Thursday, September 14, 2006
Yesterday was my birthday, so I celebrated by giving myself the afternoon off to drift around Manchester doing non-important things in a non-hurried manner. I went by the new Arndale food market, which is quite nice and clean - though they didn't even have any bins yet. It only opened a few days ago, but I heard reports of sushi, so I hustled over.
The sushi is sold by Wing's, which have opened a pan-asian concession that sells pad thai and chinese dishes but also has one of those rotating sushi treadmills with colour-coded plates. I don't like them so much. It's cheaper and nicer to buy it from the sushi "pick and mix" - a rack of frustratingly individually wrapped pieces - where I paid about £4.85 for six pieces, soy sauce, wasabi and ginger (yes, you have to buy the condiments). The selection was really limited - shrimp, salmon, tuna and a number of awful things with tuna salad clearly meant to entice those philistines who aren't keen on raw fish. No unagi, either. The quality was good, the fish fresh - I wondered if it came from the lovely and enormous new fish market round the corner? I'll be going back.
The rest of the market was cool; the best things looked to be Gastronomica, which sells a glorious array of Italian-style dried meats (porchetta sandwiches, etc.), an extensive produce stall and a cute little stand selling fancy tea and scones, where I tried to sell the owner on the delights of boba tea - the iced tea with tapioca pearls that I became addicted to in Taiwan and NY but haven't been able to find over here. I'm not sure she was convinced. The Polish deli is actually more of a Polish grocery, selling cookies and margarine imported from the motherland. Is Polish margarine really that different from British margarine?
Then it was into the new, expanded Arndale Centre. This place now goes on and on forever, like a huge American mall, with a bewildering number of shiny new stores. They've opened the bit called the wintergarden, which I thought had a nice ring to it, but it turns out all that means is part of the mall has a glass roof. It's all so anonymous and generic looking that it made me anxious. Thankfully, they've still got the scrotty old market down in the bowels of the beast, where ten minutes in the warren of stalls hawking mobile phone covers, plastic boots and manicures will make you feel much better.
Before I left, though, I went to check out the new Waterstones Arndale, which is oddly being marketed as a "concept store". I didn't really get the concept. The colour scheme is different - all pale gray and metal to suggest hipness, I guess - but it's basically a smallish Waterstones with a tiny, bizarrely curated magazine section. And I missed David Hasselhoff by about 20 minutes. He had been there signing books, and the staff were all wearing autographed t-shirts that read "don't hassle the Hoff." Can we stop saying that now? I bought Anansi Boys and went to go read it in Cathedral Gardens, and for once it didn't rain.