Smithfield Market in the Northern Quarter was once the largest covered market complex in Britain but by the 1970s most of the buildings had closed, The Victorian meat market, announcing its function with a magnificent stone bull's head over the entrance, became in turn a training centre for unemployed youngsters, a shop-mobility centre and a skateboard park, but they all folded and the building was left empty for decades. It was spotted by Nick Johnson, formerly of Urban Splash, the developer that prides itself on regenerating properties that no one else dares touch. With his partner Jenny, he had already created a successful foodie venue at Altrincham Market House and he did it again at the larger Manchester market. Mackie Mayor embraces communal dining at long tables in the centre of the hall served by eight independent kitchens plus beer and wine bars.
It's a feast for the eyes - and nose - just to wander round to see what's cooking and watch the chefs at work whether they are doing breakfast, brunch or prepping for dinner. You choose whatever you fancy, not necessarily from the same counter, and the food is brought to your table. Johnson has chosen his vendors carefully with an emphasis on fresh, local and sustainable. Offerings include charcoal-grilled fish from Fin Fish Bar, Taiwanese steamed buns from the wonderfully named Baohouse, roast meats by Rotisserie, Honest Crust wood-fired sourdough pizzas, and coffee and cakes from Wolf House of Silverdale. The wine bar is run by Didsbury-based Reserve Wines while Jack in the Box beer bar sells craft beers including its own Blackjack Manchester brew. The building has been restored with its rough brick walls exposed and a reclaimed wooden foot, giving the glass-roofed market hall a touch of contemporary industrial chic. Why the name? Ivie Mackie was Mayor of Manchester when the building first opened and his name is still over the entrance.