Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Festival food (& drink) for thought... @MFDF14 #MFDF14

The 17th Manchester Food and Drink Festival is reaching its midpoint, running as it does from 18-29 September. The main hub is in Albert Square – with other events around the city too. Looking around on my first visit this year, I was struck as to how much it has grown in over the decades.

I have fond memories of the 2011 Festival, which perked me up on several evenings after I’d been working long days in Cumbria co-running focus groups and enduring arduous train journeys south from the Lakes. I‘ve visited the 2014 festival three times so far and have been suitably inspired once more.

The first visit I met with a friend who was staying at the ibis hotel and over a drink at the rather cool bar there we planned our gastronomic route around the stalls. (The festival brochure is a work of art in itself). If you are looking to stay in Manchester for the Manchester Food & Drink Festival, there are two ibis hotels within walking distance.

The Blue Pig’s bespoke cocktails went down a treat- especially their Festival Fizz (gin, blueberries, mint, lemon and ginger ale). Vin Van Voom with their wine from independent vineyards, served from a cool 1950’s trailer, is another fabulous place to grab a drink.

Food wise, I heartily recommend V Fresh from Stockport and their wraps, pots and gourmet burgers approved by the Vegetarian Society. Preston’s Jolly Waggoner are new to me and a pleasant surprise with their “supercharged scran street circus”. Another place to try, but I fear it will be too sweet for my tastes, is Birmingham-based Churros Susanna: “Very funky stall selling authentic Spanish Churros and chocolate. Vegan friendly, waffle style sticks served with a pot of warm dipping chocolate, sugar and cinnamon.” I was disappointed the one time I ate at Chaophraya’s restaurant but that was due to the poor choices made for me by my two dining companions! I’ll give their “finer twist on traditional Thai street food” a go as I have heard impressive things.

Of course, where there is good food and drink, there needs to be some accompanying culture - a range of musicians are at the Eat Drink Dance Stage. I never know which times I’ll be there so end up exposed to random music – but that’s not a bad way to appreciate a music festival. But two acts I want to see are the Stone Flowers Project, celebrating International Peace Day: this is led by Musicians without Borders working with survivors of torture. “Beautiful music from an amazing group of people”.  Old House Playground are a Greek rock band teamed up with Manchester’s Durutti Column legend, Vini Reilly.

As you’d probably expect, there are glittering prizes and awards being handed out (at a Gala Awards night on Monday 29 Sept). The festival brochure has shortlists for 12 categories; which include two new categories: “Best Street Food of the Year” and the award that is the biggest mouthful, possibly in all senses, “Best Food and Drink Pop Up Event, Club or Project of the Year”.

I agree with the shortlisting of North Tea Power as “Coffee Bar or Tea Shop of the Year”. But personally I would split this into two categories and award the latter to Proper Tea, by the cathedral. Takk would get an honourable mention too. I’d happily see Kosmonaut take the crown for bar of the year.

Apart from those my own awards don’t really match with the shortlist, although to be fair there are many places on the list that I have yet to visit. So that’s something to add to my bucket list before the 18th MFDF comes around. My best restaurant by a country mile would be 1847, scandalously not even on the shortlist! My best café would be Earth, and Unicorn and On the Eighth Day would get awards from me simply for their consistency, excellence and for being at the vanguard of ethical eating and awareness-raising.


  1. Wow Churros! Definitely Manchester knows how to feed my belly.

  2. It truly looks and sounds like a great event! ;)

  3. It would seem there's enough there to satisfy the appetites of anyone.


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