It’s Week 2 of this years Manchester Food & Drink Festival and The Festival Hub in Albert Square has seen a turnaround of food and drink vendors. The second half of the festival runs until Sunday with stalls including Hip Hop Chip Shop, Iberica, Piggy Smalls, Mac Factory and Scene.
We went along yesterday evening when, despite the cold, it was heaving yet again. The 100 Greatest Beer Bar was packed with some cracking live music and poetry courtesy of Mike Garry.
We chose Iberica’s street food offer of chicken and seafood paella for just a fiver – an absolute bargain to taste this calibre of cooking. Huge juicy prawns were the highlight in this Spanish classic. It was a popular choice, as were the massive hot dogs from Piggy Smalls whose van was lit up like Blackpool illuminations. Hardly subtle but obviously doing the trick.
We joined in with a Fever-Tree masterclass to get our free G&T’s – well worth it as it was great fun and, with their premium tonic waters, tasted much better than the bog standard nation’s favourite drink.
Later in the evening we went along to Eat With Adam which has to be one of the best events we have ever attended at any of the annual festivals. Adam Reid is head chef of The French in The Midland Hotel who, at only 31, won Chef of the Year in the 2014 Manchester Food & Drink Awards and is one of only three chefs representing the north west on this year’s Great British Menu on BBC2.
The event was wonderfully hosted by Adam and his team from The French. Three small staggered groups were made to feel like they were in his home for this intimate evening where he not only cooked every dish personally for us, right in front of us, but also poured the drinks and cleared the tables while chatting away with not an ounce of pressure on show. By the time the third group started, he was flitting between cooking starters for them, main courses for the middle table, and desserts for us. Wow, can that man juggle plates.
The food itself was intriguing – a truly inclusive tasting menu with influences from his childhood and tastes from his travels. There were three starters at the bar on arrival. The highlight at the bar was easily the beef and onion dumpling, inspired by the rag puddings Adam ate from his local chippy growing up. It was like suet pudding meets dim sum. Beefy, brothy and stocky, lots of dripping, minced beef, marrowfat and onions all wrapped in a gyoza-type pastry. Stunning.
He cooked us what must be some of the biggest, plumpest, juiciest scallops I’ve ever seen on a barbecue and served them to us on sacks – great for easy table clearing in one big swoop. I’m not sure about the accompanying kombucha tea which smelt of smelly socks and tasted like vinegar.
Our main course derived from his time working in bierkellers in Germany – poached loin of beef and braised ox cheek, with sauerkraut and pickles on the table to help ourselves to. The braised ox cheek was particularly tasty.
Desserts came courtesy of some liquid nitrogen shenanigans that brought about the end of our show. What a performance and what great fun. Adam is popping up again tonight but it’s sold out. I have no doubt, however, that this pop-up will make another appearance next year so make a note and book early. You won’t be disappointed.
There is more live cookery theatre this Saturday with Sean Sutton, Nadiya Hussain and Aiden Byrne, with the Great Manchester Bake Off this Sunday from midday. Both events are free and take place at the Festival Hub in Albert Square.