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 tag “Albert’s Shed”

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.

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Charles Darwin, Giddy Goats and The Bisou Conspiracy

The fashion for hipster beards and the move towards e-cigarettes has given the Metrolink station a specific retro look. The gauche style of inhaling the e-cig as though it were a pipe has given the ramp to the ticket machine the look of a WG Grace / Charles Darwin look-a-like competition.   
Victorian favourites the peacocks plan to ride in on the wave of the summer retro look. 

I don’t understand e-cigs. I used to smoke many years ago, pre-Didsbury Dad days when a) I could afford it and b) you didn’t have to stand outside like a plane spotter at the airport. There seems no pleasure to e-cigs. With nicotine patches you could forget you were wearing them and “accidentally” have a smoke to get a genuinely scary hit. Nicotine gum gives you something to do with your teeth other than bite your nails and going cold turkey makes you look dangerous, which can be useful in a crowd.

I never take being an “ex” for granted; but know that there is more chance of Cibo and Nido returning to Didsbury and becoming successful chains than there is of me buying flavoured vapours to inhale.

Anyway, whilst I’ve been off there have been many changes in Didsbury’s retail look that need attention.

1. Zizzi, gone? This faux Pizza Express and its signage have disappeared from the building that sits in a prime location on the corner of Wilmslow and Barlow Moor Road, but has floundered since it was the Old Grey Horse in the 80s/90s and shows no sign of gaining popularity. Would make a great 3-floor Bisou Bisou Bisou. Sneaking around Didsbury with a turquoise box full of French patisserie has become our naughty little habit. 

2. Didsbury’s first day spa has ground to a halt. On the site of the legendary (to the 40 and overs) Sweaty Betty’s Chippy, the insulation sits in the window like lost bales of hay and the window display has changed from advertising for staff to offering time shares. 

  
Didsbury’s next charity shop?

3. The Dog Grooming shop, In The Dog House on Barlow Moor Road is still open, defying the “How Long will it last” sweepstake kit in the South Manchester Reporter. Not sure if it’s the drop-off proximity to Albert’s Shed or the sudden influx of Pugs and Daschunds to Didsbury’s parks but well done – it’s cool as fox merchandise and breezy demeanour are superb and I’ll be in for a wet shave on Blade’s day off. 

4. The laser clinics are here, Cafe Rouge still stands like a ghost ship and we still haven’t got a Waitrose. There’s a great new clothes shop on School Lane and the Fish Masala at Sangam 2 is worth the view into the Karma Sutra. 
I had the perfect Didsbury conversation in Giddy Goat Toys a couple of weeks ago. I was having a natter with Mrs Goat when Jed the Windowcleaner, complete with Manchester City sweatshirt breezed in. Our three-way conversation moved seamlessly from childcare, the weather and Bisou Bisou, to children and the angst and stress caused by them being led astray in their choice of football team. Mid myopic drone all three of us turned to the patient and brave mother at the till buying her 4 children presents with a hearty “Eid Mubarak” before settling back to judgemental football chat. Anyone who takes more than one non-sleeping child into a toy shop deserves respect. 

  Rumour has it that Zizzi shut after failing to win planning permission for this extension.

Next week – the perils of poverty discussed through the prism of the Bloke selling Sticky Toffee Pudding in too pushy a manner outside The Cheese Hamlet last Saturday. 

Dear Didsbury Dad

As an amalgamation of dads across the world (mainly those in Didsbury with a non specific past, a mistrust of strong opinions outside of sport and a love of coffee), I get a lot of post from other mums and dads asking advice. Here are a few which I felt represent the majority of issues raised by parents from, not just Didsbury, but across the world.

Dear Didsbury Dad.
My teenage child is keen to ditch school sports. I am concerned that this may lead to isolation, over-eating and lack of self-esteem. Can you advise me?

Dear J:
don’t be harsh on your child, if they can’t stand school showers let them go. Your self-esteem does not rest on the indifferent loping around of chapped-legged year 9 and 10s as they get hammered by other schools. Your exit from touchline conversation needn’t leave you stranded. My top tip is to embrace this hormone-induced lack of drive in your child. Enjoy the reduction in washing and the lie-in. Join a gym, say hello to people in the sauna and only have a flapjack every other visit. If this doesn’t work stay in bed.

Dear Didsbury Dad
I am coming to Didsbury next week for Small Business Saturday on 6 December. My non-Didsbury wife likes Starbucks and is worried that non-mass produced food and drink won’t taste right and may not contain enough salt. Can you recommend a top ten for coffee, snacks and lunches? I hear Didsbury has a KFC.

Mr X. Wow, what a question. Top 10 independent outlets in Didsbury without mentioning Nando’s in Parrs Wood or the ever-consistent and bizarrely male customer follicly challenges Costa Tesco Burnage. Hmmm….
In no order.
1 Wine & Wallop on Lapwing Lane with a Fusion Coffee and Panini to sober up on the way to
2. Burton Road – Pinchjo’s for tapas, Folk for experience, Mary and Archie’s for booze.
3. Nip around to the Thyme Out deli opposite the hospital or stop for cake at And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon.
After you’ve togged up at the Independent Steranko and notched a handmade chocolate by the metro, waddle towards Barlow Moor Road for…
4. The glitz, the people watching but not the service at Albert’s Shed.
5. Cleanse at Healthy Spirit opposite the church. Go upstairs for meditation and downstairs for meditation and Ancoats roasted coffee, delicious.
6. Indulge whilst strolling at Bisou Bisou and walk to the pop up art and gorgeous, free Wi-Fi and wall paintings at Central Perk on School Lane.
7. Back via a baking class or two and an AiryFairy CupCake Boutique special to the village where…
8. You must try the bar at Bourbon & Black, a cocktail at Solita and a shimmy with the staff at Chalk Bar & Grill.
9. Via Zantac at Boots don’t miss a Fosters chip barm (gluten free available). You must visit Giddy Goat Toys. I had a toddler incident there last week when he mistook the Olaf in the window for the one he has at home and went ballistic. This just leaves a trip back West for
10. Dinner at Piccolino’s ( in my view still independent), Greens or The Lime Tree – all superb.
You can always take a box of our very own Kansas Fried Chixken home if she’s not happy.

Dear Didsbury Dad
I am the parent of a child at one of Didsbury’s lovely primary schools and live within the catchment area. However, most mornings I drive my 4 x 4 badly through the village reacting aggressively to pedestrians and feel that as I have children I have the right to block driveways, park on double yellows, nick residents parking places and be rude to these residents as my over-pampered, soon-to-be obese offspring trail behind me, heads in screens. Am I bad person? Will karma get me?

3. Yes and yes.

More next time.

Is it Spring Forward, Fall Back or Fall forward, spring back?

This is it. The final, official, scratching the bottom of the pan, stretching it as far as it will go, hope over reality, these jeans still fit honestly, end of summer 2014. Later this week the clocks go back or is it forward? Spring forward, fall back or the other way around? Either way, it gets dark at lunchtime and the sun only comes up Wednesday half-day closing.
This is TV on the couch, jumpers, endless talk of “incubating something” weather. Time to be pressured into creating a perfect Christmas that encompasses the beauty of innocence and the financial clout I have only occasionally achieved in Monopoly.
As my children continue to defy my indifferent parenting skills to be lovely, I look around me and know that before its time to gather at the Cenotaph next month and look at the empty terrace where Cafe Rouge once ruled, The squish of leaves underfoot and the fear of gas bill in my inbox will take hold. There is only one thing to do – plan your treats.

1. For a little male grooming, the wetshave at Blade on School Lane takes some beating, although the military-trained deep massage at G4 Physio I once had was so deep my hamstrings are still undercover.

2. For your take-out morning commute there is now real choice. The coffee and pastries at Bisou Bisou are so good they can’t possibly be every day occurrences. In the village The AiryFairyCupCakeBoutique still know how to dress a sponge for the City Centre tram, whilst West Didsbury has Fusion Deli, consistently great coffee with a welcome to kickstart the day. My jar of Nescafe is now three years old and a sad, unloved, never-to-be-used clump.

3. Notworking: should you be meeting “colleagues” or “freelancing from home” there are many warm welcomes once the decent TV finishes. Café Nero is so child-friendly I can’t go through the door without a Rugrat, but if the free top-ups ’til 11 hold then a Chalk Bar & Grill Flat White can keep itself in adult company. Healthy Spirit (I just had to ask Didsbury Wife what Nature’s Grace is called now) is sooo nice, so boho, so right-on its virtually Chorlton. Art of Tea blends indifferent service into an art and Albert’s is the place for a posh meeting. I go there and pretend its 1989 all over again – well if it’s good enough for the decor its good enough for me.

4. Lunch: The Japan Deli in Withington, opposite The Red Lion. How it survives is a mystery, but the Sushi is stunning and there is never a queue. I find it difficult to take anywhere seriously for lunch that promotes a Scotch Egg as haute cuisine – but sitting alone in The Jade Garden for their business lunch, playing “Name that Tune” is an experience sidestepped by too many.

5. The newbies. Bourbon & Black looks exciting; Croma has queues not seen since the last Gregg’s pastie sale. Solita seems lively and we await news of Sweaty Betty’s. Wine & Wallop looks a goer and Burton Road bulges with indie pride.

These possibilities keep me focused on a 7am park trip with the boddlers; but there is one place where I am beyond the smash of a dropped babychino, the demand for wi-Fi and Hot Chocolate or the call to prayer at John Lewis. It has no windows, no atmosphere and the service is average – but in the cafe at the gym my phone has no signal. There’s a couch where I can slouch and drift off… perfect for a winter’s morning.

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The sushi at Japan Deli is the nearest Didsbury Son is getting to a fish tank this Christmas.

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If you close your eyes it’s like Cibo never existed.

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Looking forward to those beautiful November mornings.

Zombies in the heart of Didsbury

The Returned. Spooky French series where the town’s dead return (hence the title), unaware they are dead . Lots of moody French people standing around smoking shruggily. Not like the beautiful people sitting outside Shed D’Albert, but gallically challenged.

Yesterday lunchtime, I was driving distractedly through The Village, when, as though it were a scene straight from Dawn of the Didsbury – I saw a small woman in a t-shirt and jeans. She looked human and real down to the last detail, but for one tiny flaw.
I saw her outside the open doors of Gourmet Burger Kitchen, which was open. How? Was it Didsbury Open Gardens? Was this a chance for a final stroll of the last great empty indoor space in the region? Would Zombie Burger Kitchen be taking over and eating our many barbers and Estate Agents?
GBK died in the great pandemic that also took Nido. A virus that infected restauranters into thinking they could make a buck in Didsbury with any old crap.
What next? Razma Reads re-appearing with living dead and political biographies only. Domino’s serving food so processed it has a half-life? Aldi doubling as a bus garage?
These are strange times. The addition of Wine & Whallop from the team that brought you Folk and South Park series 8 looks promising. The French Patisserie that has taken over Ashley Brown can have its own blog and Giddy Goat Toys will soon see off Toys R Us. But…

Casa Tapas has either turned into a closed film set or followed Spain out of the World Cup and news reaches DD HQ that Cafe Rouge is going. This is a public disaster. Rouge is more influential in Didsbury Child Rearing than Gina Ford and Aptimil. It has hosted more dates than an Algerian port and deserves listed status, not the chop. Over 20 years the staff have been unfailingly helpful and the food great. I will be signing the petition and march for them before popping down to the Shaun of the Dead Burger Kitchen.

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A Zombie’s brain pattern

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Extra security has been drafted in , so have dormitories

Didsbury’s Top 13 Coffee Stops for 2013

In a move as contrived as an inclusive multi-faith Nativity play.
In a year when nothing has yet happened  beyond changing nappies, patting babies and coping with Didsbury Son’s increasing technological needs, I present my guide to Didsbury 2013.
When I say a guide, I mean Part 1; places to park your buggy, rest your feet, work quietly and catch up. Coffee, cake, work, wasting time:
 1. Airyfairy Cupcake Boutique. Like the bumblebee that represents Manchester it shouldn’t work, but it does. In the space that housed the Withington Reporter when it was part of the community is a little haven. Quirky, but not Chorlton. Friendly, but not interfering and not cheap, but worth it. The free wi-fi helps and the Lemon Poppy Cake wooed Didsbury Wife into a  relaxed hour between feeds. Still not sure what a cupcake actually is but then I’ve never really understood why clowns were funny or Thomas the Tank Engine didn’t scare children.
We dressed one twin in white, one in black and lost them on the floor. (www.airyfairycupcakes.co.uk)

We dressed one twin in white, one in black and lost them on the floor. (www.airyfairycupcakes.co.uk)

2. Didsbury Deli. A little piece of The Balkans on our doorsteppes. Fearsome looking but genuinely pleasant owner reminds me of years spent running Nightime events and the staff are lovely enough to mask the eye-watering prices. The door allows for a double pram, always a good thing.
3. The Art of Tea. No room for a pram (not in a “No Room for a Crib kind of way) so is a baby-free, free wi-fi haven of uncomfy seating, indifferent service but none the less for this. The granary toast with peanut butter makes the springless sofas acceptable. The rest of the menu and the bookshop that Health & Safety forgot make them positively luxurious.
4. Didsbury Perk. A newbie, with big banquettes and some interesting art (not sure about the painting with a view from Costa Coffee including Usain Bolt and David ” The Werewolf” Weir passing each other outside Zizzi but it’s a personal thing). It is on School Lane only 8 barbers (1 furlong = a bushell = a barber on School Lane) away from AiryFairy and The Metro Stop and it has a musical link to RNCM. It’s also v v friendly and half the price of the corporates (£2.25 for a Panini, winner).
A view from Costa without Usain Bolt and David Weir

A view from Costa without Usain Bolt and David Weir

4. Cafe Rouge. Rouge may be a Whitbread chain but, like La Tasca, if you have lived here for a few years you will have a happy memory or two based here. When I was dating Didsbury Wife we would sneak here pre-work for coffee and a kiss on the red velvet seats. They are great with children and the food is worth a snoop. I walk past it and it stirs lovely pre Didsbury Dad memories. When it opened Rouge seemed an unfeasibly gauche addition to the village.
5. Albert’s Shed. I’m old enough to have had my first drink in The Barleycorn in the 80s and my own Didsbury Dad and Mum lived over the shop when this was a casino in the 60s. The building’s re-incarnation, mid credit crunch as a  Castlefield favourite was a little slice of genius. Good fun on a night out and for Sunday brunch on a bright day.
6. The Alpine Tearoom in Fletcher Moss. On a summer’s day, this is the centre of the Didsbury world. A gateway to Fletcher Moss, a great spot to people-watch and hark back to early times when an ice cream and a walk satisfied a child for the afternoon.
7. Fusion Deli. The coffee is genuinely good but the bonhomie shared by Pete and Tom amid the Olive Tofu, the proximity to Inmans and the chance to watch Blockbusters’ demise first hand make this a great stop.
8. Samsi Junior opposite The Red Lion. I think it’s Withington and its green tea not coffee but another fave yapping point.
9. Folk. A one-off. A bit like big curly hair. Whatever is done to decorate the place and smarten it up it still looks the epitome of 80s Didsbury scruffy boho chic and so it should. You get really good food, really poor service with a smile and a fine bar should your coffee need stiffening.
10. Piccolino’s. Replacing The Nose, even after its post Liz and Lawrence bastardisation was always going to be a tall order. This was a venue prime for the cynics and snobs to slate but against all odds it is a top hangout at any time of day.
11. Mr Marvel’s Cafe. It closed circa 1990 something but was Didsbury Wife’s fave hangout and a little scary in smokiest times.
12. Didsbury Mum’s House. There are some great coffee shops in the village but few, in fact none offer this level of service. I can let myself in and there’s always tea and cake. I am always told that I look fine and I’m a success, highly recommended.
13. The Bench at the end of the tree-lined path opposite the river. There’s no Wi-fi, no coffee, no one can bother you and if the sun is shining and contents of the double buggy are sleeping, it is perfect.
Only inverse snobbery prevents the sublime Caffe Nero and the sofas at Costa getting in. Both have their benefits, charms and free newspapers.
Next week we begin part 1 of a 644 part series on Didsbury’s Barber Shops.

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