Fab Cafe - 1st July 1998

Report by Chris Blenkarn

It's on the edge of Manchester's Chinatown, at 111 Portland Street, through discreet double doors - we nearly walked past until we noticed the flashing lights. Inside was an ice warrior, who we were relieved to discover was not acting as bouncer. Plenty of noise and flashing lights, but not so much that we couldn't hear ourselves speak. Gareth was at the bar, quel surprise.

Robert and Ellie and baby Tom, who has grown a long way out of his Federation guard uniform, arrived at the same time as Janet and I, and were followed minutes later by Val and Teri and friends of the Baskervilles. It was only seven pm so it wasn't yet crowded.

We had a very convivial evening's chatting, most of which I can't remember though Robert told me interesting things about the Ipcress File and the local Chinese consulate, and Ellie and I forgot our status as professional women and talked about our children and breastfeeding and stuff before coming to our senses and reverting to Mr Keating.

There were tv sets overhead showing an episode of The Avengers, the toilets had Emma Peel and John Steed on the doors in lieu of words, so they took a bit of locating in the flashing lights. There was some merchandise on display and some games machines, both of which I forgot to look at as I was enjoying talking and listening. We missed out on the free glass of champagne through our own carelessness, but then the bar staff produced a fresh bottle and a corkscrew just for us - I like this place! I think the Baskervilles missed out as they had to leave with the infant Tom, who remains the best-tempered baby I have ever seen.

I would certainly recommend the Fab Cafe as a civilised place to go, especially if you're a single female after a quiet drink where you won't be pestered. They weren't doing food that week, but I understand a chef will be in residence shortly. The bar staff are friendly and efficient, the owners likewise. The fact that they and Gareth invited the four of us to an excellent Chinese meal after the bar closed and wouldn't let us pay in no way influences my opinion, I promise you.

We finished the meal around 4.30am, and climbed back upstairs to find it was well past dawn and the birds had been up for ages. A short walk back to the station, a vain search for anywhere selling coffee, and all except Val who snapped up a taxi were on homeward bound trains and sinking fast.

Chris Blenkarn

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