Why I’m giving up on English football for Australian Rules Footy

Aussie Rules Football stars

Aussie Rules Football stars

As a lifelong football fan and Evertonian, I’ve rarely expressed much interest in any other type of sport. I dabbled with cricket during the Ashes in 2005, but spent most of my time at Old Trafford fanning myself with the programme and starting the Mexican wave in my stand. When my family moved to the rugby fanatical town of St Helens when I was in primary school, I made a vague effort to watch rugby in an attempt to fit in with my classmates, but ended up defiantly kicking my football through the rugby posts in a daily act of playtime rebellion.

Nothing has ever come close to the excitement of watching my team in action – in typically hopelessly optimistic Evertonian fashion – and I never thought for once about looking further afield for another sport. That was until I came across Australian Rules Football.

With apathy for the beautiful sport at an all-time low after getting tired of seeing players wince and throw themselves to the ground whenever a gust of wind grazed their hair, I decided it was time to give another sport a go. My family has quite a few relatives in Australia, and AFL was suggested to me a long time ago, so I thought I’d familiarise myself with the teams and the rules and watch a few matches. As it happens, the rules of Australian Rules Footy are very simple to follow as quite frankly, this sport is severely and refreshingly lacking in them.

The teams are made up of eighteen players each on gargantuan oval pitches unlike any I’ve ever seen in the UK. A true testament to the size of the playing field and the popularity of the sport in Australia stems from the fact that the AFL Grand Final is currently the highest attended club championship event in the world. The MCG stadium in Melbourne seats 100,024 avid fans each season and is one of the largest stadiums in the world. Despite opposing fans not being segregated at match events, the assumed friendly nature of the Aussie Rules supporters is almost never tarnished by match day violence of any kind – though you’re far more likely to find that on the pitch.

Hulking players grapple each other for the football like a baying crowd from Wigan might fight for a stray £50 pound note whizzing through the wind. Players kick, handball and run with the ball to inch it closer to the opposing goal posts but cannot be caught holding the ball: this equates to an intensely fast-paced and action packed sporting event. There are no off-side rules and the official game time is not displayed to the players or the public in the stadium. The term ‘organised chaos’ springs to mind when trying to describe the melee of activity on the oval field whilst game is in play.

A rather humorous element to Aussie Rules is the total disregard from the referees over the players squaring up to each other and pushing and shoving each other right under his very nose. It’s so accepted that temperatures run high in such a physical and competitive sport that not even the commentators in the box bother to mention it to the spectators at home.

If a tanned and pompous football player skipped indignantly over to his opponent and so much as poked him in the arm with his polished pinkie finger then the whole game would come to a standstill. Other players would march over swearing and shouting at each other whilst extending a few pinkie fingers of their own and the referee would look on in sheer horror as though nothing short of triple homicide had been committed in front of his very eyes.

The same melodramatics are demonstrated through injuries as well. An Aussie player who had obtained an injury to his leg would merely grit his teeth and to march off the side-line as soon as possible to receive fast treatment from the physiotherapist. Can you imagine a footballer doing this every time an opposing player had the audacity to niggle at his leg during a tackle? Chances are they would be much more likely to gaze teary eyed at the referee for him to signal for a stretcher and a lollipop to be brought out with immediate effect.

If an Aussie player scores a goal then he will celebrate with a run and a wave before rushing back to his position for the quick turnaround in play. When comparing this to the laughable and downright ridiculous celebrations premier league players concoct for themselves when scoring a goal then its small wonder that fans are turning their attentions elsewhere. From Daniel Sturridge’s ‘Squirm’ dance routine to Mario Balotelli exposing the words ‘Why always me?’ on his vest whenever scoring a goal, the self-obsession and egotism of overpaid footballers becomes quite tiring after a while.

So if you’re weary of football, still waiting for the cricketing season to start or just looking for a new sport to take an interest in in general, then why not give Aussie Rules football a chance?  The new season kicks off in April and you can keep up with the matches in the UK via ESPN and British Eurosport. If you’re feeling a little out of your depth and want to find out more about the sport then here are a few things you need to know in the run up to the season.

  • The current champions are the Hawthorn Hawks who defeated the Sydney Swans in the 2014 Grand Final.
  • There are two types of goal in AFL. Six points are collected if the ball is kicked through the two centre posts, and one point if it passes through the behind posts. There are four posts in total.
  • Each game consists of four quarters consisting of twenty minutes of play. The start and end of each quarter is signalled with a siren.
  • The on-field structure of each team is usually made up of six defenders, six forwards and six midfielders made up of two wingmen, one centre and three followers including a ruckman, ruck-over and a rover.
  • Just go with the flow and enjoy the game. It’s Aussie Rules – you’ll pick it up in no time!

Follow the AFL on twitter @AFL and keep up with the action at http://www.AFL.com.au

Could we see cross country make a comeback in the Olympics?

Cross Country Runners

Cross Country Runners

British middle-distance legend Seb Coe has revealed to Great Run TV that he would love to see cross country make a comeback in the Olympics.

“One of the things that has really, I suppose, worried me in the last few years is that I don’t think enough younger coaches realise how important cross country is,” said Coe.

“I would love to see cross country back in the Olympic programme and maybe even something, thinking out of the box for a moment, why not include it in the Winter Olympic programme?”

Two-time Olympic 1500-meter champion Sebastian Coe, a leading candidate for the presidency of the International Association of Athletics Federation, is the most influential advocate for cross country running to again be an Olympic sport.

Cross country has significantly dropped in popularity in recent years and is widely believed to be due to African domination of the World Cross Country Championships. The last time a country other than Kenya or Ethiopia won the senior men’s team title was 1980.

In Seb Coe’s autobiography, Running My Life, he describes the profound impact that cross country had on his life.

“Cross-country running was literally the making of me, and it saddens me that it’s now so overlooked. You are using every part of your body. It’s hard and it’s tough.

“Your brain never switches off. It’s both physical and mental. It’s the supreme all-round conditioner and if you can deal with what’s thrown at you on a tough cross-country course, you can deal with anything.”

However, the IAAF appear to have accepted that the idea of it being included in the Winter Games is not possible as the Olympic Charter insists only sports that take place on snow and ice are eligible.

“The IAAF Cross Country Committee is studying options,” Nick Davies, deputy general secretary of the IAAF.

“The IOC has never said that cross country could not be part of an Olympic athletics programme, but were against having it as a new event added to the Winter Olympics, which had been the original proposal a few years ago.”


Morgan Lake

Morgan Lake

17-year-old heptathlon star Morgan Lake has withdrawn from the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in order to participate in the World Junior Championships this month. Her place on the English team will be taken by Grace Clements, who won a bronze medal at the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010.

Lake said: “This has been an extremely difficult decision for me to take as I was honoured to be selected to Team England, but ultimately it’s right for me and my development to focus on the World Juniors. I want to wish Grace and the rest of Team England all the very best and I’ll be cheering them all on.”

The teen star has already broken Katarina Johnson-Thompson’s British junior heptathlon record and is also second behind Johnson-Thompson on the Under 20s all-time list after scoring 6,081points in Gotzis last month.

The controversial decision to pull out of the high-profile games has raised questions over the athlete’s motives, with some critics claiming it is because her coach and father, Eldon Lake, cannot stay with her in the athletes village.

Morgan has since taken to twitter to deny these rumours saying: “My Dad’s access to the Games Village was definitely not the reason for my withdrawal. So I hope that people don’t read into that story, sorry for the confusion. I wish the whole of England team the best of luck at CWG.”

Chaperones are provided for all athletes under 18 taking part in the games, but parents or guardians are not permitted to stay in the complex and will only be granted day passes into the athletes village.

Grace Clements will join gold medal contender Katarina Johnson-Thompson and Yorkshire’s Jessica Taylor in the England heptathlon team and sees it as a great opportunity to end her career on.

She said: “It is great to be back on the team having medalled four years ago. I have been through a tough four years, so this is like a dream come true – a fairytale ending to my career. I’m very grateful for this opportunity to compete in the Commonwealth Games”


Tasmanian sprint phenomenon Jack ‘Flash’ Hale, aged 16, stormed home to victory at the All School Championships in Adelaide with an unbelievable time of 10.13 (+3.4 m/s).

A strong message about the rise the strength of Australian sprinting was sent to the rest of the world as Rohan Browning finished 2nd with a time of 10.18 and Trae Williams finished third, clocking 10.33.

Hale, who is the national under 18 record holder in Australia, claimed gold in the 100m race and lived up to expectations after a succesion of sucesful recent races.

“I am so pumped. I think my start was terrible, but I came home strong to win. It’s the first time ever I’ve had someone to chase down. To have that competition makes me really happy because it means my time came down to what it did,” Hale said.

“The winds were really strong, but the plan is to go somewhere like that with legal conditions. Rohan was next to me across the race. He has one of the greatest starts you’ll ever see in your life and with 20 metres to go he had me. I’m just impressed with how it played out. It was a great race.”

New South Welshman Rohan Browning kept the pressure on Hale with an impressive start to the race but could not maintain his head start.

Hale, who is affectionately named ‘Australia’s fastest kid’, broke his own record in October by running 100 metres in 10.42 seconds – beating his previous time of 10.44 in September. It is believed that Hale will not replace his previous record of 10.42 due to strong winds affecting the race.

Former sprint star Melinda Gainsford-Taylor said Hale has a bright future.

Sporting star Jack Hale

Sporting star Jack Hale

“For a long time we’ve been waiting. We sit there and go ‘what’s happening with our sprinters?’ And obviously we’ve got the talent there, this is just really exciting for track and field,” she said.

Jack made it a double gold weekend by also adding the 200m Australian All Schools title to his 100m win. Despite only starting to train for the 200m recently, Hale comfortably sailed to victory.

“I knew I’d go well in the 200m here. I’ve been doing a few 150s in training recently. At first I was laying on the ground for 20 minutes exhausted at the end of them, now I can get through them and recover much better,” he said.

The sprinting sensation still considers himself a long jumper despite his sprinting success but he couldn’t compete in his favoured event this weekend due to an injured heel.

“I really enjoy the long jump and consider that my main event still. Sprinting obviously helps for the long jump and once I’m cleared to jump again I can’t wait to see how far I can go.”

Home, halls or student housing… Which option should you choose for university?

Britain's most notorious student house.

Britain’s most notorious student house.

One of the most exciting and daunting decisions a student will make at university is what their living arrangements will be. Personally, I’ve experienced the three most popular living options available to students over the past three years: slumming it in student halls, squandering my loan on expensive rental houses and staying at home to scavenge off the parents.

From witnessing naked bearded men running across roofs in rowdy first year halls to exchanging stern words with police officers called to my student house because an elderly neighbour objected to a game of monopoly at nine pm, I’ve experienced everything from the predictable to the downright weird during my past three years muddling through university.

Firstly, if you’re considering living in halls of residence then be sure to pack your hand sanitizer and a pair of ear plugs before moving in. Bottles of conquered spirits, cider and six pound Prosecco will adorn the shelves in your room like sporting trophies, drum and bass will keep you awake till the early hours of the morning and leftover pizza boxes will be a constant sight in the communal kitchen purely for the delectation of the local vagrant population – mostly made up of fresher’s with hangovers.

There is hardly a dull day when living in halls. Club promoters pace around from building to building like predators and the on-site bar will usually be open till late most nights. If you have no plans for the evening then relevant accommodation Facebook pages will cure you of your predicament. I attended a notoriously rowdy residence in Salford which updated its events page daily with rival parties for the masses to attend – though these were almost always shut down by the stuffy site warden who couldn’t resist gate crashing a perfectly civilised soiree.

Student housing is the accommodation option usually taken by students in their second year. Once you’ve lived for a year in halls, only the brave will stay partying amongst the fresher’s for a second year, the rest of us decide that we’re sensible adults who want to rent out a spacious house away from the trivialities of the young and hapless first years. Yet it hardly ever works out like this. The areas you move into are almost always rundown and inhabited by student’s young and old with the occasional burglar and mugger thrown in for good measure.

I lived in a terrace house with eight other people. To the left of us lived an elderly woman and her protective middle aged son who peered suspiciously at students from underneath his netted curtains in the living room at every opportune moment, and to the right of us were a house of rowdy weed-puffing second years. Before agreeing on a property, it’s always a good idea to check who your neighbours will be before moving in. If I had been informed that a melodramatic man with a profound hatred of Monopoly would be sharing a wall with me for the best part of a year then I probably would have thought twice about signing a contract.

Another common problem when renting is not opting to have the bills included in the monthly price of the property. The tenants in my house agreed to pay fifty pound a month individually for utilities but ended up with a surprise additional charge of seven hundred pound to distribute between us when the contract ended – not exactly what a student wants to hear once ones loan has diminished into oblivion.

If neither of the above options sound preferable to you, then it may be best to live at home wherever possible. I lived just far enough from my university to justify living away for two years so that I could concentrate on just about everything else but my degree, but third year rang alarm bells in my head and I wanted no distractions.

Living at home is very difficult to adjust to once you’ve had your freedom for two years. Aside from the obvious advantage of not eating pot noodle every day because you have access to a fully functional fridge, the constraints of living under your parents roof can be hard to handle. The trophy bottles of spirits and leftover pizza that used to line the walls in halls are suddenly replaced with your mother’s china plate collection and packets of Aunt Bessie’s roast potatoes. Whilst your friends are out at the latest club night in town, you find yourself sat in your bedroom with the sole company of your cat, a pile of textbooks and an ever decreasing desire to live – but your grades will soar.

In short, if you’re comfortable with incessant noise and naked bearded men straying across your path every now and again then halls or residence could be the choice for you. Similarly, if you, like me, are far too comfortable with this notion then you may want to consider living at home under the stern supervision of your parents with finals looming. Student housing on the other hand is merely expensive, often located further away from your campus and a hotbed for regular inspections by the police for noise pollution and foul play in Monopoly.

How to stay focussed on your degree after a break up

We've all been there. Even Elle Woods. Now put those chocolates down!

We’ve all been there. Even Elle Woods. Now put those chocolates down!

The words “don’t you have work to do?” and “get the hell out of my room,” seem to be commonly heard in my house these days. As if breaking up isn’t bad enough to begin with, possibly the worst time in the world this could happen to you as a student is during exam time. Not only do you have to come to terms with the split, you also find that you have far more pressing issues to contend with in your battle to keep it together and not drive your Vauxhall Corsa off the nearest cliff edge.

There are a number of ways to deal with this. When my sister was in university, she once recounted a story to me about her and a friend creeping under the dormitory window of her ex to throw eggs haphazardly in its direction. Whilst the amount of eggs that actually hit their target remains uncertain, it’s fair to say that the bemused look of her ex-boyfriend staring down at her before slowly and deliberately closing his curtain did very little to set her on the path of becoming a star student again.

Another common reaction is to simply hide under your covers all day and pretend that you’re not even at university. Whilst your friends bury their heads in textbooks and swap notes with each other, you merely eat Wotsits in bed, sob into your pillow and watch reruns of Parks and Recreation. The benefits of this reaction are two-fold: you get to eat Wotsits and watch Parks and Recreation. However, the negatives far outweigh the positives.

Dragging yourself out of bed in the morning and getting showered and dressed is paramount to obtaining a positive mind-set for the day ahead. If you don’t trust yourself to work alone without your hand itching for the Corsa keys and cheesy Wotsits, then why not organise a study session for you and your friends?

When organising a study session, never arrange for this to be done in your local pub or any other establishment with access to booze. Go to the library. It’s safe there. The only thing to distract you is the soul crushing atmosphere and the librarian with nothing to lose in life by being unreasonable with everyone. Avoid both of these problems by booking out a private study room: you can chat and actually breathe in here without the regulars’ eyeballs popping out of their spectacles in sheer unadulterated hatred.

The days after your break up may also be the perfect time to strike up a conversation with that guy in your class that you always kind of liked but never spoke to. Pretending you don’t understand what the lecturer is talking about (or genuinely – in my case) can lead to some steamy chat about press regulation and libel that can go absolutely anywhere. If nothing else, this will stop you thinking about your ex so much and can act as a a mirror in deflecting your attention from the new guy back to your work without dwelling on somebody else. Plus, you’ll get a free drink out of it too.

If none of the above work then it might be time to take a step back and get some perspective. Just because you have lost somebody doesn’t mean you should lose out on your degree too. Even if your confidence is knocked and you feel like you can’t tackle work anymore, or you don’t see the point in it, it’s time to go talk to a study councillor, your parents or a close friend for some direction.

A good way to help you gain perspective is to write down the priorities in your life. Think about all the pros you can gain by working hard at your degree compared to all the pros of driving your Corsa off the cliff edge. I guarantee the first option will prevail – though it may be an idea to roll the Corsa of a cliff without you in it anyway. Work hard, surround yourself with friends, go on a few dates and think the bright prospects of your future once you have a degree under your belt. Cheesy Wotsits will soon be a thing of the past.

Young serial entrepreneur brings craft beer brewery to Manchester

Tweed Brewery boys

Tweed Brewery boys

Whilst watching this series of The Apprentice, it’s hard not to feel an element of despair about the future of Britain’s business prospects as we watch another bunch of hapless individuals backstab and smooch their way into the breast pocket of Lord Alan Sugar on a weekly basis.

But fear not, there is hope, and one of Manchester’s own home grown talent is providing it. Sam Ward, aged twenty two, has launched his own microbrewery in Hyde with the help of his dad Dave and talented brewer Anthony Lewis. Although the company has only been officially launched for a short time, it has been causing quite a stir in the city already.

“The idea first came to us in a pub, which is quite fitting really,” says Sam. “We were sat round in a circle and were talking about how unimaginative the brewing industry has become. There are not enough exciting and innovating flavours out there and we thought to ourselves, why can’t we be the ones to change that?”

Sam is no stranger to starting up his own business, in January he opened up his own sweet shop, The Tuck Shop, in Denton and is still running that venture alongside the Tweed Brewery. He wants to encourage more young people to believe in their ideas and try to make something of them.

“There’s so much help available out there for people who want to set up their own business. If you want to be your own boss you have to have passion for what you do, and that’s what fundamentally the three of us have for the Tweed Brewery, we believe in the product and want to make it a success. Don’t just talk about your ideas; if you believe in them, you can make them a reality.”

The Tweed Brewery is currently being stocked at Liquorice in King Street and Fab Cafe in Portland Street with many more regional bars and cafes to follow.

“The response has been overwhelming really,” says dad Dave, “Sam is really into his social media and we found that before we even launched properly people were ordering barrels of our new ale, Winter Tweed, through twitter. We talked about this six months ago and now we’re sat in our own brewery today taking orders and progressing with the business. It’s been a stressful but rewarding process.”

Winter Tweed, the company’s first ale, is the invention of experienced brewer Anthony Lewis who left his old brewery job to start a business venture with Sam and Dave. “I like to experiment with flavours. The Winter Ale is a dark mahogany ale with a sweet caramel taste.  The ale is made with chocolate and Munich malts and has a very distinctive flavour – exactly what the Tweed Brewery is all about.

Sam has ambitions to take his business to the American market and recently went on a research trip to New York and Las Vegas.

“We noticed that in America a lot of women drink ales, a far higher proportion than they do in here, and we also noticed they were lacking in quality British craft ale. There’s definitely a gap in the market there for a more gender neutral, quintessentially English brand of drink. We’re staying focussed on promoting the brand in Manchester for now, but there is definitely an opportunity there for the future.”

To find out more about the Tweed Brewery follow them on twitter @TweedBrewCo or visit their website at www.tweedbrewing.com

Calls for lower drink-drive limit to be implemented in Manchester

Drink driving suspect

Drink driving suspect

According to a survey released by road safety charity Brake today, one in three drivers would like to see a lower drink-drive limit for motorists in England and Wales.

The calls come just weeks after Scotland lowered its drink drive limit to 50mg per 100ml – a move that will be replicated by Northern Ireland in 2015.

Greater Manchester Police reported that yesterday 117 drivers were arrested after failing a breathalyser test, this comes during the same month that the force launched its None for the Road campaign.

The survey also revealed that 95 per cent of drivers wanted repeat offenders to face harsher penalties, with 89 per cent saying these offenders should have “alcolocks” fitted to their vehicles to prevent them driving if over the limit.

Bernadette McVey, aged 38 from Sale, works for Manchester city council and says that the GMP should continue to clamp down on offenders during the festive period.

“It’s a dangerous time of year for drivers. People are travelling more regularly and the party season is really upon us which means there are more accidents on the road.

“I think the laws implemented in Scotland are a positive move and the people of Manchester could really benefit from having a similar system. Perhaps the high number of accidents over recent months on the roads will be enough to convince people of the dangers associated with drink driving.”

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive at Brake, said: “The UK has now slipped off the top of the European road safety rankings, and without critical progress, including the introduction of a zero-tolerance drink drive limit, we will be left further behind.

“The current drink drive limit in England and Wales sends a confusing message and asks drivers to do the impossible – guess when they are under the limit, and guess when they are safe to drive.

“In reality, even very small amounts of alcohol impair driving, so the only safe choice is not to drink at all before driving. The law needs to make that crystal clear.

“We’re also appealing to the public in in the run up to Christmas to show zero tolerance on drink driving, and pledge to never get behind the wheel after any amount of alcohol.”

Road Safety Minister Robert Goodwill said: “Britain already has tough penalties to tackle drink-driving and the Government believes increased enforcement is a more effective deterrent than a change in the law.

“We are removing the automatic right for drivers who fail a breathalyser test to demand a blood and urine test. High-risk offenders are now also required to prove they are no longer alcohol-dependent before being allowed to drive.”

An inside look at Media City’s most exclusive private members club

Decor of Members on the 7th

Décor of Members on the 7th

WHEN stepping in the lift up to the seventh floor in the Landing Building at Media City, I can almost hear Damian from Mean Girls shouting up a word of warning to the members congregated in the room above: “She doesn’t even go here!” resonates in my ears as the lift doors swing open, such is the exclusivity attached to the only private members club on the Quays.

Whilst waiting at the front desk to be escorted through to the club, I hear the clinking of glasses and frantic typing on keyboards close by. Is this a bar or an office I’m entering? “Good afternoon, is it Miss Vaudrey? Would you like a glass of champagne before we commence with the interview?” If this was an office, I’d happily move the entire team at Quays News in tomorrow.

The bar area

The bar area

The décor is plush and indulgent with a violet colour scheme. Deep comfortable chairs look out onto show stopping views over Media City and stretch out towards Deansgate and further afield. On a foggy November day, the outline of Manchester’s Hilton Tower can just be made out through the thick sheet of mist engulfing the quays.

I’m introduced to the PR executive for the Eclectic Hotel group to which members of the seventh are a part of, Sophie Richardson, and take a seat next to the wrap around bar. The gathering of people in the club is in many ways predictable. Ladies with their BBC card holders on display as they sup at their flavoured teas and young men sporting sweater vests – which are apparently stylish now – downing craft beer whilst perpetually wired up to their mobile headsets. It’s a media mogul’s haven.

 Eclectic Aug 2013 - 7446

“What we have tried to create here is a relaxed environment where people can get some work done and network with other members. During the day, the club is quite formal but it becomes much more social in the evening. It’s a place where members can feel comfortable whether getting on with their work in peace and quiet or to bring a client for a business lunch.”

 “Throughout this floor we have conference rooms that Seventh members can hire out for meetings with clients and colleagues. Members know they can bring anyone they like here and they will be treated with the upmost hospitality.”

 As a habitué of Media City myself for the last three years, this private members lounge has certainly caused quite a stir on the Quays but there are mixed feelings about the eligibility of people who can apply. I glance round quickly at the hip man talking into his headset and half expect him to whip out Google Glass eyewear to take some incriminating pictures of my oversized grey hoodie.

 Eclectic Aug 2013 - 5192 High Res

“Some people think we only accept certain kinds of people here but that is not the case. The membership is open to anyone who works at Media City, not just media professionals, but that message doesn’t seem to be getting out there enough. The networking here is not just confined to journalists, everyone who is a part of the Media City hub is more than welcome to join and take full advantage of Members on the Seventh.”

The somewhat pretentious stigma attached to the Seventh is quashed almost immediately when Sophie informs me that they are holding a very special even this evening. What could it be? Cocktails and canapés celebrating the launch of a new primetime BBC show? “We’re showing Elf in the cinema room to get everyone in the festive spirit – because who doesn’t love will Ferrell?” Who indeed.

Private cinema screenings anyone?

Private cinema screenings anyone?

So if you’re live or work in the Quays area, and are impartial to a flashy headset or two, or simply want to escape the hordes of Salford University students advancing on you with cameras and Marantz recorders for interviews every time you try to leave for lunch, then give Members on the Seventh a try. You can find out more about the club at their website at http://www.eclectichotels.co.uk/on-the-7th/

The (Worst) Grill on the Alley


The Grill on the Alley describes itself as a restaurant serving “solid, honest, simple, proper food – job done.” Solid? Why yes, the food seemed solid enough, especially their signature ribeye steak that I requested to be cooked rare but instead proved tougher to hack in to than if it were still attached to the back of a live cow. Honest, simple and proper? Again, I can’t argue with their mantra on this either, the simplicity of each dish that was presented to me quite frankly blew me away. And finally, was the job done? Let’s say that towards the end of the evening I was actually considering taking the steak knife to myself to avoid tasting the pudding.

Surprisingly, the Grill on the Alley is widely professed to be one of the best restaurants in Manchester and lists number three in the Mancunian’s guide to top restaurants in the city. Naturally, I was inclined to find out for myself. Tucked away on Ridgefield Street on the most affluent ‘alley’ I have ever walked in to, the restaurant boasts a welcoming and warming decor.

The interior is designed to look like a warehouse and features open brick walls and low hanging bulbs dangling two metres down from a high ceiling. However, much to my surprise I found myself being led, much like a cow to the slaughterhouse, down a flight of stairs and into the far less appealing basement of the restaurant.

Deciding that I didn’t really care about my waistband anyway, I decided on the deep fried brie to start. The brie was accompanied by sweet beetroot and red onion compote with rustic croutes. Unfortunately, the cheese was not cooked sufficiently and was lukewarm at the time of serving. The texture was gloopy and lumpy and resembled more of a liquid than cheese and quite deterred from the other elements of the dish that were prepared and presented to a good standard.

No sooner did I place down my knife and fork did I find that my dish was taken away by the waiter and replaced within two minutes by the main course. Nothing gives a worst or more unprofessional impression in a fine dining restaurant than food being rushed out at such high speed. In the Grill on the Alley the main courses are priced on average around eighteen to twenty pounds per head. At this price range you would expect a little more effort being put in to the preparation of the dish you ordered, even a relatively simple dish like steak, or at the very least that it would be cooked the way you requested.

I requested the ribeye to be cooked rare, something the chef was apparently unfamiliar with, and it instead arrived seared and cooked straight through with a side order of soggy chunky chips presented in one of those annoying mini fryers that chains like the Yates’s utilise. Yet at £19.75, I genuinely think the Yates’s round the corner would have provided better value for money.

 For desert: sticky toffee pudding. I was tempted to opt for a cheeseboard, but was astonished to see that at ten pound, the menu only offered a ‘selection’ of three cheeses – yes you read that right – three. Compare this to the Damson restaurant which is one place behind the grill on the Alley on Manchester’s top restaurant list and the price really does take the biscuit, or the cracker in this case. Damson offers a choice of seven cheeses at the exact same price as the Grill, and offers a full board selection for an extra five pound.

In short, if you’re looking for the solid simple food that is quoted on the Grills website, then this restaurant will certainly not let you down. However, if you actually have compassion for your taste buds and your purse strings, then I strongly advise you take you and your carnivorous appetite to another steak house in the city centre and steer well clear of this alley.