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 “The Old Grey Horse”

Part Two – A Time of Darkness

I have only been a part-time Didsbury boy for the last year. My knowledge of the emergence of such misspellings as B.lend are gained from occasional forays, texts from Craftwords and missives from my own Didsbury Mum.

A Hipster

We briefly had a Tapas Mile thing going on but the demise (let’s be honest, it wasn’t very good) of Cantina set me thinking about the fallen. Not the brave soldiers but the crap ideas and donkeys that have failed to launch on our sceptred streets.

the original MOod board for Cau’s development.

There are urbane myths about Didsbury. But look closely at what has survived. The two places that have seen off all the others (since The Happy Garden realised that 6 months without a customer meant it was probably time to close) are Kansas Fried Chicken and Saints & Scholars. They have seen off Japanese Fusion, noncy Med-Fed and everyone else. Saints & Scholars reminds me of Bez. I have no idea why or how, but still good value.

Controversial plans for the new development on the site of Didsbury Police Station.

What of those who have tried and failed since The Didsbury Village Wine Bar closed its walled garden to become Felicini’s,The Mudflap Cafe and finally a symbol representing Daoist Philosophy and Buttermilk soaked Fried Chicken?

A shot southwards down Wilmslow Road from the 70s

Cau sits on an ancient Burial Ground. Here was briefly parked Zinc, some gangster-inspired Japanese disaster with bling that died a death, The Clocktower and a growing Orange Tree.

I couldn’t go in the Orange Tree. It’s townie focused glitz replaced The Old Grey Horse, a legendary hangout full of edge, promise and most of my friends. Legend has it that it’s predecessor, The Cavalcade (whose signage I can still picture) was more avant than an Edemame Milshake.

Trees don’t do that well here, as The Pear Tree folk will tell you. Bourbon & Black was no Didsbury Tapas. In fact it was no Kansas Fried Chicken. But who else remembers when Didsbury had its own KFC? Before that became the Ho Wah and now The Laughing Buddha.

On the block with KFC was Sykes’ Records, where Terry introduced a generation of Didsbury kids to Top of the Pops, Namaste Village and round the corner, Razma Reads.

Razma was a lovely concept. Think of Dot’s cafe in the park with a bookshop. The rise of Amazon killed it.

And no troll through the dead diners of Didsbury Village could forget Pizza Hut, so hip when it opened in the mid 80s, Chalk – whose staff were kitten hipped but whose speciality was… was… no idea and finally.

The greatest tax right-off/failure of them all, Nido – where each customer had their own waiter.

** no actual books, websites, people or anything else was researched during the writing of this blog.

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Forgotten Didsbury, A Trilogy. Part 1

** No actual research was disturbed during the writing of this blog**The Mighty Headed Boy squeezed my hand tightly and pushed himself further into the folds of my coat. “What happened Dear old Didsbury Dad? What caused this?” I picked him up in my arms, cradling him, forgetting he’s a lot heavier than he looks and I’m so far past my 30s it sends me reminders. “It’s Solita. They make burgers acceptable in an ironic way to hipsters with beards. They once made a burger so pretentious McDonalds had to think up the Grand Big Mac.NIMBY – Chorlton and Fallowfield are close enough. (We have transport)Before that it was Cibo, a bizarre amalgamation of PR gone wrong and too many aspirin in a Blue Sky Thinking Session.” Scallops from Piccolino. I couldn’t find anyone who had eaten at Cibo. “And?” He begged. The wind biting through the space between us and chapping our fingers.“Before that it was La Tasca. Magical and affordable when you wanted to get hammered and crawl home following the scent of garlic. La Tasca was A Spanish restaurant that thrived and buzzed before we even knew what a Padron Pepper looked like. And before that, a purpose built coffin of a fish restaurant called Burns that even the 70s rejected. Before that even I can’t remember. But I know that the original Harriet & Dee was a foundry for miniature products and the Didsbury Village Physio helped good, salt of the earth working people so they could go back to their Surveyors Offices and Solicitors before drinking and smoking at The Old Grey Horse, once it stopped being The Cavalcade.” Not Piementos de Padron.The Mighty Headed boy looked at me, bored beyond tears. “Can I have Kinder Egg daddy?” He cried.“Yes you can son, we can all have one.”

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.

Twenty First Century Pub Crawl, with children

Every place has its pub crawl and M20 is no exception. Back in the ’80s when hair and collars reached for the skies and there was no such as thing as too much make-up, it was a full night out that started with The Olde Cock and The Didsbury ( Now both gastros with differing successes)  and via Crown, Dog, Albert, Nelson, The Old Grey (now Zizzi’s) and The Railway – it would be chips at Sweaty Betty’s now a poster site but rumoured to be Didsbury Lounge 2) before the Three Lions. The Golden, The Red and The White. The White Lion had bands downstairs, could be a bit lairy and a cab home afterwards from Tripps cost £2.

 

Courtesy of pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.com  I used to stare at this after a long night drinking and think "One Day I could swipe a Nectar card here".

Courtesy of pubcurmudgeon.blogspot.com I used to stare at this after a long night drinking and think “One Day I could swipe a Nectar card here”.

It was pints (although not for me, always the shorts and being really honest – I was really more interested in the snacks than the drinking. The advent of Scampi Fries in 1986 opened up a whole new world), Malibu if you felt lucky, Silk Cut and the latent threat of violence – heady times. A really good night could stretch to Mulberry’s or Severe/ Murder in Fallowfield. You could make a complete show of yourself without a single text, picture, Vine, Facebook, Pinterest, What’s App or truth getting out – marvellous days with less comeback. 

You never knew who you would meet on a night out

You never knew who you would meet on a night out


Last week, to celebrate Easter and Didsbury Son being out for the day, Didsbury Wife and I decided to recreate it for the twins. The Golden Lion is now a car park, The White Lion a Sainsbury’s and The Olde Cock is now crap – but we were not daunted. 

However, the thought of pushing the pram and downing drinks between nappy changes no longer enthralls; Didsbury Wife and I created the 40 something, small children Didsbury crawl.

1. Late breakfast at Caffe Nero with Pain au Raisins to share.

2. Then in the car for an adventure which took us to Alderley Edge for a toddler sized walk and lunch at The Wizard. Lunch out with toddlers and no high chairs does mean you need to be able to down in one. – bit it’s the parfait not the Pernod and Black.

3. Back via John Lewis where the Mighty Headed Boy lay down and staged a protest in the toy department. We coaxed him back with afternoon tea in the cafe; where at 18 months old they are SO last year. The number of floppy necked baldie babes not only made me pine for the days when they were toothless and inert but they looked huge; it was brilliant. With the sugar rush from a JL Battenberg calming down we left, satiated.

We got home feeling as we had done 25 years ago – not sure how we had spent so much, a little ashamed of our indulgence, with a stomach ache. We also had stories to tell and lots of laughs and the only time anyone had tried to hit me they used Iggle Piggle and shouted “Mummyo”; result.

Didsbury Village – an Autumn update

Sometimes I wander through the not so mean streets of M20 and think how lucky I am to live in an area with parks and metros, Neros and Airy Fairy Cupcakes. An area so awash with old and new community that there is an acceptance of the vagaries of life.

@Craftwords pointed out to me that the evolution of Estate Agency. Look and learn world, Estate Agents took the sea to land leap here in 2013. Darwin, Attenborough ( David not Richard), Dawkins ( Richard) your guys took a hell of a beating; looks uncannily as though it was designed after a Genius Bar appointment in any Apple Shop. I think there is a touch of Vision Express meets JP & Brimelow in the design and colour scheme, a touch of Tron in the marketing and a gorgeous spicy smell from being underneath The Sangam. I would buy it, but Didsbury Wife thinks it’s not child-friendly.

In Village news- Nido continues to defy the laws of economics and stays open. If you have fallen out with anyone and need a good row over dinner, there’s plenty of room to eat and say the unsayable without being overheard.
Jaanum, once Elite Deli where the bagels were crispy, the salmon smoky and the service rude enough to evoke New York, has gone. I liked the guy who worked there. He was friendly and cooed at the babies and Inwish him well, but let’s be honest, you wouldn’t eat there.

There are more changes in Warburton Street, Didsbury’s very own Northern Quarter. The wonderful Wendy J Levy gallery is closing before the end of the year. Wendy is carrying on, but we are losing our cultural centre. I thought that the glint from all the Pandora jewellery in Harriet & Dee was too much BUT No, Wendy is off to work shopless by choice; a rare gift.

In moves similar to the final hours of the transfer window, Ashley Brown ‘s magnificently maned team are taking over the ground floor (allegedly),. ShopCatLaura v Ashley Brown’s Dog, bring it on. A new Deli is opening in their space and upstairs at Wendy’s will be a support group for people who invested in Nido or the Japanese restaurant that filled the space, if not the tables in the building, now Zizzi, that will always be The Old Grey Horse.

Now over to Didsbury Son for the weather…

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So good I snapped it twice.

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My mighty-headed warrior took the news about Wendy J Levy gallery shutting with sanguine style and went back to CBeebies.

I write this hoping that nothing bad has happened to the lovely old Jack Russell at Ashley Brown.

Next installment. The twins take over The Holt Pavillion.

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