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The Woodstock, West Didsbury

Dave Bishop goes to the Woodstock and chills out man

Published on December 22nd 2008.

The Woodstock, West Didsbury

CHRISTMAS, so obviously no room at the inn then. At this time of the year, the Bishop family - just the four of us - always has a meal and a drink out at a pub. It’s a civilised little tradition to precede the more emotionally-draining larger family get-together later (honestly, those Royles have no idea).

For some reason – probably one as illogical as my wife buying me a Girls Aloud album two Christmases ago, thanks, luv, but it still hasn’t been played – we always seem to choose Mobberley or Didsbury. Two places whose only common denominators are that they are posh and both end in ‘y’.

This year we chose to go to ‘the Didsbury’, in Didsbury, and at 6.30pm on a midweek evening you’d think there’d be no problem. But the Didsbury, even in these straitened times, being the gastro-aspiring and pastiche rustic haven it is, was packed with diners. Meanwhile dumbos like us who were too feckless to book were told there would be a 50 minute wait. Doh.

Now my missus, so unlike the diva-ish Mariah Carey in virtually every way, doesn’t do waiting, not even for five minutes in a supermarket queue, so off we went in search of somewhere else.

Bit of a tricky one that in Didsbury, but then the youngest – smarter than the rest of us – remembered the Woodstock, where we’d ventured a few years earlier and enjoyed the experience. But since then I’d heard various people say the odd negative comment, and I’d been put off, still this was crisis time.

Thank heavens we decided to follow our instincts, because once again, we all loved the Woodstock, unreservedly. The name alone – conjuring up images of ditsy hippies prancing around a muddy field to the strains of Joni Mitchell et al in more innocent times – is enough to get you in the mood for something cool and relaxed.

From the outside, through the leafless branches of the surrounding mature trees, it could be the home of the Addams Family, but once across the threshold of the elaborately arched and tiled entrance, the spookiness is replaced by ambient chic.

Slightly subdued electro and indie vibes, together with classics from the likes of Hendrix and The Who, instantly signify that this is a place where the Didsbury Metrosexual would not feel uncomfortable.

Now I know metrosexuals have had a bad press of late, but I like the ones that go in the Woodstock – they sit around on the large leather sofas, looking vaguely glamorous, vaguely dishevelled and vaguely spaced out while not bothering anyone, even an anomalous family like ours (we were the only one this night).

We found a space upstairs. This had plenty of spare tables, one next to an idiosyncratic wrought iron partition, a quirky touch symbolic of the pub’s special upstairs style, that also embraces a plush pink and black wallpaper decorated with a kid of Japanese motif.

Needless to say there are lots of gilt mirrors and reclaimed fireplaces while junk-shop and retro chandeliers and lampshades are liberally dotted about, just like some old duchess’s mansion.

Settled at last, we ordered our usual cask beers – something called the Reverend James and the more familiar Black Sheep - and diet cokes for the kids, although the range of specialist bottled beers, from Wells & Young banana bread beer to Meantime Raspberry, looked mighty tempting. The Woodstock also serves Leffe and Hoegaarden (musts, I suppose, in Didsbury).

The food, served day and night seven days a week, is OK, but is never likely to win awards. My kids enjoyed their houmous and grated carrot bloomer (£4.10) and fish and chips (£6.90), while my wife tucked in enthusiastically to her spinach and lentil burger with sour cream, salsa and chips (£6.90).

Have to say, though, that I was underwhelmed by my cornfed chicken breasts roasted in a pearl barley and root vegetable broth (£8.50), but I suppose three out of four ain’t bad. And hey, the Christmas pud we had was brilliant. The pub does roasts from noon on Sundays, which it recommends you eat with “our famous bloody Marys.”

Very rock and roll, just like another nice touch at the Woodstock. Your table number when ordering food comes on top of a designer plant stalk in an old Jack Daniels bottle, which is something I doubt the Didsbury has ever, ever considered.

There also lots of papers to read and board games to play. Just like Christmas at home then but better. And, come summer, there’s a great floodlit beer garden at the side, so you’re quids in whatever the season.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

PaulDecember 22nd 2008.

I thought that. They look like one of them photos on a spanish or greek restaurant menu that you get abroad where they photo raw food for some reason

RICHARD NASHDecember 22nd 2008.

The Woodstock is a lovely pub with a lot of charm and has a rural feel, it has some good real ale including Black sheep bitter and a fantastic dry suffolk cider on draught called Aspall, its also one of my nearest pubs,,, so why dont i go there???? Because you have to queue for ever to get served , i have often just given up and walked out, last time i did just that there where some 15 people waiting to get served and only two staff serving ! another time i went in on a saturday night and it was the same but with one member of staff serving and one too busy counting his tips from the tip jar ! the place is a joke , recruit some staff soon or the new Dukes 92 opening next year or whatever they decide to call the old Barleycorn will put you straight out of business !!!!

AnonymousDecember 22nd 2008.

this place is so much better since the re-furb last year, the food seems like it has actually been cooked - rather than bunged in the microwave! atmosphere is much better too

GoMDecember 22nd 2008.

I used to work in the building that is now the Woodstock before it was converted to a pub. Those are not reclaimed fireplaces. They are the original fittings. As is much of the rest in the house. The conversion was done pretty sympathetically. It was built in 1900 and was featured in an architectural magazine of the time. Good to hear it has revived. Started off well as a dining pub but then seemed to decline and got lots of bad reviews.

AnonymousDecember 22nd 2008.

I thought the new look woodstock was pretty good until the last time we went and had a burnt lamb burger, those flaccid chips and 'seasonal greens' which were some limp lettuce and olives?! When we complained they were replaced with a slab of deep fried aubergine and a large piece of semi raw red pepper. bizarre. go there on a sunday afternoon roast but not for a treat with a date or anything. I went to one in London in the same chain and it was great!

AvoDecember 22nd 2008.

Those chips look very anaemic, flaccid and underdone. Give us the ones from Grill on the Alley anyday.

fiobsDecember 22nd 2008.

the woodstock has the makings of a cracking pub, the beer garden is amazing, the wacky-fun-pub-vomit-proof-carpet decor has changed to something much better but the one poor thing about the woodstock remains. The staff. lack lustre, slow, seemingly unaware of their own stock in terms of wine and beer and even on busy nights, there are never enough bar staff. Love or hate the Met, the service is prompt and efficient and the woodstock is almost the opposite of this. if they sort the staff out with some redbull and some training, it might just be a place worth going more often than once in a while...

SteveoDecember 22nd 2008.

They should have left it as it was 8 years ago when the ale was good and the vibe was relaxed, local and uncontrived.Two make-overs later and they are still to put the soul back in the place. Classic case of 'if it aint broke'...

Fiona MoateMay 8th 2011.

Went here today for lunch & it was dreadful. They seem to be over stretching themselves with the menu.
My friend's crab salad was bizarre; a very small amount of crab with raw butter nut squash (completely tasteless with the texture of cardboard) & raw samphire, samphire is gorgeous prepared right, but this was boring & will not encourage my friend to try it again. I had bacon chop with a cream sauce, sweet potato chips & spinach & mushroom. The bacon was tough & char grilled, very salty too, the vegetable portion was so small it would have fitted on a teaspoon & the chips were very soggy. With drinks this was over £22, the beer was warm too.
Very bad value, we couldn't eat our meal & no one came & asked if everything was all right. It's a shame as the building is lovely & the atmosphere was good.

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