So how are so many people getting the gift of food so very wrong?
Pete said he received ‘7 kilos of basmati rice’ one year, while someone else commented that they were given ‘a joint of gammon’.
Emily wrote: “A bottle of mayonnaise Steven nicked from spoons,” so her fella didn’t even pay for her present.
A weird reoccurring theme with the men in our audience is an obsession with fish.
Kim posted that one year she received: “A goldfish called maud, I sh*t you not. Couldn’t knock the originality and it did keep me chuckling for days. Although finding it just randomly on my door step from f*ck knows who was more the mystery.”
In a matching set, Jenni said: “A fish tank! 1) never ever mentioned a desire to own fish. 2) it didn’t come with fish. 3) it was pink.”
Lindsey wrote: “Pink fluffy car seat covers… I dont even f*cking drive”
Nic commented: “it certainly wasn’t the worst valentines present I’d ever had…..but one year I got a steering wheel”
And in a savage move, Jenny said: “I told my ex husband I wanted a divorce on Valentine’s Day…. It was his birthday too.”
Featured image: Unsplash
The complete guide to the restaurant and bars at Kampus, Manchester’s greenest neighbourhood and foodie hotspot
In what feels like the blink of an eye, Kampus has become one of Manchester’s most exciting hubs for restaurants and bars.
After work, at weekends, at lunchtimes and for breakfast, the various businesses who have popped up around its central garden are packed, with people travelling from all over the city centre (and beyond) to visit the canal-side neighbourhood.
What started as some abandoned university buildings and a couple of warehouses has soon shaped up into some of the city centre’s best accommodation.
And then the trees around the garden began to flourish, and with it so did the collection of food and drink operators opening at Kampus.
For those who have chosen Kampus as their home, they’re blessed with having Manchester’s best independent restaurants and bars quite literally on their doorstep.
But for the rest of us, we can make do with the very easy walk from Piccadilly.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen some familiar names move in, joined by some exciting new faces.
Local favourites like Pollen Bakery and Nell’s (created by the team behind the institution that is Common) were the first to announce they’d be moving into the Kampus neighbourhood.
Then they were joined by the likes of Seven Brothers Brewery, and Great North Pie Co.
Then businesses started making the move over from neighbouring cities, like Madre, who chose Kampus for their first proper Manchester restaurant.
Now, this is a neighbourhood where you can grab a slice and a pint in your gym kit, where you can bask in the very last of the summer sun on a terrace with a cheeseboard, and where you can dress up to the nines to drink exceptional cocktails – without ever having to cross a street.
Here’s our ultimate guide to the restaurants, bars and cafes of Kampus in Manchester.
Massive 22-inch pizzas (or 11-inch slices if you’re not feeling quite that ravenous), happy hour margaritas, a photobooth and great beers. That’s the vibe at Nell’s.
This huge site has floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the Kampus garden and canal, perfect for people-watching and soaking in the sun.
Head on up the stairs from the garden and you’ll find a little slice of paradise, especially if you, like us, are a wine drinker.
Beeswing has a great selection of small plates and cheese boards, plus plugs outside on the terrace so you can take your laptop and fire out emails while firing olives into your mouth.
Colourful, fresh stacks of dim sum and some truly enormous portions of Chinese food that are great value for money are the order of the day at Yum Cha.
This neon-soaked restaurant serves fiery dishes like Singapore vermicelli and king prawn or char siu firecracker, alongside the likes of sweet and sour chicken, dan dan noodles and grilled chicken satay.
We probably don’t need to tell you about Pollen Bakery, it’s such a local institution.
But in case you’re unfamiliar, this place is renowned for its pastries – freshly-baked croissants, cookies, cruffins and more – and its loaves of bread and excellent coffee.
It’s all served in its sunny garden-side cafe space where you can watch the kitchens in action behind more huge glass windows.
Great North Pie Co.
Us northerners love a pie and you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than Great North Pie Co.’s.
This cosy pie and mash cafe prides itself on using quality ingredients from the north west, like classic Lancashire cheese and onion pie, made with Dewlay’s tasty Lancashire cheese and caramelised onion, and 14-hour braised beef and ale pie, with Manchester Union Lager and redcurrant jelly.
Already establishing itself as one of Manchester’s best bars is Red Light, a queer cocktail bar just off the cobbled Little David Street.
The brainchild of Deana Ferguson, it’s all about refined cocktails, natural wines and locally-brewed ales, soundtracked by disco beats.
This well-known local brewery has taken up a Kampus unit that fronts out onto the Kampus garden, and it’s got to be one of Manchester’s best-looking beer gardens.
You know the drill here – Seven Brother’s huge range of beers, with occasional live music and lots of great vibes.
The newest kid on the Kampus block is Madre, but it’s familiar to a lot of us already – it’s been spoiling Liverpool with its incredible Mexican fare for years.
It’s got a menu of mouth-watering tacos, wood-grilled seafood and steaks, fresh oysters and ceviche, not to mention ice-cold margaritas.
Inside the underground Manchester noodle bar serving Chinatown’s spiciest scrans
Over in Chinatown, there’s a relatively new little noodle bar that’s been making a big, spicy stamp on the city’s dining scene.
Its owner, Wendy Ren, hails from the Chinese province of Sichuan – a region that’s home to giant pandas, traditional Sichuanese opera, and some of the spiciest food going, thanks to its famous Sichuan pepper.
Also known as the Chinese prickly ash, the citrus-like peppercorn leaves a tingly numbness in the mouth and on the lips that you’ll either love or hate.
It’s an acquired taste, by all accounts – but those who love it can’t get enough. In fact, on my visit during a packed-out Wednesday lunch service, Wendy stopped to chat with an Italian family holidaying in Manchester who had been in to eat three days in a row. Now that’s an endorsement if I ever heard one.
She’s opened the restaurant alongside her Cantonese husband, Ken Chen, but the recipes are all hers – and on our visit she laughs with us about how it has taken him some time to get on board with her spicy food, saying: “he found out pretty quickly that he either eats it or he doesn’t eat at all.”
For big fans of spice, this is fast becoming the absolute go-to spot in Chinatown – and for those who aren’t so tough, don’t worry, because Wendy’s put some things on the menu for you too (and possibly, also, for Ken).
Called Noodle Alley, the restaurant is tucked away underground on Faulkner Street and beautifully decked out in red and green with little nods to the famous wide and narrow alleys of Chengdu.
Formerly home to China City, a real old-school Chinatown legacy restaurant, the space has a special place in Wendy’s heart.
She tells me that she and her husband used to come and eat here “all the time” when they first started dating, so the location really means a lot to both of them.
Chinatown restaurants aren’t exactly known for their glamorous interiors, and China City, Wendy jokes, was one such place – with the same old carpet, and the same old tables that had been used for the past twenty years.
Now the space is her own, though, it’s markedly different – lovingly decked out in cheerful colours, with little green windows, hanging lanterns, and bamboo rattan paneling on the walls.
Her story of getting into the restaurant business is something of an unusual one. Prior to opening Noodle Alley, she tells me, she spent nearly two decades working at The Marriott Hotel.
After seventeen years of service and the birth of her second child, she asked to go part-time but her request was refused – so she quit the very next day, and began building her own route to independence.
It was during the Covid lockdown, she says, that she really got into cooking group meals – making meals for her friends and spending hours in the kitchen busying away happily over her stove.
A friend with several restaurants in Chinatown suggested she start her own business, and the rest – as they say – is history.
Dish-wise, her menu spans a mouthwatering selection of dry noodles, soup noodles, street food, and small plates, including the likes of deep-fried wavy potato chips with chilli and Szechuan pepper and steamed beef strips wrapped with chilli paste, numbing Sichuan pepper, and five-spiced rice powder.
Dan Dan noodles, the Sichuan dish we probably all know the best, don’t feature – they’re a bit old news now, apparently, and Wendy has some cooler alternatives for us to try.
One is her Su Jiao Mian, a mixture of minced pork, sesame sauce, and house chilli oil, the other is the Wan Za Mian, a fiery mixture of spices combined with minced pork, soft yellow peas, and more chilli which Wendy says is “one of the most popular noodles in Sichuan.”
Apparently, if you’re eating with the cool kids in Sichuan, you should order this. Not one to argue, I dig in – and it’s safe to say her food is pretty damn exceptional. Almost immediately, I’m planning my next trip back.
Other signature dishes here include Wendy’s steamed beef strips, which can be eaten alone or dipped into one of her noodle soups, and a dish of ‘saliva chicken’ – a crunchy, cold, textural dish with steamed chicken, fresh chillis and ribbons of cucumber that sit swimming in a bath of homemade Sichuan chilli oil, so named because it literally makes your mouth water.
We also opt for a dish of pork knuckle with butter beans in an umami-rich pork bone broth. Not one for the faint-hearted, even Wendy seemed a little cautious to recommend this one, but as fans of ‘the weird stuff’ we insist – and it really ends up being a highlight of the meal.
We end up needing a little help with it. It’s a slippery bugger and I end up wearing a fair bit of the broth. before she returns with a knife and fork to cut it up properly for us.
That broth it’s in, though, is so beautiful I could happily bathe in it. Some might say I did, to be fair. As for the soft, succulent pork meat? When sliced into tiny morsels and dipped into an extra special Sichuan chilli oil she retrieves from the kitchen, is something else entirely.
If this is Sichuan heaven, then I’ll happily stay here forever. From plump hand-made dumplings stuffed generously with flavourful pork and drenched in chilli oil, to chicken giblet soup noodles, there’s so much on the menu I will be coming back for.
And for those who really can’t handle the spice, I guess I’ll be recommending the scallion oil noodles with soy sauce and crispy egg. No matter what you order here, I don’t think you can go too wrong.