09-09-2014-The Swan with Two Necks, Pendleton, Clitheroe

According to my postal address, I live in Pendleton. According to me, I don’t! It’s about a mile and a half away, across the other side of a major A road. Nevertheless, it’s a nice place to have named on your gas bill. Pendleton is a quaint Lancashire village, with a stream running down the middle of it, a village hall, a church, and a pub. The pub is called the Swan with Two Necks, and it’s what you would describe as a proper local pub. It’s been in the same hands for well over twenty years, has a regular local clientele, and serves pub grub. I believe it also wins awards for its beer or something Ÿ?? I’ve seen it in the local paper, but I have to admit, I’m not sure what it is exactly that they’ve won, or quite what they won it for. The Swan with Two Necks also hit the headlines recently for other reasons. It’s the local pub frequented by Nigel Evans, our local Conservative MP and former Deputy Speaker who had been accused and subsequently cleared of various sexual misdemeanours of the homosexual type. For a short while, the National Press made the Swan with Two Necks its headquarters whilst trying to catch Nigel coming out of his adjacent Cottage. I realise that Ÿ??coming outŸ? and Ÿ??cottageŸ? may be unfortunate words to use whilst mentioning Mr. Evans, but there is no pun intended. Tea at the Swan with Two Necks has been on Sue’s wish list for quite a while, and as usually happens in life, we never quite get around to it. Subsequently, when we had a free Sunday teatime about four or five weeks ago, we made a last minute decision to go and tick it off the list. I went cross dressed as a man, and we arrived about five minutes before they were stopping taking orders. Just in time! Or we would have been, had my security alarm at work not had the audacity to telephone me and inform me that we were possibly being broken into. We promptly made our apologies and dashed off to work, only to find that the alarm was thankfully false. Meanwhile, back at the Swan, meals had ceased! This meant that we went elsewhere, and Sue’s wish list remained unchanged. As I’m sure you are all aware, we have just had Pride weekend in Manchester. This involved Paula finishing work early on the Friday and hotfooting it to Manchester until the early hours of Saturday morning. Returning home briefly, before heading back to Manchester where she remained until mid Sunday afternoon. By which time, she was Ÿ??Paula’d outŸ?. Her feet were sore, her face and eyes were tired and tight due to the numerous layers of cosmetic product that had been slapped on (and maybe also due to the lack of sleep!), and she was generally ready for a regroup with reality at home. She had already made arrangements to return to Manchester on the Monday, so a much needed break was on the cards. She washed all her Paula clothes that she had worn, cleansed, showered, moisturised and generally pampered herself in a valiant effort to feel better. It nearly worked, but still left her lying on the bed feeling rather sorry for herself. Having been informed that I was coming home, Sue suggested that we may make another attempt at having tea at the Swan with Two Necks. In view of the fact that I had been conspicuous by my absence, I readily agreed, eager to top my brownie point bucket back up. Sue did say that we could go with me in either mode Ÿ?? Dave, or Paula. Very thoughtful of her, but in all fairness, Paula just wasn’t up to it. So when Sue returned from the Stables at teatime, it was her husband she found about to get ready, and not his alter ego. She was surprised, and I have to admit, so was I. It was most unusual, but Paula just couldn’t face it. Or could she? The conversation that we had about my weekend to date was all about Paula, and my appetite was already whetted! Add to this, Sue’s surprise that Paula didn’t want to play out, and it did the trick. The hormones started racing around, and all of a sudden, I felt myself wanting to do it. A quick time check confirmed that if Paula was super quick getting ready, we could just about make the food deadline. Yes, you guessed, Paula was going out for tea! Clothes were chosen, underwear was put on, make up was applied, shoes were painfully climbed into, and not too long later, Paula was fit to travel. Just. We jumped in the car, and off we went. I must admit, I wasn’t sure if the Swan with Two Necks was ready for Paula on a Bank Holiday Sunday afternoon, but ready or not, they were going to get her. We arrived five minutes later, to find all the tables outside the pub fully occupied, as were all the nearby parking spaces. This meant parking further down the Village and walking up to and through several Sunday afternoon diners and drinkers. My best wiggle was required, and indeed delivered, and I managed the walk with dignity and poise, and without incident. So far so good. All we had to do now was enter the pub and take things from there. I must admit, we, or maybe I should say I, turned heads. We stopped conversations, and caused gulps during beer drinking, but we were in, and we were at the bar, so nothing else mattered. An old female friend of mine was serving behind the bar, and although she had obviously heard about what I did, she had never seen me. In her words, she was shocked! And I could tell! I think it was a nice kind of shocked, but it had taken her by surprise, and she was struggling to conceal it. However, she remained professional and friendly, and quickly warmed to the situation. We ordered drinks, and asked if we could order some food. She showed us to a table, provided menus, and slowly, but surely, life in The Swan with Two Necks, Pendleton, returned to normal. I had, as always, shown tact and thought when choosing the outfit, and was wearing a dress ideally suited to dining out in the local pub. You know the one Ÿ?? lime green, very tight and figure hugging with an overall length that extended just below the gusset. And when I say just, I mean just. I think that, coupled with the 6Ÿ? platform heels I was wearing, the dress had been helpful in getting me noticed. Oh, and the fact that I was a Transvestite might also have had something to do with it. Our next door neighbours were already sitting dining, so any previous thoughts I had had with regard to whether they knew about Paula or not were now answered. I’m hardly discreet, and Paula makes several appearances a week around the house and garden, but they never seemed over curious, which always made me wonder whether the high wooden fence and shrubbery helped to disguise me. Anyway, if they didn’t know before, they certainly know now. We were also sitting next to a table of six, at which was one of my customers and his wife. I obviously knew him, but he didn’t know me, so the challenge was to make sure that he still didn’t know me when I left. Whether my bar tending friend dropped my name after I left or not, I still have to find out. Anyway, I’ve written a lot of waffle here without actually mentioning food, so I better get back to the job in hand. We studied the menus, and also the blackboard with the specials on, and were quickly able to make a decision. We both ordered Prawn Cocktail to start with, after which, Sue chose the Salmon and Prawn Mornay, and I went for the Cajun Salmon. A very fishy situation all round! A large dish of the usual traditional vegetables was also provided, and we were given a choice of chipped, new, or dauphinoise potatoes. We both went in the chips direction. The food is prepared by the Landlord, who was constantly in and out of the kitchen in an attempt to both cook, whilst also having a bit of banter with his regulars, and the landlady was involved in the serving up of the food alongside my friend from behind the bar. Our meal came in good time, and was hot and well presented. Well, the main course was hot. We’d have been less than impressed if the Prawn Cocktail had been served with steam rising from the dish! The portions were good to large, and whilst basic, everything was pretty much as it should have been. I personally felt that the Prawn Cocktail was a little overburdened with lettuce, but in its defence, there were also plenty of prawns. Once we had demolished our starters and main courses, it was time to face up to the pudding challenge. On this occasion, Paula conceded defeat, and decided not to bother. There was an underlying reason for this Ÿ?? she was secretly hoping that we would maybe go out into Clitheroe and have a few drinks after the meal, now she had got her second wind. So to speak! Sue, however, was more than happy to face up to a dessert, and was quick to choose the Lemon Meringue that was amongst the varied choices. And face up to it she did. It looked good, and from the various gurgles and appreciative type noises that were coming from her side of the table, I can only assume that it was. Any hopes I had of finishing off what she couldn’t manage were soon dashed. During the course of our meal we had a couple of drinks, and managed a couple of brief conversations with my friend in between her busy glass collecting and beer serving duties. The Swan with Two Necks remained busy throughout our visit, with the majority of the people in there eating. It was obvious from the overheard conversations, that many of them were regular visitors, and that it was quite common for them to be eating their Sunday tea there. Everyone seemed to know each other, and first name terms seemed to be the norm. Once we had finished our drinks, we paid our bill at the bar and said our goodbyes. I didn’t visit the facilities, so couldn’t tell you anything about them, other than I know they have some! Our bill rounded up to ô?50-00 with the drinks and a tip included, so no problems there. All that was left to do now, was to make sure I made a suitable exit without tripping, stumbling, or doing anything else that might embarrass me. I managed. We then jumped into the car, where I succeeded in convincing Sue that she would enjoy another drink or two in Clitheroe. I had to offer to drive as part of the deal, but that was no problem Ÿ?? she deserves a drink when she’s out with Paula! A few pictures, a couple of karaoke songs, and a general good craic followed in the Buck Inn, before we finally headed for home several hours later. The three usual questions will of course require answering, and I will attempt to do so: Is the Swan with Two Necks, Pendleton TV friendly? It certainly didn’t present me with any problems. I was aware that I had caused more of a stir than maybe some of the other places I have visited, but I didn’t feel unwelcome in any way. In fact, a subsequent conversation between Sue and our barmaid friend confirmed that we had been more than popular, with us being the topic of conversation for the rest of the evening! I shudder to think what was said, but she assured Sue it wasn’t anything untoward. Value for Money? As I said, the Swan with Two Necks is very much your basic local pub serving basic local pub grub. That said, the food we had was tasty, well presented, and plentiful, so I had no concerns in paying the bill I was presented with. Go again? Oh, I’m sure we’ll go again, even if it’s just to show them that we can! I mean, why wouldn’t we?

27-08-2014-Aspinall Arms, Mitton, Near Whalley

As I have previously mentioned, my better half Sue and I have pledged to try and get out together once a fortnight for something to eat. As we could have predicted, life tended to take over, and before we had realised, we had missed a few weeks. It was all down to good reasons Ÿ?? Paula nights out, Weddings, Horse Shows, Work etc etc. Actually though, when you start to analyse it, you can always come up with a good excuse not to do something, so we once again pledged to hit the food trail and started to look ahead for a suitable Friday night (our preferred night out). It was going to happen again! Another Wedding, a party, and Manchester Pride were all standing in the way of the next few Fridays. I suddenly thought up a very exciting, risqu€÷ idea, and dared to suggest it to Sue. Why don’t we throw convention to the wind, and go out on the following Thursday night. That way we could have the best of both Worlds. I just don’t know where I get these ideas from! Sue, being one never to miss the chance of a meal out, jumped at the idea, and immediately suggested I booked somewhere. I refused point blank! Sue and her friend Ÿ?? another Sue, have been going out on the occasional Saturday night, also trying the culinary delights of the Ribble Valley, so I suggested, that for a change, she could find and book somewhere as a surprise for me. She agreed, and I was quite looking forward to the surprise. I knew where they had been, and had a sneaky feeling I could pin it down to one of two or three places, but that Ÿ??not quite knowingŸ? bit made a change. I arranged for our daughter Farrah to make Dads tea so that I could go straight home from work and get ready, planned an outfit, got the accessories ready, and was all good to go. I got a text from Sue to say that a table was booked for 8-00pm, and I have to admit, I was also quite looking forward to my forthcoming Mystery Tour. Stupid I know, but, that’s me! That was until I called in at Dads to check that Farrah was OK, only for her to ask me if I was looking forward to going to the Aspinall Arms. Oh well, that was the surprise out of the window, but I have to admit it was one of the two or three I suspected! I continued home, and still enjoyed the transformation of getting ready as I always do, and didn’t crack on to Sue that I was now aware of our final destination. We were both soon Ÿ??glammedŸ? up, and by 7-40pm we were on the road. Sue was obviously driving (don’t forget, I still wasn’t supposed to know where we were going), and I probably over did the fake surprise as we pulled on to the busy car park at the Aspinall Arms, which is located on the banks of the River Ribble at Mitton, near Whalley. More precise address details can no doubt be found on the website – http://www.brunningandprice.co.uk/aspinallarms it is a very informative website, with all the necessary information you could require. The Aspinall Arms has fairly recently been renovated, and extended, having been shut for some time. It is very tastefully decorated, having retained a lot of the original features of the property. We went in through the main front door, which leads past a dining room to the bar area. Here we were greeted by several over excited, young members of staff. I couldn’t work out whether they were over excited because they were young, overexcited because they had received instructions from Management to be so, or over excited because a middle aged Transvestite wearing a rather short, strapless bodycon dress and 5Ÿ? heels had just walked into the bar. To be honest, having picked up comments from other people, and having studied them for the remainder of that evening, it would appear that whatever the reason was, it was underlying, and was not caused by the appearance of the Transvestite, however, whatever had caused it, also caused the immediate impression of the level of service to be expected to be somewhat worrying. The phrase Ÿ??headless chickensŸ? very quickly sprung to mind. Once they had settled down a little, we were able to introduce ourselves, and inform them that we had booked a table for 8-00pm. This seemed to help a little, and all of a sudden, we had a young man behind the bar asking us what we would like to drink, a young lady waiting to show us to our table, and another young lady waiting to follow on with menus. The other twenty seven youngsters seemed to melt away into the background, presumably busying themselves attending to the other Diners, of whom there were quite a few. Peace had been restored. I was busy looking for the Transvestite. Sue had spotted her, but I’m afraid that in the panic that had surrounded our arrival, I had totally missed a glimpse. Oh well, another time perhaps! As I mentioned earlier, the Aspinall has recently been done up. I used to go for food around 30 years ago on a Sunday night after a long day Ÿ??on the beerŸ?. It was something we used to do, and we always enjoyed the home cooked pub grub they used to serve up. I guess things have changed. What hasn’t changed though, is the layout of the main body of the building. The bar is still in the same place, and many of the separate side rooms are actually still separate side rooms. I don’t know whether it is to retain a cosy feel to some areas of the pub, or down to the fact that to open up such a large, old fashioned building would take extensive amounts of steelwork, lots of expensive Structural Engineering invoices, and possible long winded discussions with the local Planning Department. The new extension appeared to be pretty much open plan, but the old bit has stayed the same. The result of this is several smaller dining rooms. The room we were sat in had tables for about 18 people, and was currently occupied by 14, so not far off full. There was no door Ÿ?? just an opening, and an opening had been formed through to the adjacent dining room which was of a similar size. This opening was not blessed with the fitting of a window, but had a large plant and a few ornaments strategically positioned to provide a certain amount of privacy, yet allow the feeling of space. Anyway, less about the building, and more about the night! We were now, obviously, sitting at our table, which was situated adjacent to the afore mentioned window opening, having been provided with drinks from the bar, and we were now perusing the menus. The choice was pretty extensive, so there was quite a bit of debating going on before we were both able to make a choice. This process was also a lengthier one than may have been due to the fact that Sue had forgotten her glasses, so we were sharing a Primark pair I always carry in by handbag. Eventually, decisions were made, and food was finally ordered. I decided to start with the seared scallops with curried cauliflower puree, onion bhaji and mango salsa, whilst Sue opted for the warm breads with olive oil and balsamic vinegar Ÿ?? which was really a side order, but it was what she fancied, so as the saying goes Ÿ?? a bit of what you fancy does you good! Sue then followed the bread with the Anderton’s pork sausages with mash, buttered greens and onion gravy, and I chose a plate full of pan seared loin of cod with garlic potato puree, chorizo and broad beans. As always, a side dish was added Ÿ?? this time we went for the chunky chips! The food was delicious, and I have to say that the service had now settled down to a good standard. The staff did seem to be taking it in turns to serve our table, but maybe I was just imagining that. And if they were, then why not! It’s not every night that Paula visits the Aspinall; so get a look whilst you can! They were all very friendly, and one young girl even took the trouble to come and make conversation whilst Sue was powdering her nose, leaving me at the table on my own. We had another couple of drinks during the course of our meal, and it didn’t seem long before we were once again facing the dilemma of the pudding nightmare. Should we, or shouldn’t we? That was the obvious question. Taking into account the fact that we had already eaten enough to feed a small army for a day, and that we were attempting to look after our figures, the obvious answer is Ÿ??NoŸ?. On the other hand, considering the fact that our waitress has already taken the liberty of delivering the Dessert menus to our table, and also the fact that we had been unable to resist the temptation to actually read them, then the answer could be a possible Ÿ??YesŸ?. We needed to consider the choices once again to assist us in our decision. I don’t mean the Yes / No choice. I mean the choice of available Desserts. It was a no brainer. The menus won. A resounding 6-0 victory. We had a pudding. Sue fell in love with the ice-cream Ÿ?? a scoop each of vanilla, strawberry, and honeycomb and I had a torrid affair with a dish of Elderflower jelly with summer fruits and vanilla ice cream. And what a hot blooded affair it was! Sue also decided that a cup of coffee would round the night off nicely, so one was duly ordered and delivered to the table. During our meal, Sue had spotted someone sitting down with his back to us in the adjoining room, who she thought was a boyfriend from many years ago. About 30 years ago actually! He was the one that got away, just before I didn’t! Due to the fact that he had his back to us, and was partly obscured by the large plant and ornaments, she wasn’t sure, but she felt it might be. I had met him a few years ago at a party at one of our friends, but I too could not be certain. I wasn’t sure how Sue would feel about being out with Paula in such a situation, but soon got the answer. He stood up to take of his jacket, and in so doing, turned and spotted Sue. He said Ÿ??HiŸ?, and made the usual small talk before sitting back down and continuing with his meal. No problems there. However, when Sue went to powder her nose, she had nipped into the other room to say a more polite Ÿ??HelloŸ?. This left me the other side of the opening, wondering what would be said, and for one of the very few times in my Paula life, wishing I wasn’t there. I just didn’t want to cause Sue any embarrassment. I heard Sues voice raise to an excitable pitch, after which, she appeared at the Ÿ??windowŸ? saying that I had better nip round and say hello to everyone. It turned out that her ex had asked her if she was dining with her daughter! Now before I get big headed about all this, we have to be totally honest about the whole situation Ÿ?? He had his back to me, and when he had turned around it was directed more towards Sue than me. He had only seen me from a distance of several feet, through a three foot square opening that was home to a couple of ornaments and a large potted plant. He had come out with his wife straight after a long day at work and he was tired. He had partaken in a drink or two, and from a subsequent conversation, I can confirm that he readily admitted that his eyes weren’t as good as they used to be! Nevertheless, I was more than suited, and was quick to respond to Sues request to Ÿ??nip roundŸ?. I left our table, and made my way round in to the next room where I was re-introduced as Paula. They were more than friendly, asking many of the usual questions, a few of the less usual questions, and one or two new ones. We filled a good ten minutes or more talking about everything from daughters, to waxing, wagons, makeup, horses, work, getting old and places to eat. I felt extremely comfortable with them, and from Sues comments later, it would appear that our marriage will survive the situation! We said our goodbyes, and retreated back to our table so that Sue could finish off her by now rather cold coffee. By the time we had finished the coffee and the chat, we were one of the last tables to leave, so we decided it was time to settle the bill and make our way home. I can’t comment on the Ladies, as I didn’t make use of the facilities on offer, but Sue assures me that they are fine. One small point is a total lack of Lounge space. It didn’t affect our night, but I know Sue and her friend, Sue, had felt awkward on their arrival on a busy Saturday night, standing around waiting to be seated. They had also not had anywhere to retreat to and sit chatting after their meal which is something I know they like to do. Not a problem to me, but worth a mention I guess. Our bill came to ô?73-95, which we rounded up to ô?80-00 to include a tip. This included three drinks each and the coffee. OK then, just the three questions to answer: Is the Aspinall Arms TV friendly? Yes, the Staff were fantastic, especially considering they had an average age of twelve. Not a giggle to be heard (obviously went into the kitchen first!). Value for Money? I had no complaints Ÿ?? what do you think? Would we go again? I’m sure we will Ÿ?? after all it was already Sues second visit, so no reason why not. Oh, and I forgot to mention, Farrah had telephoned Sue to tell her she had let the name of the venue slip, so all my fake surprise was wasted! Sue just wanted to watch me wriggle and pretend! Two real women will always win over a TV!!

05-08-2014-Revolution, Manchester

Last Saturday, I was invited over to Manchester for a girlie day with my friends Lois and Rachel. We have all been working hard since we last met up, which meant it was probably a little longer than it should have been since we had a catch up. I didn’t hesitate in accepting the invitation, and spent all week looking forward to seeing them. We met up in Via at 2-00pm, had a hug, a drink, and a natter, and then decided to wander over into Town to have a bite to eat, and do a little shopping. This sounded perfect. Food and shops in the same trip just couldn’t be bettered. On my way over to Manchester, I had travelled through torrential rain, but things had improved, and we had now got some sunshine to enjoy on our little walk. We wandered across Portland St., and weaved our way towards Deansgate, before finally ending up on Parsonage Gardens at a Bar called Revolution. I believe there are a total of three Revolutions in Manchester, but as this is the one I visited, this is the one I shall write about. The other two remain unexplored adventures for the future. Revolution is situated at Arkwright House, Parsonage Gardens, Manchester M3 2LF, and can be found on the World Wide Web by typing in http://www.revolution-bars.co.uk/bar/manchester or no doubt, can be tracked down via one of the Search Engines. It’s a quirky place that offers beers, wines, cocktails, and food. It is quite large, and I suspect is a popular place for parties. There was in fact a Hen Party in whilst we were there. Lois and Rachel were experienced Revolutionists, (or is it Revolutionaries?) so I let them lead the way and decide where we were sitting, and we soon found ourselves at a small round table in a pretty central position. A bubbly, friendly girl brought us some menus, and took our drinks orders, returning within minutes with our drinks. As it was mid afternoon, we were looking for a light meal rather than a full blown three course job, but if you were after a little more, there’s no reason why you should be disappointed. It’s more of a fast food type place than a posh restaurant, but there is a wide and varied choice at all levels. Having studied the menus, Lois decided she was going to tackle the Green Salad With Goats Cheese – A mix of peashoots, baby gem lettuce, cucumber, green peppers, spring onions, parsley, basil, mint and apple all tossed in a light herb dressing; served with guacamole on the side. Rachel went for the Skinny Chicken – blackened chicken with homemade sweet potato wedges or green salad; served with vodka salsa, and I chose the Blackened Chicken Ÿ?? which is two pieces of fresh pan fried chicken breast, coated in a blend of herbs and spices, with salad and mayo served in a bun. Mine also came complete with fries, and was indeed very tasty. We ate and talked. And talked. And talked a bit more. We had lots to catch up on, and it was great to be together again. We decided against desserts, having had ample to keep us going for the rest of the day, and once we had finished our food, Lois decided to pay a visit to the Ladies. As she stood up, she was aware that her jeans were clinging to her posterior a little more than she was expecting them to. She was puzzled, and began to investigate the situation, assisted by Rachel and me. It soon became apparent that she had been sat on a damp seat. The tell tale sign being the clingy jeans, and the large damp patch that was now evident on her bum. Now as I mentioned before, we had experienced torrential rain earlier, and I was certain that the cause of the damp cushion was probably linked to this inclement weather. Lois was not, however, convinced. She got it in her head that there was a more sinister explanation, maybe connected to an incontinent old lady (or man). She performed a finger sniffing test, and remained convinced that this was the cause. Rachel and I both declined the offer of a sniff, preferring to believe that rain, or a spillage, or any other such accident was the probable source of the moistness. Anyway, Lois toddled off somewhat self-consciously to powder her nose and left us with the slightly amusing view of the damp patch as she went! On her return, we asked for the bill, and Lois mentioned the dampness of the cushion to our Waitress. She was very apologetic, and immediately removed the cushion, suggesting that it was probably one of the cleaners that had spilt something. Not an explanation that I would have come up with, but there we go! In fairness, when she returned with the bill, she had actually knocked the price of the drinks off, so I thought that was more than fair. Especially as my bum was still dry! Lol We spent quite a while convincing Lois that it was not a sinister stain, but once we headed for the shops and she got her hands on the sexy little top she had spotted earlier, she had totally forgotten about the incident. That was until I quite tactfully asked in the middle of H&M Ÿ?? can either of you girls smell pissŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?íŸ?í? Bless her! It took us another few minutes to convince her that I was joking! We wandered back over to Taurus, then to Molly House, then back to their place where we had a few drinks and sang some karaoke, before changing and coming back out for the night. That saw us in Via, New York New York, Coyote, and back to New York New York, before we finally stood outside on the pavement at some unearthly hour hugging and saying our goodbyes. A brilliant day!! Back to Revolution, I will as always, answer the three pertinent questions: Is Revolution TV friendly? It’s in the middle of Manchester, it sells food and drinks, and caters for parties. Of course it is. Value for money? We only had a snack, but they all came in at under ô?10-00 each, which I think is more than reasonable. Would I go again? I will definitely go again. It’s a perfect place to eat whilst out shopping.

30-07-2014-Opus One, Manchester

It’s a while since I posted a blog. I have had a bit of a run of return visits to places I like, so unless there was something special to report, I couldn’t see the point in boring you any more than I have to with my endless ramblings! Having got Sparkle, and numerous other interferences out of the way, I decided it was time to hit the food trail once again, and root out a new Venue. As I was staying over in Manchester last weekend, it seemed like a perfect opportunity, so with no more ado, I hit the Search Engines with gusto and got myself a shortlist of places to visit. As always, I had left things a little late, and found a couple of the places fully booked, or only able to offer tables at what I would consider to be impractical times. I hadn’t placed them in any particular order, so when I was able to find a table at Opus One, I was perfectly happy to book it and look forward to the occasion. Opus One is situated within the Raddison Blu Edwardian Hotel, located on Peter St., Manchester, M2 5GP ( www.radissonblu-edwardian.com/manchester ) and describes itself as a bar as well as a restaurant. I was dining with my pescatarian friend on this particular occasion, so we met up at a small bar close to the Village and had a pre-taxi drink, and then went out on to Portland St., where we hailed a post- drink taxi. A fiver saw us dropped safely outside Opus One, with the drive adequately tipped, leaving us with no more to do than climb the few steps up to the entrance of the Hotel. It’s quite an impressive place, and gave the impression it could veer towards the Ÿ??poshŸ? end of the scale, but I reckon I can do Ÿ??poshŸ? as well as the next person, so it didn’t particularly worry me. We walked through the Reception Area, and entered the Restaurant, where we found quite a few people sitting at and around the bar having drinks. A Presecco and a wine and soda were ordered, and we informed our waiter that we had booked a table, for which we were about 10 minutes early. He was quick to return with our drinks, and immediately offered to set us a tab up onto our dining bill. It’s surprising how many places are reluctant to do this, so I was suitably impressed. It’s all psychological, but the fewer times you have to go into your purse, or listen to your boyfriend wince as he dips into his wallet, the better! We enjoyed our drinks, and used the time to have a good look around. As with a lot of places we visit, copious amounts of money had been spent on Ÿ??StyleŸ?, but it had paid off. The surroundings are dramatically theatrical, with soaring ceilings, velvet red walls, high gloss black woodwork, antique gold wall coverings and bespoke furniture in black crocodile skin hide. The place looked and felt good. We were soon approached by a young lady who offered to show us to our table, and we left the safety of the bar as we ventured into the dining section of the room. It’s not a massive Restaurant, but most of the tables there were occupied, and there was certainly Ÿ??an atmosphereŸ?. We made ourselves comfortable, and were soon provided with menus and an appetiser served on a porcelain Ÿ??spoon. I have to admit, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it was an appetising appetiser, so that’s all we could ask for! We shared the team spectacles and between us managed to read the menus, and eventually come up with a decision as to what we were going to eat. It wasn’t without delay, and we did have to send our Waiter away once before we were finally ready. He was very patient, and didn’t seem to mind. This was the section of the meal, where we were also provided with warm bread, and fresh butter. There was a choice of bread, with my best mate choosing white, and me going for the onion variety. It was one of those where you could have just forgotten about the rest of the meal and had a massive plateful of bread and butter. It was divine. The choice making process wasn’t an easy one. There were several dishes I could gladly have formed an alliance with, and I could tell my buddy was having the same problem. We did eventually make decisions though, and were ready for our waiter Benjamin on his return visit to the table (No, we didn’t pester him for his name Ÿ?? he had a badge on!). The menu, unusually, has a choice of four courses, but you are welcome to have only three if you wish, and either of the first two courses serve adequately as starters. We decided that three courses would probably be more than enough, and then both chose the same starter from the second course list. We were going to have the Hand dived Scottish scallops, parsnip crisp, succotash and carambola puree. Very nice they were too! That said, I suppose at ô?10-95 a throw, they should be! For our main courses, the pescatarian chose Pan fried halibut with cauliflower texture, salsa verde and lemon oil, and I went all wobbly kneed over the Duo of pork, pistachio crust fillet, slow roast belly with pea gnocchi and red wine apple puree. And rightly so! Its arrival at the table proved that it was a dish that was worthy of a set of wobbly knees. As always, being the greedy souls that we are, a side order of chips, and a side order of chilli greens Ÿ?? green vegetables, were also ordered, delivered, and eaten. We made the usual dinner table conversation, looked across at each other all starry eyed, and slowly, but conscientiously, worked our way through the glorious food we had been served. We were visited on several, but not too many, occasions throughout our meal by various members of staff, who genuinely seemed to care whether everything was all right or not. I think the two empty plates said it all. We were slightly embarrassed by the scratch marks we had made on the fine porcelain whilst trying to get the last bit of food off them, but I’m sure the Chef will understand and take it as a compliment that we were eager to send empty plates back into him. We were given a little time for things to settle, before being offered desserts. Now as time trundles on, I worry increasingly about my figure along with many other things, so having a dessert wasn’t a foregone conclusion. I fancied the idea before I saw the menu, but once I had seen it, the temptation was even greater. The fish eater was going through the same mental torture, so after a long debate, we pledged to skip breakfast the following day, and to come up with some form of activity on Sunday morning that would burn off the additional calories of a dessert eaten the night before. This seemed the perfect answer Ÿ?? a dessert, and some physical, calorie burning, interaction. We looked knowingly into each others eyes, and the decision was made. We would have a dessert. Each. The choices were interesting, and I must admit, choosing one was nearly as big a problem as actually deciding whether to have one! Eventually, we decided, with the pesco going for the Banana and chocolate mille feuille with orange curd, pistachio crumb and raspberry sorbet, whilst I sat and drooled over the Pink grapefruit panna cotta served with hazelnut cream and a crunchy almond caramel brittle. All I can say is mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Very tasty!! We had an additional drink each during the meal, and I finished the evening off with a Baileys over ice. And why not? A chat with our Waiter, Benjamin, revealed that it was his last night working there, before he left to live in London and start his new career working for British Airways as an Air Steward. We wished him all the best, and I am sure he will do well Ÿ?? he is a customer friendly type of guy. As it had started raining quite heavily outside, and conscious of the fact that we had to think up some form of physical exercise to work off the extra Dessert calories, we decided to go straight home after the meal rather than out for a drink. It was therefore time to pay our bill, and check out the facilities before we left. The Ladies WC is downstairs just off the main Foyer of the Hotel, and is, as you would expect, very clean, stylish, and well laid out. I can confirm that everything is in place to enable a Lady to do what she needs to do when visiting such rooms. Once we had paid our bill, a Concierge stepped out into the rain and hailed us a cab, and another fiver just about saw us back to where our journey had begun several hours before. Now all we had to do was to work off some calories………………………………………………………………………………………………………..As always, I will tackle the three all important questions head on, and see if I can provide satisfactory answers: Is Opus One TV friendly? Yes. Once again, no one seemed to notice I was there, and I was treated with the greatest of respect by all the staff. Value for money? It isn’t cheap. Our bill was ô?128-36 which included a 10% service charge of ô?11-67. I do sincerely hope that the staff get to see some or all of this service charge, because we would gladly have left a good tip. As I mentioned, our starters were ô?10-95 each, they also charged us ô?27-10 for the two rounds of drinks, and ô?8-30 for the Baileys! That meant that the actual food was only ô?81-29. I personally thoroughly enjoyed my night out, ate every scrap of food I was given, and found the surroundings and the staff to be first class. With this in mind, I didn’t take offence at the overall cost, but I could see why certain people might! My opinion is that I got value for money. Others might not. Would I go again? I wouldn’t hesitate in going again. Especially if Someone else is treating me!

28-05-2014-Cafe Bon Bon, Middlewich

Bank Holiday Mondays! Before I was fortunate enough to be Ÿ??bornŸ? in 2006, my alter ego hated Bank Holidays. I mean what on earth can you do on a Bank Holiday Monday? You either go to work, or you mope around the house moaning about being bored, whilst skilfully avoiding the many projects that are offered to you to eliminate that feeling of boredom. So in other words, you go to work! Now things are different. Bank Holiday Mondays are special days. They are treasured days that are looked forward to with excitement and enthusiasm. They are extra days of the year on which make up can be applied, wonderful clothes can be worn, and time can be spent with friends the likes of which you didn’t even know existed. Now what’s all this got to do with food I hear you ask? Be patient, and bear with me. All will be revealed. Amongst this set of special friends are a couple of guys called Dave and Betty. Yes, I know that I said guys, and I know that Betty is a girl’s name, but I’m sure you can work out how and why Betty came to be called Betty. Betty is one of the wonderful people who paved the way for us modern day girls to be able to do what we do. I don’t want to paint a picture of someone who is particularly old Ÿ?? he isn’t. He just did what we do long before we did, in an era that was far less forgiving than the one we live in. He tells wonderful tales of sleazy, hidden clubs and bars, and of nights running barefoot along station platforms with shoes in hand. This might sound ever so romantic, but in reality, it was usually a situation where he was running in fear of his life, chased by a group of homophobic, transphobic louts who would gladly have pushed him under the train rather than watch him get on it! We owe a lot to people like Betty. It was probably a few months ago when Dave and Betty informed us that they were going into business together, and opening a Cafe in Middlewich. We have all listened patiently, and with interest and excitement to the trials and tribulations they have been going through whilst they transformed a somewhat less than perfect empty shop unit into Cafe Bon Bon, finally announcing the opening date a couple of weeks ago. Cafe Bon Bon is located at 41 Wheelock St. Middlewich, Cheshire CW10 9AB (no website yet, but a Facebook page Ÿ?? Cafe Bon Bon), and is exactly what the name depicts. It’s a Cafe. It’s not a Restaurant, nor is it pretending to be. It’s a good old fashioned Cafe that serves coffee and cakes. Obviously, they serve a lot more than coffee and cakes, but I’m sure you get the point I’m trying to make. It has never been a case of whether Paula might visit the Cafe or not, merely a question of when, so when Dave informed me on Saturday night, that Cafe Bon Bon would be open on Bank Holiday Monday, I saw the perfect opportunity for a visit! A quick conversation with my friend Yvonne revealed that she had no plans for Monday, so the appropriate arrangements were made and a trip to Cafe Bon Bon was agreed. I was up bright and early as always on Monday morning, and by 8-45am was busy applying the many layers of cosmetic products that go towards producing Paula. I had already chosen a suitable daytime outfit consisting of a black and lemon jump suit, with a pair of chunky platform shoes, so it was pretty straightforward ensuring that matching eye shadow was applied along with all the other necessary bits and pieces that we girls have to add to ensure that the finished product is suitable for Public viewing. By 10-00am I was sat in the car lowering the convertible top so that I could enjoy the gorgeous sunshine that had been unexpectedly bestowed on us. Sunglasses on, wind deflector up, and handbag tucked out of reach in the passenger footwell meant that I was ready for the journey. A quick Ÿ??poseŸ? around Clitheroe, and then I headed off to the outskirts of Manchester where I had agreed to pick Yvonne up at around 10-45am. The roads were good, the weather was perfect, and my journey time well judged. I was sat outside her house bang on a quarter to eleven watching her locking her front door and climbing into the car almost as excited as me! We set the Sat Nav, and spent the next half hour or so haring down the M6 at breakneck speed, following the instructions floating softly out of the dashboard. I’ll say one thing for this Sat Nav girl Ÿ?? she certainly knows her stuff. It didn’t take long at all before we were slowly driving along Wheelock St. looking for no. 41. It was easy to find Ÿ?? it was the one with the sign above the window saying Ÿ??Cafe Bon BonŸ?. There was even a parking space directly outside, so it couldn’t have been better. It was a small parking space, but with a bit of assistance from some strategically positioned parking sensors, and the use of The Coral betting shop window across the road as a mirror, I managed to squeeze us in without a scratch. We both got out of the car, locked our belongings in the boot out of sight, and entered the busy little Cafe. In fact there were only two seats left, so our timing was good. Dave and Betty were busy scurrying around keeping people happy, but soon found enough time to welcome us with the usual tongue free kisses we are all skilled in exchanging. We made ourselves comfortable, and discovered we had already met the lady sat at the adjoining table at our Christmas party last year, so having been introduced to her partner we were quickly able to share some light, enjoyable conversation. It’s a small World! Betty was soon stood next to us with his pad in his hand, and we ordered ourselves something to drink whilst we perused the menus and picked out a little bite to eat. I had a diet coke, and Yvonne had a Latte. There was a good choice of snack type meals such as toasted teacakes, bacon barm cakes, sandwiches, pies etc etc. As I said before, Cafe Bon Bon is a cafe, and as such, it is important that the menu remains simple and uncomplicated. We soon made a decision and added to the order pad a sausage and egg barm, and a bacon and egg barm. Brown sauce on the bacon, and red sauce on the sausage. We chatted away whilst our food was prepared, and watched a steady stream of people arriving, people eating, and people leaving. The place was pretty much full to capacity most of the time we were there. Betty seems to be Ÿ??front of houseŸ?, whilst Dave appears to be the main cook / chef / food preparer, or whatever title you wish to give him. Dave found great amusement in my request for him to Ÿ??pop my eggŸ?, and even more so when I explained that I didn’t want to show myself up by dribbling egg yolk down my bosom. Fair play to him though, when my food arrived, the yolk was well and truly Ÿ??poppedŸ? ! Yvonne and I then had a few of those quieter moments that tend to happen when you are eating. Always a good sign when the food stops you talking, and it may have been a simple sausage and egg barm with red sauce on, that I was eating, but it certainly stopped me talking! Once we had finished our barms, it was time to attack the cake counter. They have a large glass cabinet which had all sorts of delights in it Ÿ?? Manchester Tart (Paula), cream horns, raspberry cake, an open fruit tart, and many more cakes and creamy, calorie packed delights. They were semi apologetic as the counter had been somewhat ravaged over the busy Bank Holiday weekend, but there was still more than enough in there to turn a girls head. Yvonne was directed towards the raspberry cake which I seem to remember also featured white chocolate as one of its many ingredients, whilst I went for the healthier looking open fruit tart. I like a bit of tart from time to time. We added a second drink to our tab, this time I opted for a bottled strawberry juice, whilst Yvonne swilled her cake down with a lime flavoured concoction. All in all, a delightful Bank Holiday Brunch. It was obvious that Dave and Betty are already popular guys in the local community, with plenty of banter flying to and fro between the customers and the cafe owners. As I’m sure you will have already guessed, I was more than willing to join in with this banter and had a thoroughly great time. Towards the latter end of our meal, we were joined on the adjacent table by a lovely not so young lady and a gentleman I took to be her son. She was a typical not so young lady, who was obviously going to speak her mind regardless of any repercussions, and was full of good old fashioned spirit. If anyone was going to tell me who and what I was in Cafe Bon Bon on this particular Monday, this was the lady that was going to do it. I won’t say I was nervous, because I’m well beyond that, but I was however Ÿ??preparedŸ?. Having grumbled about the lack of fish and chips, she finally managed to let us convince her that a bacon barm was the thing to be seen eating, so when it arrived, I was wondering if it would be to her liking, or whether it wouldn’t be fishy and chipy enough. She moved it around the plate a little, threatened it with a knife, and then turned ninety degrees to face me. It had happened. This was now the moment that she was going to out me. I could feel it in my water. She looked me straight in the eyes, and I could see no fear. I vainly tried to match the look, but felt somehow I was losing the battle. I tensed up inside waiting for the fatal words that would remind me of my true birth gender. Ÿ??Cut this up for me will you?Ÿ? I have used a question mark, but in reality it was an order not a request. Ÿ??Excuse fingersŸ? I replied in my best Paula voice, reached over and cut her barm in two. I didn’t hear the words Ÿ??Thank youŸ?, but then again, I didn’t hear anything else. That was it. All she said was Ÿ??cut this up for me will youŸ?. I was almost disappointed! But not really. And I’ll tell you something else. She didn’t half rattle through the food. Helped along with a cup of tea, it took her less than five minutes to empty her plate. What a lady. Ten minutes later, her son was helping her up out of her chair, guiding her to her walking frame, and preparing himself for the next barrage of grumbling as she left the cafe heading for pastures anew. What a man! I’ll just briefly describe Cafe Bon Bon to you. It’s situated on the main shopping street of Middlewich I believe. As a matter of fact, from comments I picked up, it’s situated on the only shopping street of Middlewich. It’s small, or should I say compact. I guess at the moment it seats about a dozen or so people, but I believe with a little bit of planning and moving around of tables, it could be persuaded to accommodate a few more. It’s clean, crisp, and freshly decorated. All the lads own work. It’s well lit, and has a couple of white feature Ÿ??brickŸ? decorated walls, and a couple of bright lime green walls. The floor is clean and new, and all the fittings are new or certainly appear to be. Pretty much what you see is what you get. There is a small prep kitchen / wash up room at the back of the shop, but I have a feeling there are no public Ÿ??facilitiesŸ?. There is a good range of cold, soft drinks, along with all the usual hot drinks, and as I mentioned before, a more than ample selection of what I would describe as good old fashioned cafe type food. Nothing over ambitious, just tasty, freshly prepared snacks. Dave and Betty were both dressed in clean matching white shirts and black slacks, with aprons on, and gave a good outward impression. Betty was slightly hung over, but it didn’t affect his performance with regard to cafeteriering. (I just made that word up!). The overall outward appearance was good, and gave you the impression that they cared. They are both cheerful, polite, fun guys to know, and whilst I may appear prejudiced, I am certain they will do well with Cafe Bon Bon. If you are ever in the area of Middlewich in need of sustenance, I would certainly recommend a visit. Having probably veered dangerously close to outstaying our welcome, Yvonne settled the bill, and we said our goodbyes, but not before taking a few piccies to show the grandkids. It was then back into the car, and a leisurely journey back into town, where we all met up later for a few drinks outside Via, where a bird took great delight in pooing on my handbag. Dirty Bitch, and I told her so! They say it’s good luck when a bird does that Ÿ?? it is. It’s lucky that pigs can’t fly! I can’t answer all three of the usual questions fully, but will answer two and make a comment on the third: Is Cafe Bon Bon TV friendly? With a male proprietor called Betty, and a set of friends including Paula Falisa, how can it not be? Would I go again? I will if they’ll let me!!! Value for money? As previously explained, I didn’t pay, but I have to say the odd prices I noticed on the menus seemed more than acceptable.

24-04-2014-Zouk, Manchester

As I recently mentioned, my non meat-eating, fish loving friend and I are back sampling the culinary delights of Manchester. I don’t know how long this partnership will stand up against the ravages of time, but for the time being all in the garden is rosy. This being the case, when we got the chance to meet up for a drink the other Wednesday evening, it seemed to make sense to utilise our time to the best of our ability, and to continue in our quest to visit as many Restaurants as possible in the limited time we seem to get together. We met in Centre Stage for a couple of drinks, had a chat about the day behind us, and then made a few decisions about the rest of the day ahead of us. It appeared that a curry was the thing uppermost on our minds, so I dug deep into my memory bank and retrieved a few names I had stored but not used. I came up with Zouk. Zouk is a 250 seat Indian restaurant located at Unit 5, The Quadrangle, Chester St., Manchester M1 5QS. I typed this into my Sat Nav and waited patiently for it to come with some suggestions. It didn’t. I tried Chester Street, and once again waited. It once again refused to help me with my journey! In the end I set off in the general direction that I thought we should be going, did a few lefts and a few rights, and somehow found myself driving past Zouk. I could at this moment claim all sorts of praises for my base knowledge of the streets of Manchester, but in all fairness, I can’t lie. It was totally 100% luck. Anyway, the hows and whys don’t always matter Ÿ?? it’s the end result that counts. In this case the end result was that we were soon parking up right across the road from Zouk, so that’s good enough for me. We crossed the road, and walked through the Al Fresco Sheesa Lounge, and then into the main Restaurant area. The Restaurant has a full open kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work, and a large mezzanine type dining area as well as an even larger ground floor dining area. There were quite a few people in, and I noticed that the majority of them were Asian. Always a good sign. We introduced ourselves, and were quickly and politely shown to a table pretty much in the centre of things. So far so good. Menus were left with us, and we were offered drinks, which were soon making there way to our table. The menu was extensive, and there was plenty of choice, even for the fussy fishy person. We started off with the obligatory popadoms and pickles, which we both followed with scallops marinated with selected herbs and spices grilled over hot charcoal. I decided to then go for King Prawn Karahi with mushroom rice, and my partner chose the Goan Fish Curry with garlic naan bread. The service was polite, efficient, and showed no signs of coming apart at the seams whatsoever. We were offered further drinks along the way, and we didn’t have to wait long between courses. As I’m sure you can well imagine, it didn’t take us too long to send a large amount of bare, scraped clean, porcelain back in the general direction of the kitchen. It was very tasty, and we polished the lot off! We had spent most of the meal time chatting as you do, and hadn’t really addressed the subject of desserts, so it probably was no bad thing to discover that desserts actually don’t feature at this particular Restaurant. I’m sure that if they had of done, we would have been dragged into having one, but as it was, we made do with a coffee each. In all honesty, it wasn’t a problem Ÿ?? we had both had sufficient. Once we had used the hot towels, and demolished the orange segments that were presented, I decided to check out the Ladies, just so that I could offer a full and meaningful report on all aspects of the establishment. Very nice too! Everything you needed, all clean, bright, and smelling fresh. All that was left to do was pay the bill, and say our goodbyes and thank you to the Staff. Oh, and of course answer the three all important questions that cause us to all this in the first place. Is Zouk TV friendly? It certainly is. My companion overheard someone on a nearby table use the word Ÿ??TransvestiteŸ? whilst I was visiting the Ladies, but try as we might, we couldn’t see who they were talking about. I couldn’t spot one from where I was sitting! Joking apart, the Staff were perfect, and none of the other customers seemed to give two hoots about me. Value for Money? ô?63-00 including a tip. What do you think? I think it’s more than reasonable for what we had, taking into consideration the quality of the food and the surroundings. Go again? You bet we will.

19-03-2014-The Victoria and Albert Hotel Restaurant, Manchester

Ok, so it’s a bit since I wrote a Blog. This isn’t because I haven’t been out, it’s merely because I have been making a few return visits to places, and don’t want to bore you any more than I have to by writing about the same place several times. Since I last wrote, I have been back to Avalanche again! (I was taken by someone who didn’t know I had only just been, so can’t complain), Sue and I have been to La Vespa a couple of times, The Emporium, and The Eagle, Oh, and I was lucky enough to have lunch at Living Room on Deansgate last week. I have also, however, managed to Ÿ??slip a new one inŸ? so to speak. You may recall, I spent a lot of time dining with my Pescatarian friend at one time, and then things happened, and we went our separate ways. Well, you know what they say, a true friendship lasts forever, and this must have been a true friendship, because, we have decided to relight the flame as they say, and in the very least, continue with our mission to try out every available food outlet in the area. With this in mind, I set about looking for somewhere to eat recently, and came up with The Victoria and Albert Hotel Restaurant, which as you may well have guessed, is situated within The Victoria and Albert Hotel, Water Street, Manchester M3 4JQ. It is a Marriot Hotel, so if you want to find it on the old web, I would go via the good old Google button. A reservation was made for the appropriate Saturday night, and I spent the week before planning an outfit, and making sure I looked my best for this emotional reunion. Saturday evening soon came around and I found myself walking nervously into Velvet, purposefully a couple of minutes late in the hope that my friend had arrived on time and would be waiting for me. My plan worked, and I was greeted with a lovely smile that said it all. We would be OK! I had arranged to stay over, so unusually, I was going to have a drink or two! What a surprise! I started with a wine and soda, and within minutes we were sat chatting as if we had never even parted. Another drink, a bit more chat, and it was soon Ÿ??Taxi timeŸ?. We walked out onto the street, and hailed the first passing black cab that appeared. Instructions were issued, and we settled back in the seat to enjoy the short journey across Town to the Restaurant. The cab dropped us right at the door, and we walked into the Reception area, where we were greeted, and directed towards the Restaurant. So far so good. As we entered the Restaurant, a tall, attractive young lady met us, took our details, checked her reservation sheet, grabbed a couple of menus, and showed us through to our table. We could have a choice Ÿ?? a table in the centre, or one by the window where we could look out over the water. A table with a view sounded good, so we opted for the one by the window. Research has since revealed we were looking over the River Irwell, but I have to confess I didn’t know so at the time. It didn’t matter. Our Hostess was very friendly and talkative, and I have to say, she made me feel very comfortable. The Restaurant wasn’t particularly busy, but there were enough people in to create an atmosphere, and on this particular evening, I was more concerned with my immediate company than the rest of the World, so it wouldn’t have mattered if we were the only ones there. We ordered a bottle of Pressecco, and then studied the Menus, having got the Primarni glasses out of the handbag, and perched them precariously on the end of my nose! We started off with warm bread, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. The Pesco then ordered the spiced crab cakes with mango salsa and basil oil, and I started the proceedings with seared scallops, pumpkin puree, savoury beignets, and frisee salad. The starters weren’t long in arriving at our table, and were delivered by a rather tasty looking waiter. He was obviously from foreign climes, and to be fair, I don’t think he had come across many Ÿ??PaulasŸ?. He very openly just couldn’t weigh me up! He didn’t appear bothered, just confused! Very confused. He did in all fairness, carry it well though, and his professionalism carried him through. For main course, I had decided that slow cider braised pork belly with bury black pudding hash and caramelised apple seemed an appropriate choice, whilst my partner made a pass at the pappardelle pasta with mild mushroom cream and parmesan. We also added a house salad, and a portion of hand cut chips, just for the sheer hell of it. Our main courses followed on in good time, and the service throughout was efficient and cheerful. We managed to raise a smile or two from our waiter, and our original Hostess visited us at regular intervals to check everything was OK. She made polite small talk on each occasion, and if nothing else, it was more than obvious that Paula had not caused any upset by her visitation to her Restaurant. My friend and I had lots to talk about, and we were more than happy to make this a leisurely affair, especially as we were slowly but surely working our way down the bottle of Prosecco at the same time that we were eating. Try as we might though, we couldn’t put off the inevitable decision that would have to be made with regard to puddings. This was obviously not a straight forward Ÿ??yes / noŸ? type of decision. Firstly there was the over all Ÿ??do we or don’t we?Ÿ? to be considered, and then, if the answer veered towards the Ÿ??we doŸ?, there was the even more difficult question as to what we actually had! At the designated time, our Waiter presented us with the Menus, and asked us what we thought we would be doing with regard to Desserts (or puddings as you and I call them). At this stage I would ask you to consider the fact that this was a very emotional reunion and also to bear in mind that we had had a couple of drinks prior to our arrival at The Victoria and Albert, to which we had added another half a bottle each. Not a vast amount of drink, I admit, but enough to make anyone a little more prone towards showing a weakness in the pudding department. It was certainly enough where we were concerned. The loved one showed no hesitation in ordering a Black Forest Gateaux with rich chocolate custard, kirsch jelly, cream and black cherries, and just for the sake of balance I followed suit equally quickly with my choice of Sticky Toffee Pudding served with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. Both dishes arrived promptly from the kitchen, and were equally delightful. We had once again managed to eat a complete meal, and return nothing other than bare porcelain back to the Chef. Can’t ask for better than that. We continued our chattering, finished our drinks, paid the bill, and headed for the Hotel reception, where the man on the desk ordered us a cab. I was quite flattered by his comment that he Ÿ??would have willingly driven us himself had he not been on dutyŸ?. It’s always great when someone flannels you up a bit! Even if it is sometimes less than 100% sincere (although on this occasion I actually believed him). We posed for a couple of pics in the reception area whist we waited for our taxi, but as the need had not arisen, I am unable to comment on the condition or even the location of the Ÿ??facilitiesŸ?. A private hire taxi soon arrived, and we were whisked back off into Manchester centre, where we sampled another couple of drinks before retiring for the night. Great company, great location, and great food. In other words, a great night! I’m sure you’re now awaiting answers to the three important questions, so here goes, I will attempt to answer them: Is The Victoria and Albert TV friendly? Yes it is. No problems whatsoever. Value for money? It’s actually ô?20-00 for 3 courses, but some of the things we chose carried additional surcharges. We still only paid ô?55-50 for the food though. The drink wasn’t cheap at ô?25-00 for the bottle, but saying that, our total bill for bread, 3 courses each, and a bottle was ô?80-50. Throw in a view and friendly service as well as nice surroundings, and I think you’d be hard pushed to complain. Go again. Here’s hoping!! We had a great night, and I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending it as a place to visit.

31-01-2014-Pacifica, Eccles

Christmas was over, and we were back into the dreary depths of a cold, dark, January. Everyone was fed up, everyone was broke, and everywhere was quiet. I was more than excited therefore, when one of my friends asked me if I wanted to attend a joint birthday do at the Pacifica Cantonese Restaurant. Pacifica ( www.pacifica-cantonese.co.uk ) can be found at 5-7 Church Street, Eccles, Manchester, M30 0DL. It was on a Saturday night, so there was no reason why we couldn’t attend the do, have a nosh, and then wind our way quietly over to Town and get the best of both Worlds. It sounded like a plan to me. There was about 20 going to the do, but I had met some of them already, besides, shyness, was never a reason for Paula not to go somewhere! And I reckoned that the people that hadn’t met me probably should do! It was a 7-00pm table booking, so it required an early finish at work, quick shower and all that goes with it, an equally quick transformation, and an even quicker drive over to Manchester. I arrived at my friends just after 6-30pm, leaving us ample time to type M30 0DL into the Sat Nav and follow the instructions off to Eccles. Apart from one wrong turning (my fault, not the Lady in the dashboard giving out the directions), our journey was uneventful, and we were soon stood on the car park outside the Restaurant saying Ÿ??HiŸ? to some of the other guests. We made our way in, and I was surprised how busy it was so early on a Saturday night. There was a long table set out for our 20 in the middle, and all the surrounding tables were occupied with couples, families, groups, and a 60th birthday party. Some of our party were already there, and I was quickly introduced to those I hadn’t met. We grabbed ourselves a couple of seats half way down the table, and I could soon tell from the frenzied discussions that there had been a bit of a number bloop, – it transpired that 28 people would indeed be attending. This information was relayed to the staff, but I could tell by the amount of frowning and head shaking that they were struggling working out how to accommodate us. All other tables were either occupied or booked. A quick check revealed that they had plenty of chairs, just not enough physical table room. It was no problem to us Ÿ?? we all shuffled along a bit, a couple of people jumped onto the ends of the tables, and before long we were 28! A little cosy, but nonetheless, we all had a bit of table to sit at. Then the chaos began! Some of us had gone as couples, some had gone as threes, and some had just gone. The waiting-on staff seemed to want to group us into fours to make it easier working the bills out. Easier for who? God knows! Anyway, it didn’t work. We remained resolute, and all insisted in being charged in the group we were with regardless of how many people it contained. Once we had got this hiccup over with, it was time to order food. Now I’ve never struggled with ordering food, but it soon became evident that I was in a party of people to whom it didn’t come naturally. Small discussions developed with regard to who was having what, and whether Banquet A was expensive. Would Banquet B be better value? Who’s having a starter? One guy decided it was all rather expensive Ÿ?? you know the type Ÿ?? it would have been expensive even if it was free as far as he was concerned! I decided to get my head down, make a choice, order, and leave them all to it. My friend did the same, and we both opted for a banquet Ÿ?? you got complementary prawn crackers, soup, mixed starters, a choice of main course with rice, fruit, and a fortune cookie. All for ô?25-00. Seemed OK to me. We attempted to place an order, but by now the waiters were running around like the proverbial headless chickens. Drinks were being ordered and not delivered, people were moaning, people were complaining, and the staff were stressing. What should have been pretty simple was now far from it! I eventually managed to place our order, got up and went to the Bar myself to get the next drink, and sat back down amused at how peevish people can get when they feel things aren’t going their way. Due to the disorganised way the orders had been taken, and also taking into account that the rest of the Restaurant had to be served, the food was appearing out of the kitchen in random, sporadic order. It didn’t take long before the moaners were complaining about how long they had been waiting, and everyone was sure that they had ordered their food before the person sat next to them who had been served first. I decided that I was enjoying the night, and wasn’t going to get involved in all the arguments and discussions that were developing around me. Sure enough, our food came, eventually, and we got cracking. We started with Thai style prawn crackers, followed by Chicken and sweet corn soup. We then tucked into a selection of sesame prawns on toast, king do spare ribs, crispy wontons, spring rolls, and seaweed. This was then chased up by chicken and hot and spicy Sichuan sauce for my friend, whilst I had king prawn with Cantonese sauce. A large dish of egg fried rice was also provided. Follow this with large slices of Orange, and a Fortune Cookie, and the nett result is a full tum. I have to say that the service was awful, but in fairness, the food was good. By the time we were on our main course, some people had been served complete meals and were leaving the table. This did at least mean that we could gradually spread ourselves out a little along the table, and eventually had enough room to eat in comfort. I must say, I was a bit puzzled as to why everyone was happy to leave the table, pay their bill and apparently leave without saying goodbye to anyyone, but all was to be revealed! Pacifica has a bar upstairs called the Sky Lounge. It is separate from the Restaurant, is available for private hire, and has an al fresco terrace with state of the art canopy and patio heaters, and it also has lots of tables and comfy chairs inside for those of us that are less brave! This is where everyone was disappearing to. You know what they say, there’s no show without Punch, and so once we had finished eating, we paid our bill and went up to join the others. It was good fun Ÿ?? there was a good mixed age group in our party, and everyone was up for a laugh. It wasn’t long before I was joining in with various photographs, and answering all the usual questions. They were all curious about the whys and wherefores, but they certainly weren’t bothered by the outcome! Paula was more than welcome in this group! I was also more than accepted by the rest of the clients. My journey to the Ladies resulted in a girl with her jumpsuit around her ankles, and her friend with her dress around her neck whilst we compared tattoos. My dress remained where it should have as I’m sure you would expect (apart from a few seconds whilst the tattoo in the middle of my back was inspected!). I shared some terrific banter, and made a detour round to their table to meet the rest of the Ÿ??gangŸ? on my way back to my friends. I can also take this opportunity to inform you that the facilities in the Ladies were admirable! After a few more piccies, and a few more laughs, we decided it was Ÿ??VillageŸ? time and said our goodbyes. We then left, got in the car, and headed straight for Via for a somewhat late appearance. A late mark on the Register is always better than none at all! All in all a good night, but as I’m sure you remember, I will summarise thus: Is Pacifica TV friendly? Client wise Ÿ?? no problems! I chatted to all and sundry with no problems at all. Staff wise Ÿ?? they don’t even know I’ve been! They were in such a state of chaos King Canute could have dined there without being noticed! Value for money? There were all sorts of debates going on with our party Ÿ?? one guy left in a huff because he thought ô?80-00 for three including copious amounts of Lager was expensive! Personally we paid ô?60-50 for our meals and drinks, so we were more than happy. Would I go again? I probably would. I wouldn’t book a big party there Ÿ?? they obviously just can’t cope, but in fairness the food was good, the place was clean and modern and well decorated, and the Lounge upstairs was lovely. I think the prices were fair, and the Staff were trying their best. Unfortunately, for some of our party their best wasn’t good enough, but you know what they say Ÿ?? You can please some of the people some of the time, but you’ll never please all of the people all of the time!

13-01-2014-Avalanche, Manchester

Every year my friend Sharon comes over to Manchester with me, and we have a bit of a night out. Sharon is the wife of Steven, one of my friends in my male cross-dressing world. Steven is fully aware of what I do, and although he will talk and joke about it, he tends not to spend much time in Paula’s company. He had been to a couple of do’s where Paula has been present, but I think, given the choice, he would sooner hang around with her male counterpart. Sharon on the other hand loves Paula whatever she’s wearing, and in whichever mode she happens to be. As it was between Christmas and New Year, I had to search around a little to find somewhere that could fit us in, and eventually managed to book a slot at Avalanche, which is located at 2 Booth Street, Manchester, M2 4AT ( http://www.avalancherestaurant.co.uk ). I actually went here last Christmas with another friend, and apart from a slight hiccup with the service, had a thoroughly good night, so I was quite looking forward to it. We set off from Clitheroe in good time, and managed to squeeze a couple of drinks in New Union and Via before heading round to the taxi office and ordering a taxi for Paula to Booth Street. Sharon was really impressed that all I had to do was press a speaker button on a door; tell them who I was, and Hey Presto! A taxi arrived. I hadn’t the heart to tell her that they didn’t actually know who Paula was; they would gladly have sent a car if I had told them it was Osama bin Laden and his wife! Anyway, doesn’t do any harm for her to think I’m famous (or is it infamous?). Ten minutes later, we parted with the taxi fare, jumped out, and entered into Avalanche to a warm and friendly welcome. It was pretty busy, but not quite full. About 70% I guess. We were shown straight to our table, our napkins were unfolded onto our laps, menus were provided, and a drinks order was taken. Very efficient, and so far so good. We chatted away, and sipped our drinks, taking in the atmosphere, and after much deliberation, ended up ordering exactly the same starters and main courses. We started off with Gamberoni con Caprino – King prawns marinated in garlic and olive oil served with wine tomatoes and oven baked goat’s cheese. This went down very well, and helped us build our appetites up ready for the next stage. We enjoyed more chit chat throughout our starter course, and also had time to look around at the various other Diners. As you would expect, there were mixed couples, same sex couples, and groups. There were also two separate Birthday Parties. You may ask how I know this, and I can gladly tell you. I witnessed the Staff carrying cakes with candle on to the tables in question, and I also heard the soft dulcet tones of Ÿ??Happy BirthdayŸ? drifting across the Restaurant from the same tables. As you will no doubt already have worked out, I’m not just a pretty face! I’m pretty good at putting two and two together and coming up with an answer within an acceptable tolerance of four! Anyway, enough of the drivel, and back to the meal. We didn’t have to wait long before our empty plates were taken away and replaced with two larger, full plates. This time they were nearly full of Pesce Spada – Fillet of swordfish fish pan fried and roasted with a mixture of seafood and cherry tomatoes sauce. We managed to fill what remaining space there was with a portion of chunky chips, a portion of new potatoes roasted in olive oil and rosemary, and a portion of Asparagus served with olive oil and parmesan shavings. It was a lovely meal, and we both managed to scrape our plates clean. Now Sharon won’t mind me telling you that she does struggle with her weight a little, but she is in the middle of a strict diet regime, and is doing really well. With this in mind, I was prepared for the worst possible news, that she wouldn’t be having a pudding. This would mean that out of sheer respect and good manners, I also wouldn’t be having one, and that I would have to leave the Restaurant having only carried out a partial review. That said, she’s a great friend, and if that’s the support she needs, then that’s the support she gets. To avoid any awkwardness, I didn’t even mention the word Ÿ??dessertŸ?, deciding that the best possible plan was to let things flow and see what developed, so when our waiter returned to our table and asked if we would like to see the dessert menu, I was quite surprised when she said she did. It turned out that Shaz had been planning strategically prior to our outing, and had left enough capacity in her food intake to handle the full works. Well done Sharon!! I knew I could rely on her! I promptly ordered the Panna Cotta, and Sharon decided to sample a dish full of various flavours of ice cream. A fitting end to a great meal. We nattered some more, finished our second drink, asked for and paid the bill, and got ourselves organised for our journey back to the Village. We visited the facilities on the way out, and can report that they are perfect in every for the purpose for which they were intended. A quick wave of the hand out on the pavement caused a black taxi type vehicle to stop, and before we could say Ÿ??Manchester ConcordŸ?, we were stood back in Via with Ÿ??the gangŸ? enjoying yet another drink, and getting a few piccies taken. As per usual, this is the bit where I ask and answer three very important questions. They present themselves as follows: Is Avalanche TV friendly? Yes it is, but I already knew that, so no surprises here. Value for money? We paid ô?100-87 including two drinks each (Shaz was on Bacardi) and a Ÿ??suggested tipŸ? of ô?9-17. I personally was happy with the bill, but no doubt you’ll have your own views. Go Again? Obviously! This was my second trip, and I am sure there will be a third at some point. PS Just to let you know that Sharon went to her “post Xmas weigh in”, and managed to loose another 1.5 lbs over the Xmas period, so I don’t have to feel guilty about the pudding!

09-01-2014-Dimitris, Manchester

It was coming up time for my annual Xmas night out with one of my many dining partners. On this occasion my friend was a good all round eater, so no special requirements had to be catered for. A little pre booking chat one evening led to a decision to try a Ÿ??bit of GreekŸ?. We hadn’t done a Ÿ??bit of GreekŸ? together before, so now was the time! I consulted the trusty Google guide to Tranny eating establishments in the Manchester area, and came up with the name Dimitris. Dimitris is located at Campfield Arcade, Deansgate, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4FN and can be found on the world wide web by typing in www.dimitris.co.uk I made a telephone call, and with no further ado we had a booking for a Saturday evening just before Xmas. As usual, we met in the Village, had a couple of drinks in New Union, then trotted off out onto Princess St. where we hailed a black cab. Five minutes later we were alighting outside Dimitris which is pretty much opposite the Hilton. We entered the ground floor bar area, announced our arrival (as if we had to!) and were promptly led to our table which was downstairs in the basement / cellar / lower ground floor. Describe it as you will! Here we were offered and provided with drinks, and left with Menus to peruse and choose. It didn’t take too long between the excited chat for us to pick a few items out, and we were ready to order when our Waitress returned. I started proceedings with Gambas Chili Ÿ?? described as Portuguese style king prawns, and my friend kicked off with the Dolmades Ÿ?? stuffed vine leaves, served cold. We both sampled a little of each others starters, and I couldn’t have fallen out with either of them. The downstairs dining room was pretty busy, with a mix of couples and groups, and from the muffled sounds coming from above, we guessed upstairs was equally as busy. It didn’t take long for our starters to be reduced to empty plates, and we sat nattering, awaiting our main courses. My friend had chosen Stifado (beef with red wine and onions) and Mejadarra (rice with lentils and onions served with yoghurt), whilst I decided to have a torrid affair with Skewered mixed fish which came with Pilaf Rice. Very tasty all round. Once again, we returned two completely empty plates to the kitchen, and it was that time of the evening that we hate, when the ever agonizing decision has to be made as to whether or not to sample a desert. It was pretty near Xmas, and we had just eaten two full starters and main courses, so tonight maybe the one night that some self discipline should be shown, and the deserts should perhaps be left for others to enjoy. That said no harm in just having a peep at the menus, mainly in the name of research. How can I prepare a full review of somewhere without at least knowing what we could have had for pud? Mmmm maybe a flawed thought process I guess. Once we had looked at the various options, and discussed what we might have chosen, had we been partaking, it was becoming pretty difficult not to actually partake! In actual fact it became impossible not to partake. The net result of all this fannying around was that we did in fact partake. I had the sticky toffee pudding Ÿ?? with an extra scoop of butterscotch ice cream, and my friend had the chocolate fudge cake Ÿ?? with an extra scoop of strawberries and cream ice cream. Not bad heh? We know how not to partake! As we had proceeded through our meal, various tables had steadily emptied, and we were one of the last tables down there, however, the sound of music was drifting down from upstairs and it sounded pretty lively. We presumed it would be Greek music, and thought it might be fun to go upstairs and have a drink at the bar before leaving. We paid the bill at the table, and then prepared ourselves for the next stage of the evening. A quick visit to the Ladies enabled me to powder my nose and rearrange the face a little, and also enabled me to report that the loos have everything you would want them to have for the purpose for which they were designed. We then went upstairs to the Bar area. It soon became evident that the music was far from Greek, it was in fact what I would describe as contemporary rock. Nothing heavy, some even recognizable Ÿ?? whatever it’s proper title was, it certainly created an atmosphere and provided the Bar with a good head count of people of all types and ages. This looked good. We ordered drinks, and soon managed to find somewhere to stand next to a table where we were quickly made very welcome by the surrounding drinkers. Photographs were taken, names were exchanged, and I even got snogged by an old Indian gentleman with a fluffy white beard and a Turban. Not something that was at the top of my bucket list, but nevertheless, an experience! We mingled with all and sundry, and really felt comfortable. The music was good, easy to listen to, and the atmosphere was lively. One drink became two, and then a third, and before we knew where we were it was 1-00am! The band finished and packed up, and the place quickly started to empty. It was obvious that the live music side of this business is quite popular. We moved out onto Deansgate, and within 30 seconds we were sat in a taxi making our way back to Via where we underwent the third degree with regards to our noted absence. Another few drinks, and then two weary, happy people made their way home. All in all a top night. As for the all important three questions, they go thus: Is Dimitris TV friendly? Is it!!!!! I was a very popular figure that particular night! Value for money? Our food bill came to ô?54-10, so bang a tip on top of that and you end up with ô?60-00 less in your purse than when you went in. No problems as far as I’m concerned. Would I go again? Most definitely, as a matter of fact we may well go again just to have a drink. It was a great night.