I ought to know by now that a Good Beer Guide ticker’s work is never done. It’s like that cathedral in Barcelona that they’ll never finish building. And there was me thinking I’d completed Manchester. Not so. My adopted city had three new entries in the 2023 GBG and these needed
ticking visiting. I was in Manchester this evening for a gig so it seemed the perfect day to rattle off these pubs.
But before any of that, I simply had to visit the Indian restaurant that was esteemed so highly by Juninho.
I’d checked out their menu online six weeks ago and knew exactly what I was having. I double-checked the menu today just in case it had changed in the interim.
Ooh and look who else popped up!
I got a little bit lost on my wet walk to the restaurant and was just beginning to wonder if I’d walked too far down the road when I (almost literally) bumped into fellow blogger and not-a-ticker Martin and Christine. This wasn’t a massive coincidence – we had arranged to meet at Akbars.
There was some odd stuff in the reception/lobby/bar/foyer area but we were warmly welcomed and shown through to a table.
Dear reader, this was an odd table. Martin verbalised that he didn’t like it and I agreed but for some reason we stayed where we were. It was a funny little booth in the corner at the back of the room. There was some tightly curved bench seating forming a semi-circle – into which Christine and I sat – and two chairs completing the circle, at which Martin and son Matthew (who arrived shortly after us) were seated.
I was feeling smug because I already knew what I was having – and Christine agreed it sounded great and resolved to have the same. But then the waiter arrived to take the drinks order and I was flummoxed. I hadn’t thought about what I’d be drinking!
After drinking too much too soon in Wigan on two successive days recently, I was keen to avoid a repeat. I therefore ordered a Diet Coke (‘it’s Pepsi – is that ok?’). Why does everyone feel the need to apologise for Pepsi? They never apologise for Coke and I don’t really want that either – it’s just the only sugar free alcohol free option most places offer (that isn’t water). Anyway it came served like this.
‘Ooh is that a plastic straw?’
In their defence, I explained to Christine that I, too, had a large packet of plastic straws, which were a legacy from when these weren’t frowned upon. I suspected these were legacy straws too. Plus they haven’t really found a decent substitute for plastic in the straw department, have they?
We’d arrived at 1700, when the restaurant opened, and it was filling up already. And this a Wednesday night! They must be doing something right.
Right. Down to scrannage.
This was my Chicken Liver Tikka starter. It was served on a sizzling plate and it was yummy. I surprised myself by scoffing the lot. I usually like to leave room for the main. I think this was partly down to a recent change in my eating habits. My depression had hit me like a ton of bricks this week and one of my symptoms is a loss of appetite. This appears to be a good thing because it means I’m not snacking between meals but I am able to eat when it comes to mealtimes, despite not thinking I’m hungry.
One negative symptom, however, is an apparent inability to take decent photographs.
Now. About this. I ordered it based on this description.
Both Christine and I had been fully expecting it to be served with a boiled egg which, as you can’t clearly see from the photo above, wasn’t there. Nor did the dish look like we’d expect a Jalfrezi to look. It appeared creamier. We suspected that the egg had been cooked into the dish.
Now our little corner offered a great view of the restaurant but it was a bit dark over here. Both the view and what little light we had were blocked by the arrival of Matthew’s (regular!) naan bread.
You’ll have spotted Martin there, also taking a photo of the naan. Here’s his photo, which makes me feel quite a bit better about my terrible photos in this blog.
They’re not daft this lot at Akbars. What with their food challenges and Instagrammable naans, they’ve successfully delegated their marketing to their customers.
We declined pudding as we were stuffed – plus we had pubs to (not) tick!
Now I had actually visited this pub before, back in November ahead of Big Bash 2 (the annual Lancashire Hotpots/Black Lace extravaganza in Manchester). However that was a very boozy affair, rendering a blog of the night impossible. And because I hadn’t blogged the pub, my own stupid ticker-not-ticker rules stated that it didn’t count. So here I was again.
Hmm no dark beer so what do I have? Now you may recall from that joyful match at Reading that Mark had recommended Distant Hills Brewery. I certainly remembered and ordered a half of their Hoodwinked. Now this beer has a distinct flavour that I don’t encounter very often but, when I do, it’s usually in a beer from Yorkshire or Scotland. I actually queried this with a (sadly now defunct) brewery in Glasgow called Ride Brewing Co. Their explanation was that they Burtonised the water. Distant Hills are based in Glossop which is pretty close to Burton so it could well be the water. It could also be a particular hop but I don’t profess to understand what beer is made from because I’m a drinker not a brewer and it doesn’t matter how many brewery tours I go on but as soon as I hear the words mash tun or handle a hop you might as well be barking like a dog for all the sense you’ll make to me.
Anyway, suffice it to say, this beer was nice.
From my vantage point, pudding was screaming at me from across the room.
I resisted though. The force of Paddington is strong.
I like this pub. It’s quirky. This vase is my favourite thing.
Christine remarked that the gender neutral toilets were worth a review; however I was conscious time was against us (the walk here had taken longer than I’d expected), so we pressed ahead as I ignored the pleas of my bladder. But I did take a photo on my previous visit (cheers, Past Me) and here it is for your enjoyment.
I don’t know what it is about the name of this Hydes pub but it doesn’t stick in my mind at all – I have to look it up every time. Anyway it reminded me instantly of a pub in Salford I can never remember the name of either. This is one of the reasons I write this blog, which I can now refer to. Said pub was The New Oxford.
As I was faffing about with my phone, having great difficulty taking the above picture, Christine wondered aloud who Abel Heywood was. I replied maybe we’ll find out inside. But we didn’t because we spent about ten minutes trying to find a comfortable place to sit that wasn’t too hot or too cold but was just right.
Anyway I’ve just looked him up and he was a mayor of Manchester who built the Town Hall, had a big hand in the city’s transport system and went to jail in his bid for a free press. This book looks a good read if you’d like to know more.
Here are the beers.
I had the Dark Ruby (their mild, which they rebranded before mild became cool). It was served in a glass that seemed very heavy. I wasn’t sure if this was another side-effect of my depression, as gravity does seem to be pulling me down quite forcefully at the moment.
I was glad I’d needed the loo here, as my journey presented me with this beauty on my way back up the stairs.
By now we’d established we simply didn’t have enough time to complete my full itinerary. Sadly – and not for the first time – The Crown & Kettle was sacrificed. Sorry, guys. This does, however, give me a good excuse for another night out in Manchester so I can not tick it and blog it for you, dear reader.
Blogging rules state that I can never go to the Northern Quarter and not visit Fierce. They have been my number one brewery for years, thanks to their beers not only being epic but also for tasting like they say on the can. A chilli beer? Burns all the way down from the mouth to the belly. Rhubarb? Tastes like rhubarb. Tangerine? It’s Mighty. It drives me mad when beers claim to taste of trifle or banoffee or Black Forest Gateau when all you can taste is strong alcohol. Grr don’t get me started.
Here’s the board at Fierce tonight.
I was here for the Dark Mild and that’s exactly what I had. Sadly it was keg not cask but it was tasty all the same, with a ruby vibe.
I was flagging by this stage with nervous exhaustion. This was so overpowering that I failed to buy any merch or beers to take away from Fierce. Dear reader, this has never happened before. And I still had a gig to go to! I said my tired farewells to Martin and Christine and headed into the last venue of the night.
Well well. I’d recalled being pleasantly surprised by the beer in my last visit here – but I wasn’t expecting to find my favourite beer of the night here tonight.
I headed straight upstairs to where the gig was taking place. I think the man on the door was asleep but my appearance woke him long enough for him to stamp my hand. Or rather just scribble on it with a marker pen.
I stepped into a busy room and was immediately greeted by the man I was here to see, David Ford, who kindly stepped aside and ushered me through into the room. JP Ruggieri was mid-set and I managed to make my way almost to the front for his last two numbers. Here’s a clip of him in action.
Between acts I made my way to the very front, ditching my bags and outer layers on the floor underneath a table. I remained here by them for the duration. I am short and was leaning against a wall so I wasn’t in anyone’s way.
At 2100 David Ford took to the stage with a wonderful set. I’ve been a fan of his for 25 years and have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen him live. He never, ever disappoints – and everyone I’ve taken along to see him has loved him too. Check him out here.
About halfway through his set, I decided to join the two girls already sitting on the floor at the front. I slid down the wall and sat on my coat for cushioning. The view was somewhat restricted from down there but I simply couldn’t stand for another minute.
Before I left, I undertook a Loo Review for you, dear reader. Check out this old skool graffiti.
The trains were fucked ahead of the following day’s strike and they could fuck off if they thought I was getting on a three-hour rail replacement bus back to Blackpool after a night on the lash (although to be fair I’d only had four halves all night). So I’d cunningly convinced Lee that a run in the car to Manchester would get rid of that warning light about dust particles or whatever and, in my defence, it did actually work!
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Next Up: Hotpotting in Birmingham.