Saturday, 5 January 2008

Woodstock: Given the Didsbury Treatment

Usually, the refurbishment of your local pub is a traumatic time for any self-respecting regular.

They change the comically peeling wallpaper, get rid of the shove-ha'penny board and replace it with a student-friendly quiz machine, and bin that pre-PC female contraceptive machine from the loos.

The Woodstock on Barlow Moor road was already a "done-up" pub, having had a refurb back in 2003. It had already received the clean wooden floors and random assortment of high-backed chairs treatment.

The big beer garden with smoking area was also a big pre-fit up bonus. They served the cultured but wallet-destroying Belgian 8.5%er, Duvel. But it had no centre, no character. Being so big, and going for the warm and cosy feel, it felt like a hotel. You could also grow a sizeable beard in the time the food took to get from kitchen to table, even if you were the only customer.

But in come the decorators again. And they're a bit trendy. Gone is the large outdoor signage. Out goes the strangely curved wall which sliced the main room in half, in come chandeliers,
expensive mismatched chairs, gold ceilings and dressed down bar staff.

It sounds weird. But - without showing that I watch a lot of home decorating shows - the lighting from chandeliers on the dark walls is warming without being overwhelming.

Now it's more sympathetic, there are more nooks and crannies to squirrel yourself away in. And the bar staff are friendly and chatty. Although it's disconcerting being served by a guy who looks like Kevin Smith's shorter, northern brother (with ponytail! and shorts!).

The only problem decor-wise comes where the kitsch-y feel leans over into trash. The extreme clash between gothic rails and random pink furniture. The leopardskin lampshade. Descending the stairs to the loos is an interesting experience, as you're accompanied by bold rose wallpaper and red LEDs. It feels a bit naughty, like you're descending the stairs into an Amsterdam "private shop".

It's a matter of taste. And unless you take yourself a bit too seriously, you probably won't find it offensive.

The food's gone a bit more adventurous, with Galric and Lentil burgers, a chorizo, olives & cheese combo with peppers and sundried tomatoes, which was lush (although it was served with that favourite of tautologies "rustic bread".)

It wasn't overpriced, we had one and it didn't last long.

Taking care of their darker-lunged patrons, there's a well-constructed heating "shelter" for the smokers, more mismatched chairs and a bit o' nice planting outside.

The pub's set in a very pretty plot of proper grass anyway, the garden's great - in fact it's only decent one between here and town; there's The Didsbury, but there, you're basically sitting right on Wilmslow Road.

The Woodstock ticks all the right boxes for a local pub. Good beer. Nice Food. Good people. Sense of humour. But it'll retain a lot more charm if you're on a quiet afternoon in the garden, rather than wedged underneath a leopardskin furnishing on a rammed Saturday night.

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