Amidst the shameful destruction and looting taking place in Manchester last night, Nero fiddled. Ok, it was a Miss Selfridges shop display not Rome on fire and none of us there wore togas, but it did feel a lot like we were revelling in the midst of madness. The occasion was Gastro Club’s first birthday, to be held at the wonderful Mark Addy and a little thing like a riot was not going to put off a gang of die-hard foodies. The first sign all wasn’t well was the panicked voice over our Magic Bus radio telling the driver to get back to the depot and throw us off at the BBC. Ah. Mr M’s prediction that our city would be clear of trouble got him in a lot of it at that point as my highest shoes teetered through eerily deserted streets. Random small groups of youths wandered purposefully, scarves round their faces and we wondered if this had been such a good idea as Twitter spoke of crowds gathering at Piccadilly.
We came across road blocks and cordons, saw the helicopter and walked past as shops and bars all locking up their doors with looks of apprehension and fear. When we arrived at the Mark Addy, the sense that Gastro Club were the only group dining out in the only Manchester restaurant open felt like a very real possibility. As the meal progressed and social media informed us of the vandalism and theft taking place in our city, it was as if a banquet was being served to a room full of Stiff Upper British Lips – a sort of keep calm and carry on, chaps, there’s roast pork to be carved.
Quails eggs in hollandaise hidden in a golden shell, amber roe and a wee caviar boat…. a mushroom Madeira medley…. fried sand eels and mayonnaise – whilst we read about arson at Miss Selfridges & looting in Diesel. Quite a contrast. But what the youths on the streets don’t get is that rewards come with hard work, they don’t just fall on your lap, not unless you are very very lucky. I’ve heard many of them bleating on about ‘respect’ as if it’s something automatically afforded to an individual, instead of earned through time, effort and ability.
Maybe they’ve never been told they are capable of achieving anything, maybe they’ve never bothered to try, maybe they’re just thieving scuzbuckets, maybe they’re disenfranchised kids role-playing Grand Theft Auto on Market Street – probably a mixture of all those things and more, but I’d warrant everyone sitting down for last night’s feast works hard to play hard and doesn’t expect something for nothing, unlike an increasing number of people in this country.
That said, even if the rioters, looters and arsonists are found, arrested, charged and subsequently locked up, I doubt they’d be fed the main course we willingly tucked into.
How does Umble Pie sound to you? Sounds like something you’d want those caught to eat, doesn’t it, all those little sh*ts realising what they’ve done and being sorry. They might be sorry if we made them eat this every day – a pie stuffed with choice pig cuts of heart, tongue, lung, spleen and UTERUS. Not exactly the staple McDonalds / Subway fare they’re used to, is it? They’d run a bloody mile rather than face that prison food every day, surely?! *muses on sending in Chef ROB to sort our prison fare* Followed by half a roasted pig’s head with prunes, complete with tongue, which we carnivorously hacked into, carved up and devoured. The more we ate, the more into Manchester’s own Neros we morphed, with a banquet fit for a room full of emperors. Apparently ROB found out about cooking uterus from a dish called ‘5am’ at a celebrated local chinese restaurant where it’s one of the ingredients. These things you learn at GastroClub.
In some ways it was almost wrong, to be laughing and drinking whilst such events were unfolding in our city, but in another it felt a little like sticking two fingers up and not allowing yet another business to be forced to close it’s doors because of a mindless minority. If the event hadn’t gone ahead, all that preparation, all the food would have been wasted, as was so much in other restaurants and ‘they’ would have won. I’m proud to have been there and of the spirit in the room – proper Mancunians taking pride in their city and what it has to offer.
A massive well done to GastroClub’s organiser Katie Brunt (vote for her here as Manchester’s Food Hero – http://www.foodanddrinkfestival.com/awards/), chef Robert Owen Brown (much more scary than that Ramsey bloke) and Mark Addy manager John for collectively putting on an event to show that MANCHESTER ROCKS and will NEVER be fully closed down by hoodie rule! Here’s hoping we don’t see anything like the tragic events in London and Northern sense shines through.
Thanks to Manchester Confidential’s brave team who were out on the streets and from whom I’ve nicked the images of the city centre last night – are you bonkers, you lot? http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/News/Riot-Rumour-Manchester-Under-Threat
This is one of the better blog posts I’ve read about the riots in general, causes and possible solutions, very thought provoking: http://rosamicula.livejournal.com/540476.html