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Sleuth Wk 14: Odeon Doom, South African Restaurant, Steampunks Utd

Manchester's alternative reality jester

Written by . Published on April 5th 2013.

Sleuth Wk 14: Odeon Doom, South African Restaurant, Steampunks Utd

SleuthSleuthSleuth is a sideways glance at the city every week, it's the truth, but Sleuth's truth. He's several people all at once. We give £25 for every story/rumour and piece of absurdity you find for us to publish. Sleuth sometimes even gets serious. We ask for the money back if any legal action follows. Follow Sleuth on twitter @mcrsleuth 

Peter Street Resurgam

Peter Street and Great Northern Square are rising. After All Star Lanes opened recently a helter-skelter welter of places will follow this year. The well thought of Liverpool operation Lucha Libre will take the unit next to All Star - this offers 'Mexican street food' and of course drinks. Meanwhile Eclectic Bars are taking Purity Bar (née Bar 38). But which Eclectic franchise will it be? Could it be tika bar Lola Lo, will it be the Moroccan themed Fez Club, or the run-of-the-mill Prohibition? What Sleuth hears is that it won't be a Living Room. Maybe the group will invent a new theme.

These openings complement the ribshack bar from Almost Famous going into the old Relish site and the conversion of the magnificent upper floor of Albert Hall into a Trof operation

Albert Hall, waiting for Trof: Pictures of Trof are by Andrew Brooks http://www.andrewbrooksphotography.com/main-gallery.php.Albert Hall, waiting for Trof: Pictures of Trof are by Andrew Brooks 

Braai Filler

Sleuth was looking for a Polish takeaway recommended by people on Ayres Road in Old Trafford this week. He found it but it was closed. Next door is Braai, an Afrikaans meets South Asian inspired unit. It was packed. The locals are desperately in love with it so Sleuth thought he should support Braai too. Wow. Sleuth died in a meaty heaven, the mixed grill feeds three or four for £18 (see main picture above), the sauces are exquisite including the best piri piri in Manchester. A manager told Sleuth that Braai was expanding into the city centre close to Kendals/House of Fraser. It will be 100 covers. Excellent news: Braai provides a very uplifting experience. 

Whisky Lovers Prove Flexible

Sleuth has been getting invites to a big whisky event on the Isle of Jura up in the Scotland - they obviously want a bit of Manchester up there. He did some research about the previous year's event and was surprised to find, according to their website, this seminar. ‘Wood and Maturation with Richard Paterson: Richard Paterson, Master Bender, takes participants on a tour of the finest casks that go to making our core range and rare expressions.’ So not just any old bender, but a master bender. The best type in Sleuth's experience.

Pesto Gone

Pesto has closed on Deansgate. As a group the company is going to take over country and suburban pubs and open them as boozers with Italian style food. Confidential said all it could about Pesto with this food and drink column - click here.

Odeon Redux

Sleuth hears (yeah, yeah he cribbed it from the Business Desk website) that an American development company called Hines has signed up to building a towering office (13 floors or more) on the site of the Odeon on Oxford Street when that building gets demolished later this year. Or next year. Apparently everybody wants a pre-let - an agreement with someone to occupy the building - before the bulldozers move in.

People shouldn't be sentimental about the disappearance of the Odeon reckons Sleuth. Since the remarkable interior was ripped out of the interwar building, it's been a dead 'un, the dowdy facade scarcely merits retention. Still the proposed name for the new building is a little daft: 'Landmark'. Sleuth thinks that title has to be earned rather than optimistically and opportunistically heaped on a building which may well turn out to be bland commercial fudge.

Odeon deathOdeon death

Sleuth And Trees In The Sky

Every seven days or so Sleuth is stopped in the street by policemen, firemen, concierges, Afrikaan meat eaters, American property developers, Master benders, Moroccan Theme Bars, the complete cast of Cats currently playing at The Opera House and asked "Where can we find the highest grove of trees in the city centre with a man in a chair staring at us?" 

"Why," says Sleuth, "that would be on top of Beetham Tower, where the architect Ian Simpson lives, 554ft, or 169m, above the city. You'll often find him sat there in his grove of olive trees."

And to prove the story he showed this pictures to the policemen, firemen, concierges, Afrikaan meat eaters, American property developers, Master benders, Moroccan Theme Bars and the complete cast of Cats currently playing at The Opera House.

Ian SimpsonIan Simpson from a photo shoot by Rebecca Lupton for a Financial Times story - click here. It pays to check out the other pictures on this story. 

Steam Punks Light Up Manchester - Sleuth's Manchester communities

LOUIE said, “There are 300 or so of us in the Manchester Cottonopolis group. We call these activities ‘jaunts’ and they are usually well attended.”

Louie was referring to the Steam Punks he’d led into Manchester city centre for a tour. Steam Punks are people who dress in Victorian and Edwardian costume and sport gadgets that one described as ‘retro-futuristic’ – in other words tools and weapons writers in the steam age may have imagined we could possess in 2013.

Think HG Wells meets Sherlock Holmes chats to Ray Bradbury and settles down for a chinwag with Ridley Scott.

The Steam Punks carry their hobby and passion off with gentle manners, smiles, kindness and a magnified sense of eccentricity. 

You couldn't help admiring one little group. 

This was formed by a superbly attired pair of a lady and her cross-dressing fella, and the sweet mother of the former who had come along for the ride, but wasn’t a Steam Punk. The mother looked like she was dressed for a walk round a stately home with a nice cuppa after and maybe a cheeky piece of cake.  She didn’t bat an eyelid at all the unconventionality in full flower about her. Fabulous.

Away from collecting pith helmets and bustles the individual members of 'Cottonopolis' seem to have standard day jobs, one civil engineering lady was provided some good insights when we arrived at the tour’s destination: the Great Northern Tunnel.

The Steam Punks had split into two groups, made up collectively of around fifty people. The first group was called Muff and the second, Zeppelin. 

“I feel Dr Freud would have fun with those names,” Sleuth said to one of the organisers, Kirsty. 

“I had to choose muff,” she laughed. “I just love muffs.” To prove this she showed Sleuth hers. It was a very handsome muff. 

Her hands were sure to keep warm.

Sleuth never got to the bottom of the reason for the name Zeppelin, this somehow preserves the mystery.  

This was the timetable as written by Kirsty:

12.00 - start to congregate at Manchester Town Hall Sculpture Hall cafe
12.45 - Meet Tunnel-Master at Town Hall
13.00 - Group Muff descends into the stygian depths armed with sturdy shoes and torches.
14.45 - Group Zeppelin assembles at the embarkation point
15.00 - Group Zeppelin descends to pursue the angry Shoggoths and to rescue Group Muff's fallen comrades


The Steam Punks and the tunnel were made for each other. 

The tunnel was built in Victoria’s reign as a canal and then abandoned, until given a brief life once more as bomb shelters in WWII. It provided a perfect backdrop to brocaded dresses, bodices, leather straps, breeches and top hats. 

The layer of mud before Slippery Stairs in The Rubble Passage on the way to The Great Chamber proved a challenge for some of the ladies with longer dresses but everyone managed. 

During the ‘weird-thing-we-do-down-there’ activity the groups were massively exuberant. No holding back with Steam Punks. 

"I'm making an infra-red night vision set of goggles with torches attached on each side," said one woman casually, as though mentioning she had to pick up a pint of milk on the way home.

Of course on our promenade through town to the tunnel entrance we’d attracted lots of stares. Indeed we became a photo opp, a walking tourist attraction. 

“When we meet for the annual conference in Lincoln with two thousand or more of us in attendance, police compliment  us,” said Louie. “They like us even though we may be carrying replica, antique weapons. The police have said that the crime rate goes down in Lincoln when we’re around.”

That’s probably because everyone stares at them. 

And smiles. 

The Steam Punks, using their offbeat fashion, strike a blow for individuality - and though they may make the some of us wonder whether we should be doing something similarly outré to prove we are here on this planet – no-one can help but like them. 

“Where did you get your topi from?” Louie was asked during the tour.  

“My pith helmet?” he said. “Here in the Northern Quarter in Manchester, but you can easily pick them up on the internet.”

We walked on a few steps. 

“They still manufacture them in Vietnam, you know?” he added. 

Sleuth nodded, determined to find some excuse in the forthcoming weeks to inform someone that pith helmets are still manufactured in Vietnam. 

Those marvellous, gentle and generous steam punksThose marvellous, gentle and generous steam punks

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

AnonymousApril 5th 2013.

Eclectic have been looking for a site for Lola Lo's for at least a year, so I would bet on that.

Lucha Libre would be a great addition.

AnonymousApril 5th 2013.

"Liv Manchester" is rumoured to be opening in that neck of the woods too. They're keeping tight lipped about the exact location though... http://www.clubliv.co.uk

Calum McGApril 5th 2013.

Good news about the Odeon site. It's a bloody mess at the mo... flatten it :)

AnonymousApril 5th 2013.

There was a late alcohol licence recently approved for the basement of Chicago Rock called I think, Yolo (?). This may be to do with Liv as posted above. They seem to be associated with The Circle Club.

JayApril 5th 2013.

Love Lucha Libre, best mexican in the north west

PaulApril 6th 2013.

Maybe Confidential should check food hygiene ratings before they recommend an establishment. They have a 1 star rating which is basically terrible and I can only imagine how bad it must be to get that sort of rating.

1 Response: Reply To This...
PaulApril 6th 2013.

I am talking about Braai.

AnonymousApril 6th 2013.

Think that Byron Burger are moving into the old Pesto unit

AnonymousApril 7th 2013.

Pesto - good riddance. A horrible, horrible, horrible place.

AnonymousApril 7th 2013.

Of course it's easy to belittle the architectural significance of the Odeon and after hearing about the ludicrous covenant the owners placed on it to prevent it becoming a cinema or live music venue there are no other options... It was crudely multiplexed several times and horrendously vandalised before EH got to evaluate the interior. Here is a much better writeup:

AnonymousApril 7th 2013.

re the Odeon development..... (and the one next door) ... assuming the occupants will be new works will they be hiring private trams to get to work.

AnonymousApril 7th 2013.

Will the workers in the new building on the Odeon site and the one next door be hiring private trams to get to work and home?

A KeysApril 16th 2013.

Although quite a bit of the interior at the Odeon was strategically ripped out by vandals (vandals with an eye for architectural detail and the sort of detail that gets buildings listed) the main proscenium arch and lots of original detailing in the main auditorium still exists and was just boxed in when it was multiplexed. Small point but a significant one.

AnonymousAugust 5th 2013.

Wetherspoon's looking at Bar 38 now, what happened to Eclectic? Know anything Mancon?

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