I KNOW it's 2016 and all that but I have never been to a gym. At least not since High School. That's not to say I don't exercise. I love exercise: football, tennis, cycling, walking, mowing the lawn, hopscotch, competitive pint drinking, leaning against walls, scratching my head thinking and so on, but the idea of 'working out' in a gym makes me tremble.
The strange thing is the customers match the theme
Sweating amongst other people in my own little introverted world surrounded by alarming machinery that looks as if it might come alive and attack you at any moment, watching daytime TV or lost in music, seems both a lot of bother and a metaphor for the alienation of modern life. Maybe it's the almost professional effort people put in to this that scares me, the figure-hugging uniforms, the sheer concentration on display. I prefer the old-school British insouciance; one should never seem to be trying too hard, don't you know.
But if I've never been to a gym then how do I know all this? Simple, you can't walk down city streets or through most hotels without seeing through panes of glass people beavering away to create the body beautiful. Jeez, get a room - with yourself. It's as though some people treat their exercise as a religious obligation but, unlike with most churches, they want transparent walls so everybody can see them worshipping.
Entering Kettlebell Kitchen on Great Ancoats Street was therefore a challenge, especially in brogues.
The theme here is fitness, there's even a corner of the handsome and clean space that appears to be some kind of arty exhibition of fitness hardware. The strange thing is the customers match the theme. This isn't usually the case with themes. In Albert's Schloss, for instance, most of the customers aren't dressed in mittel-European outfits as though they're about to go hunting or skiing in 1910. Here there are tracksuits and shorts and muscles and hair swept back into tight ponytails and flesh pushed and squeezed into a festival of lycra.
The word 'protein' is the hero, shouted from the walls and menus. Mind you the chicken protein waffle burger for £7.95 plus £1 for extra chicken and 30p for extra cheese was good value, certainly in terms of scale. It was an odd combination though. Waffles are curious beasts, chewy more than anything else, and I'm not sure the texture fits a savoury collation with chicken and red onion. I enjoyed it when I really shouldn't have, given its mad mix of flavours incorporating a sweet chilli relish.
A drink called Gym Freak Smoothie (£3.95) was another curiousity and amused me to purchase because as stated above, I clearly am no gym freak. The ingredients were strawberries, bananas, flax seeds, zero fat yoghurt, zero fat milk and..er...'protein'. I can't recall having flax seeds before and I'm not sure I could identify them in the drink, but it was again not unpleasant. It felt healthy to drink.
I liked Kettlebell Kitchen despite my fish-out-of water status. It was an experience, as they say, and a concept I hope works for the management. Certainly on a Monday afternoon at 2pm it was attracting an appreciative crowd and there was a real buzz about the place. The healthy aspects are overplayed, 'clean beans', 'clean slaw', 'buff bbq', 'lean and green', but then that's Kettlebell Kitchen's thing and makes a change from 'dirty burgers' and so on.
If I'm passing I might pop back for the people watching if nothing else. Maybe I'll leave the brogues at home on that occasion, although brogues really are the best footwear for an exercise bike. No, honestly. They look so smart.
Kettlebell Kitchen, 5 Nuovo, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, M4 5AB. Tel: 0161 236 6171