Friday, March 22, 2013

The Market Mystery: New shit has come to light

When I started working in the Northern Quarter a decade ago, The Market stood out. It had a personality of its own in a city where few restaurants did. There was never anything fashionable about the green and white place on the corner of Edge and High Streets, its name a tribute to the long-gone Smithfield produce market. It was just the quaint side of twee, the opposite of Modern British: Old Fashioned British, and vaguely continental in its drift. The menu was small, the service friendly, the food delicious. It was the site of my first happy encounters with an Omelette Arnold Bennett and a Kir Royal. I ate there maybe ten times over the years, never had a bad meal and recommended it to people all the time. Maybe half the time I'd hear back that they'd had a less than amazing meal or actually thought I was nuts for sending them there. But I also knew people who felt the way I did about it. The place seemed to inspire this sort of crazy devotion. The people who liked it really liked it.

I heard it had been sold a few years back to someone who liked it the way it was and visited for the last time not long after the handover and ate well. I heard mixed reviews about the place after that, so it wasn't an enormous surprise when I walked by last week and saw that it had been shuttered and painted tomato red. Some snooping around the neighbourhood revealed only that the new tenant had something to do with Kahlua and pigeons. Confusing. Then I read yesterday that its going to be the site of a pop-up Mexican Coffee House sponsored by Kahlua, involving the creative minds from Teacup and Cakes and The Liquorists. I'm still not sure how the pigeons got in there, but all will surely be revealed. It's also unclear whether The Market will be back afterwards, though the restaurant's twitter feed seems to indicate that it will.

Granted, I'm pretty much the walking target demographic of a place that serves Mexican food, screens The Big Lebowski and Duck Soup and slings drinks made with Kahlua, a heavenly liquor I have been eagerly consuming since the age of 16 when I used to haul a bottle and a gallon of milk to keg parties. But I'd be sad if the Market didn't return. There's a lot more choice and variety in the city's restaurant scene today than there was even ten years ago, and it's easy to see how the place fell out of step with its upwardly-trendy neighbourhood (the arrival of the sleek Northern Quarter Restaurant right across the street was probably the beginning of the end for the restaurant in its old incarnation.) Still, I can't help but feel that a Northern Quarter that doesn't have room for The Market is a smaller, less interesting place. After the four-week pop-up pops off, let's hope it comes back in top form.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Urban Sketching, Lovecraft flicks, photocopied art

I encountered this lovely drawing of New Islington (AKA Ancoats) by Simone Ridyard somewhere on the internets recently, and then somewhat serendipitously I got an invitation to this interesting KURIO event Manchester designers NoChintz are hosting next Thursday at the Bench store: a masterclass in urban sketching with Simone. It also turns out that Simone organises an urban sketching group in the city that gets together twice a month: you can see some of their work here  and if you're interested in getting involved, there's more info about them at their Facebook page. But even if you're not a sketcher yourself you might enjoy a trip to the Urban Sketchers website, a fascinating place to poke about for people who like cities. Which is basically all of us, right?

Also next week, those busy Grimm Up North folks are showing a double bill of two HP Lovecraft adaptations, The Whisper in Darkness and From Beyond, in the spectacularly retro surroundings of the Stockport Plaza, a gem of a movie theatre. Unlike From Beyond, The Whisper in Darkness is a new film shot to look like an RKO-era classic. "A series of floods in rural Vermont uncovers the bodies of grotesque creatures that seem to match descriptions given in certain local myths and legends." That's the second time recently I've encountered my home state used as the setting for a horror story. Maybe there is something inherently wild and spooky about the place. I guess that's part of the reason why we love it so.

Finally, next week marks the opening of Paper Gallery's new exhibition Copy, featuring works from 15 artists that explore the use of the humble photocopier in creating new artworks. Bring your own toner! (kidding, art people.) The private view is from 6-8 on 14 March at the space adjoining studios on Mirabel Street and shares the evening with a new show from neighbouring exhibition space PS Mirabel, MIX, which in turn focuses on the artistic uses of concrete.

Image copyright Simone Ridyard