Country Mouse in the Big City

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Everyone needs a fishbowl G and T!

Hot on the heels of our French adventure, we have ventured away from the relative calm of Mayfield and treated ourselves to a 3 day city break. After much umming and ahing, we settled on Manchester. My only experience of the city to date has been a fleeting visit to Primark and a Take That concert at the City Stadium. There has to be more to see!

Travelling without children (I had almost forgotten what that felt like!) meant that it was less McDonalds and more Margaritas. Neither of us can remember when we last went out to eat alone, never mind stayed away for 2 whole nights, due to the constraints of 3 children, a teaching job and a pub. What would we have to talk about? Well, actually, we largely talked about 3 children, the lack of a teaching job (this is currently a good thing!) and the pub.

As I’m sure all hoteliers do, we spent most of the time comparing our experiences with our own offer. We have come back with all sorts of exciting ideas to try out and to implement. Whilst I’m sure the Rose and Crown will never compete with Manchester’s cocktail bars I am just as sure that I will have fun devising a few cocktails even if they will never make it on the menu! The copious amount consumed was purely in the name of market research, you understand.

We ate out in a variety of restaurants. San Carlo in Spinningfields is a fabulous award-winning Italian restaurant that serves great food in a chic, contemporary setting. The staff were attentive yet not overbearing and the service was impeccable. You may see some new Italian influences on our specials board in the coming weeks! Breakfast the next morning was, coincidentally, in another San Carlo venue. They appear to have taken over Manchester! This time we ate in the San Carlo Gran Cafe at Selfridges. Good coffee and a tasty breakfast set us up perfectly.

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Poached eggs and avocado on toast

Whilst we loved San Carlo, our hands-down favourite was a small, unassuming Vietnamese restaurant we discovered purely by chance in Chinatown called I Am Pho. Walking down a small staircase we reached a modest room with long tables, simply decorated with a few plastic flowers adorning a ‘tree’ created from a steel pillar. What this place lacked in decor it made up for with the quality of food. We arrived at 6:45 and were the 2nd table in there. By 7pm the place was buzzing, packed with South-East Asians who clearly knew a good restaurant!

Continuing the international theme, our final meal was at another inconspicuous but lovely restaurant just around the corner from the Museum of Science and Industry (we visited, it was great!). Dimitri’s Taverna is a Greek tapas bar – just my sort of thing as I can try lots of dishes without feeling too greedy! We were enchanted – you may see more of these Greek influences on the menu here soon!

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Tapas at Dimitris Taverna

Having fallen in love with Ile de Re last month our fickle hearts are changing allegiances. We spent the journey home discussing the Great Escape (retirement plan). Perhaps rather than settle in a whitewashed idyll in a sleepy French village we should experiment with the excitement and bustle of a city apartment?

Two hours later, Danny is in his whites, I am fending phone calls from breweries, sales reps and suppliers all the while buried beneath an excited but clingy four year old, checking homework has been completed by the older boys and ensuring the euphonium (at what point was that a good idea?) is in the car along with swimming kit and other requisite gubbins for school in the morning. Family life has resumed. Retirement – whether in the country or the city – seems a long way off. Right now, all I need is the gum shield for school tomorrow. Although a fishbowl of gin wouldn’t go amiss!

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