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Feed bellies not bins: Real Junk Food restaurant opens in Manchester


Junk food is processed food that’s fast, cheap and convenient. It may taste good but it’s usually high in salt, sugar and fat and, quite frankly, not very good for you at all.

Real junk food, on the other hand, can be good for you – and the planet too.

Every year a massive 4.4 million tonnes of food is thrown away by UK households – and most of that waste is unnecessary. Let’s face it. Who hasn’t thrown an item away because they are dubious about its best before date or poured too much in a pan and couldn’t eat it all?

The Real Junk Food Project was created to tackle this issue and turn food that would otherwise go to waste into nutritious meals.

And that’s exactly what their new restaurant, which recently opened on Oxford Street, does.

They collect food that wholesalers and supermarkets are going to throw out but which is perfectly fit for human consumption, and their innovative chefs create a range of delicious dishes from it.

Customers then contribute what they want on a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ basis, ensuring no one is priced out.

It’s a concept which has transformed from pop-up to shopfront following years of hard work by project director Corin Bell and her team.

“We’re so excited to finally have a home!” Corin told us. “This has been a long time coming. We’ve always known we could do so much more, save so much more wasted food, feed so many more people, offer back to work placements and training and now we finally get to realise that. We can’t wait to get going and show Manchester what we can do.”

The restaurant is open every weekday for breakfast and lunch, serving an eclectic menu that changes every day. The project has never purchased a single ingredient, and the chefs create the entire menu daily from scratch from the food they’ve received.

With the likes of smoked salmon with poached eggs, wild mushrooms on toast and baby back ribs on the menu so far, it certainly doesn’t sound like junk to us.

They are open from 8am with a range of hot drinks, sweets and savouries and they are conveniently close to Oxford Road station for an early pick-me-up

Start your day with one of their ethical coffees, sourced from the Cafe Femenino Social Enterprise Project, and supplied by local independent Second City Coffee.

The down-to-earth menu means dishes can be easily adapted to be vegetarian and vegan-friendly.

They have lunch covered too, with a selection of sandwiches plus hot and cold meals you can take away or eat in until 3pm.

And inside is cosy and welcoming – two things often lacking in busy city eateries.

There’s an underground dining area where you can eat right under Oxford Street, complete with magical lighting, immersive art and plants. It’s like a little oasis tucked away from the busyness.

One wall is covered with their motto Feed Bellies Not Bins, part of a blossoming mural created by local artist Alex Jones, who also completed a design for the main window which will be changing seasonally.

Plenty of other big-hearted people have helped out too. Much of the restaurant was created thanks to the efforts of volunteers, upcyclers and donated equipment.

And they’re still looking for volunteers to keep their hub of goodness going. Whether you can spare an hour, a skill, service or just want to help out, the team is always grateful.

Expect adult-sized portions, affordable prices with extended opening hours planned over the coming months. All whilst cutting your carbon footprint.

Now that’s our kind of junk food.

85 Oxford St, M1 6EQ. Monday-Friday 8am-3pm.

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