Review of The Bay Horse, Manchester NQ

Ever the explorers, we originally set out to find somewhere to go for lunch that we’d never been to before. Manchester’s Northern Quarter can always be counted on to offer something new, different and quirky so when we came across The Bay Horse on Thomas Street we thought we’d give it a try.

Having been to the venue in the evening before for drinks, we were already familiar with the cosy and contemporary decor, which sees a mix of leather seats, printed fabric sofas and paintings. My only criticism would be that it was quite cold inside – I kept my coat on for most of the meal. It was also very quiet when we arrived, although it did start to fill up a little later on.

The music was an eclectic mix of old school rock, and who doesn’t love a bit of the Rolling Stones and David Bowie?!

The menu was on the small side, although it would probably be described as ‘streamlined’. We started with the Smorgasboard, a selection of bites to share served on caraway, fennel and sesame seed knackerbrod crispbread. There was a wide selections of tasty toppings on offer at £4.50 for 4 and we went for the smoked salmon and capers, chilli and lime mackerel, goats cheese and cucumber and pesto and caramelised red onion (the best one by far!). Good food, but bearing in mind that we were the only ones in the restaurant ordering food, the service was quite slow.

Moving on to mains, the Knackerbrod pizza on a caraway fennel and sesame seed pizza base with smoked salmon, ricotta, beetroot and spinach topping was truly lovely. The beetroot added a slightly acidic tang and took away from the sweetness of the ricotta, which I have to admit there was slightly too much of. It was a bit of an NQ bargain at just £6 and was really filling. However, it was served on an extremely wobbly rotating board. I can see why this might have been a good idea if sharing, but for me it just made it much harder to cut and eat!

As we visited on a Sunday, we also had the roast beef, complete with all the trimmings (£7.95). The beef was perfectly cooked, pink and juicy, but the accompanying veg lacked a little lustre.

All in all it’s definitely worth going. The food was a different and made a nice change to other venues in the area and the staff were excellent and really friendly. More info on The Bay Horse can be found here.

Imperial War Museum North

After living in Manchester for almost six years, last weekend I finally got around to visiting one of the city’s most established and impressive tourist attractions – the Imperial War Museum North. Located near Salford Quays, opposite the newly developed MediaCityUk development, the most immediately striking feature of the museum is its stunning architecture.

Designed by award winning architect Daniel Libeskind, the three main shards of the building are imagined to be the remnants of an imagined globe shattered by conflict, represent the elements of air, earth and water. Each shard serves a different functional purpose, with earth housing the main exhibition spaces, air leading up to the viewing area and observatory platform and finally water holding the main cafe.

The museum is easily accessible by tram from Manchester city centre and is free to enter, although it’s run as a charity so we made sure to buy a museum guide and left a donation to help maintain the exhibits.

Once inside, the main space that houses the permanent exhibitions is large and excellently laid out, with a chronological display and timeline feature running around the gallery’s 200 metre perimeter to guide visitors through a complete history of conflict from the First World War to present day. As well as larger artefacts such as fighter jets, sea mines and the like, the exhibition is brought to life by the many effects, including diaries, photographs, letters and records, that came together to reveal a very personal experience of war. There’s something about knowing who a particular uniform belonged to or learning about events through the eyes of the very people that experienced them first hand that gives the IWMN a really personal touch and through reading their individual stories I felt a real connection to the past.

There are also hourly audiovisual shows, projected onto the main exhibition space, which bring together recollections of war shown with video and photographic material from a variety of conflict from around the globe spanning the past century.That we saw three of these shows gives some indication of how long we were in there for!

At the moment, there’s also a special ‘Saving Lives’ exhibition on that is definitely worth a visit. Examining all aspects of medical care on the front line, from the trenches of the First World War to present-day Afghanistan, the exhibition by its own description ‘looks at the physical and emotional impact on individuals in fighting wars and the wider consequences for society’. As part of this, it explores the development of modern medicine through a variety of media including personal interviews with medics, soldiers and volunteers.

I’m definitely glad we went and would recommend anyone in Manchester, whether it’s just for flying visit or if, like me, you actually live in Manchester and have never been, to give it a go!

More information on the IWMN, it’s exhibits and how to find it can be found here.

Prima ballerina in the making!

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m always looking for new sports or hobbies to try my hand at. With it being a new year, I thought I’d have a go at something totally different. That’s why this week I went to my first ever ballet class. Dance school KNT Danceworks runs regular adults beginners sessions aimed at those with little or no previous experience at the The Dancehouse theatre on Oxford Road, home of the prestigious Northern Ballet School. The classes are run in the evening on a drop in basis and cost just £5 a session, which in my opinion is excellent value.

Lasting around an hour, the beginners class  introduces ballet basics – including feet and hand positions – which was incredibly useful for those like me who hadn’t done any ballet since primary school. Given that it was the first week of classes in January, the class was full of first timers trying something new for a new year, so it was the perfect time to start. As well as barre work, basic exercises and stretching, I also learnt to demi-plié, chasse, pas de chat and Rond de Jambe. The instructor was great and made the unfamiliar moves really accessible to newbies. The class then progressed to then putting all of these moves together in a variety of combinations and exercises that made me feel like graceful and like a real ballet dancer – although I’m sure it didn’t look that way to outsiders!

It was great exercise as well, although at the time I was concentrating too hard on getting my feet and leg positions correct to notice that I was really working up a sweat. The real proof was in the aching calves, ankles and tummy muscles the next day. I’ll definitely be going back next week and hopefully I’ll be up on my pointes in no time!