Sport is bad enough on its own. When you factor in a uniform, quite frankly I’m out. I went through a brief spell of fashioning sportswear in my early teens (I call those dark times, ‘the chav years’). Tracksuit bottoms were considered trendy AND comfortable, I was rarely seen without an ADIDAS jacket and once owned a pair of trainers so orange, they used to upset air traffic control signals. It is since this pair of footwear, that I made a promise to myself to never again wear a set of ugly shoes. This rule means it is simply impossible for me to go bowling.
However, when the chaps at All Star Lanes sent me an invite to visit them for food and cocktails, I wrote a list to help me make the decision. It looked like this:
Negatives: Breaking my ugly shoes rule.
Positives: Food. Cocktails.
Always trust a list, so I booked us in.
All Star Lanes is already an established brand in London. They’ve moved to Deansgate to try and spread a little bit of the magic that is doing so well for them down south.
It struck me quite quickly that All Star Lanes has to be the friendliest place in Manchester. I was left dumbfounded when greeted by a thoroughly lovely door man (I had no idea such a species existed); the lady on reception was so enthusiastic she was verging on giddy and waitresses brushed past with smiles as big as their hair. By this point, I was in such a good mood I handed over my pink sparkly dolly shoes and was raring to go. Hey, if President Nixon doesn’t mind getting his bowl on, who am I to resist?
All Star Lanes is no regular bowling alley, I’d have been able to pretend I was in the U.S of A if I wasn’t surrounded by the melody of Manc accents. It’s bright and bubbly and the atmosphere is infectious.
There’s waitress service while you bowl, so I ordered a Roller Girl and got to it.
The drinks menu is vast. Full of cocktails and American beers meaning there’s something for everyone. Children are banish-ed at night, so there are no squealing little twerps running around (sorry Mums & Dads).
Things started well when I got my first ever strike. It was at this point that I realised, despite their hideousness, that bowling shoes are particularly good for twirling. Perhaps I’d written them off unnecessarily.
My Roller Girl tasted of bubble gum. Need I say more? The hubby was most pleased that there was Blue Moon on tap which, I am informed, is much nicer than the bottled version.
I don’t mean to gloat, but I totally kicked the hubby’s ass. You may think that he let me win, but I’ve not been victorious in as much as a game of air hockey in our entire relationship.
Once I’d annihilated the hubby (did I mention that?) we were lead through to our table for the main event. We were sat in a cozy booth and given time to review the menu. There’s a wide variety on there, from sandwiches to steaks at a good range of prices, so you don’t have to break the bank.
I ordered a PB&J cocktail to stimulate my appetite while we waited. This tasted of dessert but with wonderful peanutty savoury notes.
To begin I had the popcorn squid. Served in an American style takeaway carton, I was giddy to see it was served with chopsticks (using them is one of my only skills). The squid was perfectly crisp and my giddiness turned to sheer glee when I spotted an abundance of tentacles. The aioli was slap around the chops garlicky, but hey, I was a bowling champ, I could smell of garlic if I wanted to.
Hubby had the hot buffalo wings, containing not an inch of floppy skin, packing a nice heat but without bringing on a sweat. The blue cheese sauce was superb and I found myself dipping my squid in it (remember what I said about being bowling champ?)
It was at this point that things got extremely exciting. ‘Don’t look now, but that ginger guy behind you is on the telly’ the hubby whispered. Being celebrity obsessed as I am, of course I looked right away. I gasped as I saw ‘that ginger guy’ was in fact Corrie bad guy Gary Windass. I was further thrilled when I saw he was sat with another Corrie villain, Nick Platt (although was slightly upset it wasn’t Adam Rickett, whose promising pop career was cut devastatingly short). I don’t have the longest attention span and so after texting all my soap fan friends my gaze was averted by the plate of food placed in front of me.
I ordered the rather vague ‘Pork & Beans’ and was a little frightened when my pork arrived on a mass of butter beans. This variety scare me as they appear to be regular beans that have been involved in a nuclear accident thus inducing an unnatural growth spurt. Not wanting to be rude, I gave them a try sporting the face of a child being forced to eat broccoli. Wow, these beans were something else; swimming in a meaty sauce with so much depth and flavour they sure as hell can’t be good for you. The pork had a gorgeous cheese and herb crust and fell apart easily.
Hubby had the steak sandwich topped with Roquefort, which was utterly delicious, served with a pot of gravy for French dipping (yes, I dipped my pork in it. Bowling champ? )
I always go on about my love of condiments but nothing makes me happier than a decent selection. What made this different? A giant pot of mayo just for me (hubby had gravy, he didn’t need any).
I was so glad that the coleslaw was of the creamy variety, which I much prefer to these vinaigrette versions that have been everywhere recently.
Too full to even function, we had to turn down dessert, but the menu was so very tempting.
Our server on the night was a trainee, but she was cute as a button and eager to please. No complaints there.
It was at this point that General Manager and all around dreamboat Angus Pride (what a name, what a hunk) presented himself to us, eager for feedback. We honestly couldn’t think of a negative, it was all wonderful.
All Star Lanes is showing Dog Bowl how it’s done. Friendly staff, great food and a wonderful atmosphere. It’s the full package. As is Angus. Adonis Angus.
It’s not just changed my mind about bowling and ugly shoes, it’s become one of my Manchester favourites.
Disclaimer: I have not watched Coronation Street for some time, and so cannot comment on the current rapscallion nature of Gary Windass or Nick Platt.
Further Disclaimer: I was invited to review All Star Lanes and so did not pay for the meal or bowling. I would happily return and pay full whack however, as it really is bloody brilliant.