Yesterday saw the start of the 19th Manchester Food & Drink Festival, celebrating our food and drink scene here in the city. We braved the winds and went along to Day 1 of eleven action- and food-packed days at the Festival Hub in Albert Square where pop-up vendors are serving some of the finest, most diverse foods Manchester has to offer – not to mention a 100 Greatest Beer Bar, Vin Van Voom Wine, Fever-Tree Gin Garden, a live music stage, and a marquee space hosting some exciting one off events.
A couple of places caught our eye for a bite to eat. Bakchich serve traditional Lebanese street food and we tried one of their mixed trays, as in a bit of everything! Falafel, chicken Shawarma, hummus, salad, sauce and some unidentified pink pickled vegetable (very nice, mind.)
Les Churros Amigos was easily one of the most popular stalls. Their hot doughnut churros with warm chocolate sauce were flying off the stall like, well, hot cakes. Again, nothing to do with the wind.
The 100 Beers may have hit the right note with their live entertainment and sheltered tent but I’m a wine girl all the way so we headed to Vin Van Voom for a cheeky tickle. We will be back to try some of the others – Diamond Dogs, CAU, and maybe some of Fever-Trees Gin next time!
The first half of the street food festival runs until Tuesday 4th October, when it’s all change and the second group of operators move in.
In terms of events, the Festival kicked off with one of their most popular hits from previous years – Three Wine Women. The BBC’s Kate Goodman and Evuna Manchester’s Jane Dowler were joined by Susie Atkins – a wine writer with 25 years experience working for the likes of The Sunday Telegraph as well as being part of Saturday Kitchen.
The evening started with a slightly left-field choice – a cava chosen by Susie who confessed her love for sparkling wines. The wine sparked off an inevitable prosecco debate. Kate reliably informed us that we Brits drank over £300 million worth of the stuff last year. Gulp. But being a pro, Susie chose something special – a nice dry cava with lots of citrus and hints of green apple which was nowhere near as sweet as prosecco.
As the night progressed we delved into food pairings and blind tastings. Kate introduced us to some fantastic Sauvignon Blanc from Italy, trying to tempt away the New Zealand faithful. It was a pleasant surprise for me but not for another gentleman who remarked that it tasted ‘like cat piss’. Wonder how he knew. The mood was informal, the questions flowed, and our fantastic hosts were relaxed and in good spirits. Salut.
As if that wasn’t enough, there was the official launch party at Iberica, with some fantastic Spanish nibbles and more wine.
And that was just the first day. There’s a whole host of events taking place over the next fortnight. Our picks for this week are as follows. The Festival Hub every day – give each vendor a try, it’s a way to taste what they offer in their restaurants and often for a steal of their normal price. Live Cookery Theatre this Saturday from 2pm with Simon Shaw, Bruno Birkbeck and Byron Moses. And last but not least, Salvi’s Italian Festival this Sunday from noon. All events take place in Albert Square.
The Festival Hub is free to attend and open from noon to 11pm daily until 9th October. Bon appetit!