REVIEW: Solita, Prestwich. ***/*****

Has the service improved since last I visited this burger joint?

No.

The stars are for the food, which was as superb as ever, but the service!
I thought they had gone to kill the cow for the burgers & catch the salmon it took so long.
Staff look like they don’t really care about you, but when the food (finally) arrives, its stunning.
To be honest, this is my third trip to the Prestwich branch, all at different times and days, and the service has been slow and terrible EVERY time.
Thats it for me, I’ll not be bothering with this branch again.

Walk in’s on a Friday lunchtime, only 3 diners in the place we could see, and over 40 minutes to cook 4 meals is a bit much, especially as we didnt see any food deliveries to other tables whilst waiting.

I had the Manc-Hatten, and opted to swap fries for the wonderful 60/40 mash, and I have to say, the burger and all its assorted additions was superb. Cooked just the wrong side of medium (I wasnt asked how I’d like it) but only just. The mash was creamy, smooth and again, just as expected.

SoLiTa Manc-Hatten
SoLiTa Manc-Hatten

Guest 1 had the Bacon Double burger and was again not asked how he’d like it. He cleared his plate though!

SoLiTa Bacon Double cheese
SoLiTa Bacon Double cheese

I have never been able to fault the food at SoLiTa, but the service at Prestwich and the wait for food gets worse every time. I’m not the only one to notice this.

A colleague went in a couple of months ago and said much the same thing, the wait for the food almost left them wanting to stand up and leave.

I’ll not bother going back to Prestwich, as there are other restaurants in the area that do food just as well, but who know how to look after paying customers.

I dont want fawning over, just the food to arrive a little faster and when I order a burger at over £10 a shot, ask how I’d like it cooked, dont just let the chef guess please…

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REVIEW: Watching goldfish suffocate, Kings Arms, GM Fringe 2017

Andrew Riley went along to the Kings Arms in Salford to watch Vertigo Theatre Productions new staging of “Watching Goldfish Suffocate” Was it worth the trip? Read on…

Every so often, there comes along a piece of work that changes how you feel or think about certain things.

Watching Goldfish Suffocate is such a piece of theatre.

Many a real life tale has been told on stage across the years, but very rarely has a play captured the current mood of change as this does.

Mental health affects one in four people in the UK, and to suffer the way co-writer David Degiorgio has, and to then put it out there for everyone to see takes not only skill, but real guts.

The stigma around Mens mental health is one of the current cause célèbre that has been taken up at all levels with artists, politicians and sports personalities getting involved.

Directed by Craig Hepworth with minimal staging, this play shows Davids descent into paranoia, anxiety, psychosis and his return to health.

It’s a show that not only deserves the rave reviews it achieved last time out, but should be seen by as wide an audience as possible.

It must be difficult to direct someone who is playing you, but in Joe Slack, Craig Hepworth has a very capable an accomplished actor who is able to switch between multiple roles with such ease, its possible to believe that there may be more than one Joe in the show.

Joe Slack
Joe Slack

Playing himself, David Digiorgio is a towering presence on the stage. Because this IS his story, it makes his performance even better, because there is no doubting his every nuanced move and infliction is torn from the very depths of his own experiences.

As we watch his descent into his own personal hell, we meet his inner demon, played by the extremely able Benjamin Corry, who is so evilly lit, you can feel him creeping over your own shoulder when not creeping over David’s.

Benjamin Corry and David Degiorgio
Benjamin Corry and David Degiorgio

The cast is finished off with Celine Constantinides, who wonderfully leaps between characters with the same ease as the rest of the players.

Celine Constantinides and David in Watching Goldfish Suffocate
Celine Constantinides and David in Watching Goldfish Suffocate

This play has sold out its run at the Greater Manchester Fringe, and rightly so. By the time we arrived at the interval, both I and my guest were left regretting not bringing along tissues more than once.

The play is effectively divided into Davids decent into illness, and then his resurrection from hospital into deciding to write the play with Craig.

The fine line between humour and drama can be difficult to tread, and this could be a macabre experience if handled wrongly, however in Hepworth we have a young, yet very talented director who is not only certain of his own strengths, but also seems to know how to get the best out of his cast without falling either side of that fine line.

When you hear the audience discussing their own mental health with strangers during the interval, you know that the work you are watching has found its mark and is doing what its authors intended, helping end the stigma around an illness that was for many years, hidden away and, if not ignored, then certainly not readily discussed openly.

This show deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, and when you leave a theatre in happy tears, you know that you have watched something truly special.

There has to be someone, somewhere, willing to take a punt on a fringe show and put it on the bigger stage. I for one would love to see this show given such a chance, be it in Manchester, London, or elsewhere.

This is not a show that will be for everyone, but its certainly a show that everyone should have the chance to see.

On official abuse

 

I wrote in Forty-20 magazine earlier in the year about why I was falling out of love with the sport, but since then, things have gotten worse.

The moron (let’s not beat about the bush here) who tossed a pint pot at James Child and was subsequently banned from Salford was the last straw. It rightly ignited a discussion about the amount of abuse match officials put up with.

I don’t want to have to spend my evening dodging idiots who’ve had too many lager tops.

When Salford were protesting about the possible name change, post-match, I witnessed one idiot who was rolling about legless, shouting for Marwan Koukash to come outside and physically fight him about it!

And my wife wonders why I don’t want to take my son to evening games.

Match officials have a very difficult job, but it’s not helped when they also make such elementary errors as I saw last night on TV.

When Salford were penalised for a high shot, which clearly it wasn’t, it was the home fans screaming in the ear of the touch judge that flapped, and gave the penalty.

I doubt very much that one decision changed the game, but when the massed ranks of the Sky Sports team also felt it was the wrong decision, then we know that there is a problem.

Castleford were easily the better team, but the match officials must accept that they are also not infallible.

They do make errors, but never do we, as paying fans, ever find out what steps are taken when an official messes up.

A couple of weeks ago, Gareth Hewer was having a blinder of a game (Catalan v Leigh) until he missed a push on a Catalan player and a foot in touch in the same move to allow Leigh to score.

Now, this is a referee who was considered good enough to get the Challenge Cup final whistle no so long ago.

Yes, fans and the media need to lay off match officials, but surely it is beholden to the RFL and the match officials head, Steve Ganson, to explain to fans and the media when one of his team messes up, what steps are taken to try and make certain the problem is dealt with?

Or is he so wrapped up in himself that he feels he and his charges are above any criticism?

I don’t believe that the RFL are corrupt, but I do think that match officials are inherently biased against certain teams, all be it unintentionally.

Is there a solution?

Possibly.

It wouldn’t stop the problem, but perhaps if we had former players in the booth assisting the referee, we might not have as many problems.

We don’t need a giant screen at every game, but as Sky are there filming it anyway, why not have a former player with the camera crew watching and linked to the man in the middle?

 

 

REVIEW: The Marriage of Kim K.

As someone not overly well versed with the comings and goings of the Kardashian family, We sent Andrew Riley to 53Two to see the culture clash between reality TV and opera…

I will admit to not knowing a great deal about reality TV, but I do enjoy a good opera, so was pleased to find this on the Greater Manchester fringe.

Written by  Leoe & Hyde – a northern musical-duo who live and work together in central Manchester, Leoe Mercer and Stephen Hyde have really got an underground fringe hit on their hands if the audience reaction is to be believed.

Based around Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”, this show brings together the queen of reality TV during her 72 day marriage to basketball star Kris Humphries, a married couple who fall out over wanting to watch reality TV or opera and the central figures in the Mozart opera.

All three couples occupy the small stage at 53two at various times, and although there were some initial sound problems, once they were cleared up and we could hear the cast over the wonderful string quartet Echo Chamber, the fun really began.

The cast of "The Marriage of Kim K"
The cast of “The Marriage of Kim K”

Anyone who has ever argued over the remote control will sympathise with both Stephen and Amelia. In the end, we get a TV rota, then two TV’s, a break up or three, and all accompanied by a wonderfully eclectic mix of live music.

Every single player on the stage is possessed of a superb voice, and although there is very little in the way of dialogue, it is the blending of the voices that really marks this as such a complete piece of work.

It would be all too easy for a voice to become “lost” in the mix, but initial problems aside, in this production, it really works.

Overall, this is a very polished production, in one of the more unusual spaces in the city centre, it being a former Bauer Millett showroom.

Its the subtle things, like Stephen switching the subtitles on for the opera and the move from the original into English that marks out just how well crafted this work is, and why it deserves to go from fringe to mainstream.

The production heads north to Edinburgh for August, and is at Greater Manchester Fringe as part of a two month UK wide tour.

Overall, I’d give it a 7 out of 10 rating, and look forward to seeing more of Leoe&Hyde productions in the coming years.

http://www.marriageofkimk.com/ for more information, and for tickets head to http://www.greatermanchesterfringe.co.uk/

Florida diary

What is it about the British and complaining?

I’ve just flown to Sanford Orlando and a lady on the bus to the plane (parked away from the terminal due to building work) was moaning that there were too many people on the bus hadn’t paid for “Premium “economy, then the plane was too far away for her liking, when we arrived at the plane, she complained it was too hot to be sat on the bus, despite the plane not being ready yet.

All the while, her daughter was taking up two seats on the bus with her case, whilst an elderly gentleman was standing, stoically looking after his wife who was sat down.

As soon as she could, she forced her way off the rear of the bus, and STILL managed to be complaining as we boarded.

Really?

You live in a world where you can fly 5000 miles, the plane is going nowhere until we’re all sat down, belted up and the captain is happy.

As it was, we took off 50 minutes later than scheduled, but so what?

I was more worried that the two cats I was being paid to get to Florida were onboard and happy than if the air conditioning on the transit bus was cold enough.

If that’s not enough, she moaned that last year, due to a change of plane, they only got £90 compensation, even if they did get the bigger plane back to the UK.

We complain about almost everything these days.

Why?

Is your life really that bad that people who didn’t pay an extra £251 are not welcome on a bus to the plane?

Or that standing on that bus for 8 minutes while the ground crew go over everything once more, just to be safe, is such a chore?

Oh well, just over an hour into the eight-hour flight, and I’m happily watching a movie and drinking a Brewdog punk IPA while waiting for lunch.

This Dreamliner is a lovely roomy bit of kit. First time on one, and hopefully not the last.

Well, Thomson, your lunch was lovely.

Seriously, I really enjoyed that roast chicken dinner. In the 2.5 hours since we took off, I’ve watched “The last king of Scotland “and am thinking about either “Four Lions” or “Inside Man” as a follow up.

Feel a bit wary about someone looking over my shoulder, spotting a movie about Jihadi ½ wits and us getting redirected to somewhere without an extradition treaty!

Sod it, Four Lions…

Anyway, after three days of what my kidneys seem to think is an excess of alcohol, my host & I drove the 200+ miles from Fort Lauderdale to Key West.

En route, he had to pop in and collect a few bits from his work in Parmetto Bay, and did that put the difference between those who have and hand not into stark relief.

As we pulled off the Florida turnpike into Miami, there was a bloke sleeping under a bridge, and as we got to the mall area, there were people begging along the road, yet less than a mile later, we were passing gated communities with private security and bronze lions guarding entrances.

As a human being, it was sad to see.

Once we’d made it to the end of the USA, it was well into triple figures heat wise, and after a good few hours walking and melting we fell into a bar called Viva for lunch.

A burger that was one of the better I tasted over the last ten days.

The rest of the break was spent either helping Lee set up his new home, or drinking, eating or walking about Middle River terrace soaking up the atmosphere.

Right up the street is the area of Wilton Manors. It’s predominantly a gay area, and boy, is it proud to be.

There are certain areas I was advised not to linger in, notably Sistrunk and anywhere straddling the I-95 highway, but given I was not driving, there was very little chance of me straying too far off the beaten track.

On the occasions I did wander about, I found the whole city to be lovely though.

Like all of the tourist coast, Fort Lauderdale has its plusses and minuses, but for me, the fact that it’s central allows you to visit Orlando, Miami, the Keys and the rest of the state with relative ease.

Like all of America, distance is the killer, so it’s better to have two of you driving, that way you can share the load, especially in the heat.

Next time, I’m going to be going with Mrs R, and I’ll probably stay in the Northern Lauderdale area as it’ a little cheaper on the old wallet, hotel wise.

That and I don’t want to overstay my welcome at Chez Massey…

Flying back, I was greeted with the news that those on the flight out 2 weeks prior had been delayed by close to 48 hours, and our return was delayed due to what was described by a Tui staff member as a “bird strike”.

She was assuring passengers that they would be on a 787-9 dreamliner, as they had been messed about earlier, only for us all to get to check in to be told that our plane had been downgraded to the smaller 787-8

This did not go down well.

Now, I didn’t get the email from Tui that those on holiday with the firm had been sent telling them of a two-hour delay, perhaps because flight only passengers are not considered to be worth the effort, but either way, once onboard, we were told by the flight crew the delay was due to congestion at Manchester airport earlier in the day and not a broken window…

The general feeling was that we would rather have been told the truth, rather than fed a lie.

It did seem very convenient that the staff member had a photo of the bird strike on her mobile phone though.

The staff on the flight were the sullenest bunch I’ve ever flown with, and to have the UK mumbling champion onboard to practice using the tannoy didn’t help matters.

The meal was nowhere near as good as the one on the flight out. Some chicken in a mustard sauce concoction and very dry bread roll.

Awful does not do the description justice.

Next time, I’ll probably fly with another airline and pay a little more, and certainly won’t fly in or out of Sanford.

It may have its tag line of “Safer, Faster, Better.” But it’s a dilapidated old airport, miles away from anywhere.

If, like me, you are hoping to travel to see sport, particurlaly rugby league, then its much better to arrive at Orlando international, Miami or Lauderdale itself and make life easier, travel wise.

Tui as a company need to work on its customer interaction.

I did approach Tui for a response, but sadly, they don’t really care about how they treat passengers.

 

 

 

More Devils pen new deals as name change row rumbles on

Mark Flanagan, Greg Johnson and Logan Tomkins have become the latest members of the 2017 Salford Devils squad to commit to new deals, as the club continues to go from strength to strength on the field.

Off the field however, chaos still clouds the rumored name change, with owner Marwan Koukash still refusing to rule out a change to Manchester.

With attendances still in the lower 3000 range, even when discounted entry is offered, it’s not hard to see why the Owner  who has pumped millions into the club since he took over is worried.

With the club taking on last seasons Challenge cup winners Hull FC tomorrow, Marwan told one fan on twitter that the club had sold LESS than 60 tickets for the game.

The shame is that the team on the field are playing the most attractive brand of rugby this side of the Pennines.

Ian Watson has assembled one of the most exciting squads that ANY Salford fan will have seen in the modern era, and he couldn’t have done that without Marwan Koukash backing him.

Yet a couple of weeks ago, post match, waiting for a taxi, there was one fan who had clearly had a few too many, stood outside of the ground, screaming for the owner to come and physically fight him over the possible name change!

I understand his passion, but offering the owner out to a fight? How childish…

Salford have never in my memory attracted 8K to games on a regular basis. Even my club, Hull KR, fluctuate between 6 and 8K in the Championship, but they are in a town where they are not competing with two top flight football teams and all the other things that cities like Manchester and Salford have to offer families.

OK, the football season is over, but (should we ever get it) once the weather is nice, you are an hour away from the seaside, the lakes and sundry other attractions.

Sadly, rugby league in the UK will never compete with football, and even to some respect, cricket. the fan base is traditionally based along a narrow corridor, something that is gradually changing with the introduction of Toulouse, Catalan and Toronto, as well as the growth of the sport in London and Coventry.

Salford needs Marwan, but Marwan doesn’t need Salford.

Remember that, next time you want to stand outside of the ground and fight him.

If he walks, the club will disappear, if not overnight, then within 5 years.

And nobody wants to see that…