessert bit. Tonight it wasn’t a problem. My dietary intake had been well prepared over the preceding days, and budget or no budget, I was having a Dessert. The only decision to be made was what to have. It didn’t’ take me long to choose three flavours of ice cream Ÿ?? chocolate, honeycomb, and caramel, and it took me even less time to eat it. I was quite surprised by the fact that he also had a Dessert, deciding to do battle with the lemon meringue cheesecake in a glass. A battle he lost, only managing half of it, but I think it was probably still a touch of nerves and maybe some hopeful anticipation that was affecting his appetite. All in all, I had enjoyed the evening so far Ÿ?? it was now around 11-00pm, so we had made the meal last, and managed to talk all evening. I had learned a little about him, and I guess he had learned a lot about me. I went to powder my nose while he paid the bill Ÿ?? I hate to see a grown man cry. I therefore can’t really comment with regard to the cost. I could add things up off the on-line menu, but I’m not going to do. He paid, so I’ll leave it at that. I can report, however that the facilities are all fine! He had spent the last thirty minutes or so fishing around the possibilities that laid ahead for the rest of the evening Ÿ?? I’m sure you can guess what he had in mind. I didn’t feel I had to Ÿ??earnŸ? my meal, I think I had already more than done that, so I was able to decide with an open mind what we did next. I will be discrete, and leave the rest of the evening to your imagination. All I will say is that he remained polite and respectful, and I enjoyed the latter part of the date as much as I enjoyed the meal. He has kept in touch, and has in fact asked if he could take me away for the weekend. Again, I think at this stage, discretion dictates that I will keep my answer to myself, but we all now that if I do in fact take him up on the offer, I will probably write a bloody blog about it! All I have to do now is tick the final three boxes: Is Bills TV friendly? It certainly is Ÿ?? it’s very friendly. Value for money? I explained above Ÿ?? I don’t know! Would I go again? Yes I would Ÿ?? it’s nothing special, but it does what it says on the tin and does it well!

23-02-2015-The Wellsprings, Sabden, Nr. Clitheroe

Sue and I decided we were due a Friday night out for Ÿ??a bit of teaŸ?. Or, to put it in a slightly more posh way, it was about time we went out for dinner. We had recently driven past The Wellsprings, which describes itself as a Spanish / Mexican Restaurant, and is located on Clitheroe Road, Sabden BB7 9HN. ( www.thewellsprings.co.uk ).This is the road that goes from Clitheroe, over the Nick of Pendle to Sabden and is part of what is described as Pendle Witch Country. Driving past it sort of reminded us that it was there and also prompted us to give it a try. Sue had in fact been on a Saturday night a few months ago, and felt it was worthy of a further visit. The Wellsprings, like all remote country pubs has had a chequered career. In it’s heyday it was a thriving pub and restaurant, always a popular place to go. In fact, due to some quirky licensing law, it was always open on a Sunday afternoon an hour longer than the other local pubs, so all the hardened drinkers would be found flocking up there so they could drink an hour longer, and then put the car in a ditch on the way down Pendle Hill! Fun times! Then as things changed with the tightening of the drink driving laws, these remote places obviously suffered first, and The Wellsprings saw several changes of ownership and periods of closed doors. I’m not sure how long the present owners have been there, but it is quite some time, and they seem to have hit the right note with their choice of food and decor. So, I gave them a call mid week, and booked a table for two for 8-00pm on Friday night. I would have preferred 8-30pm, but I noticed that they only serve food up to 9-30pm, and I didn’t want to feel rushed at the end of the night. It just meant that we had to get home from work a little quicker and get ourselves ready a little faster than we would have done. Friday night soon came round, and what a night it was! It was cold, wet, and windy. Not a great night for driving up Pendle Hill for a meal, but nothing stands in the way of Sue and Paula when it comes to eating out, so we got ready in totally inappropriate outfits for such weather, and set off for our 10 minute drive in good time. Our journey was as uneventful as you would expect a 10 minute journey to be, and we were soon parking up on the car park adjacent to The Wellsprings. We dashed from the car to the Restaurant as quickly as high heels on a gravel, sloping, uneven car park would let us and were soon stood in the porch trying to tidy our hair up a bit before making our grand entrance. We had noticed the car park wasn’t very busy, so we weren’t shocked to find it was pretty quiet. There was a table of four lads near the door, a table of four ladies over by the window, two tables with two girls on in the same area, and a table of six sitting near the road side windows. In my reckoning, that gives us a total of twenty including us. Probably enough to pay the bills, but not enough to make the vast room look full. We introduced ourselves, and were led to a table adjacent to the four ladies on the raised area over by the big windows that would have overlooked the Ribble Valley if it hadn’t been dark, misty, and wet. As it was, we were still able to look out onto a floodlit garden area that was very pleasant. The room itself is also quite well decorated with trees and twinkly LED lights winding their way round the ceiling. In all fairness, you could easily have been sitting abroad somewhere Ÿ?? the decor is quite convincing (how’s that for a Tranny phrase Ÿ?? quite convincing? Hehe!) A couple of diet cokes were ordered (I was driving, and Sue hasn’t had a drink since New Years Eve Ÿ?? Well done Sue!), and we then set to work on reading the menus. I would say there was a fair choice along with an extra Ÿ??specialsŸ? menu. I certainly didn’t struggle choosing something anyway. Sue was also pretty quick off the mark, and we were soon able to pass our order on to the young waiter that was hovering alongside our table. Sue chose the Prawn Cocktail, and I chose the Garlic Prawns with Chilli and Mango dip from the specials menu. As you would expect, much to Sues annoyance they both came accompanied with the statutory Ÿ??green sh*tŸ? as she calls it. (Salad to you and me). Anyway, whatever they came with, it soon disappeared and we weren’t long in handing two empty plates back to our waiter. We did note that our starters were served by a second gentleman who came from the depths of the kitchen. He didn’t appear again, and didn’t serve any of the other diners. I guess he had been told who and what was sitting at the table near the window, and was just taking a quick look. I told Sue she looked silly in that scarf! I just knew she would draw attention to us! Now it was time for the main course. Sue had picked out the mixed pinchitos, which consisted of cubes of chicken and rump steak marinated on skewers and served with chunky chips, Spanish salad, and garlic mayonnaise. I had done the fish thing, and gone for the San Felipe which was grilled swordfish cooked with onions, green peppers, and mushrooms in a ranch salsa sauce. My dish was served with Mexican rice, refried beans, and salad. Both plates were adequately full to start with, and polished clean by the time we had finished. This just left the all important decision with regards to desserts. As part of her new healthy living regime, Sue decided to pass on the dessert course, and instead, ordered a filter coffee. Me, however, being the greedy bitch that I am, decided to sample the Belgian Waffle (in a Spanish / Mexican Restaurant?). It was described as being served hot with vanilla ice cream and creamy chocolate sauce. It wasn’t! It was served lukewarm with vanilla ice cream and was covered in chocolate sauce that you squeeze out of a bottle. In comparison with the rest of the meal it was somewhat disappointing, but it did serve to amuse Sue who thought it was poetic justice that my dessert should be less than brilliant in view of the fact that she had behaved and not had one. Nevertheless, as I’m sure you have already guessed, I did eat it all up, so it can’t have been that bad. We had a further diet coke each during the course of the meal, and noted that the service was cheerful and efficient, and apart from the visit by the guy from the kitchen, I didn’t appear to have caused too much of a stir. In fact, the reactions from the other diners was most disappointing. Not even a titter from the table of four young lads. I must try harder to shock and scare! We had enjoyed our meal and conversation, but once we had finished, we were ready for off. We had both had a busy week at work, and having filled our bellies, we were ready for hitting the hay. No more ado, we paid our bill which was ô?60-00 including a tip, said our goodbyes and thank you’s, and tottered off into what was now a very misty night on the top of Pendle Hill. We managed to get the car down to the bottom without visiting a ditch, and 10 minutes later we were at home ready to put our feet up. All I have to now is answer the three important questions: Would I go again? Yes I would. OK the dessert was disappointing, but overall the food was good, the service was good, and the ambience was great. TV friendly? I guess so. As I said above, I didn’t really seem to be noticed, and I certainly didn’t get rolled down Pendle Hill in a barrel full of spikes like the Witches of old! Value for Money? ô?56-45 plus a tip = ô?60-00. What do you think? I thought it was fine.

08-01-2015-The Tempest Arms, Elslack

I’m not famous for occupying myself other than working when in my alternative mode, so Christmas can sometimes be a daunting period for me. Especially when Sue is working, which she inevitably is at least some of the time (if not usually most of it!). This year had the potential to be even worse, as I have recently lost my Dad after nearly two years of helping my sister and his carers to look after him, and so I suddenly seem to have lots of Ÿ??spare timeŸ? on my hands at funny times of the day. I think Sue had this in mind when she asked me to go with her and some friends to watch the Pendle and Craven Hunt set off from the Village Green in Gargrave, near Skipton, on Boxing Day morning. She knows it isn’t really my type of thing, but she also knew it was important that I kept myself occupied and didn’t let the boredom blues set in. To be honest, I turned the offer down at first, but as I was also determined to try and keep cheerful, I reconsidered and decided it would at least fill in half a day. I was aware that Sue was working at 2-30 pm, so I knew it wouldn’t last all day, and she had also added further information about the trip which involved a table for 6 being booked for lunch at 12-00pm at The Tempest Arms, Elslack, Skipton, BD23 3AY ( http://www.tempestarms.co.uk ). Now food was involved, it was sounding more tempting altogether! She finally made it tempting beyond the point of refusal by adding that the rest of the girls were looking forward to going out with Paula. Paula? I had presumed that it would be Paula’s special male counterpart that would be going, not Paula herself. This trip had just moved up from tempting to not to be missed. I didn’t even think about the fact that the Pendle and Craven Hunt had probably not even heard the word transvestite, let alone met one. I just spent part of Christmas Day wondering what a girl like me would wear when attending the Hunt. I know what she should probably wear, but I also knew that I wouldn’t have that kind of attire in my wardrobe, so I had to come up with an outfit that was available the following morning. Boxing Day saw us up bright and early, with Sue of up to the horses, and me getting ready for her and her friends to pick me up at about 9-30am. I did the usual preparation work, applying all that has to be applied, and then dressed in an outfit consisting of pale blue skinny jeans, a baby pink tight fitting tee-shirt, bright red knee length Hunter wellington boots, and a black leather bomber jacket. Topped this off with a black designer handbag and a pink and black umbrella in case it rained. I knew this may differ slightly from what some of the Country Set may be wearing, but it was a case of making the best of what I had. Besides, I didn’t want to blend into the background too much did I? The collection time soon arrived, and I found myself stood outside the house waiting for my lift. At 9-30am prompt, Sue pulled up and I jumped in besides her friends Jane and Sue C., whilst Brigitte and her daughter Olivia followed on in their car behind. There was no turning back now. Thirty minutes later we were circling the village of Gargrave looking for somewhere to park. The village was packed out with 4 x 4’s, trailers, wagons, horses, and people. We eventually managed to find a couple of spaces, parked up, and jumped out, eager to follow the throngs towards the Village Green. We had to walk down the village, cross the river on the road bridge and then walk along the river bank to the Green. There were brown boots, green wellingtons, corduroy pants, moleskin trousers, green waxed cotton jackets, tweed jackets, checked trilby hats, and flat caps everywhere. And the men were also wearing similar items!! There were not many pairs of pale blue skinny jeans, or red wellingtons, or baby pink tee-shirts, or indeed black leather bomber jackets! Nor were there many umbrellas or designer hand bags. That said, I actually felt quite comfortable. Everyone was that engrossed in the Hunt (and in many cases themselves!), that I didn’t attract too much untoward attention at all. I must try harder next time! There was a general air of excitement mixed with poshness that was occupying everyone’s minds quite adequately. I was an also ran! We soon reached the Green, and noted that there was already a number of large, well turned out, horses with equally large, well turned out riders perched on top of them. Lots of hands were being shaken, and lots of people seemed to want to know lots of others. I suspect there is a lot of social ladder climbing done at events such as this. It was however, quite an atmosphere, and you couldn’t help but share and enjoy the general air of excitement that was buzzing around. It soon got even more exciting as the Hounds appeared at the far end of the village and made their way round to the Green. We became surrounded by over excited little dogs, and an equal number of over excited people. More horses arrived, and before long the Green was more of a brown colour. The apprentice huntsman was doing his best to keep the hounds in some form of order, and was particularly struggling with one errant hound called Ÿ??Ram-RodŸ?. This of course was a source of great amusement as he rushed to and fro on horseback, shouting out Ÿ??Ram-RodŸ? every few seconds. The hounds were treated to little meaty snacks that seemed to appear from under the coat of the Master of the Hunt, but I’m sure they would rather have got their teeth around something more fox-like. Lots of photographs were taken, hats were doffed, pleasantries were exchanged, and it was turning into a damn nice type of a do! And still I managed to blend in! Just after 11-00am, the Master of the Hunt made a small speech thanking everyone for attending, and making sure everyone knew how important it was to keep old traditions going. He also briefly explained that in order to keep within the law, they obviously wouldn’t be hunting foxes. I must admit, I wondered what they would be hunting! Then I heard the fateful words. It was to be a Drag Hunt! All this time I thought I had blended in, not only had I been spotted, but I was just about to be chased across the fields by a pack of hounds and several horses! I was mortified. Sue spotted the terror in my eyes, and very quickly explained that a Drag Hunt was named as such due to the fact that a runner is used to lay a scent about 20 minutes in advance of the hunt. A chemical crystal, mixed with water and oil, is used. The runner simply dips a cloth in the scent mixture and trails it along the ground behind him. The scent, repulsive to humans, is irresistible to hounds though bloodhounds follow the human scent of the runner. What a relief it was to hear that. So, with a toot of the Hunt Masters Horn, and a few Ÿ??Tally Ho’sŸ? they were off, and once the last horse had left the Green, we made our way back into the village where we got into our cars, and set off for our date with a spot of lunch at The Tempest Arms. Elslack was about 10 minutes from Gargrave, back in the direction of home, so by 11-50am we were sat like excited schoolgirls on the car park waiting for the door to open. Just before mid-day, the door opened, and along with several other people, we rushed into The Tempest Arms. Sue, Sue, and Jane had all been before, but to the rest of us it was all a new adventure. My Sue introduced herself to a member of staff, and within a couple of minutes we were being shown to a table in the middle of the Pub. It was imperative that things flowed smoothly and quickly, because Sue had to leave no later than 1-20pm to enable her to change and get to work at Preston for 2-30pm. I think Sue may have mentioned her predicament, so we were quickly provided with menus and offered drinks. In view of the fact that there were 6 of us, and also bearing in mind I have written enough to bore you to death already, it is probably best if I just describe what I had to eat and drink rather than give you a chapter and verse description of everyone’s meal. The menu was extremely varied Ÿ?? a sample can be seen on the website, and there was also a separate Ÿ??specialsŸ? sheet running alongside it. I do so much appreciate it when the specials are on a piece of paper Ÿ?? you get chance to study and choose far easier than when trying to focus on a blackboard 40 yards away! I started off with a Diet Coke to drink, and food wise decided that I would sample the Trio of Fish and Seafood plank which consisted of Crayfish, smoked salmon and smoked mackerel pate with dips and Melba toast. This I followed with Fillet of Salmon which was also provided with various vegetables and a bed of mashed potato. I have to say it was well presented, and extremely tasty. The rest of the Girls had a variation of different culinary delights, the only thing in common being empty plates and satisfied tummies all round. Unfortunately, Sues witching hour as soon coming round, but it was decided that to help her out, Brigitte would take the rest of us back so that Sue could simply shoot off home, change and go to work. It also meant that we now weren’t in so much of a rush. The nett result of this was that the Dessert menu could now be considered. Some had Desserts, whilst some had coffees. I’m not much of a coffee person, so I decided to try a scoop of their Jaffa Cake ice cream. Bloody lovely! We all sat chatting, and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed the company of Sue’s friends. I am so lucky in the way that so many people accept me for exactly who and what I am (or for exactly what I actually am not!) We all had starters and main courses, whilst two of us had Desserts and the rest had coffees. Some drank wine, and some drank soft dinks. Some meals were more expensive than others, but we all agreed, however, that we’d pretty much had equal value, so we decided to split the bill equally between the six of us. A quick calculation by young Olivia left us all with just over ô?22-00 each to pay, so it was unanimously agreed that we should throw ô?25-00 each into the pot, leaving a more than adequate tip. This is the moment that I felt a little less sorry for Sue having to make an early departure. My ô?25-00 suddenly became ô?50-00! It’s moments like this you realise; you’ll never equal a real woman! The Tempest Arms by this time was pretty much full to capacity, but everything seemed calm and controlled, and our service certainly left us nothing to complain about. My presence went pretty much unnoticed, and the Staff and customers alike had no apparent problem with me being there. The menu was varied and reasonably priced, and the surroundings are very much what you would expect in a country pub. All that was left for us to do now was to go home, and get changed following which I went up and fed Sues Horses so that when she finished work she could come straight home. The Girls found it quite amazing to see me again in a different mode, within an hour of dropping me off at home dolled up to the nines. What an amazing life! I know I haven’t written much about the meal side of things at The Tempest Arms, but I think you get the jist of it, and I will, of course answer the three burning questions: Is The Tempest Arms TV friendly? It certainly was on Boxing Day, and I have no reason to believe it will ever be anything different. Value for Money? ô?25-00 each? I rest my case. Would I go again? I definitely would, and suspect I definitely will be doing. Sue has been before, and I know it’s on her list of good places to go.

05-01-2015-The Botanist, Manchester

Between Christmas and New Year, Sue managed to wangle a couple of days off. With working in Retail, she has, as you could imagine, been working long hard hours for several weeks now, and she was ready for the break. She was also a little more than slightly under the weather! She has been battling this Ÿ??girl fluŸ? that seems to have been about, and didn’t appear to be winning. I therefore treaded more than gingerly when I started dropping hints about a visit to Manchester shopping. It was more than worth a try, but not worth pushing too hard. She was overtired, poorly, and a little less patient than normal. My early attempts fell on cold ridden, deaf ears. So I left it at that. I don’t do too bad overall, and one thing I have learnt through becoming Paula is that Sue deserves more than a little consideration. However, my suggestions hadn’t been totally ignored, and whilst at work on Monday, I got a text from Sue saying that a trip to the shops the following day might help her feel a bit better. Brilliant! I had written the idea off, choosing to try again later in the week rather than fall in to the bad books. It was even better when during the evening the conversation indicated that Sue was expecting to be out with Paula rather than her alter ego. I went to bed an excited little girl, hoping the night would pass quickly so that the morning would arrive faster. Silly, I know, but nevertheless true. It didn’t pass any quicker than normal, but even so, it soon came around. Sue shot off to the stables to feed her horses and I started to get ready. I picked out a casual shopping outfit Ÿ?? jeans, knee length boots, and a fluffy jumper, sorted out some appropriate underwear, and then proceeded to make myself look reasonable(ish). I applied the many layers, gave my eyes a bit of colour to match the jumper, sorted my hair out, made my lips glossy and pink, and was just about ready when Sue returned. She changed, and we hit the road for an uneventful journey into Town. By 10-00am we were sitting in the Metro Cafe eating Welsh Rarebit, and Toasted Currant Teacake, drinking Tea and Fresh Orange juice. I won’t do a blog on the Metro Cafe Ÿ?? we go there a lot, but only for snacks. Needless to say, it is obviously good quality, reasonably priced, and TV friendly, or we wouldn’t keep going back! The next project was shopping. We were soon carrying a few bags around containing a dress, new boots, a new jumper, jewellery, an umbrella and that was just for me! Sue also got a couple of jumpers and a few day to day things she needed. Things were going well. Actually, things were going great! By the time we had lapped both levels of the Arndale centre, visited Primarni, dropped some bags in the car boot, and got onto Market Street it was lunchtime. Sue fancied Deansgate Ÿ?? we enjoy people watching down there, so with nothing more planned, we walked on down there. I think she fancied The Living Room Ÿ?? it’s one of her favourites, but just before we got there, a new place called The Botanist caught her eye. It is next door to The Living Room, situated at 78 Deansgate, Manchester M3 2 FW, and can be visited online at http://www.thebotanist.uk.com . We weren’t sure if it was open. It actually appeared to be closed, and the menus on display didn’t have any opening times on them. We peered in through the door, and thought we could see some activity inside, so I took the decision to push the door and see what happened. It opened! Quite novel for a door I thought! Once we got in and walked down the entrance passage, we realised it was actually quite busy. I decided I would mention this to them at some point Ÿ?? they definitely need an Ÿ??OpenŸ? sign or something, or they need to seat early Diners in the front half of the Restaurant to ensure people know they are open for business. I did decide, however, that I would wait and see how we were received first before wading in in my knee length boots telling them how to run things. We were welcomed, and shown through to a table, where we were offered drinks and provided with menus. We also had chance to look around, and were both impressed with the decor. It looked like Drew Pritchard off Salvage hunters had provided all the furnishings. It was quirky and quaint with lots of Ÿ??shabbyŸ? second (or maybe even third) hand furnishings and fittings. We liked it. We actually liked it a lot. Whilst looking around though, we didn’t totally ignore the job in hand, and also made sure we had studied the menus ready for when our order was required. It didn’t take long before our Waiter delivered two Diet Cokes to the table and took our order. Sue started the ball rolling with Salt and Pepper Onion Petals with sour cream which were slivers of onion in a salt and pepper coating, with, yes, you guessed, sour cream. I, however, decided I was more suited to Pork Crackling with chilli, spring onion and sweet apple sauce. I guess you can work out what that consisted of! We both agreed that they were tasty, and the portions were more than adequate. As you would imagine, starters were then followed by main courses, with Sue having Scampi and Chips with Tartare Sauce. This came with the Scampi served in a basket hamper complete with lid and leather strap Ÿ?? another quirky little detail. I filled my boots (remember, the knee length ones….), with Coronation Chicken Sandwich and Chips. Both plates were also adorned with the usual Ÿ??green shitŸ? as my darling, eloquent better half puts it. I do know where she is coming form Ÿ?? you rarely eat a meal in a Restaurant, that doesn’t have some form of greenery on the plate, but I’m not sure I would label it in the same vein that she does! Greenery or not, it was good, and we were both soon looking at empty plates Ÿ?? admittedly, I did assist Sue in the greenery department, but that was all I had to help her with. Whilst we were eating, we also noticed a little girl on the next table being served with her meal Ÿ?? it was fish and chips in a wooden box like you made in woodwork class (or like the boys made whilst you were doing needlework) with the chips in a yellow child’s bucket with a bright red handle. Perfect idea. They certainly know how to do the quaint and the quirky thing here. We also had another drink each whilst we were eating. I had a diet coke, but Sue had spotted some non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu, so she decided to sample a Grape, Raspberry and Elderflower Cooler – Raspberry pur€÷e, elderflower cordial, grapes, sugar syrup, orange and cranberry juice which was served in what you could only describe as a rather thick jam jar with a handle on it. How did I know it was thick? I asked it a few questions! Bum bum! We were both quite full, and Sue was going out for a meal with her family later in the day for her Sisters 60th birthday, so we pretty much decided not to bother with the desserts. I suppose the clue there was the phrase Ÿ??pretty much decidedŸ?. That gives it way that it wasn’t a totally foregone conclusion. In fairness to the Restaurant, we felt we should at least read the Dessert section of the menu. It would be totally rude not to. So we did. Just a look. So……………………………… Sue had the Peach Melba Ice Cream Sundae, and I had the Strawberry and Marshmallow Kebab with Sailor Jerry chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream. Now for those of you who don’t know Sailor Jerry, he’s a rather hearty type of chap who likes a spot of rum in his chocolate sauce. And who can blame him. My dessert was served on quite a contraption – it consisted of a metal frame with a wooden bowl at the bottom containing the ice cream, and then a skewer suspended over it containing alternate strawberries and marshmallows. There is a small dish at the top with a hole in it, into which you are supposed to pour the chocolate sauce which in turn then dribbles down the skewer and its contents. The waitress did advise me, however, not to do that, but to simply dip everything into the sauce so as not to waste any on the metalwork. A first class tip! We shared a final Diet Coke whilst we enjoyed our desserts, and then sat taking in the atmosphere, and discussing how much we had enjoyed everything. The service was quick, but unrushed, the food was delightful, the surroundings were more than interesting, and it was busy enough to have a real atmosphere. My presence had not caused any rumblings whatsoever, and believe it or not, we parted with a grand total of ô?45-00 including a tip before we left. As we paid the bill, I complimented the staff, but took the trouble to tell them of our early thoughts with regard to the general appearance of Ÿ??closednessŸ? They were genuinely concerned, and one of the girls came out with us as we were leaving to look at things from a prospective Customers point of view. She totally agreed with us, and from her reaction, I would be very surprised if some form of action isn’t taken. I bet you already know the answers to the three we always ask, but just in case, here we go: Is The Botanist TV friendly? Yes, it is friendly full stop. I don’t think they care who or what you are, it’s just that type of place. Value for Money? As you know, I rarely push this part of things because I think value is often down to the individual concerned, but on this occasion, I feel I have to stand up and be counted with a definite swing towards the good value side of things. Read what we had and work it out – ô?45-00 for all that lot can not be classed as expensive! Would I go again? I would, and have no doubts that I will be. Soon

05-01-2015-101 Brasserie, Manchester

As Christmas was fast approaching, I reckoned it was time for Paula to get out and about a bit and sample some food. As usual, I had left things a little late so some of the places I had thought of trying were all booked up, or only had obscure times available. Eventually, however, I stumbled across 101 Brasserie which is situated at the Manchester Townhouse Hotel, 101 Portland StreetManchesterM1 6DF Ÿ?? just around the corner from the Village! An online reservation was made, and I soon received both a text and an email to tell me they were eagerly awaiting a visitation. Well maybe I exaggerate a little when I use the word eagerly, but they were however expecting me and a friend. As you would expect, we started the evening off with a drink in the Village, and then walked up Princess Street onto Portland Street where we found 101 Brasserie nestling neatly under the Hotel. Not a particularly long walk, but further than you really wanted to on a cold Winters night whilst wearing rather skimpy dresses and extremely high heels. Never mind, the fresh air would do us good! Into the Bar we went, and after a brief introduction we were shown directly to our table which was up a few steps on a raised dining area. It isn’t a big Restaurant area, and I would say it was about 75% full with approximately 20 other diners. We were offered drinks and presented with Menus, and we made ourselves comfortable ready for the Feast! A Wine and Soda and Diet Coke soon arrived, and after a few hard minutes concentration, we managed to choose something to eat off the fairly varied Menu. Whilst we were busy chatting and choosing, the young couple on the adjacent table were being served with their main courses. Unfortunately there was a minor spillage incident which left the man carrying out an avoidance manoeuvre to ensure he wasn’t covered in gravy. He was just about successful, so apart from the Waiter feeling slightly embarrassed, no harm was done. We did however make eye contact during the incident, and were soon sharing a conversation with them which added to the enjoyment of the evening. It was their third visit to the Restaurant, so we guessed it must be at least OK! Fortunately, our starters arrived and were served without incident, and I was soon enjoying Pan Seared Scallops wrapped in pancetta, with mixed seaweed salad, whilst my friend enjoyed a dish of leek and potato soup. Both were well presented, and judging from the empty plates soon to be found in front of us, both equally tasty. Unusually, we had both chosen the same main course. We were slightly influenced by events on the adjacent table, as the male half of the couple had chosen Venison Loin, and it looked damn good. Yes, you’ve guess it, we had Venison Loin. It was served with carrots and a small amount of mashed potato, and we also added a portion of creamed brussel spouts and a portion of hand cut chips, just to ensure there was no bare porcelain showing on the plate. Which was silly really, because we then proceeded to try our best to uncover all the bare porcelain on the plate. A feat we both managed admirably. The Venison was absolutely beautiful, quite pink and rare, and very tender. It must have been good Ÿ?? we actually stopped talking……………… for a brief while. Once again, we were able to send totally empty plates back into the kitchen, both agreeing that we had thoroughly enjoyed our food so far. We chatted again with the next table (well Ÿ?? to the couple sat at it), and learnt that it was their first night out since having a new baby, and that they were going to a show at Matt and Phreds later in the evening. She has a horse of the same breed as my wife’s, and they both enjoyed eating out whenever possible. All in all, we had quite a bit in common, and they didn’t have any problem in conversing with the Tranny in the next table. A bloody decent young couple I would say. We wished them good night, and hoped they enjoyed the rest of their evening as they left for a drink on route to Matt and Phreds, and we then got on with the next big decision of the night. Did we have a dessert or did we not? We decided that as it was our sort of Christmas Do, we should really push the boat out and go the whole Hog. It was a joint decision that took all of three seconds to make, so when out Waiter returned, we readily accepted his offer of Dessert Menus. We also enjoyed a bit of light Banter with him. He was quite a tall young man dressed in a smart pair of black pants, pale blue shirt, and black braces. He seemed quite determined to let us know that we was older that we probably thought, but to be honest, I don’t think either of us had given his age much thought anyway. As far as we were concerned, he was smart, well dressed, attractive, and old enough! Lol. Now, where was I? An attractive young Waiter………………………………..Oh, no, I remember, Desserts. Yes, having decided we were having Dessert, we had now to choose Dessert. As always, the choosing bit is often quite difficult. There were all sorts to choose from, and it all seemed viable. Eventually, my friend managed to narrow it down to the Baked Custard Tart, and I went head over heels for the Banana Foster Ÿ?? a baked banana served on top of a pastry type tartlet, covered in cream and sticky toffee sauce. It was even more attractive than the Waiter! And, I suspect, just as tasty. Yet again we cleared our plates, and as we were enjoying the overall ambience of the evening, we decided to finish events off with a Latte for my friend and a Baileys over ice for me. Perfect! We had, luckily, just finished our after dinner drinks, when our Waiter came to inform us that due to Hotel rules, they operated a Residents only policy after 11-00pm, and as it was 11-15pm, could we possibly go! He put it more politely obviously, but the outcome was the same. As I said, we had in fact finished anyway, but nevertheless, it isn’t what you would expect to happen at 11-15 pm in a City Centre Restaurant. It didn’t spoil our night Ÿ?? it just meant less time chatting over a table and more time wiggling our arses over a dance floor. I’m sure we would cope with that! So with no more ado, we paid our bill of ô?86-40 plus a tip, got our coats brought back to the table, and were then shown out through the Residents Lounge and the main Hotel entrance, back onto Princess Street, where our food adventure had begun several hours earlier. I can’t comment on the facilities with regard to the powdering of the nose, as I did not make use of them, but I have no reason to doubt their existence and suitability for purpose. I can, however, answer the three questions we normally ask ourselves thus: Is 101 Brasserie TV friendly? Yes. No problems with the Staff or any of the Clients that were in on the night. Treated with respect throughout the evening. Value for money? You have read what we had, and you know what it cost us Ÿ?? you decide. I was happy, but as I have said many, many times, we put different values on different things. Would I go again? Yes I would. It will probably be a while, but only because there are many more new places to try first.

18-11-2014-Mitton Hall, Whalley

Whilst I have dined out quite a few times lately, they have been repeat visits to places I have already told you about, so rather than bore the chicken fillets off everyone, I have left the keyboard alone for a while. Last Friday, however, saw somewhere new. It was Sue’s birthday, and she had decided we should go out and celebrate, Who was I to argue, so I had a bit of a hunt around and came up with Mitton Hall ( http://www.mittonhallhotel.co.uk ). It is located at Mitton near Whalley, which is about 10 minutes drive from home for me, and is a very large imposing Venue, so I thought it might be worth a try for a special occasion. I couldn’t book on line, so I gave them a call and was able to book a table for two for 8-30pm, which was a perfect time for us. I was asked if it was for anything special, so I let them into the secret that it was my wife’s birthday and was informed that they would Ÿ??do a bit of somethingŸ? for her. I laughed to myself as I wondered if they realised how special the night would actually be! Little did they know, but Paula was coming too! We duly got home as early as possible from work on Friday, grabbed a bathroom each, and started to make ourselves look pretty. Sue seemed to have far more luck with this than I was having, but I tried my best, and eventually we emerged both looking fit to travel. Into the car, a short drive, and 15 minutes later we were walking across the gravel driveway of Mitton Hall having had to park the car miles away over the far side of the car park. When I say miles away, maybe I exaggerate, but in heeled shoes on a cold night with no jacket on, it certainly seemed a long way! We were a little early Ÿ?? it was about 8-00pm, but all the better for having a relaxing drink before our meal. Having entered through the main entrance, we were left standing in a massive hallway with a roaring fire, lovely period furnishings, and a ceiling that was somewhere up in the Gods. It was everything a Girl could wish for on a cold November night. Everything that is, except someone to welcome her and show her through to the Bar. We waited a minute or two, and then decided to make our own way towards the noise in the hope that we were doing what we were supposed to do. En-route, we did meet up with a rather flustered young lady who was going to ignore us. She didn’t, because I spoke to her, but other than that, she would have done. Once I had introduced ourselves, she asked us to continue through to the Bar, and said she would be back with some Menus. Mmmm, not the best of starts, but not to worry, I was sure things would improve. We went to the Bar, ordered a couple of drinks, and found some seats around a small table where we could sit and have our drinks and also get a good view of what was going on. It became obvious that in the next room there was a wedding party. I’m led to believe that if you want your wedding do at Mitton Hall, you have to join a very long waiting list, so maybe that is why the Staff were all either flustered or missing! We remained upbeat Ÿ?? there was no reason why the wedding should spoil our night, we were sure they could deal with a wedding party and a Restaurant at the same time. Or could they? Time would tell. A Waiter brought us some menus, and we shared the Team glasses whilst we attempted to read the menus and decide what we should have to eat. Whilst we were sitting drinking, chatting, and choosing, one of the lads sat on the next table to us was unlucky enough to have his drink spilt down his back by one of the bar staff as he served a round of drinks. Everyone was very apologetic, and his jacket was whisked away to be cleaned, but id did seem indicative off the level of service that was on offer. There just seemed to be an air of semi chaos hanging over the place. I was certain that Paula would be called Ÿ??SirŸ? tonight. It was just going to happen. By the time our Waiter returned for our order, we had managed to make some decisions, so we placed our order and then went and got a second drink from the bar. I was served by the same guy as the first time, and he was very polite, got the drinks right, and managed to call me Ÿ??MadameŸ?. Perhaps I would be wrong. Eventually, our Waiter reappeared, and showed us to our table. I say eventually, because it was now 9-10pm. I don’t usually clock watch when eating out, but on this occasion, Sue was hungry having skipped lunch at work, and nobody had actually acknowledged the fact we had been kept waiting with any form of explanation or apology. Anyway, no point in worrying, at least we were at the table! And the young man who had shown us through had got everything right Ÿ?? both our chairs were pulled out, and we were both referred to as Ÿ??MadameŸ?. Things weren’t all bad! Our starters arrived, and I was soon tucking into Pan Fried King Scallops Cauliflower Pur€÷e, crisp Bury Black Pudding & Apple Salad, whilst at the other side of the table Sue had a dish of her favorite French Onion Soup Served with Gruyere Croutons. No complaints food wise so far, both plates were sent back to the kitchen scraped clean. For main course, Sue had chosen Sirloin Steak Served with Rocket Salad, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Peppercorn Sauce and hand cut chips. I, on the other hand, had gone for the Tandoori Monkfish Roast Tail of Tandoori Spiced Monkfish with Bombay Potatoes, Coconut Foam & Red Lentil Dahl. Unfortunately, there was not the option of ordering side dishes, so we both felt a little Ÿ??underfedŸ? with what we received. Quality wise Ÿ?? great. Quantity wise Ÿ?? a little less than required. During the course of our meal, Sue did ask for a jug of water. In fact, Sue asked for a jug of water on three occasions. Not because she was very very thirsty, but because the first two requests did not have the desired effect. You know what they say Ÿ?? third time lucky! The Waitress who was now serving us, was very pleasant and friendly, just not very efficient. It was a special night, and we were determined not to spoil it, but I have to admit, by pudding time, Mitton Hall had lost its shine. I even wondered if it would affect our judgment in the pudding department, but thankfully, we were both able to rise above the situation and study the pudding menu with clear, focused minds. Sue demanded that the Chef prepare her Champagne & Strawberry Jelly Served with Brandy Snaps, Macaroons, Lemon Curd & Clotted Cream Ice Cream, whilst I made do with the Sticky Toffee Pudding Toffee Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream. As with the other two courses, you certainly couldn’t knock the quality. They were both exquisite. Sue was also delighted when our Waitress returned to the table with two glasses of bubbly and a slate containing a heap of strawberries and raspberries drizzled in white chocolate, with the words Ÿ??Happy BirthdayŸ? also spelt out in white chocolate. A very thoughtful touch. It sort of made up for things. Almost. By now we had got to the coffee part of the meal. I don’t often bother with coffee Ÿ?? it has the unpleasant effect of giving me road rage and all sorts of other horrible things, so I tend to give it a miss. Sue, however, did fancy a coffee, so we ordered coffee for one, and retired into the main entrance area where we could watch what was going on, and nurse the big open fire for a while. The Restaurant hadn’t been particularly busy Ÿ?? we guessed about 8 or 10 other people when we looked back, but it was obvious from the noise coming out from beyond the bar, and the amount of wobbly people wandering to and fro from the toilets that the wedding party was well attended and in full swing. It was also obvious that Mitton Hall hasn’t quite enough quality staff to be able to function ordinarily throughout when hosting a big party. The meal had been good. But only good. Not outstanding, and the service had been less than good. It continued through to the point of us wanting to leave. The reception desk remained unmanned, and eventually I had to go into the bar and ask if someone would take some money from us. I got passed from one person to another until eventually a new face appeared with a piece of paper and a card machine. It wasn’t particularly expensive – ô?76-65, so even though it hadn’t been great, I was still going to leave a tip. I used the word Ÿ??wasŸ?, because the inevitable happened. The new face who was now driving the card machine asked me Ÿ??was everything all right Sir?Ÿ? I looked around over my shoulder Ÿ?? looking for the man who was stood behind me, and then looked back at him. He knew. I didn’t bother answering, just typed the amount in, pressed the OK button, and handed it him back. He smiled apologetically, and then dropped the card machine on the floor causing it to become several pieces. My turn to smile. When he eventually got it back together, he handed me my receipt and wished us good night. We retreated out into the night and wandered across the gravel drive, both agreeing that whilst it hadn’t been a disaster, it had tried its best! The three all important questions now need answering: Is Mitton Hall TV friendly? In its defence, I have to say Ÿ??YesŸ?. The bulk of the staff got it right, and the customers we came across didn’t even seem to notice. None of the wedding guests seemed to bother, and I certainly didn’t feel out of place. Value for money? How do I answer this one? If you don’t thoroughly enjoy something, can you claim to have had value for money? I didn’t feel that I had been ripped off, or anywhere near that Ÿ?? merely that I could have had a better night. The food was good, and the surroundings are without doubt magnificent. I therefore conclude that I just about had value for money. Would I go again? Sue and I discussed this bit as we left the car park. We both agreed that we wouldn’t refuse to go if asked, or go hungry rather than go there, but we certainly won’t be rushing back.