#Datenight at The Printworks, Manchester

With Valentines Day coming up, there’s the usual wondering of what to do, where to go and who you’re going to spend it with. Luckily for me, I was offered a package called #datenight at The Printworks which involved dinner, drinks and a film at Manchester’s The Printworks.

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Ever since I came to Manchester over 10 years ago, The Printworks has been an easy option of dinner and a film with friends, other halves and family when they’ve come to stay with me. It’s been awhile since I ventured into The Printworks what with there being so much choice for food now in Manchester and also getting Cineworld passes.

I think my main reason for forgetting about it though was thinking that I’d already tried every restaurant inside. How very wrong I was! Over the years there have been many restaurants that have come and gone and there always seems to be an option that you won’t find everywhere. Which is why Topher and I chose Busaba.

Busaba

#datenight at the Printworks - Busaba exterior

With only having branches in Manchester, London and Liverpool, it’s safe to say that a lot of people will not have tried this Thai restaurant before. Topher and I love our food as you know but we’ve only ever been to one Thai restaurant. That had to change!

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#datenight at the Printworks

First of all, I love the layout of Busaba in The Printworks. Set over a few floors, there are lots of levels and nooks to sit in which makes it feel very private. Definitely different from a lot of restaurants where you’re practically sharing a table with strangers. I would absolutely recommend the atmosphere for a Valentines meal. It’s a large restaurant and there were a mix of people inside including small children and yet it felt cozy.

#datenight at the Printworks - Busaba menu

#datenight at the Printworks - Busaba table

So lets get onto the important bit – the food! I can tell I’m going to like a place when I’m struggling between what to decide. If everything looks amazing, I’ll be back as I have to try everything!

#datenight at the Printworks - Topher at Busaba

#datenight at the Printworks - Diane at Busaba

We started with drinks, a whiskey plum sour for me and an asian mojito for Topher. Both delicious but we agreed mine was the best! We also had some spicy wok tossed cashews to nibble on.

#datenight at the Printworks - Whiskey Sour

#datenight at the Printworks - Asian Mojito

For the main meals, Topher had one of the specials; Wild Black pepper venison. He said it was delicious and so nice to see venison that wasn’t in a pie!

#datenight at the Printworks - Wild Black pepper venison

My main was the Mussaman Duck which was duck on the bone with potato, peanut, star anise, cinnamon and onion, served with jasmine rice on the side. All my favourite things! Without a doubt it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.

#datenight at the Printworks - Mussaman Duck

We decided not to have dessert this time as we were pretty full but I’ll be back to try the sticky black rice pudding as that sounded amazing.

Overall we loved our visit. The atmosphere was perfect, the staff were lovely and the service was great. The prices were really reasonable and we will certainly be coming back with friends in tow!

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So with full bellies we headed over to see our film.

Odeon

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It’s been years since I came to this Odeon. It really brought back memories of my student days. We decided to see La La Land so we could see what the fuss was all about. I’ll be blogging this week about what I actually thought of the film so stay tuned for that.

Regarding the Odeon as a cinema, there’s not a single thing to complain about here. The venue is modern and clean, the range of snacks is great and the staff are helpful and friendly. The only reason we chose Cineworld over Odeon for unlimited tickets was down to the location in respect to our home.

I would definitely recommend a trip to the Odeon next time you’re in town. We had a great time.

Overall, #Datenight at The Printworks was a great way to spend an evening.

There’s nothing better than a classic dinner, drinks and a film for a Valentines, anniversary or just plain old Thursday evening. Topher and I had an amazing time and look forward to our next date night!

How are you planning on spending Valentine’s Day this year?

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Manchester Christmas Markets 2016

They’re here! The Manchester Christmas Markets have arrived. It felt like they had been open forever before we finally managed to get ourselves down to them. I would walk past them every Friday but Topher and I agreed to go together so I waited oh so patiently. I know it’s still November but I like to at least go for the first time before December and especially on a week day because it’s so much less crowded!

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So this year, the Manchester Christmas markets have expanded even more to cover more areas of the city centre. I was pretty excited about this until we actually discovered that there where a hell of a lot of duplicate stalls dotted around. I guess they’ve been made bigger to spread foot traffic around rather than add more unique stalls. It’s not the end of the world but don’t kill yourself trying to walk round the whole city centre if you don’t need to. There’s plenty to see in the individual areas.

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Anyway onto the most important subject of the markets. Food! Now I have to say that I’m not the easiest person to cater for due to not eating pork but I was determined to find something other than the cheesy potatoes or beef burgers that I usually get. Topher finds it funny that it’s not really down to religious reasons that I don’t eat pig, or even moral ones – it’s just something I do.

I’m half Arab. I’m not religious, nor is my dad, though that side of the family are on a range from devout Muslim right up to completely westernised. I was just brought up not to eat it and I don’t. I can’t speak Arabic and I don’t look particularly Arab (I’m so pale I look like a ghost next to my cousins) so it’s the one piece of culture I can cling onto I guess. And for those thinking “ermegawhd how can she live without bacon?!” I do quite easily. I tried bacon twice and both times I felt sick for the rest of the day. And I’m not a big fan of pork having accidentally eaten it a couple of times. And the last thing on this particular subject, nothing happens when I accidentally eat pig. In fact, “I don’t blow up if I accidentally eat pork” is one of my favourite Arab jokes to use on people. The reactions are a hoot!

Anyway, back to the hunt for food. There was a pretty decent selection this year. I saw chicken paella that the chorizo wasn’t mixed in but could be added on after and I also found the holy grail of options. Beef sausage hotdog. Topher was right on point when he said this was my reaction:

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Very accurate. Anyway, with giant hotdog (and pretty tiny bun) in hand, Topher got a “currywurst” and we tucked in.

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I enjoyed it though could have done without the chilli inside the hotdog. Luckily it wasn’t too overpowering! Topher enjoyed his currywurst though said it was on the small side so we went in search of the burger stall that we usually frequent.

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It’s safe to say that he was happy with his choice! I went with a traditional mulled wine which was tasty though I sensed less alcoholic than previous years.

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Watching Topher eat his burger, I was reminded why we always come to this stall. The meat is good, there’s lots of choice, the cheese isn’t cheap rubbish and there’s always a good selection of chutney’s to choose from. Definitely recommended!

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So with full bellies, we walked all around town before stopping off for dessert. Of course! Usually I frequent the mini pancakes stand but this year I wanted the whole thing so we headed to one of the crepe stalls. Topher got plain Nutella and I picked Nutella with banana so I could at least say I’d had some fruit that day!

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Delicious as usual, though I broke my plastic fork. They could really use some of those forks that have a knife on the side of them – have you ever seen those? They’re amazing!

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And of course it’s not a trip to the Christmas markets without a stop at the chestnut stall. How is there only one of them? It’s always in St. Anns Square and I never see them anywhere else. Am I missing them?

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Yum!

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So after that it was time to head home and peacefully slip into a food coma. Perfect!

Do you have a Christmas Market where you live? Have you visited yet?

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Billy Connolly and Burgers at Almost Famous

I love comedy. I’ve always loved comedy. I actually prefer going to comedy gigs over musical ones. Billy Connolly has been on my favourite comedians list for over 13 years now ever since I stumbled across one of his DVDs in my parent’s collection. A natural born story teller, Billy’s style of comedy is different to my other favourites in that it’s a bunch of ridiculous stories that intertwine and make you think “what a life he’s had”. A life he’s had so far at least. Though he was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease in 2013, he has continued to work and tour so when we found out earlier this year that he was coming to Manchester on his High Horse tour, Topher and I got tickets for last Thursday’s show.

Though I’ve been a fan for so many years, this was the first time I went to see him. As much as I love going to gigs, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life as skint and only usually go to gigs about once a year. Even though we’re more skint than ever at the moment, I felt like it was now or never. Though I don’t like to think about it, who know’s if he’ll tour again? I had to see him live at least once in my life. And it was so worth it.

When he first appeared on stage, he looked so frail. There was the biggest round of applause I’ve ever heard at a show and when the crowd finally died down he said, “You’re only doing that cos I’m not well”. As the show went on, he livened up and by the end was moving around the stage. He had us laughing the whole way through and there were a couple of times I could barely breathe for laughing. So many crazy stories and he even made us laugh at his Parkinsons. It’s really cool that he can look on the bright side. We had great seats that were pretty much at the back but they were dead centre which was perfect. I’m so glad we went and I had a great time.

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Before the gig, we decided to go and get something to eat. I’ve been wanting to go to Walrus for months and months as I walk past it every Friday so we wandered in just after 5. I don’t know why, but from the outside the place looks pretty big. At least it looks bigger than the 4 or 5 booths and 3 or 4 tables that you actually find inside. It looks like more of a bar which was disappointing – especially since all the tables were full. Damn. Since we were hungry, we chose to leave and find somewhere else. After all, we had the entire Northern Quarter at our disposal.

I’d heard good things about Almost Famous so we headed round the corner to get ourselves a burger. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting old but I found the route to the restaurant extremely confusing. It’s up some stairs, then some more stairs which is fine but all the while you’re surrounded by doors that don’t look like they have restaurants behind them. Finally when we got to the top we were faced with the toilets and a plain door with no window. I thought we’d gone the wrong way but according to the younger couple coming up the stairs behind us, we were in the right place.

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Feeling very uncool, we wandered in and were given a table in the corner. I couldn’t wait to check out the menu for the burgers they had on offer. If you’re vegetarian you’ll know that a burger place will have a couple of veggie options so that’s where your eye will go on the menu. I’m definitely not a vegetarian but I don’t eat pork. I know full well that on a burger menu, there will be a couple of options that I can’t have but otherwise it’s smooth sailing. Not in this case. Every single burger that wasn’t veggie had some form of pig on it. And so did the fries. Hot damn. If you love the pig (as most Brits do), you’ve come to the right place. Chorizo, bacon, pork sausage, pulled pork, bacon rain, the works. It’s funny but looking at the online menu now, I can actually see a couple of options that don’t have pork but I swear I couldn’t see any on the paper menu. Maybe it was my hunger blinding me?

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Anyway, as much as there is a whole lot of pig on the menu, to their credit they will remove anything you ask. I had the Butter, Blood and Bleu burger which was a burger, cheese, steak, onions, red chilli, peppercorn sauce, blue cheese sauce and magic mayo. It also comes with chorizo which I didn’t order. Topher ordered the exact same with the chorizo. Great minds think almost alike! Both were deemed delicious. Just what the doctor ordered (I completely understand the irony of that sentence).

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For a side, he got the Ballpark Fries if I remember correctly which are a mix of skin on fries and sweet potato fries, hot dog melt, french mustard, jalapeño and pickle relish and winning ketchup. For my side I got the Magic Waffle Fries minus the bacon rain. They were waffle fries with JD maple and popping candy. I’ve eaten a lot of weird things in my time and this was definitely one of them. In a good way. It was obviously sweet so I decided to eat the majority of them after my burger as they felt a bit like dessert. It took me back to my primary school days where from time to time I would put both a couple of ready salted crisps and a rectangle of cadburys dairy milk into my mouth at the same time. Weird but satisfying. It’s funny to think that now people are obsessed with sweet & salty popcorn. If only I could go back and tell my 9 year old self, she would be thrilled!

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Leaving satisfied with full bellies, we headed off to our Billy Connolly gig. Dessert? Not right now!

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Victoria Baths – Manchester

I can’t believe that in all the time I’ve lived in Manchester (practically 10 years) I’ve never visited Victoria Baths. Well yesterday I finally went there to attend the Vintage Wedding Fair so that’s another thing I can tick off my non existent Manchester Bucket list (I seriously need to make one of these). After walking round the fair, I had a little peek at the rest of the downstairs of the building. I only had my phone on me so I took a few quick snaps with that. I’d love to go back with my DSLR.

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Victoria Baths is such a fascinating and beautiful building. So much green! Opening in 1906 as a collection of swimming pools and turkish baths, it was used for lots of things, even for dances sometimes in the winter months. It was closed in 1993 and fell into disrepair before being partly restored in 2007. It’s now a Grade II listed building and just celebrated it’s 110th birthday.

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These days it’s mainly seems as a historical building that you can visit for a guided tour and for their monthly open days. Though it’s also used for events like vintage fairs and art shows. You can even have your wedding here. I did briefly consider but all the green would clash terribly with the bright colours I have planned. #weddingproblems. That and it’s just a space with no heating or onsite catering. Perfect for a vintage wedding though – I’ve seen some gorgeous ones online.

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There are so many pretty original features around including stained glass windows, moldings and practically the whole place is tiled. There are so many different rooms just downstairs including the three pools, baths and shower rooms. There’s a hint of creepiness to it in a way.  I’m glad it’s not open at night, no doubt it would scare the crap out of me! It would be an awesome setting for a haunted Halloween event.

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One of these days I’ll have to take one of the guided tours to see the rest of the building – there’s so much more to see. If you’re interested in Victorian stuff, history or architecture I would definitely give Victoria Baths a visit!

 

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Chop’d Manchester: Build A Better Salad

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A couple of weeks ago I was invited to an event at Chop’d, a salad eatery that has just opened on Cross Street in Manchester. I’m always up for trying new food so I accepted.

For those who know me well, they will know for a fact that I’ve never been much of a salad fan. I’m not sure whether it was my childhood abhorrence to any food that was green or I just plain prefer sandwiches. These days I will eat anything green (apart from peas don’t ask me why) but I’ll never choose a salad while I’m out. Or make one at home for that matter. I just found them boring and unfilling.

I think it was about 4 years ago when I first entered the American salad chain Sweet Tomatoes and that was an epiphany; a salad epiphany if that’s a thing. Apparently I adore salad when I can make it myself. But of course it being based in America, I’ve only been able to return a handful of times. I’ve never found anything I could compare it to over here in the UK. You can make your own salad at Subway but it’s not the same.

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Enter Chop’d. Originally from London, it has 12 stores in our capital and now 1 in Manchester. It’s been around for 12 years and prides itself on how natural it’s ingredients are. The chicken is just chicken and the tomatoes are just tomatoes. Nothing added. I love that. Another factor that would stop me buying a premade salad is all the extra rubbish they stuff in there to preserve it. Everything at Chop’d was right there in front of you – what you see is what you get.Chop'd 3

Now this was the evening where Manchester had that freak rain/thunder/lightning storm that flooded the city centre so I was a wee bit damp. Fringes do not do well in the rain people! Nor do ballet flats or thin Primark “raincoats”. I brought my friend Claire along with me who is anti salad so this was going to be interesting.

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When we arrived we were greeted with a glass of wine and we got to borrow fun Chop’d aprons to wear. First, we learned a bit of Chop’d’s history, then we got to taste test their tomatoes from Sussex, apples from Kent and chicken from Essex. The chicken came with a jerk paste and fresh coriander, which was delicious and there was also fresh cooked smoked salmon, which was to die for. I will admit that I totally filled myself up on that!

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After that, it was the fun part. Chop’d challenged us to make our own salad. They let us all get behind the bar and make ourselves a masterpiece. It was difficult picking between all the yummy ingredients but I decided to go with both my heritage and be weird and break the rules. I called it the triple chickpea. That’s right, my salad included chickpeas, hummus and falafel. I also added baby salad leaves, couscous, olives, roasted red peppers and tomatoes with a lemon & olive oil dressing. Call me crazy but it was perfect for me.

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Since I had filled myself up on all the samples earlier, I took my salad home with me to enjoy. And boy did I enjoy it. Topher was not allowed any of it. Claire even said she really enjoyed her salad. I’ll definitely be back to Chop’d next time I’m around that area. I need to try the other things on their menu – they also do pre-made salads, soups, wraps, stews and even breakfast. It makes me slightly wish I had a city job so I could go there every day!

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Thanks Chop’d for a great evening and opening my eyes (and Claire’s eyes too) to the world of salad!

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