All Star Lanes Manchester

16 Apr

As far as fun childhood pastimes go, for me, bowling is the one most steeped in nostalgia. From my first ever game with my overly competitive Dad (where under no circumstances was I to have the advantage on account of my age) to childhood birthday soirees, where me and ten plus friends got high on Coca Cola and between us – Uncle Buck style – managed to knock down the least amount of pins in the history of the game, this imported American pastime plays host to many a happy memory.

In later years, retro dates were the order of the day, though why on earth baring your arse to your beau and showing your inability to throw a ball straight is considered attractive is beyond me. These days, the thought of hurtling a bowling ball down a well greased alley just doesn’t appeal, but when two new venues opened in Manchester, throwing a heap of fine food and drink into the mix, well… you know what happened next.

I managed to tag along (thank you North West Nosh) to the opening night of Dog Bowl, the second Manchester bowling alley to burst onto the scene in recent months from the guys behind Black Dog Ballroom. Dark and self-consciously trendy (naturally), the food was decent (bad tacos, good ribs), the Doritos mariachi band delightful and the clientele interesting to say the least – we found ourselves in a Corrie sandwich whilst on the lanes – with the great and good of Manchester turning out to posture and get papped.

Not my scene, sadly, so an invite to review the USA-inspired All Star Lanes, whose launch event I sadly missed early March was hotly anticipated. The first venue north for this London-based boutique chain – boasting an impressive location out of the imposing Great Northern – I expected all out Americana but instead encountered a far more classy rendering, with soft lighting, colourful retro decor and surprisingly un-kitsch waiters and waitresses in bow ties and ankle socks. Cool, but not doggedly so, if you catch my drift?

All Star Lanes Manchester

All Star Lanes Manchester

All Star Lanes Manchester

All Star Lanes Manchester

Rather than take a friend and get high on Coca Cola (and rum), I decided to take my brother for a sibling rivalry revival. Plenty of smack talk went down (though not about our Mother), with Dan promising an ass-whooping the size of which I had never before seen. Fat chance! Those nifty bowling shoes are levellers for all, though he did just manage to pip me to the post with a couple of strikes and a 78-70 final score. I won at the food though. I WON AT THE FOOD!*

Dan 'man' handling his hamburger

Dan ‘man’ handling his hamburger

The menu read like a high-end American diner; classic short rib starters, southern fried chicken sandwiches and hamburgers for the main event, though the potted shrimps, mac and cheese (truffle optional) and grilled lobster with hollandaise sauce takes dining at the lanes to a whole other level. The popcorn squid with aioli was inspired – a light golden batter with a mild chilli hit was the perfect foil for the soft, yielding squid. Cutely served in a Chinese take out box and picked at with chopsticks, the dish had some serious chops.

Popcorn Squid with Aioli

Popcorn Squid with Aioli

Baby Back Rack of Ribs

Baby Back Rack of Ribs

The rest of the menu proved hard to master, but rocking out with a Josper Grill, it had to be the rack of baby back ribs. Cooked sous vide then finished off over the charcoal to make for a tender hunk of meat that falls apart under the fork, ensconced in a sticky, sweet and smoky based sauce, it was with a heavy heart that I left some to spare. The ridiculously moreish rosemary salt fries took a battering though, in no small part due to home-made hickory smoked barbecue sauce on hand to dunk them in.

The drinks menu was something else. The cocktail menu rolls out originals and classics with dexterity; a rum, lime, honey and prosecco cocktail proved just the thing, as was the much needed Woodford Reserve Mint Julep to cleanse the palate after so many intense flavours. Daniel scored a strike in tapping up the milkshake menu, though. A heart attack waiting to happen ‘peanut butter and jelly’ number – aptly named the Elvis Shake – brazenly brandishing a slick of candied bacon was the highlight. They do boozy ones too!

The infamous Elvis Shake

The infamous Elvis Shake

Whilst bowling has never been a cheap do, on first appearance, the prices seemed highly inflated. At almost £9 per person a game and averaging £17 for a main, it all seems a bit much for a trip down memory lane, but with All-American portion sizes, quality ingredients and a deft touch with flavour and heavy hand with measures, All Star Lanes bowled me away. The USA-styled service polished with a touch of northern humour and highly informed hospitality made a pretty competitive evening all the more chilled out too.

So, go, relive your youth. Throw balls around and eat stack loads of food with someone you love spending time with (and can comfortably kick their arse without causing a ruckus). And whilst I wouldn’t recommend this very grown up fun emporium to families, it’s definitely the place to relive your teenage years. Just make sure it’s with someone you don’t mind flashing your arse too, especially after a 1970’s Presley inspired shake.

* Appears my Dad taught me well.

All Star Lanes on Urbanspoon

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One Response to “All Star Lanes Manchester”

  1. luciebartlett April 16, 2013 at 5:32 pm #

    OMG I want an Elvis Shake now. I *love* All Star Lanes. So glad they have branched out oop North.

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