Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Mancini and Michelin, Manchester's Dream Team

Think back to Manchester in 1975. City were top dogs in the footballing world as United competed in the old second division, relegated a year before by an infamous Denis Law backheel. They were very different times, hard for young fans from both clubs to imagine now. Remarkably, it was also the last time Manchester, the city, had a Michelin Star restaurant. Again, hard to imagine.

Thirty-six years later the wait continues as the new Michelin Guide to Great Britain and Ireland launched for 2012 and revealed Manchester had once again failed to secure a Star.

The historic French restaurant in the Midland Hotel on Peter Street was the last holder of a Michelin Star in the city. They were heady days, as The French was the also the first restaurant in the UK to be awarded a star. The dearth of Michelin mentions for the city ever since has been deafening.

The news doesn’t get any better if the restaurant radar is expanded outside the city centre to include Greater Manchester in 2012. There are still no stars.

The nearest Manchester has to a star are Simon Radley at the Grosvenor Hotel in Chester and Nigel Haworth’s Northcote in Blackburn. To add insult to Manchester’s emotional injury, both are long standing Michelin star holders, in an elite group of just 11 chefs who have held their stars for the past 14 years. Crucially though for the city, they are both more than 30 miles from centre.

For the 7 million people who live in and around the UK's second city the lack of a first class eatery in the city centre continues to surprise and disappoint.

The silver lining to the culinary cloud is that Greater Manchester’s Waggon in Bury and The White Hart Inn in Oldham are included in the Bib Gourmand category 2012, awarded to restaurants considered, “good food at moderate prices” and slightly further afield The Wizard in Alderley Edge is included too.

But another year passes and the city's search for a Star continues. What would be the chances of Manchester City's return to the footballing summit coinciding with the city's return to the guide? Stranger things have happened.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Saucy Postcards Titilating a New Audience

Henpecked husbands and buxom blondes are being brought back to life as the saucy postcards that epitomised trips to the seaside in the heyday of summer holidays are being re-launched for a modern audience.

The world famous designs, some of which were banned in their pomp for breaching obscenity rules, were created in West Yorkshire by the firm Bamforth & Co and are now being reproduced under a new licence, shortly to appear on greeting cards, sweets, fridge magnets and, perhaps appropriately, underwear.

The history of the postcards dates back to 1870 when James Bamforth, a portrait photographer opened an eponymous business in Holmfirth initially specialising in lantern slides, however it was the launch of saucy postcards in 1910 that changed the firm’s direction. They proved so popular that shortly after the First World War 20 million postcards were being sold every year and by 1960 Bamforth was the world's largest publisher of comic postcards. 

Leeds-based businessman Ian Wallace, who kept the company in Yorkshire after buying it from Scarborough printing firm Dennis when it collapsed in 2001 is behind the drive to reacquaint the public with what became a British institution.

He said: “The 40,000 images are known the world over and vie with the old Carry On films in popularity. The future is very bright for a company that looked doomed a few years ago.”

The designs are definitely from an era before political correctness became popular. One typical scene shows a couple trying to put up a windbreak on the beach. The wife says to her husband: “It’s too soft Fred, it won’t stay in, shall I hit it with the mallet?” The innuendo implied is obvious.

Wallace added: “They’re just a bit of fun, 99% of people who read them and look at them enjoy them.”

Another postcard shows a scene typical of a Bamforth postcard and one with was richly mined over the years, the nudist colony. A man at a barbecue says to a lady, “Watch out which bloody sausages you’re pricking missus!”

The appeal of postcards belongs to a different age now, with email, smartphones, social networking and tablets replacing the need to send a card from our holidays. However, the appeal of the designs that titillated British seasiders for generations has not diminished judging by the number of licensees who will be working with Bamforths going forward.

So prepare your sense and sensibilities for another Bamforth boom only this time blushing vicars, knowing wives and nudists will appear on beer glasses, mugs, coasters, bookmarks, t-shirts, pyjamas and even metal signs.