REVIEW Perfect Match-Day Food That's As Ready For Kick-Off As You Are

Mates essential

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The football season up and running has been the dream for these last wet summer months - and now it's finally here.

There's no end of places in Greater Manchester showing matches today, and likely you'll have your regular haunt in mind, whether you're from the Blue or Red side of the city.

But following a recent trip to the Black Dog Ballroom on New Wakefield Street, Lovin Manchester's got an ideal location in mind for a Premier League game.

And today they're showing Watford vs Liverpool at 12.30pm followed by Brighton vs Man City at 5.30pm.

Grabbing yourself a seat by a big screen may be a mission on match day, but when we went to the venue, it was a quieter Thursday evening. 

Downstairs is a darkened space with pool tables and a selection of booths, perfect for sinking a few pints and chatting.

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Upstairs, though, is altogether lighter and less obviously a sports bar.

We sat at a large table which seemed oversized for two - little did we know the mammoth feast which we were about to be served which expanded to fill much of it.

We started out with a couple of cocktails - an Espresso Martini and a Caramel Rum Old Fashioned.

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The martini had the requisite punch for an aperitif, while the sweetness of the classic short Old Fashioned was so moreish it might have even been better post-meal, but it was delicious.

The menu's got some new bits and pieces that we were excited about trying, and the sharing board was recommended - so we went for that to start.

In all honesty, it was a bit much when it arrived - it's bloody massive, and there were only two of us. 

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For £12, you get a kids' party spread that 10-year-old Lovin Manchester dreamed of - with *deep breath* nachos, chicken wings, mixed fries, onion rings, chicken tenders, pigs in pretzel and garlic dough balls.

They were all good to varying degrees, but the pigs were my top pick - hot dog sausages rolled in pretzel dough, brushed with butter and salt and served with sticky BBQ dipping sauce.

It was as wrong and oh-so-right as it sounds.

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The wings and tenders were just right for nibbling, the rings and balls had good flavour and the sweet potato and regular fries were tasty.

But there was so much of it.

Two portions of fries was just too much - and the nachos were a goner, we couldn't even tuck in because we were stuffed and daunted by an upcoming second course.

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The Philly was a rolled, stuff pizza, and we ordered that alongside the Southern fried chicken burger.

The stuffed Philly was full to bursting with ricotta, steak strips, sweet fried red onions, tender peppers and stringy mozzarella - and served with American cheese for dipping.

It was definitely not a diet food, but it was tasty - and an interesting way of presenting a pizza that was quite fun.

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The burger - with yet more fries which we couldn't manage - was soft inside, the chicken marinated with buttermilk before being deep-fried in crumbs.

Golden and crunchy, the coating went well with cheese and coleslaw, and there was even some healthy tomato and lettuce in the bun.

In all honesty, we ordered too much food - eyes bigger than bellies, perhaps, although not after we'd finished that lot and waddled our way home.

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The venue is cool - it's relaxed and fun, and the service was rally friendly and quick.

In terms of ordering food, it would depend on your appetite/drunkenness/number, but be prepared for a foodbaby-bearing feast if you tuck into the sharing platter.

If you do head there to watch the football, it might be the perfect way to soak up those beers that usually accompany the game...

On weekends, the venue also offers bottomless booze with brunch for two hours between 12pm and 4pm - you can checkout that and more offers online.

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