All hail the Arndale Food Market. A haven of independent traders, it boasts some of the best street food traders in Manchester and long preceded trendy food halls like Mackie Mayor.
Its expansion earlier this year saw more foodie units move in to the south side, with new kids on the block Salt and Pepper, Blue Caribou and Holy Crab all tipping in with tasty treats in tow – and creating huge queues in the process.
But it’s not all new hype. There are some long-standing trader favourites well worth a look-in too, some of whom have been there now for the best part of a decade.
If you work in town and are after change from sarnies for lunch, there’s nowt better.
Salt and Pepper
Brother and sister outfit Salt and Pepper is one of the Arndale Food Market’s newest tenants. Their grandad emigrated from Hong Kong in the 60s and – like many others of his generation – opened a takeaway here. Now they’ve followed in his footsteps, albeit with a modern twist. Serving up modern Chinese inspired street food, the most popular dish here has to be the sticky chicken. Served with either salt and pepper crinkle cut chips (to hold in the salt and pepper mixture) or rice, it comes rolled in their homemade sweet sticky sauce and topped with fresh chilli, sesame seeds, and a touch of cucumber for freshness.
Relative newcomer Suppa arrives at the market courtesy of Aussie brunch heroes Federal. The artisanal sandwich and soup joint takes over the old Mac Daddy unit, another old favourite of ours. But if we ever needed proof that when God closes a door he opens a window, the chicken baguette (pictured above) has to be it. Bigger than your head, or at least mine, tarragon-infused chicken mayo and briney pickled tomatoes elevate the humble lunchtime sarnie to a whole new level.
Already well known across the city for their pop-up appearances at GRUB, Runaway Brewery’s supper clubs, IMBC and the YES launch (to name just a few), foodies were ecstatic when news of the arrival of a permanent Holy Crab stall broke earlier this year. Leased until 2021, we expect to enjoy their crab balls, fritters, oysters (with three different garnishes, no less) and dilled-up crayfish brioche for many lunches to come. Find them on the new south side.
Created by the lads behind the award-winning Viet Shack next door, Fusion Lab offers up some delicious modern Asian-inspired street food. They used to do the most incredible squid ink fish tacos – lightly battered fish and homemade cucumber and daikon pickles encased in a soft, black wrap – but, alas, these are no longer on the menu.
Popular choices include the Korean fried chicken and their twist on the Cubano sandwich, as well as their loaded fries. The Kung Fu fries come topped with steak (cooked as you like it), chilli, spring onion, bacon bits, coriander, red onion and a healthy dose of very spicy kimchi. Given the choice between spicy sauce and gravy, we’d go for the latter. Mellow and sweet with a hint of lemongrass, it’s not your usual Manc chips and gravy that’s for sure. More like Asian poutine (which is also on the menu).
Another new addition to the Food Market south side, Wholesome Junkies have proven so popular it’s not unusual to see long queues here.
Founder Chelsea Campbell’s appearance on BBC Two’s My Million Pound Menu last year has earned her a solid following. Thai tater tots come drizzled in sweet chilli and spicy sriracha mayo and topped with a sprinkling of black and white sesame seeds But our favourite has to be the breaded katsu jackfruit wings. These sturdy little pockets of indulgence come with a healthy drizzle of vegan katsu curry, finished off with a scattering of spring onion and more sriracha mayo.
Blue Caribou Canteen
All of a sudden, it seems that poutine is everywhere. On our trip to the market, we counted at least four stalls advertising it in varying guises. But for authentic the real deal Canadian stuff, it has to be Blue Caribou Canteen.
We first discovered their cheesy, gravy-soaked delights at B.EAT street – but they have since popped up at Hatch and, just like Wholesome Junkies before them, on Fred Sirieix’ My Million Pound Menu at the beginning of the year.
Serving chips loaded with squeaky cheese curds, gravy and various other toppings (we love the La Corenne with kimchi and seaweed) plus other delights like corn dogs and sourdough sandwiches, you can’t go wrong.
Mexican chef Enrique Martinez and his Mancunian wife Colette have been a fixture in the market since 2010. Over the past nine years, they’ve gained a solid reputation for dishing up some of the best Mexican food in the city.
Burritos – as the name suggests – are their speciality, but they also serve up some impressive tostadas, tacos, enchiladas, nacho and quesadillas. Choose from a huge number of fillings, and make sure to go wild on your extras (they’re all included in the price, after all). Pro tip – make sure to get some crushed tortillas in there for that added crunch.
Hansfords is the Arndale’s answer to Greggs. It’s half-deli, half-bakery, with a wide selection of pies, sausage rolls, cakes, pastries and freshly baked loaves. Alongside its famous hot roast carvery rolls, it’s worth having a go at the full English Vienna.
For just £6, they’ll fill a bap bigger than your head with hand made pork sausages, rindless back bacon, hash brown, egg, black pudding, spam, mushrooms, tomatoes and/or beans. It’s the ultimate hangover cure.