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Manchester Confidential Sleepover

Published on December 12th 2005.

By all accounts Friday was a little quiet in the Manchester Confidential office. I say by all accounts, because I was wrapped up in my duvet at home feeling a little, um, delicate. And the reason? Hangovers all round after the Manchester Confidential sleepover.

On Thursday night the Princess on Portland hotel was swamped by a 40 strong crowd of Manchester Confidential staff and readers. For a measly £59, savvy readers took advantage of free gin cocktails, a three course Christmas meal, VIP entry into Matt & Phred’s, and Bed and Breakfast at the beautiful Princess on Portland.

Arriving before dinner to allow ourselves time to sample the wonderful gin cocktails courtesy of mixologist to the stars Jamie Stephenson, we set up camp in the lounge area. All was very sophisticated until Gordo lowered the tone by pointing out the unfortunate topiary arrangements on the window ledge, which I have to admit did hold a certain phallic charm, if you know what I mean...

After a few cocktails (the lethal Christina A Martini went down a treat), Pam and Clare left to catch their train, while the rest of us made our way to the dining room. Once decked out in the obligatory party hats and streamers, we sat down to a three course traditional Christmas dinner with a room full of readers and a menu which was created exclusively for the Manchester Confidential.com Sleepover by the Princess on Portland's Head Chef, Ashley Clarke. Now I’m no expert, but I think it’s safe to say that the food was excellent.

To start, I chose the halloumi fritter with potato salad and sage mayo, while Gordo had the tempura plaice which came with pickled cucumber, ginger salad and spicy dip. Tim, Lindsay, and Lindsay’s guest for the evening, Rod, all chose the wood pigeon with wild mushroom and spinach en croute and truffle dressing, which judging by all of the happy grunting and nodding going on, must have been pretty good.

For mains, Lindsay and I both went for the Sea Bass, although Lindsay decided to save her calories for wine by deciding against the accompanying Sweet Potato Mash and Coriander Pesto. I showed no such self control and happily wolfed it all down. Tim and Rod both chose Loin of Venison marinated in Port and Juniper with Braised Cabbage and Pancetta, while Gordo got into the Christmas spirit and braved the colossal Turkey Breast (seriously, the biggest piece of turkey I have ever seen in my life), with all the usual accompaniments. I decided against dessert, but then regretted my decision when I saw everyone else tucking into the gorgeous looking Lemon Cheesecakes and Sticky Toffee Puddings.

Despite the sophisticated, grown up food and plush surroundings, things still managed to descend into childish mayhem as waiters dodged flying objects, and Gordo and Tim terrorised the women at the table behind us by letting off rocket balloon after rocket balloon in their direction. I admire your forbearance, ladies. The dining room of the Princess on Portland turned into a danger zone as balloons whizzed by in all directions, attacking unsuspecting diners from all angles. The atmosphere in the dining room began to warm up and the formalities break down as tables began to open up to each other and act less like separate parties simply eating in the same restaurant.

Unable to take any more excitement, I had one more drink and left shortly after dinner, along with Tim who had bravely soldiered through the evening despite believing himself to be near death with stomach pains. Everyone else, however, made their way to Matt & Phred’s where they enjoyed VIP entry. What went on once inside there I’m sure is quite hazy in everyone’s memories, but what with a 2am bar, live music, and Gordo in his suede dancing shoes, the possibilities are endless. I wonder if anyone smuggled in any rocket balloons…

Jayne Robinson

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