Sunday, 19 February 2012

Manchester Mini-break

I've done so much travelling lately, that when it came to my birthday weekend, I wanted to stay put. So I plumped for a Manchester mini-break to try and experience my own city as a tourist.

First off I met up with friends in Chorlton and went to my favourite brunch spot - The Lead Station, for my usual tipple - Eggs Lead Station, baker chips and a large glass of 'Bellefontanie' French 'Sav Blanc'.

Then it was "Pack an overnight bag and meet me in town".

A mystery night away in MancLand central. I spent the entire journey on on the metro trying to guess where it would be.

Do you know where it is yet?

Yes, my clever husband had booked us into The 4* Palace Hotel, opposite Oxford Road Station!

The Palace's imposing Victorian facade and clock tower are an iconic part of the Manchester skyline. I've not been there since the Keep Britain Tidy and Going for Green Christmas Dinner in 1999 - when we partied like it was - 1999!

Our room was massive. It was so big, we had to communicate via text. You could have fitted the entire ground floor of my house into that one room. And while it probably was due for an upgrade, the lovely people at made it a very affordable destination.

Onwards to our mystery dinner location. 

What was once Obsidian on Princess Street is now 24 Bar & Grill who were doing a lovely Manchester Confidential offer which included free cocktails. Hurrah - a freebie from 'Mr Po-cocktail' (my married name is Pocock).

I chose a 'Serendipidy' made from Chambord (I had to ask - it's a black raspberry liqueur), blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, vanilla and vodka served long. It had an abundance of 'super fruits' and it definitely hit the spot!

The definition of 'serendipidy' is 'a happy accident' and that's how the evening progressed. You couldn't have planned what happened next.

On a whim we went to The Circus Tavern round the corner on Portland Street - famous for being Manchester's smallest pub.

Picture source Manchester Bar Reviews.
It is weeny. I've seen breakfast bars bigger than the bar in this pub. The walls are papered with photos - everyone who is anyone it seems has been to 'The Circus'. Rumour has it that Take That named their last album after a night at The Circus Tav, giddy on an excess of real ale!

We ended up in the back room sharing a table with a group of older gentlemen - who were singing. They described themselves as locals, though they came from Northumbria. Every couple of months they would make the journey south to take up residence in The Circus Tav. 

While they were short of teeth, they were full of good humour -"We've been drinking since 1 o'clock" they announced proudly. Oral history was alive an well that night as we were treated to a full repertoire of Geordie folk songs:

The Lambton Worm (pronounced 'wom')

On Sunda morn young Lambton went 
A-fishing in the Wear,
An' catched a fish upon he's heuk
He thowt leuk't vary queer.

But whatt'n a kind ov fish it was
Young Lambton cudden't tell -
 He waffn't fash te carry'd hyem
So he hoyed it doon a well 

 Click here for the whole wormy tale, and a translation!

This was followed by the story of Cushie Butterfield - a big lass and a bonnie lass from Gateshead, who likes her beer, with eyes like two holes in a blanket worn through and a face in the morning which would scare a young 'coo' (cow). Click here to listen to this affectionate tale

It was only when Trevor, the drunkest man I've ever seen went off piste and attempted Nessun Dorma that we decided to leave. 

But I'm not the only one who has been inspired to write about this full on folk assault. They'd been at it for days - inspiring warm reviews on Trip Advisor dated just the day before.

On our way back to the hotel we passed Fab Cafe. I'd forgotten that it's called 'Fab' for a reason - "The ultimate antidote to mainstream". I've not been for years, but it was still as fabulous as I remembered. The entry fee is only £2.00 and you get to dance with a dalek - what more could a girl wish for on her birthday.

The bar was manned by the best collection of beards north of Linkin Park. There was a man in a tweed kilt, a girl in a dress covered in big red cherries, wearing a purple fascinator on her head and a man in a suit, of Hagrid proportions dancing like Bez from The Happy Mondays. An intoxicating aroma of 'B.O.' and farts, which 'Smelt Like Teen Spirit' fueled this sublime party as the clock struck twelve and the night of my birthday turned into the next day.


  1. Sounds like the Palace Hotel treated you better than they did us when I was in Manchester a few years back: our group's pre-booked rooms had been double-booked to football fans and I ended up having to share a double bed with someone I hardly knew!

  2. Hells bells - that's not what you want .... unless it was Brad Pitt, in which case that would have been a bit of a result!

  3. It sounds like you had a great weekend in Manchester. Like Lynne says, it sounds like the Palace Hotel treated you well, when me and my husband stayed there we had a much more unfortunate experience, since then we have stayed in an apartment in Manchester that is just over the road and is lovely. Having read your blog though I may brave it and try the Palace Hotel again. Will let you know if we do.

    1. Hi Imogen - thanks for your message. I hope the Palace is better this time. Since writing this blog, I've launched which is where I am now putting all my efforts. Pop over and have a look x