I'm always one for new experiences (and indeed, repeats of previously enjoyed ones). Yesterday involved both, combining a trip to the theatre, a plateful of raw lamb mince and Gordon Brown.
A and I haven't seen our friends V & C for far too long, so we arranged to go to see the fabulous Lip Service at the Quays Theatre at The Lowry. We've seen them a couple of times before, and they are hilarious. Yesterday, it was Withering Looks, their quirky look at the lives of the Brontes. Tears streaming and howls of laughter can be generated simply by a look from Maggie. She has one of the most expressive faces in theatre. If you get a chance to see them, do so, even if you have to haul yourself to Buxton Opera House (which is a lovely venue). You won't regret it.
Anyway, we started with the matinee there, then made our way back into Manchester. That was tricky enough, as the metro wasn't running all the way through due to a Peace/Anti-War demo timed to coincide with the start of the Labour Party conference. Seeing the assorted banners of the Socialist Workers, Communists and Stop the War Coalition branches from various London Boroughs managed to rattle A (aka to V, C and myself as Tory Boy) "Don't they have better things to do with their Saturdays?" he fumed, much to our glee. V, C and I are all left of A to a greater or lesser extent, so took great delight in goading him throughout our post-show drinking - much to his chagrin as he sipped his water glumly (I did suggest the train, but that's too green an option for Tory Boy - ever heard Fatima Mansions' Only Losers Take the Bus? I'm sure it was written with him in mind...)
Anyway, as well as the disruption to the metro, all around G-Mex was cordoned off in readiness for the Conference. Concrete road blocks mean it's difficult for vehicles to travel around the G-Mex/St Peter's Square/Peter Street area and therefore it was very easy to continue walking into town from the Briton's Protection - no dodging traffic, only protesters drifting off to the pub...
We hadn't got far from the pub though when we saw a convoy of vehicles approach G-Mex. They had to grind to a halt though, since the drivers didn't have a clue how to get to the Midland Hotel now the front of it was actually fenced off... leaving the Rt Hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer rather exposed as his Landrover Discovery sat impatiently behind the leading car. Oh for a bag of tomatoes (or failing that my camera...)
So that's covered the theatre trip and Gordon. What about the raw lamb mince? Well, since I'd organised the theatre, V & C organised the meal at the Cedar Tree, a Lebanese restaurant near Afflecks Palace. It looks a hole, but the food is fab! They also allow you to bring your own wine, so sadly V, C & I got progressively more tiddled and I was pretty blotto by 8.30. I am SOOO out of practice!
We had about 9 starters beteen us, then 2 main meals. It's loads of things I love, like grilled chicken, lamb, hummus, tabuleh, broadbeans, halloumi - gorgeous! The raw lamb mince had been marinaded in some spices and did have a nice flavour, but I think my favourite starters were the baby stuffed aubergine and the stuffed vine leaves. Yummy! The desserts are ace as well, but very sweet - lots of honey and nuts. The baklava was the best I've had in the UK. We ordered coffee too, which came as a shock to A, since you could almost slice it with a knife and it was heavily flavoured with cardamom. Sounds disgusting, and the first sip tasted it too, but then, after I'd eaten the sweet, it really worked, honest. It cut through the sweetness and really cleansed your mouth. Since A can't stand cardamom though, he pulled the kind of face that you normally see when a toddler eats brussels sprouts.