Friday 24th October
It's 7pm so it's a bit last minute, since I'm setting off in an hour, to be inviting people out. But I just arranged to go out with Alex K 5 minutes ago.
I text Vivien, phone Michela, phone Jennie who is on answerphone, text Matt, text Louise, phone Ali, text Maurita, and phone Rebecca. Ali gave me the number of his rented place a few months ago but the number doesn't work anymore. That's the thing nowadays – people rent flats and change their landline, mobile numbers, and that person you swapped numbers with but never called for months because you've been busy doing other things, or maybe never had a big night out to invite them to – you don't have a contact number for them anymore.
The reason I'm texting is because I've got to change the BT telephone package. It's better to phone people up and speak to them but the last telephone bill was a lot. BT changed their charges a few months ago and looking at the bill I phoned two mobiles which went through to answerphone, total talktime 5 seconds and the calls cost 90p. The BT package means free calls at weekends but calling mobiles on a weekday appears to cost about £2 a minute.
Of the people I contacted, Maurita and Vivien thank me for the invites and can't make it tonight but they want to come out next time. Michela thanks me and says if I'd called earlier she would have come but her friend is coming round to cook her a curry and has already bought ingredients, and that they'll come out next time. Rebecca is going to Didsbury tonight and since me and Alex K are meeting in Didsbury anyway we arrange to see her there.
There's more traffic than usual so I arrive in Didsbury at 8:30pm without time to park. I drive right up outside the bars and wait at the entrance to the car park next to the Gourmet Burger place. It's colder weather tonight and the only people are two doormen outside the Slug and Lettuce. There's no sign of Alex K. I do a three point turn in the entrance of the car park, and drive out onto the main road with the intention to find a sidestreet to park on – since there aren't any spaces in the car park. As I'm turning onto the main road Alex K drives up in his car and I pass him. He turns his car around and follows to the sidestreet where we park the cars.
We go to the Slug and Lettuce which is quite busy. I order a bottle of Becks non-alcoholic beer which is ok tasting and enjoyable to drink. We stand at the bar for a few minutes taking in the atmosphere and having a good time. A lady walks up to the bar, stands close to us and orders drinks, I start a conversation with her.
Me: "Are you celebrating anything tonight?" I ask this because she's dressed smart like she's going to a party.
Her: "No, I'm out with friends. How about you?"
Me: "We're going to the Woodstock Pub in a bit to meet some friends. Do you know where it is?"
Her: "I'm not sure. I think it's in West Didsbury."
Me:" What do you like doing?
Her: "What do you mean?"
Me: "Hobbies, interests, do you have a job?"
Her: "Yes, I'm in advertising."
and so on – we talk about how she does advertising, she asks us where we're from. Then she says:
"I'm going back to my friends" and motions as if for us to come over to the table where her 2 friends are sitting – 2 blonde ladies – the lady we've just spoken to has brown hair.
We let her go over to her two friends for a minute, then we go over to the table where all 3 are now sitting. I approach the table from the end so the two blondes are nearest and on the other side is the brunette. I did this because at the bar I got on with the brunette ok but don't think we'll be able to stay in conversation that long, so I decide to go directly to the blonde ladies rather than be introduced by the brunette. It's a good setting because it's high tables and chairs so everyone is at the same level. I chat to the blonde lady to my left:
Me: "Hi, we were just speaking to your friend."
Me: "Which day is best for going out, Friday or Saturday?"
Her: "I'm a student so I go out more on weekdays. Where are you from?"
Me: "South Manchester. We're meeting with some friends in a bit, we came here first."
She's quite aggressive the way she asks questions as if testing me, but it's not big deal. She asks lots of different things and after the initial aggression she lets her guard down and becomes friendly. She starts asking Alex K questions. He's been doing his mysterious not saying anything until he's asked a question thing, which makes her want to find out about him all the more. The three of us have a good conversation. It turns out she's a student and a screenwriter, and as Alex K is an actor they have a lot in common. She's visiting friends in Manchester, she's studying at Leeds University and is here for a few days.
I go to the bar, leaving Alex K in conversation with the blonde, then come back to the opposite side of the table to speak with the brunette and blonde number 2. By now Alex K is sitting opposite blonde number 1 and they're getting on really well. I get on OK with the brunette and blonde number 2 who is dressed to party but not that outgoing.
At 9:15 we're still having a good night but it's time to get going to the Woodstock pub to meet Rebecca. But Alex K is getting on so well with the blonde, and now he's swapping emails. I keep the conversation going with the brunette and blonde number 2. I haven't asked their names which is usually a sign that we're getting on so well and have things to talk about that we haven't done the formalities.
A guy who is friends with the ladies arrives. He's a bit taller than me, works out, wearing a white T-shirt to show his muscle and jeans. He's a good guy. We get on well. He says he's from Heaton Mersey and takes my email saying we should meet up again. I don't have a pen, paper, or my mobile handy so email will have to do.
Him: "Are you on facebook?"
Me: "No, facebook is for geeks." they all laugh, I continue "and if you're not a geek already go on facebook and you soon will be!" they laugh and nod their heads in agreement at the same time.
Him: "You don't use facebook at all?"
Me: "I can't be doing with sending all those messages."
Him: "Yes, it can take up a lot of time."
Me: "If I get on with someone, I'll usually swap telephone numbers and arrange to meet up again. Otherwise there's not much point."
Him: "That's true, it's a good idea."
It's 9:30 and I put my jacket on to get going. The lady Alex K was talking to has gone to the bar. We wait until she comes back. Alex K says bye to her. We get outside the bar, the doorman says bye on our way out, and Alex K says to me:
Alex K: "I should have got her number."
Me: "Didn't you get it?"
Alex K: "We swapped emails. I was about to, but she went to the bar for a few minutes, came back and we were going."
Me: "Go back."
Alex K: "We could have met up later tonight. She's only in Manchester a few days."
Me: "It's up to you."
Alex K: "No, I'll email her. She'll be in Manchester again."
We take the Honda Jazz and drive down Barlow Moor Road on which the Woodstock Pub is. We haven't been to the Woodstock before. We're in a queue of traffic, I wind down the window and ask a passer by
Me: "Hi, do you know where the Woodstock Pub is?"
Her: She stops and politely says "I'm not sure. It's around here somewhere."
Me: "Ok, thanks."
Alex K: "Yeah, thanks for stopping."
The traffic clears and we drive down Barlow Moor Road and find the Woodstock Pub.
We park and walk along the car park up towards the front of the building. It's like a big detached house from the outside. I like these kind of places. Two doormen greet us as we go through the main entrance. Inside it's like a big house with lots of rooms, an upstairs and downstairs. There's quiet background music playing. The place is carpeted with tables, chairs, and barstools. It's very busy and most of the seats are taken. The clientele are from 20's to 50's, but mostly mid 20's to 30's. There's a middle class feel to it, but not like the middle class of the 80's or 90's. There's lots of smart casual or casual dressed people – polo tops, t-shirts, jeans and trainers, but no branded sportswear. The venue is nice, the service is good. There's a few people dressed smart including me and Alex K. Maybe the other people dressed smart are also going to the city later. It's good, we stand out as having our own style.
I notice Rebecca and friends.
Her: "How's it going, take a seat."
There's 3 guys, 3 girls in the group of friends, all sitting around a table having a good time. I take a free seat and Alex K takes a seat from another table and brings it over. I'm introduced to them, a lady who's dating one of the guys there, she lives in Stockport. Another lady called Felicity who works in education. And there's Phil, Andrew and Ian. We stay a while, have conversations, get on well. Then it's time to get going and Rebecca says:
"Next time you're going to Manchester let me know. It would be good to go for a night out."
Me: "Ok, I'll let you know."
The Woodstock is a good venue to go with friends. At 10:30 we say our goodbyes and leave. We drive north and stop at Fallowfield, park the car, and go to Happy Days takeaway and order chips. The chips here are good value and good quality. They're evenly chopped, properly cooked, and cooked on the spot while you wait, which saves waste and ensures they're freshly cooked. The service is polite and quick.
We go to the car, leave Fallowfield and drive towards the city. We reach Rusholme and there's queues and lots of traffic, so we take a left at Whitworth Park, and take the streets parallel to Wilmslow Road and Oxford Road into the city. We get onto Deansgate near the Hilton Hotel and debate whether to go there to the hotel bar, but there aren't any parking spaces so we drive to the other end of Deansgate and park not far from King Street.
The aim of tonight is to check out some places to find out if they're any good. Then choose one to go to every week. We ask the doorman at All Bar One:
Me: "Do you know where Lime Bar is?"
Doorman: "Yes, it's down there, then right."
Doorman: "No problem."
We get to Lime Bar, 3 door staff outside greet us, these smaller places have better organised and more professional door staff. Inside there's a bar facing us, to the right is a dancefloor and chairs and tables. It's one of those venues that's a restaurant or café bar by day and they move the chairs and it's a club at night. The music is good and the people are smartly dressed – making it feel like more of a special venue. We explore the place and find a cocktail lounge area which has lots of sofas and comfortable chairs, it's a nice place to be with friends. Lime Bar is among one of the best venues we've visited in the city.
We leave and go to a street near to King Street with a bar called Grinch on it. It's ok. On the same street is Chaophraya – we go inside and a guy sweeping up greets us:
Me: "Are you closing." I say because he's sweeping up and the place looks nearly empty
Him: "Yes, we close at 12." he looks at his watch "In 15 minutes."
We start to leave, the guy says "Please come back again."
It's a nice venue, music ok, polite and friendly staff, good quality seating and décor, well thought out layout. It's half restaurant and half bar.
Then we check out another place whose name begins with B______ on the same street. Inside it's a long narrow venue with a bar on one side and seating on the left. It's nice but the music is a bit loud for this type of venue. We go upstairs and halfway up the stairs meet a guy who looks like he manages the place. He's wearing a white shirt and a black suit jacket and trousers.
Me: "Hi, is there anything upstairs?"
Manager: "Yes, a restaurant and function room. Have a look."
We go upstairs and take a look at the restaurant. It's nice. We go back down and the manager greets us again. It would be a suitable place to meet with friends but it's trying to be a nightclub with the volume and style of music. It's the same with a lot of bars – the staff working there have club hits playing loud and think that ‘this is great', they're used to the volume and turn it up a notch, then again, and again. They don't notice the customer and that the whole point of a bar is to be with friends to talk. In a nightclub the customers are ok with the loud music and dancing. The result is every bar starts to feel the same.
We leave and now we're going past Groucho Grill, Revolution, we don't even bother going in. Now we're on Deansgate. Living Room is ok, we go inside for 5 minutes. Label we don't go in but it looks ok. La Tasca is ok inside, we prefer the seats in the entrance corridor area. The main bar is ok, we check it out, but it's like everywhere else. Then we're outside the Moon Under the Water.
Me: "Ok, that's it, we've covered the city, except for Albert Square."
Alex K: "Albert Square is La Tasca, Café Rouge, Slug and Lettuce. It's the same bars as we've been. It's all chains. That's the thing with cities now."
Me: "Yeah, there's not many places that really stand out as having their own style. But we're finding a few."
We go to the car on King Street and drive over to Chinatown and park there. It's late. As we walk through Chinatown the International Buffet is closed, so is China Buffet which is the best Buffet we've tried here, it's on the corner and in a basement. There aren't many food places open. As we walk further down the street a man is swapping numbers with a madam, who is at the same time touting for prostitution business to passers by.
Madam: "We have some nice ladies for you tonight!"
Another man walks quickly past with a scared look and posture, wanting to get out of this area as fast as possible!
We get to the casino and sit in the bar lounge area. We order hot sandwiches with salad and tortilla chips. The food is quite good value here. We discuss all the places we've been tonight. We also have a conversation with the ladies at the bar, they're nice people. One of them is an actress. Then we go over to the coffee machine.
Alex K: "Did you see that! She said she's an actress as well!"
Me: "A lot of people we meet are actors and screenwriters."
Alex K: "Everyone wants to be an actor nowadays."
Me: "The lady we met a few weeks ago has a production company too. Everyone is in the media."
Alex K: "Even lots of people have a production company. It's nothing nowadays."
Me: "You've got to create something good and make it happen."
Alex K: "That's it."
We look out over the gaming floor. There's a guy who must work out a lot wearing a white t-shirt and jeans, with scars on his face like he's been in lots of fights. He's stood between two roulette tables betting on them both at the same time. He lays out a pile of cash on one table. The croupier spreads it outand counts it.
Croupier: "Four hundred and eighty pounds. Ok?"
The gambler nods.
Alex K: "Did you see that? He just laid out £480!"
The gambler lays out about the same amount on the second table
Me: "That's a lot of money."
He puts all the chips on the tables, intentlyconcentrating as if there's a special method to playing.
The wheels spin on both tables. The croupier drops the ball on each table.
The balls stop. The croupiers collect all the chips!
Alex K: "He's lost it all!"
Me: "He lost a grand in one minute."
Alex K: "Look. He doesn't even care."
The gambler goes to another roulette table and gambles some more.
We get some more drinks, then go out into the street. It's quiet now. We get the car from Chinatown which is also deserted, put on the radio. The radio makes a repetitive beeping and tapping noise for a while:
Me: "There's something wrong with the radio."
Alex K: "Have you broken it?"
Me: "No, it's Galaxy"
Alex K laughs. It's a joke. Galaxy is the dance music station. I like dance music but the stuff it plays at this time of night is different. I tune the radio through a few stations and leave it on Rock Radio. We drive south to Didsbury.
Summary and reviews: Friday 24th October
Click here for Season 1 Index
Slug and Lettuce Didsbury
Very busy. Clientele: smart casual, smart. Décor: 7/10. Music: chart music.
Notes: It's a venue where it's relatively easy to start conversations with people.
Slug and Lettuce Didsbury
Very busy. Clientele: Middle class. Décor: 8/10. Music: Quiet background easy listening.
Notes: The Woodstock is like a house made into a pub, with different rooms, and upstairs there's some trendy 80's inspired décor.
Happy Days Takeaway
Quiet. Décor: 5/10.
Notes: Quick service and properly cooked chips and pizzas.
Happy Days takeaway
Very busy. Clientele: smart. Décor: 9/10. Music: dance, pop.
Notes: Quality décor, layout, fast service, and trendy clientele make this one of the most stylish venues in Manchester.
Medium busy. Clientele: smart. Décor: 8/10.
Notes: A classy venue with themed décor and polite staff.
Quiet. Clientele: smart. Décor: 8/10.
Notes: A classy venue with themed décor and polite staff.
Medium busy. Clientele: smart, smart casual. Décor: 7/10. Music: classic hits, pop.
Notes: A bar-restaurant but the music is a nightclub volume making it too loud to talk.
Medium busy. Clientele: smart, smart casual. Décor: 7/10. Music: chart, pop, dance.
Notes: Clientele dress smart and trendy. Less chance of fighting and trouble.
La Tasca Deansgate
Medium busy. Clientele: smart, smart casual.
Notes: Music too loud in bar-restaurant area. Entrance corridor seating is ok.
La Tasca on Deansgate