Didsburydad's Blog

From the not so mean streets of M20, blog about being a dad, Didsbury and dealing with parental confusion

Archive for the month “December, 2015”

A Christmas Navel Gaze

As the elves begin their final checks, the reindeer carb up for the journey and Jose Mourinho ponders the failure of his own messianic second coming I have been thinking about Didsbury Dad Towers as we prep for the latest sugar rush and present heist.

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Dinner for four or magnificent carriage – you decide

The Mighty Headed Boy is already beside himself with excitement; he’s only beside himself as the weight of expectation he carries needs two little boys. The birthday was great. Halloween’s premise of wearing a costume for sweets from strangers magnificent but this? Christmas, off the back of Chanucah and its chocolate coins is almost too good to be true.
Every night the Advent chocolate fairy leaves him a pre-breakfast treat. One night he tried a chocolate under his pillow to see if the tooth fairy would leave him a tooth. Then, some fat bloke and his deer pop in with presents. He is a convert and a zealot and already has his eyes on the Christingle orange that the St. James & Emmanuel elves are currently making.

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No particular reason – just love this photo

Whilst he promenades his joy and sings carols with gusto, the Pearly Princess is more measured – not quite sure why this is happening but savvy enough to know that lights in the house, late nights out with kisses and presents is a good gig not to be messed with.

We are the inbetweeners. The twins are not sure what’s going on but have essentially worked out that Eid and Chanucah are the warm up act in their lives for Santa Claus telling Father Christmas that his baby reindeer needs a stable to watch Cinderella on UK Gold; simple.

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Sadly for The Archers, The Grundy’s turkeys had not thought through their escape plan properly.

Didsbury Son is inbetween childhood excitement and grown up enjoyment. Anxious about the presents being right, practising indifference but keen to be key to the party. Fourteen is the awkward age. My little blondini squeaking his excitement at the wonderland of Christmas Day is still in there, suppressed by Lynx and Hormones. The teenage fight for independence is also keen for a bigger part and the magic of the season is going to have to put in a good shift.

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The poultry and fowl against Christmas scout keeps an eye out for trouble

Next year will see raised consciousness all around so this is probably the last year for a decade we can get away with kiddie fob offs and a lie in until 5.45 when The Mighty Headed Boy, like Chris Eubank in his prime, announces his presence to the world; every day is like Christmas.

A Piccolino Pepped Pre-Christmas

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How to make a three year old eat their dinner; happy pizza.

After working out which were my current Didsbury Dining Dozen I decided to put my money where my keyboard finger was, a family trip to Piccolino Didsbury for a pre-Christmas treat. Didsbury Son grunted his unavailability early in the weekend and then there were four. Our midday booking got pushed back to 1 as I fell asleep, 2 as the twins fell asleep and we arrived promptly about twenty past; followed by a twin charge around the restaurant looking for chocolate coins.

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If only I had studied school books with the same intensity…

Piccolino’s Didsbury incarnation was always a potential winner, fitting into the refurbished site of The Nose. The late 80s, early 90s Nose, opened by Liz, featuring the wonderful Henry, Sonia and the cast of Didsbury was way ahead of its time as a freelance meeting place for the Madchester cognoscenti keen to notwork with each other. We’re all 20ish years older and Piccolino is a catch-all for the city now and for M20 especially. It brings a little touch of Sardinia to West Didsbury, I always get to talk food and football. The bar is stocked and loud enough for a night out’s start or finish and for family purposes – they have cushions, staff who will dance with your toddler between courses and know how to balance the equally pressing needs for a kids’ bowl of pasta, a Pinot Grigio and an accessible changing table for emergencies.

I think what I like is the general upbeat, welcoming and engaging atmosphere. Beautiful  20 somethings impress each other on dates or in groups, cheek by the jowls of couples re-invigorating their domesticity, parents connecting with returning offspring and the young families hoping it’s someone else’s child who runs into a waiter delivering a full tray of glasses. It is a snapshot of South Manchester putting on a clean shirt for a warm welcome. Whenever we go I feel like its an occasion. Being a dad I like being able to tally that with Pizza and Pasta for a tenner a plate if I am feeling a little strapped but need to get out.

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Just a little number I knocked up – in a different lifetime with a different set of hands

For our Christmas lunch Didsbury Wife and I went for the set menu, three courses for £21.50, which turned out to be a bargain worthy of Poundstretcher. The food was and is always spot on. There is a little I wouldn’t recommend. We had Bresaola with Pear and Walnuts and The Calamari followed by Tacchini Arrosti (Roast Turkey) and Merluzzo (a crunchy, melty, tangy Cod with something sausagey and gorgeous). We decided our Aldi frozen bird for 25th needs a rethink.

This turkey came to the table on a plinth of butternut squash with mini mushrooms of size and taste I have rarely seen. Its nonchalant ease made sweating in a cold kitchen with a Jamie book, guessing which end to stuff, seem a little sad. The cod tasted of…  what cod should and The Pearly Princess’ Pizza was a spaceship with smiley face; calmness descended. We slurped wine as though we didn’t have to look after toddlers and they were quiet, munching and playing with the decorations.

Ice cream, Tiramisu, dancing with the staff and watching them greet each new child as a VIP with natural ease took  us through until the sun went down and we had to brace the air and talk to the moon.

This was really our first successful dinner out with the toddlers since, ever. The quality of the food sits on a plate next to a team who genuinely made all of us feel a little bit special. Piccolino heralds itself as an ” Upscale chain restaurant with a contemporary interior and a menu of classic Italian specialities.” I’d go for top nosh and family friendly. In true Mighty Headed Boy style, he wants to go back today to play with the lights and eat ice cream. In true Didsbury Dad style, I saved a biscotti to have with a brew for after bedtime.

Piccolino Didsbury, 6 Lapwing Lane, Manchester M20 2WS. Phone:0161 434 7524

 

Didsbury’s Dining Dozen 

Eating out in M20 has moved on a lot from Burns Restaurant and Silvio’s Cafe. From the artisan crunchiness of Pizza Hut at Parrs Wood, through the stripped back beauty of Urban Grille and its clients who can only park on traffic lights, throughto The Canadian Charcoal Pit – which opened when Didsbury last voted Tory and predates Channel 4 our culinary prestige has grown.
My twitter feed often has people putting out calls for recommendations and my own Didsbury Mum has told me to stop sending strangers round for Chicken Soup. I have never tried The Rose Garden on Burton Road but have heard it reported as the best food in the city. Jem & I is similarly lauded but last time I went it was for a Market Research pastie tasting and I’m one of the few who is not a fan of Albert’s Shed. I want to like it. As The Barleycorn it was the first pub I went into and as a Casino in the early 60s it has a proper history, but it always feels a let down.

So your Christmas 2015, early 2016 top 12.

12. Volta, Burton Road. Nothing specific, not a single dish or a bauble but the whole experience of accessible urban chic and good cooking in an atmosphere that feels big city.

11. The Third Eye,Wilmslow Road. Squeezed in between the beatific Bisou Bisou and the mysterious Conservative Club, this is a Didsbury Legend that evokes strong feelings of loyalty. Making me a Third Eyer rather than a Great Khatmandu fan is a combination of the smiley women who welcome and remember you and the Makhan Fish.

10. The Mud Crab Cafe, Wilmslow Road. I wanted to hate it, replacing the much-loved and euphemism friendly Felicini’s but it is great. A proper diner experience, less showy and deep fried than Solita and they do a mean cocktail.

9. Sangam 2, Wilmslow Road. It shouldn’t thrive, but it does. This 70s Indian Restaurant throwback is perennially popular, reasonable and full. The Fish Tikka is a bit gorgeous, the service is crap and it’s the perfect group outing venue in the village.
8. Fosters, Dene Road. Pablo Zabaleta (hard as nails, Cheshire-based Argentinian footballer) has been quoted as saying he wants to bring Lionel Messi (Deity) to Didsbury for Fish & Chips. They could go to Burton Road, less likely the back room at The School Lane Chippy, but I think he meant Fosters. An American cousin once tried and was beaten by The Whale; I think he’s still there still there. Great combination of chips, chippiness and a little Didsbury.   Messi on the menu

7. Cau, Wilmslow Road. This building has struggled since it stopped being The Old Grey Horse, somewhere in the early 90s. I like Cau. The staff seem to come from the same stage school as Chalk’s skinny-hipped servers but the food is fab and the decor works. With a bit of luck they’ll stay a while.
6. Japan Deli, Wilmslow Road. Technically Withington. Lacks atmosphere, variety and very often clientele. But the sushi is fantastic and the Chilli Squid makes it all worthwhile.
5. Pinchjos, Burton Road. They say you never forget your first kiss, where you were when Princess Diana died and your first Morcilla, mine was at Pinchjos.

4. Healthy Spirit Cafe, Barlowmoor Road. Go in hungry, come out cleansed. Take out the gluten and the dairy, add a little touch of hope. How many places around here offer meditation followed by lunch and aren’t sheltered housing? The only downside is being pram-unfriendly, which may be an upside.
3. No 4., Warburton Street. Nestled far enough behind Urban Grille to be out of its shadow and near enough to The Dog and Partridge should you need to check the football scores. This was my backstreet retreat in pre-Didsbury Dad days when I would read the whole of the Saturday newspaper whilst tucking into the weekend brunch. It still feels like a treat to go in for an occasion.
2. Piccolino, Lapwing Lane. Somewhere between independent and a chain; nestled between Rimmer’s Green’s and the sublime Lime Tree and parked next to the monolith that is The Metropolitan is Piccolino Didsbury. Wilfully expensive, they do things with Scallops, Prawns and Carpaccio that make me happy to forego the children’s college funds. Reasonably priced Chianti and Linguine can transport you to Sardinia, whilst being able to nip into Tesco Express on the way to the Metro home. Go for an intimate lunch.

 My Blue Peter Badge table designs.
1. Peking House, School Lane. Not strictly a restaurant but definitely a tourist attraction with views across the piazza to the Violin shop I’ve never been in. When I first went there School Lane had an art shop and the Metrolink was science fiction. Go for soup and anything with broccoli or cashew nuts. You always get treated like a friend AND prawn crackers.

 The 9th Wonder
There are others that are fighting for a place and this has Ben a bit like choosing a Fantasy League team. The Japanese Restaurant on Burton Road has my admiration for sticking a handwritten piece of A4 on the door during Westfest to announce they were closed for a bit; and the seaweed’s good. Bourbon & Black, want to love it but being the only person in there not on their phone on Tinder or Snapchat was hardwork. Pizza Express is always worth a visit to bump into old friends, happens every time and Saison and Azzure bring Euro chic and Aladdin’s starters make them the most interesting of dilemmas to chose where to go.
So, as we stock up on antacids, prepare to indulge and miscook a Turkey or two – I’ll be realising that if I stick to my budget it’s a Chicken Kebab from Turkish Delight in Chorlton and another six viewings of Cinderella on Amazon Prime.

A Quick Didsbury Recap

 Something old, new, almost festive and blue.To some it is a wasteland of their dreams – a Nido. The tumbleweed that passes for jewellery in the shell of Victoria Highfield, the cruise that never sailed from the ludicrously short-lived Gold Beach Holidays and the third “refit” this year at the pointless Global News (how many times can you move a sweet rack?)

 The lack of Citron Pressé in Didsbury is very worrying. 
To some a mausoleum. Cafe Rouge’s colours still make us yearn for its return to M20 and if it’s late morning I just assume Carringtons hasn’t opened yet – rather than moved to World of Hipster Beard ( Chorlton). 

But Didsbury is a land of opportunity. Not just for the people employed on the least user-friendly, most car driver enraging cycle lane ever thought up, but in retail through our still burgeoning love of food and drink. 

  Picture from chrispirillo.com depicting the strategy meeting for Didsbury’s new cycle lane. Heads of Strategy and Planning arrange share their vision
Bosu Body Bar looks nearly ready. Situated in the same environment as Karma Sutra and two down from MudCrab it gives an exotic feel to the village centre. I have no idea if I’m going to be going for a Quinoa Scrub or a Goji Berry wrap, but I’m excited.

Burton Road continues to morph into the most interesting urban walk in the North. The George Charles is strangely alluring, the Independent gift shops make the recession seem a myth and the Canadian Charcoal Pit , now 40 years old stands proud amidst beardy 20 somethings, Chocolatiers and the world on a plate that is West Didsbury.With all this, a £7 wet shave still the best at Blade on School Lane and Stretford hosting its own burgeoning bar culture, these are heady days in South Manchester. I’ve not even started on the expanding number of Dog Grooming Parlours or the Home, the cafe in Emmanuel Church. You 

On Small Business Saturday The Giddy Goat stood on its hind legs and bleated it’s siren call. If they have any Hey Duggee merchandise it’s coming back to ours. But all this gusto makes choosing the best places to eat, drink and be merry a difficult top ten to compile.

  

   

I’ll save it for next time. 

 

View from the Car Park

I am sitting in a rapidly cooling car, backed by a couple of rapidly snoring toddlers. I am watching a sun so weak the Spartans would have given it a comfy bed dissolve into its December malaise. I am staring at B&Q in Stanley Green and Costa is too far away to leave the twins and snaffle a Gluten-free Mince Pie. I spend a sizeable number of weekends here. 

The combination of TK Maxx and Next virtually within sight of John Lewis is a siren call to South Manchester and North Cheshire. The car park houses a considerable number of men trying not to wake sleeping babies, boddlers and toddlers whilst cranking up BBC 5Live just loud enough to hear the minutiae of what is happening at Orient and St. Johnstone. 

 1970s Mobile DAB Unit 

There is a strange synergy for me. I have always loved radio and the Saturday afternoon football commentary dirge. From being small, in pre instant media, pre digital, pre Channel 4 and Orangina in the shops days I would spend Saturday afternoons away from the other Didsbury grandchildren. The melee of Saturday afternoon visiting and free sweets dismissed to clamber into our tank. I listened to the football, writing every score as it came in from place names that to 70s me seemed the epitome of exotic; aah Hull you romantic fool – beckon me with constant dampness and average football. I would hang on the florid descriptions of Peter Jones, Larry Canning and the now disgraced, then disgraceful Stuart Hall.  

 Peter Jones. A genius. 

As an early adopter of OCD fan support, sitting in cars and learning how to wait patiently, these 70s Saturdays parked outside my Grandparents were a great training for fatherhood.

The lack of stranger danger and freedom to spend 3 hours in a car on my own aged 6 seem as alien now as my bonfire night memory of entertaining uncle using a lit cigarette to light the fireworks.  

 We are inside waiting for TK Maxx to open 

But I do have good handwriting and can spell Molyneux. 

Coming Up: From Sew-In to Body Bar, From Gold Beach Holidays to closed and is there a non purple Estate Agent? It’s December in Didsbury

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