Barely 10 seconds have lapsed since the words ‘Heatwave set to hit UK shores this week’ have hit your timeline and the manic dash for supplies has begun in all of its blind, chaotic panic. Any of those disposables left over from last summer? How many bags of charcoal are in the garage? What sauces are in the cupboard? WHY DON’T WE HAVE A PADDLING POOL FULL OF LAGER ON HAND AT ALL TIMES?
British BBQ season is officially upon us.
Given that we in Manchester are blessed with roughly about 14 hours of blistering temperatures spread across six months between April and September, planning for a barbecue often succumbs to legging it into ALDI and loading two baskets (you’ve forgot your quid for the trolley AGAIN) full of basic quarter pounders and chipolatas because all the busy bastards have been down at half eight in the morning to nab those chorizo burgers, Monterey Jack melts, cajun chicken fatties and the ‘Specially Selected’ caramelised onion bangers.
You might snatch the last pack of unloved sweet chilli chicken drumsticks if you’re lucky. Who knows, some poor sod might have dropped their four pack of minted lamb koftas. You bundle this together with some squashed-to-shite floured baps, trampled and forgotten by the morning mob, a pot of fruity couscous, some over-mayo’d coleslaw and potato salad and some off brand Reggae Reggae sauce. You amble, wounded and weary up the alternate universe that is the middle aisle, wondering if you do in fact need a leaf blower, some off brand Crocs and a half price samosa maker. Seventeen quid down from £35 is a fucking good deal, to be fair.
Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this emergency haul. In fact, it’s nigh on impossible to be dismissive of any al fresco charcoal efforts given that they are always such joyous occasions. The simple act of striking the match with which you intend to transform the briquettes from humble lumps of coal into white hot meat heaters, billowing the intoxicating aroma of charred pork, beef and chicken out of your garden and across the next two streets is a sacred moment of every summer in Manchester and therefore must be cherished.
Yet, there is also the realisation that, with the proper preparation and research, things could be significantly improved. And said improvement could be achieved without having to endure the misery and frustration of a packed ALDI, ASDA or Tesco. Better yet, it could be achieved by helping a plethora of Manchester’s finest indie meat, bread, booze and SAWCE slingers.
So where to start?
Littlewoods Butchers, Heaton Chapel
A quick glance at Littlewoods’ instagram feed and you know you’re in safe hands. This isn’t just a butchers (steady on, M&S voiceover) but a crack team of creative geniuses, specialising in everything from your staple burgers, chops and wings to dry aged Aberdeen Angus and Limousin beef tri-tip steak kebabs. This Stockport stronghold serves up sustainable, whole animal butchery and has been doing since 1964. One minute perusing their counters is enough to convince you that any of the selections in front of you will be mind-bendingly good. The dry aged smash patties (from grass fed native Dexter cows) are unfuckwithable and you cannot leave without at least a dozen of the lamb Merguez sausages, which you need to make an essential part of any BBQ you have for the foreseeable future.
The Littlewoods team produce more cuts than 12 rounds with Tyson Fury and each one of them are not only passionately knowledgeable about their craft but also exceedingly affable and helpful with recipe suggestions, many of which are shared across their social media feeds. Oh, and they’re also knocking out their own in-house charcuterie now, so you’re going to want to make sure a generous helping of that leaves the shop with you on your next visit.
Butcher’s Quarter/BQ Farm & Fish, Northern Quarter/Monton
Want to give off some suave, rustic Mediterranean energy when you’re grilling? Have a burning desire to capture the majesty of a sun kissed evening in Lisbon or Porto? Few sardines crisping up their skin above the flames while one of the posh plates you usually reserve for when your mum and dad come round is adorned with crushed ice and half-a-dozen oysters, fresh from Loch Fyne. A bit lavish maybe but also, at the same time, a bit fucking wonderful. Thanks to a collaborative effort between the Northern Quarter’s premiere meat peddlers Butcher’s Quarter and Monton’s purveyors of fine wines and indulgences Wandering Palate, you can pick up some sensational surf to go with your turf.
BQ Farm & Fish combines artisan butcher’s offerings with a first class fishmongers. The result is a destination that you ought to make a beeline for the moment you hear even the slightest murmuring about a potential heatwave. BQ’s beef is all sourced from free range, grass fed cattle from farms in Cheshire while their pork and chicken is born and reared outdoors, with an emphasis on low-stress living to ensure their meat is more wholesome and flavoursome. Great House Farm in Helmshore, roughly 20 miles down the road, supply the lamb and eggs, further reiterating the dedication to locality and sustainability. Similarly, F&F’s seafood is sourced from the British coast using day boats, with all products able to be traced back to the fishermen themselves. Just in case you fancy personally thanking the trawlerman who is responsible for the langoustines or rainbow trout that graces your grill this summer. And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you want to do that? Bloke’s gone out into the middle of the actual sea to catch your dinner for you. You should write him a thank you note.
Grandad’s Sausages, Bury
‘Putting a smile on Grandma’s face for 50 years!’ is the tagline of this Bury based banger emporium, who have also set up shop at Hatch, where they sling the finest hotdogs in the city. Once you’ve allowed yourself a giggle at their mucky motto (and also, if it’s legit, a moment’s appreciation for a couple who can still knock sensual boots after five decades together) you should hit them up for a delivery of their seriously high grade tubes of pork, whether it’s traditional olde English, Lincolnshire and Cumberland or their spicy chilli and Black Pudding sausages. Grandad Bernard’s grandkids have kept his legacy alive in spectacular fashion and their efforts will work wonders on your barbie.
WH Frost’s Butchers, Chorlton
When somewhere’s been established since 1890 and is still going strong, chances are it’s for a very good reason. Or, indeed, a plethora of very good reasons. Frost’s are a south Manchester institution, a Manchester Food and Drink award winner and one of the most well respected butchers not just in the city, but across the whole country. Their produce is supplied to all manner of pubs and a few Michelin starred clients but, most importantly, it can be supplied to your back garden/balcony/disposable on the park and enjoyed immensely.
Frost’s source from around Cheshire and the North West and their beef is hung for 28 days, allowing it to mature properly before it reaches your charcoal flecked embers. All the barbecue basics are available here, obviously, but there’s also all those off piste delicacies that set apart the truly special butchers and if you’re in the market for venison chorizo or some fresh game, you’re in luck.
Barbakan Deli, Chorlton
It would be easy to walk into Barbakan and instantaneously feel overwhelmed; Polish black bread, German Kaiserbrot, spelt and honey sourdough, Italian Toscana… It’s like a massive, carby pick ‘n’ mix. Over 75 different loaves are on offer at the legendary Chorlton deli, where they knock out a monumental 15,000 a week. And this dedication is evident in every bite you take of one, no matter what variety you opt for.
But it’s not solely continental carbs that are on offer here. Barbakan’s fresh barms and baguettes, all golden and glowing with just the right amount of bite to accentuate their pillowy innards, are the perfect vessels for your burgers and bangers. Opening in 1964 – the same year as George Best finished up his debut season at Old Trafford – Barbakan’s legacy to baked goods is as mercurial as the iconic Belfast boy’s is to football in the city.
Companio & Pollen, Ancoats
Yeah, alright, your typical burger buns and hotdog rolls aren’t exactly synonymous with this Ancoats pair, but what is, is baguettes. The best baguettes this side of the channel. I will throw fists over that declaration. It’s genuinely impossible to choose between Companio and Pollen’s French sticks, such is the beauty of both, so don’t fret over which one to go to when trying to decide who is best equipped to source you with the superior sausage envelope (Note to self: When this writing gig inevitably fails, pitch ‘superior sausage envelope’ to as many condom companies as possible). You cannot miss with either.
The sourdough from both bakeries would also be the ideal support (in fairness it’d be the main event) for a couple of chicken thighs that you need to encase in carbs or maybe two of the aforementioned lamb merguez sausages from Littlewoods if you prefer your sausages buttied instead of hotdogged. And make Companio’s ciabattas a regular rotation for all future barbecues while you’re at it. And, obviously, stock up on as many croissants as you can physically carry from both places. Not for a barbie. It’s just simple life advice.
Sticky Fingers, Stockport
There used to be a Rolling Stones themed restaurant called Sticky Fingers, owned by their old bass player Bill Wyman, just off Deansgate. I had my first ever chilli dog there when I was about eight and a magician came to the table and made a quid appear from his ear. Was a bit weird and my mum seemed a bit fucked off at the magician interrupting our meal. Chilli dog was good though, from what I remember. Not there any more, Sticky Fingers. Long gone, in fact. There is, however, an insanely good Polish bakery of the same name that has recently opened in Stockport Market Hall and it’s owned by a couple of magicians, Klaudyna and Adrian, who’s artisanal works of art have been drawing mammoth queues to the hall, leading to them selling out rapidly every day.
Their pastries and cakes grab most of the attention but their loaves and rolls cannot be slept on. Not for a second. If it were revealed that some actual sorcery were at play in producing these goods, you would not for a minute doubt it. Not like that bullshit magician who clearly just had that quid already in his ea…. but then again, wouldn’t it have fallen out at some point during the tri…how the fuck did he do that actually? Anyway, while I try and make peace with the secretive workings of a table side con artist who confused me 25 years ago, you should leg it to Stockport Market Hall as soon as possible and give Klaudyna and Adrian all of your custom.
I’ve not forgot to list a particular venue above, but rather cannot narrow down just one location in Prestwich as the North Manchester village is replete with Jewish supermarkets and bakeries from which to secure some of the most phenomenal bread in the city. State Fayre obviously has the longstanding reputation of being the prime spot in the area, and supplies a number of shops with their baked goods, but Kosher City’s shelves are also worth raiding, especially on Thursday and Friday mornings, when it will be chocker with members of the local Orthodox Jewish community, providing a terrific, convivial atmosphere as brown paper bags are rammed full of challah, bagels, Royal Bake rolls and, of course, Pittanoor pittas. You remember them from Evelyn’s Pitta Shop last summer. If they are still on the shelves when you get there, you buy them, no questions asked.
An elderly gent once loudly pronounced “This is the best challah in the city” during one Friday morning visit I undertook to Kosher City, to which I involuntarily (and equally loudly) replied “Oh shit!” buzzing off his enthusiasm. I promptly apologised to the woman behind me with her two infant children, paid for my baked goods and left. So maybe save your passionate reactions to the quality of the bread for when you’ve vacated the premises.
After you’re done picking up your numerous bread based selections, head over to the fridges at any respectable Jewish supermarket in Prestwich (Habers World and Shefa Mehadrin on Bury New Road are both excellent and easy to access from town) and prepare to be faced with a myriad of irresistible deli pots, from simple Israeli salads to tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, sweet chilli aubergine and beyond. Word of warning: The dip selection can be off the charts on a good day, so be prepared to make some agonising decisions. Or just have a fridge full of dips. Your call. You can’t lose either way.
Lily’s Deli, Ashton/Chorlton/Ancoats
Small plates becoming so ruthlessly dominant in so many restaurants over the last decade or so is testament to how sides and starters are often the best bit of any menu. And there is a very good chance that, should you stock up on the multitude of Indian snacks available at Lily’s delis in Ashton, Chorlton and Ancoats, it will even upstage the main events that are sprawled across your grill.
We’re long past the era of veggie options being an afterthought when it comes to barbecues and with Lily’s now having three locations to choose from, following the opening of their Ancoats outpost in January, it’s easier than ever to pick up some of the most scintillating vegetarian snacks in Manchester. Think puris, chaats, paneer and the old faithful samosas, pakoras and bhajis, all cooked and flavoured to complete and utter perfection. A tableful of these to choose from would be the perfect accompanying side buffet to a barbie full of tandoori chicken and lamb chops.
Katsouris Deli, Deansgate
Traditionally regarded as more of a beloved cafe than a deli, Katsouris is a city centre icon, yet it’s deli options seem to be permanently overlooked. OK, so there’s not a sprawling counterful of salads and continental cheeses and charcuterie. In fact, the space dedicated to these offerings is surprisingly compact when you consider the big Kat christened itself as a delicatessen. But the healthily stocked Mediterranean salad bar is always reliably excellent and the mezze of stuffed vine leaves, peppers and olives on offer just to the right of the hot sandwich counter, beyond the snaking queue awaiting their turn at the sizzling pan, where fresh ciabattas are halved, buttered and piled high with turkey, pork, gammon or peri-peri chicken, is also not to be sniffed at. Many a shrewd operator will be able to leave Deansgate’s cherished corner cafe with a small mountain of crowd pleasing sides and have enough money left over to nip back in to order that lamb Siciliana they’d been debating in the queue (always, always go for the Lamb Siciliana, even if you’re only half thinking about it).
Mercado Deli Market, West Didsbury
Victor Calo was born in Venezuela to Italian parents and made his way to Manchester after 20 years in America and a year long stint in Italy. And it is all of these experiences and cultures that have led to Mercado Deli Market establishing itself as an extraordinarily vital and vibrant part of the Didsbury community. The arepas, paninis and cachitos (stuffed Venezuelan breakfast pastries. Yes you’ll love them) take centre stage here, but the deli section, resplendent with antipasti and assorted deli market produce is worth dedicating some time to investigating further. Just to be on the safe side, bag a few empanadas while you’re mulling your deli decisions and thank us for the recommend later.
Elliot Eastwick’s World Famous Hot Sauce
As this piece is being written, former Hacienda and Revolution Radio DJ Elliot Eastwick will be dropping the latest in his increasingly long and diverse line of hot sauces, as he unleashes his butter buffalo (not a euphemism. Dunno what it would even mean, to be fair. Just sounded rude as soon as I saw it typed out) on the world. The silky, New York inspired chicken wing coater follows on from such saucy variants as the OG World Famous Hot Sauce, Poppadom Preach (a fusion of all the classic poppadom dip pots in one miraculous bottle), black garlic bbq and, of course, the granddaddy of ’em all, pineapple ghost (Elliot is yet to confirm my suspicions that this is simply heavily fermented Lilt, but his silence speaks volumes)
Then throw in a pizza oil that essentially serves as a Swiss Army knife for the condiment world, multifaceted enough to be drizzled on your favourite slice one minute, some scrambled eggs the next and then onto any number of cuts of meat as they make their journey from grill to plate, juices intertwining with the oil to concoct a wildly sumptuous array of flavours. Oh, and how about some Carolina Reaper salt? Sprinkle it on your potato salad or some chips and watch the saliva cascade from your chops (and onto your chops) as it puckers up your lips in the most delightful, flavoursome way imaginable. Prime takeaway tackle in your own kitchen. What could be better?
All of Elliot’s sauces are vegan and, most importantly, a real labour of love. A cursory glance at the main man’s Twitter timeline is enough to inform you of how dedicated he is to his relatively newfound craft and, in all honesty, it’s utterly joyous to see someone so dedicated and passionate about what they create. The entire range is a must for any fridge all year round, BBQ season or not.
Ketchup, French’s Mustard, mayo, garlic mayo, sweet chilli sauce, perinaise, sriracha. That’s about as far as most British barbecue condiment counters reach. A sturdy mix that more than does the job, but that’s not to say that it cannot be improved upon. And when you knock back your first hit of Mama Z’s banana ketchup, you’ll wonder why it hasn’t been in your life for much, much longer. The versatility of it is such that, not only can you decadently drizzle this Filipino flavour bomb all over your chicken or pork (or, honestly, any meat or veg of your choosing), you can marinade your meats in it too, pre-barbie. While the spice scale is well under control with the banana ketchup, Mama Z turns it up a notch with her tamarind Hot Zos (short for her real name Zosima). Based on the flavours of Filipino soup sinigang, the Zos delivers an intoxicating wallop of flavour and spice that goes particularly hard when doused onto flatbreads or tacos filled with grilled goods of your choosing.
In addition to her burgeoning sauce empire, Mama Z also announced this past week that, in collaboration with Yen from Wok’s Cluckin, the pair will be opening their own shop and café, brilliantly named Yes Lah, in Didsbury, with a Kickstarter campaign launching tomorrow morning (Friday, April 29th). One drop of Z’s sauces should be all you need to convince you to drop some quids her way.
Devil Dog Sauces
If you’ve paid a visit to General Stores, Bernie’s Grocery or A Taste of Honey (all three of which are also outstanding gaffs from which to pick up BBQ supplies), you’ll have no doubt had your eyes drawn to Devil Dog’s chilli sauces. They’re pretty difficult to ignore, drawing you in from afar like a Jack Russell to a tennis ball, with their exhilarating flavour combinations and fluorescent labels. The blending of full bodied fruit and chilli combos provides some ferociously piquant smacks of heat that are as bold as they are delicious.
Ancho Grande and Apple, Urfa Biber and Watermelon, Gochugaru and Ginger, Caroline Reaper & Blackberry with Lemon Thyme… these flavours are very much ‘We Are Not In Kansas, Any More’ territory but thankfully, never verge anywhere near gimmickry. This is acid and heat based alchemy at its finest. Experimentation at an elite level and a degree of culinary artistry that has led to collabs with breweries such as Rivington (Sour Cherry, Habanero & Porter Chilli Sauce), Runaway (Ghost Pepper, Smoked Mushroom Ketchup) and Northern Monk (Heathen Hot Sauce). Work your way through the entire range this summer.
Ad Hoc, Northern Quarter
Once you find yourself on Edge Street, there is the temptation to drop whatever you were thinking about doing and just parking yourself outside Common for a few hours with a steady supply of pints and Nell’s slices to keep you company. And while that is obviously a tremendous plan, you’d also be doing yourself and your upcoming barbecue a huge disservice if you didn’t stock it with booze from Ad Hoc on the opposite side of the street. The low key Northern Quarter bev stockist and bar, run by Miles Burke, opened last year and has been rapturously received by their steady stream of customers, enthused by the global selection of craft beers, humongous French ciders and wines all colours of the fucking rainbow. Those French ciders in particular are a massive crowd pleaser, all gallic and prestigious looking, radiating in the summer sun in their litre bottles. Bang them in your ice filled paddling pool (or your fridge, whatever) and you’re laughing.
Le Social Wine, Pollard Yard
Action Bronson once described natural wine as ‘adult juice’ and, after a few minutes in the company of Le Social proprietor Jerome, you will share the same fervour for these technicolor bottles of grapes. Operating out of a nonchalant unit in Pollard Yard, Jerome sells online and has bottles stocking the shelves and fridges of General Stores and FoodHalls across the city.
Whether it’s sparkling, orange, light red, dark red or Panda Pops pink, not only will you be beguiled by the aesthetics, you’ll also be educated by the craft of each bottle, with Jerome’s knowledge and history second to none. Allow Jerome to make you a few recommends and, if possible, let him know what meats going to be laying on your grill so he can more expertly curate his selections for you.
Vin de Bodega, Very Online
Bodega discourse is rampant on Twitter at the moment, with New Yorkers receiving flak for not registering that corner shops and convenience stores exist in literally every city and town in the world. But still, the aesthetic, vibe and attitude presented in pop culture of bodegas is still pretty undefeated as it’s taught us you can grab an everything bagel, a nuclear orange Mexican Fanta and some Twizzlers while also watching a fearless shopkeeper disarming a pistol wielding lunatic. So who’s to say if New Yorkers are right or wrong for being so adamantly proud of their neighbourhood fizzy pop and crisp shops?
One Bodega we can all agree on though, is Vin de Bodega, which has been keeping Manchester fuelled with only the very best natty wines for the last couple of years. The lovechild of Eoghan Neburagho, Jack Surplus, Razz Ashraf and Rick Farthing, VdB is the ‘answer to your needs and the ice to your juice’ in the words of Owen. “The bodega boys don’t judge. You’ll catch us drinking orange wines with kebabs if it tastes good” reads a quote from Jack on the official VdB website, which is a life mantra we all must share, especially when the variety of juices on offer is as colossal as this. Pair any of these with your kebabs, burgers, ‘dogs or salads and you can’t go wrong.
As is obviously the case with any article of this ilk, the above is by no means an exhaustive list and there are plenty of other great indie spots from which to pick up some spectacularly good gear for a barbecue. But using this band of prize fighters as your starting line up is not a bad way to go about putting together some of the most unforgettable grilling sessions you or your mates will ever experience.