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Sleuth 20/03/09

Manchester overturns smoking ban, Guy Garvey serenades the city, Red Noses can kill, and fights in Altrincham bars

Published on March 20th 2009.


Sleuth 20/03/09

Sleuth is a sideways glance at the city every week. We give £25 for every story/rumour and piece of absurdity you find for us to print. We ask for the money back if any legal action follows.

Smoking Ban overturned
Sleuth was out in a pub which shall remain nameless in the inner ring of Manchester and Salford. The curtains were closed, the door was opened only to a secret knock, and then something funny happened. Mysterious circular objects with a central recess appeared on the tables. And people started doing that weird old-fashioned activity once popular in bars and pubs, smoking. Smoking on the inside of the building. Not an old fashioned lock-in with drinks, but a smoke-in. Remarkable. Sleuth couldn’t believe it. Still it confirms something to Sleuth – never ban anything, unless you wish to criminalise it. Sleuth doesn’t smoke but felt he was breathing in the fresh air of civil disobedience. Albeit choking on it too.

Elbow go symphonic
Sleuth attended the Manchester International Festival launch this week. Guy Garvey of Elbow announced that the band was going to do a gig with the Halle Orchestra on 8/9 July. Musing on his relationship with Manchester, Guy said, “My girlfriend says I’ve written more love songs to the city than to any woman.” His collaborator on the project, Joe Duddell, muttered something, Guy laughed and said, “well, any one woman.” He went on with, “this will be the first time Elbow and the Halle Orchestra have come together in something other than the Briton’s Protection”. He’s a good lad Guy. For those who don’t know, the Briton's is behind the Bridgewater Hall and just down the way from Guys’ flat.

Ashes to ashes
When the England and Wales Cricket Board awarded the First Test of this summer's much-anticipated Ashes showdown against Australia to Glamorgan in April 2006, it was thanks in no small part to the Welsh Assembly guaranteeing £1.2m of Welsh tax-payers' money to help secure the match. Jack Simmons, then Lancashire chairman, was apoplectic that public money was being levered into Sophia Gardens, Glamorgan's home ground. "I'm still seething about it," he wrote in his Manchester Evening News column. "It seems open now for clubs to get financial backing, maybe from regional funding, and just bid for the big matches." Simmons, although no longer Old Trafford chairman, is still on the committee, and clearly, what is good for the Glamorgan goose is good for the Old Trafford gander - last week, Lancashire announced that the North West Development Agency were pumping £2.65 million of public money into upgrading the facilities at Old Trafford with the ultimate aim of seeing international cricket back at Old Trafford. At least people can actually vote for the Welsh Assembly.

Upper crust in CUBE
Sleuth went to last week’s CUBE speech by just about his favourite Manc architectural practice, OMI. The two partners are Dave McCall and Phil O’Dwyer and they’ve done projects as diverse as Spectrum flats in Salford and the Fourth Church of Christ the Scientist on Peter Street. When they started out they were offered space by Ian Simpson Architects (Urbis, No1 Deansgate, Beetham Tower) in their Knott Mill office. “Ian assured us,” said Dave McCall, “that the rent was very reasonable before we arrived.” He paused with a half smile: “So when we left we bought him a new toaster and left it in the office. We think we contributed in a small way to that olive grove Ian’s put in his flat on top of Beetham Tower.”

Noses picked on
Sleuth thinks local authorities are guilty of culpable cowardice on occasion. Sleuth hears that some schools in Urmston didn’t allow their pupils to wear their red noses on Red Nose Day for fear they might choke. Or maybe blow up, or die of toxic nasal syndrome or some other bit of made up health fear. Sleuth reckons the schools in question were either idiots or cowards and no doubt blithered on about insurance or some such.

Late Rayner
One of Confidential’s writers got on the train to London the other day and settled down. Then a big hairy man came and sat next to her and started to chat loudly on his phone about Manchester’s cuisine. Turned out to be the mop-headed Jay Rayner, food critic of the Guardian and the Observer. He was getting all excited about the new food deals at Michael Caines Restaurant at Abode – lunchtimes for £12 for three courses, early evening £19.95 for three courses. It’s good to see Rayner enthusiastic about the city for once, but he’s hardly on the ball with these deals. MC at Abode have been putting these on since summer last year.

Landlords bar themselves
Sleuth is never happy to hear of fighting in bars. But it happens: the heat of the moment, the beer talking. But it was surprising to hear of fisticuffs involving not customers, but bar owners. Mort Subite occupies the old mortuary in Altrincham, and last Friday saw the police called to the bar not for customers fighting but the owners scrapping with each other. The customers separated them and made them sit at each end of the venue, a compromise which was shattered when the Salford-born Welshman of the pair launched himself at the other. Mort Subite means Sudden Death, Sleuth thinks the business partners shouldn’t try so hard keeping on-message.

To twitter or not
Sleuth bumped into Council Leader, Sir Richard Leese and Cllr Mike Amesbury both Confidential readers at the Manchester International Festival Launch. Mike turns out to be on Facebook, Twitter and what not. Sleuth articulated the idea that no man over 38 years of age should be on social sites as it's unbecoming. Mike disagreed. Sleuth only has Sleuth to communicate with the world after all. Sir Richard has his own page on the Manchester Council website: “I blog but I don’t twitter,” he said with finality. Gordo was lurking in the background shame faced after drunkenly sitting on the Council Leader’s knee in the City Arms a couple of weeks ago. Sleuth said Gordo was ashamed. “How odd. I didn’t think he knew what shame was,” said a surprised Sir Dickie.


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

AeronMarch 20th 2009.

Not so much speakeasy as reekeasy. I'm all for them!

RayMarch 20th 2009.

Cheesey is absolutely right, and the reason why we don't have top end dining is beautifully demonstrated by Anonymous, whose name ironically describes the fare served up by the type of mid range restaurants mentioned by Jez. Manchester is simply not culturally a food city yet. Sadly, I don't think Gordo - or a host of food reviewers - will change a thing. People will believe what they want to believe, and if that means that they consider a top/Michelin restaurant to be flash/vulgar/poor value, then nothing will change their minds. Manchester is shockingly poor in restaurant terms, and should be ashamed of itself. You know it's bad when San Carlo is held up as the doyen of dining. San Carlo? Average at best.

snMarch 20th 2009.

i care about as much re Michelin stars as Jez does from the sound of it (Mcr's diversity across the small space that is town is something to be justly proud of), but just to correct them on Birmingham (i love Brum almost as much as i love Mcr; quite a few Brummie mates etc.), can i just say that of the three Michelin one star gaffs in Brum, one, Purnell's, is in Brum city centre, the next, Simpsons, is in Edgbaston (which is a mere mile south of their city centre), and Turners is in Harborne, which is a neighbourhood a fairly short three miles south of their city centre, so fairly central concerns, to be fair.i mean Altrincham town centre is, what?, a good 8 miles from town. (not that Juniper is with us at the mo anyway.)

CheeseyMarch 20th 2009.

People of Manchester, instead of talking up our rubbish restaurants its time to face it. We don't even have 1 Michelin Star, not 1. That poor old Swiss bloke lasted about a minute at Juniper lasted a minute.If Gordo really cares about food as much as he claims then he should start a campaign to get us at least one decent restaurant. Enough of the pizzaburgeria nonsense enough tapas from Lidl, enough monosodium glutamate, enough garbage seafood, enough celebrity chef (but he isn’t ever their) chain nonsense. Just lets have 1 place that cooks everything themselves, from regional suppliers, and at sensible money.Gordo, its time to either rise to your destiny or put your snout back down in the advertising revenue trough.

championMarch 20th 2009.

I want to be in a Reekeasy when it gets raided. I want to see Pat Karney in his Gestapo coat and hat and his shock troops bundling closet smokers into the police van

Craig DMarch 20th 2009.

I love the idea of smoke-ins. It's like the prohibition 1930s again. Fabulous.

AnonymousMarch 20th 2009.

Cheesey, why don't you p** off to Birmingham then - which you claim to be the second city!

AvoMarch 20th 2009.

Which establishment serves "a lettuce leaf with gravy on it" then anon?

marieMarch 20th 2009.

I'm a little peturbed that I appear to have been sitting next to Sleuth at the OMI lecture at CUBE and didnt even notice anyone taking photos...the Simpson digs were wonderful, the best one saved until the end of the evening was rather savage...

RayMarch 20th 2009.

Jo - care to expand?

JezMarch 20th 2009.

Cheesey it's not just about the starred places and none of the Brum places are in the city and please Leeds is nowhere near as interesting. Barcelona is effectively a capital city. I said compare mid-range dining and the range of mid-range dining and it's fine here. And instead of asking web-magazines to open Michelin rated websites why don't you?

CheeseyMarch 20th 2009.

Jez, since you ask, let me tell you. I have recently moved here having lived 10 years in Barcelona, Spain's second city, not its capital. Barca has 2 restaurants with three stars, 1 with two stars and 18 with one star last time I checked. OK I know Birmingham is the UK's 2nd city, and maybe you would also like to concede Leeds to be the 3rd? Just thought it might be sensible to expect at least 1 quality place to eat here. So Jez, if you think the food here matches the rest of Europe then I guess you get what you deserve. For me it's a disgrace and an embarrassment and Gordo should start to do something to fix it instead of sucking up to the makeweights who are here.

AnonymousMarch 20th 2009.

I think Jay Rayner might need a better argument than 'because it would be really nice of you' to convice the supermarkets to make their value brands actually contain food... Thought that programme was just a vehicle to for him to hear his own voice.

CheeseyMarch 20th 2009.

OK my mistake. If you think the food here is good and represents value for money then fill your boots. I chose to live in Manchester because I thought it would have a similar spirit to Barca. Not the capital, but with its own style and aspirations. Clearly I was wrong. If you are measuring quality by the amount of food divided by the cost then McDonalds looks good.

AnonymousMarch 20th 2009.

its sad when you have to measure a city's prowess by its overated restuarants..they are the emporers now clothes of these times and already laughably out of date in the these credit crunch times..paying 50 quid for a lettuce leaf with gravy on it is for the sort of people who think wearing Armani makes you look stylish...

scoteeeMarch 20th 2009.

now now lads!,we digress...Walking through Rusholme on Saturday to buy some nice ingredients and i passed a cafe with three men sat in the window smoking their pipes with smoke billowing out of the front door! Does the smoking ban not affect Rusholme then?

Jez AtkinsonMarch 20th 2009.

Not sure you know what you're talking about Cheesey. Or you Artemis. If you've travelled around European cities, not the capitals, as much as I have you will know that Manchester in terms of range and its mid-range is much better than most. It is most emphatically not rubbish. It is very good in those areas. At the top it is lacking of course, but one good restaurant will see to that. MC at Abode is good as well and is run by Ian Matfin as the chef. Not sure Gordo, Schofield, Sowerby or whomever can as critics create that place you hanker for.

JohnMarch 20th 2009.

Duelling landlords isn't unprecedented, I believe that the eponymous Matt and Phred ended their partnership with a bout of fisticuffs in their bar

Leeds BazMarch 20th 2009.

There do seem to be fewer events this year, but they seem of a higheraverage quality. There are enough real sit-up and take notice things going on that it creates a sense of occasion. This is the correct way of doing things. Let's forget stuff like the pointless nobody even knows it takes place food and drink festival or futuresonic and just put all the resource into this biennial festival. Well done Manchester.

ArtemisMarch 20th 2009.

I second Cheesey's comments.

Farts on cheap meatMarch 20th 2009.

Jay Rayner may be all the things that I Hate Jay says he is, but his "The True Cost of Cheap Food" on C4 in January was excellent, and maybe (yeah, fat chance I know, but someone has to hope) it'll shame the supermarkets in to improving the quality of the food they sell.

JoMarch 20th 2009.

San Carlo is average, you are right there Ray...but that is all you are right about.

JoMarch 20th 2009.

Did Sleuth walk into the St Patrick's Day episode of the Simpsons, where the smokeasy pub idea was central to the (flaky) plot?

I Hate JayMarch 20th 2009.

Jay Rayner told me that following a very unpleasant experience he had in Abode in Canterbury that he'd never step foot into another Abode 'for as long as he lives'. Either your reporter is a liar, or Jay Rayner is a smug, self-satisfied, hypocritical fool. You decide.

Teresa TMarch 20th 2009.

I had sex with Carlos Acosta last night after looking at the picture very very closely. Then I woke up.

GordoMarch 20th 2009.

Blimey

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