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LUKEWARM OFFERINGS; a good-looking establishment it may be, but the food at this newly-revamped didsbury gastropub fails to impress.


THE Woodstock Arms has long been a popular boozer for this leafy corner of Didsbury. Frequented by the cast of Cold Feet as well as large groups of families and friends, it was given a much-needed facelift last year (gold ceilings, be gone) and is now by all accounts a heck of a looker.

Grey walls covered in botanical prints, burgundy leather seats, oak panelling and enormous stained glass windows across the board all appeal to drinkers and diners alike.

Spread over two floors, there are nooks and crannies to hide away in as well as a sprawling garden, with its own outdoor bar.

It's a sunny day on our visit and the beer garden outside is predictably busy, but there are only a handful of people seated at the tables inside.

The food offering was revamped to offer what promises to be highend pub classics - I'll be the judge of that.

What's cooking? There's a lengthy menu available on Sundays with something to appease even the fussiest of diners.

Starters include tikka bites, smoked BBQ chicken wings, baked camembert and potted mackerel. There's an Asian influence weaving throughout many of these dishes, from the Asian slaw and mango chutney to the carrot, coconut and ginger soup.

We're here for a traditional Sunday offering though, and that means a roast dinner.

Diners can choose from 21 day-aged roast sirloin (PS14.75), half a roast chicken with pigs in blankets (PS12.75), orange and whiskeyglazed gammon (PS12.75) or a nut roast (PS12.25). There's also a PS30.50 sharing platter, which gets you a helping of all the meats.

Every roast comes with a homemade Yorkshire pudding, roasted vegetables and braised red cabbage.

The stars of the show - in our case the roast chicken and the nut roast - are both well-seasoned and well-cooked, though that is sadly where the praise ends.

Normally when you cut into a roast potato it spews steam into your face. To pop a standard roastie in your mouth without blowing on it first is to commit tastebud suicide.

The tatties at The Woodstock are so tepid you could feed one to an infant straight off the plate, and lack any sort of crisp or crunch. It's as though they've been roasted in a lukewarm water bath.

The Yorkshire puddings are like communion wafers without the significance, greasy on the bottoms but cardboard-like up top. There's a burnt, black crisp from the pan stuck to one of them, as though the body of its long-deceased ancestor has clung on for the ride.

Pluralising pigs in blankets is cruel too - one measly baconwrapped chipolata is all that arrives on the plate.

Everything is incredibly sweet until doused in the gravy. The carrots cling together with honey, there's more raisin than cabbage in the braised cabbage side, and a confused huddle of peas and leeks taste of not much at all.

Nothing is particularly warm other than the gravies, which are still bubbling slightly on arrival.

It's a remarkable nosedive in quality compared to the roast I had in this establishment just a few years ago.

You may be better off ordering a burger, pie, or fish and chips from the standard menu, though reviews from elsewhere don't speak particularly highly of those either.

Should I save room for pudding? If you've not been scarred by your main course, then by all means give dessert a go - it's much less bleak on the pudding side of the menu.

We decide to share a warm chocolate brownie with hazelnut ice cream (PS5.50), though there are also classics such as a sticky toffee pudding and a cheese plate to choose from.

I'd need to study the brownie in a laboratory to ascertain how they've achieved its texture - it's crumbly on the plate but switches to a gluelike paste in your mouth, a bit like magic sand.

It's densely chocolatey and when paired with the ice cream is clearly reaching for a Nutella comparison. It can have it - the flavour is good once you overcome the troubling texture.

Can I get a decent pint? Slightly shambolic food aside, The Woodstock is a lovely boozer.

There's a decent selection of craft beers on tap and bottled, though they loudly champion Camden Brewery - a nice enough beer but a shame when there are so many north west breweries on the doorstep.

Real thought has been put into the gin offering, with a range of gin cocktails topped with artisan tonics, ginger ales and even prosecco.

Are you being served? If you sit upstairs in the dining room, you'll be treated to full table service.

Reluctant to sit alone in the cavernous 120-cover room though, we head downstairs to the pub, where you order your food and drink at the bar and then are promptly ignored.

We are offered nothing in the way of sauce and have to chase after our waitress shouting for mustard, we ask for a spoon for dessert which never materialises (leaving us shovelling up melted ice cream with a fork), and have to shift our dirty plates to a vacant table before they are cleared away.

No one checks in to see how the meal is and there are no table numbers to be seen - diners seem to be drawing maps in thin air to explain where they'd like their food to be delivered to.

The verdict There's a serious overhaul in the kitchen needed here and a desperate need for better staff training.

I can't detect a hint of pride in any of the food nor the service, bar one bartender who is whizzing around doing the work of five.

The setting is great, but a few fireplaces and a beer garden are not enough to earn the title of a great pub. Not even close.

? 139 Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury, M20 2DY / thewoodstockarms / 0161 448 7951


Inside The Woodstock Arms, on Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury

Warm chocolate brownie with hazelnut icecream

Roast chicken dinner
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Publication:Manchester Evening News (Manchester, United Kingdom)
Date:May 26, 2019
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