Award-winning Lightopia is back with its flagship event in Manchester, with a brand-new enchanting light and lantern festival.
And this year, there’s a new intimate and immersive dining experience – Dine in the Light – to complete the ultimate magical Christmas Fantasy journey at Heaton Park.
Nestled in the park’s woodland, Lightopia’s illuminated Dining Domes, surrounded by lanterns, make for a unique and atmospheric dining experience for families, friends and couples.
We went along to see what the new dining experience is like.
Guests can drink, dine and be merry in their own colourful private dining dome, which seats up to six people, for up to 90 minutes, with a minimum spend of £150 for the table – or larger groups can book a dome for up to 12 people (minimum spend £300).
The dome itself is cosy despite the freezing temperatures outside and decorated with soft faux fur throws and wintry foliage, the table laid with sparkling cutlery ready for our three-course dinner.
The imaginative and hearty seasonal menu has been curated by three-rosette chef Chris Holland, former head chef of Alderley Edge Hotel in Cheshire and best known for his traditional British cuisine with a molecular and experimental edge.
Our starter of Swiss cheese and Riesling fondue is rich and silky, served with torn ciabatta for dipping, offering a true apres-ski style.
Confit duck terrine is full of flavour, with a zingy orange and cranberry salad celebrating the best of the season.
Other starters available include veggie roasted pumpkin soup with a Parmesan and sage crumble, and vegan Buffalo cauliflower wings with Sriracha hot dip.
Onto mains, and our glazed short rib of beef is sticky and pull-apart tender, served with beautifully buttery pureed potato and grilled tenderstem broccoli.
Our hanging kebab sees the lamb marinated in harissa, mint and cumin and served with toasted flatbread and dips, and there’s also a vegan option of smoky barbecued mushroom and celeriac kebab served with flatbread and preserved lemon.
There’s also a choice of marinated organic salmon served with Heaton Park honey, lemongrass and dill served with a winter red cabbage salad, or slow-cooked free-range chicken rubbed in Middle Eastern spices served with pilaf rice topped with crispy onion.
The dishes are skilfully prepared and elegantly presented, while feeling like proper winter warmers.
And desserts are no afterthought, either.
Our Manchester trifle is served in a little jar with layers of Vimto jelly, vanilla sponge and mulled blackberries, soft and fruity and nostalgic, while the dark chocolate and orange mousse is a twist on the classic combo, made with silken tofu and cacao, topped with orange zest and Chantilly cream.
Alternatives include a Heaton Mess meringue loaded with fresh cream, baked peaches and raspberries, or a Lancashire cheeseboard if you prefer something savoury.
To drink, there’s warming mulled wine and cider as well as a selection of wines, beers and local Didsbury Gin.
Festive cocktails include a traditional Snowball, a Campfire Old Fashioned with bourbon, marshmallow syrup and chocolate and orange bitters served with a toasted marshmallow, and a Manchester Kiss made with Didsbury Gin, Amaretto and Prosecco.
For groups, a Prosecco Mimosa Tray comes with a selection of syrups and purees so you can customise your cocktails at the table.
All in all, it makes for a magical experience, which you can book before or after heading off to discover the enchanting Lightopia light trail.
Also new for Lightopia Manchester 2021, The Stables Courtyard Bar and Dining is offering a more casual dining experience.
Reserve your table at The Stables, under the beautiful, heated canopy in the Courtyard, where there is a variety of food and drink outlets occupying converted vintage horseboxes, offering everything from tasty, gourmet soft shell tacos to delicious stone-baked pizza al taglio, roasted chestnuts plus festive beverages and theatrical cocktails.
Walk-in on the evening, or to guarantee your spot, reserve a seat for £5 per person, which is fully redeemable against food and drink on the night.
Lightopia is now open until Monday 3rd January 2022 at Heaton Park and tickets are available here. Bookings for the Dine in the Light experience are now open – click below to book your slot.