Sustainable and Sublime: The Alan is Producing Home Grown Greatness on Princess Street

Through no fault of their own, the terms ‘sustainable’ and ‘locally sourced’ are en route to becoming buzz words, aimed at enticing diners towards restaurants who slap them across their menus as a box ticking exercise rather than a credible desire to promote regional independents and a healthier environment. At The Alan, Manchester’s newest and most heavily instagrammed hotel, however, these words are not mere opportunistic phrases, but an absolute way of life in their kitchen.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with venues promoting the use of sustainable produce from the local area. It is an admirable dedication to providing a better future for everybody involved. But when multinational chains are boasting about the sources of their woefully inadequate supplies, more as cash grabbing marketing ploy than actual consideration for British farmers, everything can begin to feel a bit pulled pork and salted caramel. Yes, we get it, you’re doing that really popular thing that everyone else is doing. Good for you (ever so slight ‘Christian Bale having a meltdown on the set of Terminator’ voice).

Then you arrive at The Alan and realise just how important, fulfilling and wonderful this local sustainability can be.

Unassumingly located on Princess Street, just round the corner from the roast meats and rice of China Town, The Alan opened to a plethora of grid posts in February, all tastefully curated shots of exposed brickwork and brass industrial lighting. The tranquility exuding from their social media posts welcomes you as you step through the entrance foyer and into the dining area, where I take my seat at the open plan kitchen to discover more about the menu from the man behind it – Head chef Iain Thomas.

Some of the most sustainable service in town. Image: The Alan/instagram

Systematically deseeding a pomegranate ahead of an oncoming table of 12 as I meet him, Thomas is fresh off a visit from a mightily impressed Jay Rayner and only too happy to regale me with the whereabouts of each location from which his ingredients are procured, from the magic of Nantwich’s Cinderwood Market Garden to his very own allotment in Hattersley. With a brief, donkey acquiring, Narco shifting detour to Colombia in-between. But more on that later.

“I try to keep everything as local as I can,” explains Thomas, a veteran of the trade since he was 16, taking in the kitchens of The Midland Hotel, The Refuge and Edinburgh’s Michelin starred 21212 among other notable establishments along the way. “Aztec Farms deliver fresh trays of herbs for me, then things like the parsley and the broccoli are from my allotment in Hattersley. On the menu there’s ‘Nana Betty’s rhubarb and custard. The rhubarb’s from my allotment too. We use Cinderwood as well. What they’re doing is amazing. Then we’ve got mushrooms from Polyspore, who grow them in Altrincham then deliver them by bike, so there’s no carbon emissions or anything.

“Our bread’s from Companio. Their Salford five seed sourdough is the best sourdough ever. So yeah, I try and keep everything within Manchester, Cheshire and Lancashire wherever I can. Obviously not everything can be sourced from these places so for some ingredients I go a bit further afield. I get Yorkshire feta, although it’s not called feta, it’s called fettle, but that’s all about getting the food miles down. I can get a great product from Yorkshire instead of having it shipped over from Greece.”

As Thomas rattles off his list of North West suppliers, the realisation of just how rich the region is in top quality produce is staggering. Yes, OK, it’s hardly a secret that the North, with its seemingly boundless rolling countryside, knocks out an impressive amount of fruit, veg and meat, but the depth of choice is akin to Pep Guardiola trying to select his starting XI every match day. Quantity and quality, wherever you look.

Could quite happily work our way through all of this. Image: The Alan/instagram

But all this luxury of choice being at a chef’s disposal is useless unless they know what to do with it. Fortunately for The Alan, they have a head chef who can pair back-to-basics simplicity with flavourful artistry.

“I like every dish to have a little story behind it, like my Nanna Betty’s rhubarb and custard, it’s got hobnobs on it, which is my Nanna’s favourite biscuit and little meringue sticks that look like those candy cigarettes you used to have as a kid, and I remember getting in trouble for pretending to smoke with them when I was little. So that’s why that’s on the menu. Then the cauliflower tikka has three nods in there. One, to the Curry Mile, which is only 10 minutes away in Rusholme, then to chicken tikka, which was, or still is, the most popular dish in the UK and then to Dundee, where I lived for a while, which was once the spice capital of the world, so it ties all three things together.

“The ox cheek terrine is amazing, with the dill pickle gel, which we make by taking the juice from the jars and thickening it. But then, it might be that we come up with something on the day. A supplier could say to me ‘oh I’ve got this and this if you want it’ and I’ll use it for a new dish that day. I get bored easily so I’m always wanting to freshen things up.

This restless energy results in a selection of small plates brimming with character, reflecting the effortless elegance of their surroundings. Yes, there’s a sleekness to them, but one rooted in Mancunian industry and chutzpah. The glow of the heat lamps at the rear of the kitchen, maintaining the temperature of various herbs from Aztec Farms and Thomas’ Tameside allotment, give off a glow reminiscent of scientific experimentation, providing a suitable backdrop to the curiosity that seems to propel many of the chef’s ideas.

YES. Image: The Alan/instagram

But how difficult is it to maintain such a high level of service and creativity while also controlling the aforementioned sustainability and locality?

“It’s hard work. Obviously not absolutely everything can be sustainable because of the way the world is, but I think we’re trying as much as we can and I’m learning more and more every week to see where we can go with it. With the allotment that helps a lot because I can keep an eye on everything there and can keep adding to it. For instance there’s bee hives there so we get honey from those. I mean, I don’t have anything to do with the bees ‘cos I won’t go near the bee hives but someone else does it for me. But it makes you realise how important seasonality is and how much commercial growers have ruined it. So with the project I’ve got in Hattersley, I can try and keep on top of that and learn more about the growing aspect too.”

And when something cannot be found nearby and a far flung adventure is required to land the perfect element, say when you desperately need the absolute best chocolate for your dessert menu, for instance, then why not offset that scouring of the globe and all those air miles and jet fuel by buying a herd of donkeys for the village in Colombia where it’s being grown?

“The chocolate is an amazing story. I use Luker, who are helping to try and drive the cocaine trade out of Colombia, leaving all this extra land. So they teach the farmers with all this land that they don’t know how to use how to grow chocolate and then they buy the cocoa off them. All the money is at source as well because the beans are all bought in Colombia, they’re not shipped in from anywhere else.

In full flow. Image: The Alan/instagram

I have a friend who works for Choc Affair in York, who supply me with the chocolate from Luker. One of the initiatives they’ve undertaken is buying bikes for all the kids in this village in Colombia where they grow their chocolate, so they can get to and from school. Only they realised the land was too hilly and boggy, so they took the bikes back off them and bought the kids donkeys instead. So although we can’t get zero food miles from chocolate, we can at least use a decent, honest company to buy from.”

So whether it’s directly being involved with the growing of the items that stock the prep benches every day or indirectly involved with chocolate infused cartel displacement and donkey rides in South America, The Alan is already proving to be much, much more than just a pretty face on instagram. It’s a hotel that can boast a kitchen full of soul and character, one which puts community first, whether that community is a few minutes down the road or in the forests of Colombia.

Through Iain Thomas’ experience and creative zest, The Alan can back up its abundance of style with a decadent wallop of substance. And, safe in the knowledge that the dining menus can also be enjoyed from within the comfort of one of the hotel’s 137 immersive rooms, there’s nothing stopping you indulging in their Arctic Roll from within the majesty of an Emperor sized bed, atop 200 thread count Egyptian cotton. If you need any more convincing after that sentence, then there’s no help for you. You need that experience in your life, just like you need to experience the rest of Thomas’ menu in all its locally sourced, sustainable glory.

Namii is Knocking out Next Level Viet Lunches on New York Street

Can be hard work lunch, can’t it? So often gets overlooked between breakfast being ‘the most important meal of the day’, tea/dinner being the meal you spend all day looking forward to and then you’ve got the advent of brunch, bottomless or otherwise, usurping lunch from everyone’s dining priorities. If you’re in town it’s a quick three quid dropped in Tesco Express or Morrison’s. At home it’s a butty or last night’s leftovers with Steph’s Packed Lunch (which is a pretty sound combination, to be fair). Namii are now looking to change all of that.

Throwing open their doors in November of last year, the Vietnamese kitchen and cocktail bar has been holding down a very steady operation on New York Street, which is no easy feat given the significant drop off in footfall during daytimes in the city centre. Not to mention the standard of competition emanating from nearby China Town. Then again, when you’re presented with the level of offerings which grace the menu at Namii, you shouldn’t be surprised as to why they are proving so popular.

It’s easy to almost be overwhelmed by the menu at Namii when you first glance upon it. It’s big. Six sections big. But unlike so many other establishments where the menu more closely resembles War and Peace, Namii actually does justice to their myriad of options.

With so much to choose from, it can be a delicate balance when attempting to nail the correct combination of choices. Fortunately, this is meticulously catered for with Namii’s selection of taster menus.

Depending on how voracious your appetite is, you can opt for either the Lunch Taster Menu (available Friday-Sunday between 12-4 for £22 per person), where your meal will arrive in a couple of waves, firstly featuring Chà Giò (aubergine, butternut squash and Vietnamese crispy rice rolls) and Nem Nuong (beef and pork patties infused with Asian spices, mint and Thai red chilli) then a second selection of Vietnamese chicken cà ri, lemongrass coconut chicken and one of the house signature phos. Or, maybe you want the power to remain in your own hands. In which case you can move in the direction of the lunch menu, at the same price point, where you can piece together an early afternoon mini-banquet of three of the ‘kitchen signatures’. Our recommends would veer towards the double fried garlic pork, the aforementioned Chà Giò and the chef’s dim sum selection.

But perhaps you find yourself desiring something on a grander scale from a lunch. Maybe you’re wheeling out the big guns to impress your mates, family or colleagues. Organising a feast for a group can be a bit daunting. The pressure’s on to produce and regularly set menus and selections of small plates can fail to deliver the required wow factor. In their quantity they forget about quality. But by laying on their variety of taster menus, Namii have masterfully circumvented this traditional letdown and instead provided one of the most exciting and dynamic set menus in town.

The standard taster menu, at £39 a head is four waves and seven dishes, including the sumptuous Szechuan black pepper beef and a ‘Zen Garden’ dessert, complete with chocolate pandan, which is obviously brilliant.

Another step up from there, however, you’ll find the Phoenix Menu, which really is where business picks up. While it’s pricier, at £55 per person, it’s also coming at you with a whole flame grilled squid, coated in a delectable garlic fennel marinade and served with a spicy tamarind BBQ sauce. The king prawns and soft shell crab in the second wave of this menu are also not to be slept on, either. This is Henry VIII levels of banqueting, here. If Henry VIII was into Vietnamese food and not being a weird man child who lopped his wives’ heads off for a laugh.

For that proper, monumental sense of grandeur, the Grand Table, located in the centre of the restaurant, is ideal for large groups, seating 14 and providing the decadence a Vietnamese feast for over a dozen ravenous diners so richly deserves. And once your revelry is complete round the table, it can continue accompanied by a DJ late into the night on Saturdays or, alternatively, it can be scored by acoustic sessions between 1-4pm earlier in the day if you’re just getting started or are perhaps recovering from quite a large Friday night.

So whether it’s wanting to level up the usual lunch fare with something a little more exotic or a big, bombastic triumph of a meal that you’re looking for, New York Street’s latest addition to Manchester’s long standing Vietnamese scene is a surefire winner.

Mama Z and Woks Cluckin Launch Kickstarter For Yes Lah Café

Yes Lah is the combined dream of what Yen and I love doing – feeding people. And if we get to do so by sharing our culture and heritage then that’s even better.

– Zosima ‘Mama Z’ Fulwell

Living as we currently do in an age where all this *gestures vaguely towards the news and the outside world* feels utterly rotten a lot of the time, when word reaches you that not one but two of the hardest working, most vibrant and exciting chefs in town are not only collaborating on a new project together, but that it will also be a permanent residence of their very own, a wave of elation overcomes you so ferocious you’ll feel as though you could karate kick through a solid brick wall. Much like the energy that is channeled from hearing the opening riff of ‘Man I Feel Like A Woman’ by Shania Twain.

So when Zosima ‘Mama Z’ Fulwell and Woks Cluckin’s Yen Tham announced last Saturday that they were moving into their own spot in Didsbury, the entire Manchester hospitality community responded with a wholehearted deluge of support, spreading the news far and wide. All weekend, instagram stories and Twitter timelines mirrored each other with countless people sharing the announcement, both thrilled for Zos and Yen and chomping at the bit to discover more about what they have planned for their new unit in Didsbury.

It is a dream that has been a long time coming, as Zos told EATMCR earlier this week.

Yes Lah was in the pipeline for a while, ever since Yen and I met. We met at Hatch during our summer residency there in 2018 and have since then worked together doing supper clubs, helping each other out at each of our events and ultimately just became like family.

For years we always spoke about what we wanted to do and before we knew it was Yes Lah, we always knew we wanted a space to combine our favourite things. Yen has a real passion for baking and this works well with our menu and concept as I love all the savoury things.

Working around the city we felt there was a gap in the market in what we wanted to offer, especially by being able to bring together the incredible people and makers we have met along the way. Our collaborative supper clubs always played homage to our heritage and they were amazing. When we were out together working it just became natural that we came as a pair so in a sense it was fitting for us to go into business together.

When we would be out trading at different street food gigs, we would always brainstorm and laugh loads about all the mad ideas we would want to do. Finally, 5 years on, we have taken the plunge and it’s so exciting!

So now the news is out there, what should we be expecting from Yes Lah when it opens later this year?

Yes Lah is a space we want to be for everyone. Expect not only great Filipino and Malaysian inspired food on the menu, but also different ESEA (East and South East Asian) flavours we want to shout about.

Flavours such as Pandan and Ube in our coffee and Yen’s tasty baked treats, to sambal, noodles and great flavourful fresh lunches you can grab to take away or sit in. We don’t want to give too much away but it will be an amalgamation of all of our favourite things and what we love to eat and drink, so hopefully those who visit us will also love it as much as we do.”

Not content with Yes Lah operating as solely a café however, Zos and Yen will also provide a retail offering with an onsite shop where diners and customers can source the produce with which to replicate their favourite Filipino and Malaysian dishes at home.

We really want to work with great local suppliers, growers and makers, having a small retail offering on site for people to be able to grab ingredients to make dishes at home or even a last minute gift for a loved one.  We have some fabulous makers in mind to stock at our shop and that ranges from amazing independent food products that we love and have tried along the way, to the fresh and dry ingredients you might have to go to larger Asian supermarkets or China Town to get.

We want Yes Lah to be a place for people to be able to pick up those ingredients so they can create Asian dishes at home. If we don’t have those ingredients in, we want it to be a space where you can ask and we can try and help.

We know it can be challenging recreating dishes, or a bit intimidating asking in big shops, to feeling overwhelmed with different ingredients, so we want to bridge that gap for people and hopefully be able to help you with what you are looking for.

And, as if running a café and shop isn’t enough, there will also be cooking classes, supper clubs and workshops on the schedule for Yes Lah.

As I love to do cooking classes I am excited to use Yes Lah as a base to do them whilst also allowing other great makers to use the space for workshops or supper clubs. We are so excited to be able to give that platform to others. Workshops and supper clubs are a great way to learn, to explore different cuisines and connect the things happening in the city. I love how events like this bring the community together and we really feel that Yes Lah will be a fantastic space to do this.

“Expect our hospitality at Yes Lah as we want everyone to feel at home. Oh, and also expect to hear Yen’s amazing loud and infectious laugh. It’s really hard to not love it and laugh along with her too.

As with all new ventures, however, the road to Didsbury was far from straightforward. The original site for Yes Lah was initially located in Stockport, but after six months of being messed around by the building owners, the deal fell through and a new spot needed to be secured. Fortunately, south Manchester delivered and within the next few months, should be home to some of the most sublime South East Asian cooking in the country.

Before then though, things are going to get well and truly kickstarted this evening, when Yes Lah’s Kickstarter goes live.

Both Zos and Yen have kept full details of the Kickstarter pledges under wraps for the time being, building anticipation, much like when there’s a new (non Affleck) Batman film on the horizon or an upcoming Pusha T album is about to drop, with a couple of sneak peeks as to what will be available for those who wish to invest.

I would be lying if I didn’t say it is by far one of the most nerve wracking things we both have ever done” Zos reveals, “but for being such a small business funding most of it ourselves, it’s literally everything we have going into this and a kickstarter to help us along the way would just be amazing. I have seen the fantastic opportunities that these platforms can give to businesses, and if they create more jobs and do great things for a location then I am all for it.

“I have pledged to some cracking kickstarters, large or small, and being able to help someone’s dream come true is just the best. Saying that, we have been really thoughtful about our kickstarter and really want to give fantastic pledges for people to come and enjoy Yes Lah in different aspects of the space. We want people to have lots of great things to look forward to or to enjoy, just as we have loved when we have pledged ourselves to other kickstarters. Expect workshops, supper clubs, food items and other great things to pledge for.”

But with their dreams so close to becoming a reality, what has been the most difficult part of the journey for Zos and Yen en route to reaching their destination?

Probably having the balls to do it and taking the plunge. We are only small and literally starting from the ground up, again, so it’s a scary thought when you have never had a site before. Obviously money is also another factor but I suppose being messed around for six months at the last minute with our original site wasn’t ideal.

We had been looking for a space and found a site since the start of September last year. Due to covid and building work among other things out of our control, we then found after six months of basically waiting that our site got given to someone else. It really was a kick in the teeth at the time because we could of been doing other things but it was just something we unfortunately couldn’t plan for.

I think the worst was literally the unknown of not taking on events in the anticipation of being in the original space, or planning ahead with work because we literally didn’t know when we would get the call about the building. To be honest, I don’t think the landlord  understood the concept of Yes Lah but in hindsight, we both feel that our site in Didsbury is a much better fit and as corny as it sounds, everything happens for a reason lah!

The rising costs of everything after Covid is very stressful and doesn’t help when it comes to doing something so big for us like this, but, we have worked so hard and wanted this for so long that it just felt like the right step. It’s the biggest risk that we have ever taken, but it’s the best risk too!

So, with only a few hours to go until the Kickstarter drops at 6pm and those pledges start rolling in, what is Zos most excited about on this next stage of the Yes Lah adventure?

I am most excited about curating the space, the menu, shop playlist and just getting stuck in. Yen just absolutely loves baking so she is probably itching to feed everyone her amazing bakes. I really can’t wait to just welcome old and new customers in our new space and have everyone enjoy it. We really can’t wait to settle into our new neighbourhood in Didsbury and already feel so welcome next to our lovely neighbours in the area. We are so overwhelmed with the support already so far, it’s genuinely just made us so happy we want to pinch ourselves with excitement.

It’s still so surreal but honestly I am just so glad I can finally shout about it now because it was the biggest secret for so long I’ve ever had to keep!

And now the secret is out, are we excited for a dynamic duo of South East Asian chefs to be opening their ultimate passion project after years of serving up some of Manchester’s most sensational street food? FUCKING YES LAH

YOU CAN PLEDGE TO YES LAH’S KICKSTARTER HERE FROM 6PM, FRIDAY 29TH APRIL

Manchester for Ukraine Fundraiser 🇺🇦

We’ve partnered with some of Manchester’s venues and brands, to bring you a raffle, for which 100% of the proceeds will go towards helping Ukraine.

This will be done through Action Against Hunger’s Humanitarian appeal. Tickets are £15, which is enough to provide 15 hot meals for Ukrainian refugees.

Please click this link to enter the raffle: https://tinyurl.com/Mcrforukraine

PLEASE NOTE: You will contacted directly by the charity – ignore any contacts from outside of that organisation.

All The January Dining Offers You Need To Know About In Manchester

Feels good to get that first week of January out of the way, doesn’t it? You’ve finally stopped eating meat, cheese, Baileys soaked cornflakes for breakfast and entire selection boxes in one sitting. That weird sweating/wheezing combo that follows you everywhere throughout the last week of December has disappeared and now all that’s left is to navigate the remaining three weeks of the year’s shittest month with the roughly £7.48 residing in your bank account until payday.

Which is where this big fucking list of money saving dining offers comes in handy.

January is bleak at the best of times, let alone when it’s crusading towards us with a boatload of Omicron and hapless government indecision. The Baltic, wheelie bin disrupting winds and jean dampening downpours feel a lot less fucking charming when they are a few days removed from the tinsel and turkey. Instead they merely serve as an ear numbing slap across the chops as you leg it from another joyless, muscle manipulating torture session at the gym you will abandon about a fortnight into February, to the tram heaving with similarly melancholy commuters, all yearning for the fast forward button to propel them to a Spring bank holiday weekend.

Yet there is reason to be cheerful. Actually, there’s a few dozen.

Restaurants and bars across Manchester, reeling from a barren second half of December, are doing their best to entice you away from whatever overhyped series you’re planning on dedicating your life to for the next month and instead want to maintain a perpetual pang of positivity among the general public by keeping them sat across tables from each other, rather than on settees, resentfully picking at a plate of steamed fish and cauliflower rice with an episode of The Tourist.

But who’s offering what? What sort of percentages are we talking here? What days are these discounts valid and is there any small print attached?

Let’s run you through it, shall we?

First up, how does 50% off food at Refuge sound? Because between Monday and Wednesday until the end of the month, you and up to five mates can gorge on all the Voltini your expanded post-Christmas waistlines can handle. Book in advance and dine from the all day menu and you’re all set for a mammoth midweek for the ages. That pork chop with chimichurri and grilled pineapple never looked so appetising. Not to mention the slow cooked ox cheek with mole and crispy onions.

For just £25 per person, Cottonopolis are weaving their way into our hearts with a SEVEN COURSE ‘Taste of Cotton’ set menu. Available all day from Monday to Thursday and from 4pm on Sunday, this banquet of baos, sushi, robata grilled goods and more not only adorns your plates with everything from tiger prawn and water chestnut gyoza to crispy tofu and teriyaki mushroom baos and beyond, but also comes with a free drink to wash your joyful Japanese journey down with.

Yeah, just gonna take the lot, ta”. Image: Cottonopolis

On the outskirts of the Northern Quarter, Ramona are seeing 2022 in with ‘Marguary’ between 5-7pm from Wednesday to Friday every week. Margaritas will only set you back a fiver, while their cheesier, saucier, differently spelled namesake Margheritas are just a quid a slice. Thicc slices at Poundland prices. Happy fucking New Year.

Should you prefer your slices inspired by the East Coast of America rather than the Midwest, however, then Nell’s has your hook up. At both of their city centre sites (Common and Kampus) and Chorlton outpost The Beagle, the New York slice lords are giving you 50% off their entire muddafuckin’ menu, as long as you dine in and book in advance. In short, that means a 14 inch pie could be your’s for less than a fiver (Marinara), while 22 inches of saucy dough will see you nab a quid back from a tenner in some cases. Put those quids towards a half off ice cream sandwich for £2.50 or maybe a few 75p dip pots for those spare crusts. Bing Bong.

Your’s for a fiver. Image: Nell’s Pizza

The half price deals are not restricted to Nell’s though, with Ducie Street Warehouse showcasing their new all vegan offering, masterfully curated by head chef Andrew Green, at 50% off from Monday to Thursday until the end of the month. Think crispy peanut cauliflower, sweet potato fritters, mafalde pasta ribbons and vegan laksa. Oh and celeriac shawarma. Do not forget the celeriac shawarma. Or I will fucking fight you. Or just be really disappointed in you. Either way, don’t forget it.

Blues Kitchen are also getting in on the 50% off game, with their supper menu only setting you back half as much as it usually would from Sunday to Thursday until the 31st. But if you’re craving a big, mucky burrito over baby back ribs, then you can nip over to Luck, Lust, Liquor and Burn all day Sunday to Thursday and from 5pm on Friday for half price tortilla wrapped decadence.

If half price food in wraps is your bag, then Bab are also knocking 50% off all their kebabs between Monday and Wednesday. More of a bun fan? Almost Famous’ burgers share the same discount all day between Sunday and Thursday then from 5pm on Friday. Although for those of you who operate on the plant based end of the spectrum, or who are simply giving Veganuary a right royal go, the tremendous Black Leaf are knocking half off their entire menu throughout this month and, as if that wasn’t enough, they’re also keeping the deal rolling through the first fortnight of February.

Plant based perfection under moody lights. Prime winter tackle whether you’re vegan or not. Image: Black Leaf

And it’s not just within the confines of the city centre where these BOGOF bounties are to be found (not sure why I suddenly started typing like a pirate there) with Chorlton institution The Lead Station firing off half your bill as long as you make a booking between 4.30-7pm from Monday to Friday.

Sticking with pub grub, Bay Horse Tavern have chopped the big 0.5 off their food bills for the month, which guarantees you plenty of heartwarming comfort as the temperatures hover around freezing for the entirety of January.

Down Deansgate way, BOX and Manahatta are also halving scran bills all day, every day with Corn Exchange stalwart Banyan doing likewise every day apart from Saturday, with Sunday roasts also being included in their offering, which is obviously brilliant.

Small plate connoisseurs will buzz off the El Gato Negro, Canto and Habas hat-trick of 3-for-£15, which is being offered up all day Sunday-Thursday for the entire month.

Circling back to delectable discs of dough, Crazy Pedro’s 16 inch creations are all a tenner for the length of this 31 day winter hellscape, which you could then wash down with a few £6 cocktails at Mecanica, who have introduced a menu of 22 concoctions to see in 2022. Or you could head to Moxy between 5-8pm on any weekday for their special 5.01 menu, serving up cocktails for a fiver until the 31st.

Ever so slightly below the 50% threshold are Salvi’s, who have a 40% off food deal at their NQ space and mozzarella bar between Sunday and Thursday. Cutting Room Square session spot The Jane Eyre, where so many hours can be so easily lost among their cocktail menu, is cutting a quarter off all total bills from Monday to Thursday every week of January to make the new year that little bit happier. As you might expect, booking ahead is advised at both establishments.

This and the entire cocktail menu, pls. Image: The Jane Eyre

For those of you who are perhaps feeling a tad more extravagant, especially those of you who saw Omicron decimate your Decembers, Wood has rolled out it’s Tasting For Two deal for the entire month after a wildly popular first few days. The seven course lunch menu is a twofer every Friday and Saturday (excluding Saturday lunch), while the nine course dinner version is on offer Wednesday – Friday.

Oh, and if you fancy just being given a tenner to spend, no strings attached, just download the Turtle Bay app and you’ll automatically be given £10 to spend, no questions asked. Just saunter in, spend and strut straight back out again if you wish. Or just belly up to the bar for a long session of Red Stripes and Rum & Tings. Whatever you want.

Obviously, there are far more discounts being delivered all across the city this month that are not listed above, but we believe these 25 are a pretty substantial jumping off point. Head out and help hospitality see in a much better new year than the old one we just left.

Freight Island, revisited: Manchester’s most ambitious venue thrives post restrictions

When Freight Island opened at the end of July 2020, it felt like it was the beginning of the end of life under lockdown. Pubs and restaurants had just been allowed to reopen, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was on the horizon and things were feeling a bit more normal again.

As we know, things didn’t exactly pan out that way, but Freight Island has been the venue that has lead the way of coping under the pressures of enforced closures and restrictions.

An article published in The Business Desk last week wrote that Freight Island “has been a huge Manchester success story and is set to become one of the most visited destination tourism locations in the UK. It is expected that with an estimated footfall figure of around 10,000 visitors per week there will be over £2.4m spent within the local economy.”

Belza Pasta in Freight Island

So after taking a huge hit over the course of the last 18 months, the entertainment industry and specifically venues like Freight Island are actually helping Manchester get back on its feet.

Since the complete easing of restrictions in July, Freight Island has hosted parties, gigs and other performances and it still remains one of the most exciting places to eat and drink in Manchester with 10 food vendors and six bars.

We headed back to Freight Island to see how it’s thriving post Covid restrictions and speak to some of the food traders to see what they’ve got going on.

Slow braised ox cheek ragu

Our first stop is Belzan Pasta who joined Freight Island in November with the opening of the Ticket Hall. Serving Italian inspired dishes made with British ingredients, Belzan already had a popular bistro on Smithdown Road in Liverpool which has won many awards for its seasonal British dishes.

Bringing that same seasonal approach and an emphasis on top quality ingredients, the Belzan team decided they wanted to do something different in Manchester, hence the Italian menu.

Head chef Jess Fenlon tells me that they like to take underutilised products, such as ox cheeks, and big them up, to make dishes like their slow braised ox cheek ragu. The menu changes each season; however, dishes on that menu can change week to week and day to day, depending on what’s available and what is best in stock at that particular moment.

Panzanella from Belzan

Currently, the new menu features a Panzanella, a chopped Tuscan salad which at Belzan is made using chunks of toasted bread and British tomatoes mixed with red onions, black olives, basil and a good glug of olive oil and vinegar.

Another classic favourite, Cacio e Pepe pasta, is a simple dish made with tagolini (thin ribbons of pasta, somewhere in between spaghetti and tagliatelle) in an emulsified sauce flavoured with garlic, pepper and pecorino cheese. “All the staff ask for it,” says Jess.

Jess also tells me how much she loves the up tempo atmosphere at Freight Island and the spectacular events that they put on. After a shift recently, she says how she got to sing along to a live orchestra playing Prince and Elton John. There aren’t many other venues where you could imagine the same happening.

Belzan is open Wednesday to Sunday at the moment but they are looking at expanding to daily, especially in the lead up to Christmas.

Madre tacos

Another Liverpudlian export, Madre Tacos has been part of Freight Island since the start. Madre is a collaboration between the owners of Belzan and London-based taqueria Breddos Tacos. With a menu inspired by the flavours of Mexico City, Madre make everything in house – the tortillas, salsas, marinades and more.

Madre’s head chef and General Manager, Matthew Burke, tells us that since the Ticket Hall opened, it’s been non stop for the team. Initially, Madre was working in a small space in Platform 15, working off a couple of barbecues, but since moving inside, they’ve been able to expand their menu which includes tacos like deep fried pollo asado, tempura cod with jalapeno aioli and salsa mexicana, and slow cooked short rib birria.

Other highlights include cadillac nachos with jalapeño queso, garlic crema, black beans, radish, spring onions, guacamole and all the salsa and a fresh tuna tostada made with sashimi-grade tuna loin.

Cadillac Nachos

Matthew tells us his favourite taco is the classic Al Pastor which has a mix of three different cuts of Iberico pork marinated in achiote, smoky guajillo and fruity ancho and spicy arbol chillies, orange juice and epazote (Mexican oregano).

Following their success at Freight, Madre is now looking to open another venue in Manchester which will serve a more complex menu and high-end experience, similar to their original restaurant in Liverpool, serving dishes like oven roasted pig’s head and the popular chicken and sweetcorn soup. Manchester is desperately in need of more great Mexican food, so I for one am very looking forward to seeing what they have planned.

Moving on to Baratxuri, where everything at their Freight Island restaurant is centred around fire – from the dishes on their Basque menu to their seats which sit huddled around their huge wood-fired grill.

The wood-fired open grill at Baraxturi

You can order food from Baraxturi to wherever you like in Freight Island, but for the real experience, I’d recommend booking one of these seats right by the fire, where you can watch as the chefs expertly their ‘asado’ dishes (meaning from the fire) like beef short rib, whole turbot and Iberico pork collar on the open grill and wood-fired clay oven.

Also on their menu are small plates like a range of Spanish charcuterie, Cumbrian oysters with beef fat and cep mushroom, seafood dishes like salt cod ‘kroketas’, fire-roasted Patagonian red prawns and pulpo (octopus) a la gallega.

Steak cooked over the open grill from Baratxuri

There’s also fresh vegetable dishes like grilled broccoli with Romesco sauce, cauliflower bravas and a heritage tomato salad with Pedro Ximenez sherry vinegar. For dessert, there’s Burnt Basque Cheescake and Orange and Almond Torta.

It’s the inclusion of places like Baratxuri and others that truly make Freight Island different to the street food led offerings of similar venues. This is a proper, high-end menu, served in a place that is welcoming to all.

Finally on our tour, we visited Mi and Pho, who make fresh, vibrant and traditional Vietnamese dishes. It’s a slightly different menu to their Northenden restaurant, tweaked to suit the needs and fast-paced service of Freight.

Photo by Jack Kirwin -JK Photography-

I have to say, when I first heard that Mi and Pho were going to be coming to Freight Island, I was excited. Like with Baratxuri, Freight Island provides a more convenient opportunity to try food from these acclaimed restaurants for people who don’t live near the original restaurants in Ramsbottom and Northenden.

Mi and Pho also joined Freight Island with the opening of the Ticket Hall and has really hit the ground the running. Everything is made in house and it’s been so busy for the team that alongside the team of chefs working in the open kitchen in the Ticket Hall, there is also a team out back in the prep kitchen constantly chopping, marinating and making the stock.

There is also a dedicated team to run the food to customers and go to the market for fresh produce, alongside using larger stores like Wing Yip.

Bahn Mi from Mi and Pho

The impressive menu includes a classic Pho, summer rolls, creamy coconut curry, Vietnamese-style barbecued meats, fresh fish and seafood, and vibrant papaya salads. They are also now offering Bahn Mi – a crusty baguette filled with grilled meats, fish or tofu.

The meats for their Bahn Mi are cooked on a wood-fired grill in a separate outdoor kitchen in the seating area in Platform 15. The char sui pork is cooked sous vide for 12 hours before being thrown onto the grill at the last second before serving.

As executive chef Justin Chung tells me, there’s nowhere to hide with Vietnamese food. The menu changes seasonally and they’re always on the look out for new dishes. Also open five days a week currently, they are thinking about moving to seven days a week from November.

Burgers from Patty Queen

Alongside these four traders, there’s also New York style pizza from Voodoo Rays, eclairs from Choo Choo, soft serve ice creams from Soft Boi and vegan burgers, shawarma and more from Plant Grill.

There are drinks from the newly-arrived Pomona Island bar, alongside Ancoats cocktail bar the Jayne Eyre, and Forever Changes wine bar and bistro, as well as Camden Town Brewery, Koppaberg and the main Freight bar.

Pomona Island bar

Each time you look, Freight Island has grown. A new trader here, a new area to hang out there. It’s a truly pioneering venue where you’d feel as comfortable coming for a few casual pints or a gig, as you would a sit-down high-end meal.

And, by visiting places like this, you’re not only supporting the venue, you’re supporting the small businesses that make it up, and you’re also helping the entertainment industry to rebound following a really challenging time.

To check out what’s on at Freight Island and book a table, visit: escapetofreightisland.com.

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival kicks off this week – what to expect

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF) is returning this week, celebrating the city’s restaurants, bars, traders, producers and more.

Running from the Thursday 16 to Monday 27 September, the event centres around the Festival Hub on Cathedral Gardens, alongside other events and offers at venues across the city.

It’s been two years since the last MFDF and so it’s a welcome return for staple Manchester food event which is now in its 24th year.

Here is everything you can look forward to across the 11 days of the festival.

The Hub

As always, the Festival Hub is the centre of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival and this year can be found at Cathedral Gardens. There’s street food, live music, an artisan market and takeovers by Manchester restaurants.

The Hub is open across two long weekends from Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 September and from Wednesday 22 to Sunday 26 September.

In between the two weekends, there are various events taking place at the Hub and other things happening across the city – more details on all that below.

Hub Events

Manchester’s biggest chippy tea – 22nd September from 5pm

Hip Hop Chip Shop are among the venues taking part

Chippies, traders, pie shops and restaurants are teaming up to create Manchester’s biggest ever celebration of the humble chippy tea. The line up includes Anchors of Didsbury, Hip Hop Chip Shop, JJ Vish and Chips and Street Urchin, who will each will serve their own take on the classic.

There’ll be fish, chips, vegan twists, fizz, beers and, to finish, boozy ice cream from A Few Scoops. It’s free to enter and walk ins are welcome. More info here.

Bull and Bear Takeover – 20th September from 7pm

The Bull and Bear takeover

Tom Kerridge’s Bull and Bear is taking over the Hub with a take on street food – a pub grub inspired menu creating especially for MFDF. The three-course menu includes potted Loch Duart Salmon, a Braised Beef and Blue Cheese Pie, and Banana Custard with Dates, Pistachio and Honeycomb. 

Tickets cost £55 and are available to book here.

Schlosstoberfest – 23rd September from 5pm

Schlosstoberfest at the Hub

Albert’s Schloss is taking over the Hub on Thursday 23 September, with an Oktoberfest themed celebration. Schloss will be serving Bavarian favourites like bratwursts and pretzels in the MFDF Street Kitchen. There’ll be beers, lederhosen and Schloss’ signature high-energy live entertainment.

Free to enter, more info here.

Eat Well x Mana dinner

Manchester’s only Michelin-starred restaurant is hosting a special fundraising dinner, raising money for Eat Well Mcr. Each course of this dinner will be cooked by a different top Manchester chef including Simon Martin of Mana, Eddie Shepherd of The Walled Gardens, Anna Sogaard of Erst, Ben Humphreys of District and Mary-Ellen McTague of The Creameries.

Tickets are sold out for the event but there’s a chance to win the final pair of tickets by entering their prize draw which can be entered here. Tickets for the prize draw cost £20 and the winner will win two tickets for the event worth £400.

Street food

For each long weekend at the Festival Hub, there will be a different line up of local street food traders.

The first weekend (16 to 19 September) will feature burgers from What’s Your Beef, South Asian inspired street food from Aunty Ji’s, Breton crepes and galettes from Maison Breizh, and wraps and wings from Oh My Glaze.

For the second weekend (23 to 26 September), the traders will be Halloumination serving halloumi fries and halloumi burgers, I Knead Pizza with fresh Neapolitan-style pizza, Spoons Desserts serving crepes and waffles, The Spinn with their US-style dirty burgers and Northern Soul Grilled Cheese with their infamous toasties.

Also on the second weekend, Eat Well Mcr are hosting a street food stall to raise money to provide meals and support to people sidelined by poverty. Each day from 24 to 26 September, there will be a different restaurant partner taking over the stall, serving a special MFDF menu where all profits will go to Eat Well Mcr.

Across both weekends, there will also be street food dishes from popular Manchester restaurants at the Just Eat Street Kitchen. The line up includes pan-Asian chicken shop Peck and Yard, Spanish restaurant La Bandera, Vertigo Plant Based Eatery and vegan chippy JJ Vish and Chips.

Artisan Market

Open from midday to 7pm from Thursday 16 to Sunday 19 and Thursday 23 to Sunday 26 September, the artisan market will showcase some of the regions best independent food and drink producers and suppliers.

On the first weekend, the line up includes Chorlton Bread Co, Cafe Cannoli, Devil Dog Sauces, Cocoa and Bloom, Chorlton Cheesemongers, Manchester Cheesecake Co, Eat Well, Bread Flower, Twisted Wheel Beer Co, Prestwich Gin, O’Donnell Moonshine and Jack Berry.

For the second weekend, there will be stalls from Companio Bakery, Paradiso Authentic Italian, Chorlton Cheesemongers, Eat Well, The Gourmet Brownie Co, Ribble Valley Gin, HM Pasties, Crozier Drinks and O’Donnell Moonshine.

More information here.

Bars

There are three bars at the Hub

There are three bars at the Festival Hub: the Manchester Beer Bar, featuring local breweries like Burton Road Brewing, Northern Monkey, Pomona Island Brewery, Bollington Brewery, Brightside, Blackedge, Thirst Class, Stubborn Mule, Bank Top and Silver Street.

The Franklin and Sons Gin and Tonic bar will serve a menu of G&Ts each made using their 100% natural tonics paired with different flavours of Finders Gin.

Across the city

MFDF Wine and Fizz Fest – 17 & 18 September

Taking place at Halle St Peters in Ancoats, the Wine and Fizz Fest will give attendees the chance to taste their way through dozens of wines from independent drinks retailers and producers from across the region including Decent Drop, Grape to Grain, Le Social and UKiYO Republic.

As well as tasting wines, guests can book into tutored masterclasses and buy bottles to take home. There will be live music for each of the three sessions and food will be provided by Cafe Cotton. Tickets cost £12.50 – book here.

Fringe events

Kampus is hosting its own mini food festival

As part of the Festival Fringe, there are various supper clubs, dining events and tastings taking place throughout the 10 days of MFDF.

This includes a collaboration between Ancoats restaurant Elnecot with natural wine suppliers It’s Alive on Tuesday 21 September,

At Kampus, there is a mini food festival taking place with various events hosted by Kampus residents in the Bungalow throughout MFDF. This includes a bespoke five course menu from Tine throughout the festival, tastings and an all-day disco from Le Social, and Jewish-inspired supper club hosted by baker and florist duo Bread Flower.

Offers

Restaurants, bars and venues across the city are offering special deals, discounts and set menus which are available throughout the festival dates.

See the full list here.

The Awards

It feels like a very apt time to celebrate the food and drink industry. Much has changed since the event last took place in September 2019, and so the awards will celebrate those who have worked hard to achieve great things in food and drink over the last two years.

The MFDF Awards Ceremony takes place on Monday 27 September where the winners of the awards in the various categories will be announced.

There’s still time to vote for your favourites in each of the categories. Voting closes at midnight on 20 September. Vote here.

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival is taking place from 16 to 27 September. For more information and to book tickets for various events, visit: foodanddrinkfestival.com.

Patrón Paloma, the drink of summer – have you tried it yet?

Tequila cocktails and long drinks are on the rise. The Margarita has already earned its spot as a classic on cocktail menus and now there’s a new cocktail to try; the Patrón Paloma, which is much simpler, refreshing and just as Mexican.

In its most classic form, the Patrón Paloma is a mix of Patrón Reposado Tequila, grapefruit, soda and lime. And this week, is the UK’s first ever Patrón Paloma Week which is running until Bank Holiday Monday, bars across Manchester and London are offering their own bespoke twists on the classic Paloma with free food pairings too.

One of those bars is Ducie Street Warehouse which is serving classic Paloma cocktail made with Patrón Reposado Tequila alongside a menu of tacos throughout the week.

Ducie Street Warehouse’s classic Patrón Paloma, available until 30 August

Gethin Jones, Beverage Director at Ducie Street, has been working behind Manchester bars for 14 years and has noticed the increased buzz around the Paloma cocktail.

He said: “As the Margarita is now an established classic, drinkers are after the next tequila cocktail and the Paloma has all the characteristics to be just that: refreshing, light and flavoursome, it is perfect for summer. Plus, its fizzy element makes it a great alternative to the trendy spritz cocktails.”

“We have been seeing a rising interest in the Paloma cocktail and, more generally, in long drinks. People are starting to understand Tequila better, appreciating its quality and mixability and therefore looking for new ways to drink the Agave spirit.

He continues: “The Paloma is a refreshing and vibrant cocktail and can be simply made and enjoyed at home too, but as such it requires good quality ingredients, starting from Tequila. Patrón Reposado is a perfect base as it conveys the mellowly and herbaceous character that blends perfectly with the taste of the grapefruit, lime juice and the agave syrup.”

The Paloma is a simple yet versatile cocktail which can be adjusted to suit your tastes and mood.

Gethin says: “The simplicity of this cocktail equally allows a lot of creativity, you can refine and cater it to your taste. For example, in summer you can add fruity elements and notes by simply infusing your Patrón Paloma with strawberries or raspberries without need to cut down or readjust any other element of the recipe. This is perfect for any social gathering requiring pre-batching.”

Gethin has shared with us their classic Patrón Paloma recipe, so if after visiting bars during the Patrón Paloma Week,  if you’d like to try your hand at making the drink at home, you can get the ingredients delivered to your door through the Patrón Pantry on the UK Amazon Store.

Ducie Street Warehouse’s classic Patrón Paloma

Ingredients:

50ml PATRÓN Reposado Tequila
40ml freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
10ml fresh lime juice
10ml agave syrup
Soda water to top
A pinch of sea salt

Method:

Fill a highball glass with ice. Combine all ingredients apart from soda into a shaker, shake with ice and strain into the glass. Top with soda water and garnish with a pink grapefruit slice.

Patrón Paloma Week is taking place from 23 to 30 August.

For more information, visit: jiggerbeakerglass.org/article/paloma-week.

Where to find Patrón Paloma cocktails (and free food) in Manchester this week

The UK’s first Patrón Paloma Week has officially started and bars across the city centre are getting involved making their own versions of the Mexican cocktail.

The Paloma, which if you haven’t already tried it is a refreshing mix of tequila, agave, pink grapefruit juice, lime and soda, is thought to have originated in the town of Tequila (obviously) in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. Don Javier Delgado Corona, the owner of a local bar called La Capilla is most often credited with its creation.

Bars in Manchester have created their own special menus, serving the classic Patrón Paloma alongside their own innovative twists. Some of them are even offering complimentary food pairings (we’re talking tacos and pizza slices) on selected nights.

Patrón Paloma Week runs from 23 to 30 August and here’s a run down of all the bars involved and the drinks you can try across the city.

Escape to Freight Island

Freight Island’s Patrón Paloma Week cocktail

Until 30 August, the Freight Island bar will be serving an exotic twist on the Patrón Paloma called ‘La Columba’. It is made with Patrón Reposado tequila, Aperol, passionfruit syrup, pineapple juice and pink grapefruit soda. Super fruity and perfect for sipping in the sun.

Cottonopolis Food & Liquor

Cottonopolis will pair Japanese and Mexican flavours

Cottonopolis is joining the Patron Paloma week celebrations, pairing their Japanese inspired menu to the classic Mexican cocktail. They will be serving fresh sushi alongside a signature Hacienda Paloma made with Patrón Reposado tequila, bitter liqueur, Maraschino, mezcal, lime juice and pink grapefruit soda.

Plus, on Tuesday between 5 and 7pm you’ll get two free tacos with your Paloma.

Ducie Street Warehouse

Tacos and Palomas at Ducie Street Warehouse

Sticking firmly to the Mexican theme, Ducie Street Warehouse will be serving tacos during throughout the week with the classic Patrón Paloma cocktail – Patrón Reposado tequila, freshly squeezed pink grapefruit, fresh lime juice, agave syrup, soda water and a pinch of sea salt.

This Wednesday between 5 and 7pm, order a Paloma and get a complimentary Mexican Pulled pork taco too.

Liquor and Burn

The White Fruit and Chilli Paloma and Liquor and Burn

Liquor and Burn have come up with a fiery concoction for their Patrón Paloma Week cocktail. Their White Fruit and Chilli Paloma features Patrón Reposado tequila, peach liqueur, pear Liqueur, pink grapefruit juice, lime Juice, soda water and a pinch of red chilli flakes.

Get any snack from the Liquor and Burn menu for free when you order their Paloma special between 5 and 7pm on Thursday.

Motley

The newly-opened cocktail bar on Deansgate, Motley has created a special summery menu with three fresh takes on the classic Patrón Paloma. All made with Patrón Reposado tequila there’s the Blood Orange Paloma with Martini fiero, the Rhubarb Paloma with bitter liqueur and the Grapefruit Micheloma with Schofferhoffer beer.

There’s also a free taco for Paloma drinkers at Motley this Friday between 5 and 7pm. Choose from a fish taco or a beef taco.

El Capo

La Tucita Paloma from El Capo with Midori

El Capo certainly knows its way around a bottle of tequila and this week is serving four variations on the Patrón Paloma including a simple mix of Patrón tequila and fresh pink grapefruit juice; La Tucita with Melon liqueur, grapefruit juice and soda; Summer Breeze with St Germain elderflower liqueur, Pamplemousse liqueur and soda; and the Lone Ranger with sparkling brut rosé and fresh lemon juice.

On Saturday at El Capo between 5 and 7pm, when you order a Patrón Paloma, you’ll get TWO free tacos to enjoy.

Crazy Pedros

Crazy Pedro’s will be pairing pizzas and Palomas

Tequila and pizza is already a classic combo at Crazy Pedro’s in the form of margaritas, and so for Patrón Paloma Week, Pedro’s take on the Patrón Paloma is being paired with pizza across both their sites. Their Patrón Paloma twist is made with Patrón Reposado tequila, El Bandarra Al Fresco aperitif, lemongrass, lime and Ting grapefruit soda.

On Bank Holiday Monday, enjoy free slices of their Gringos pizza (topped with spiced pulled pork, peppers, jalapeños, sweetcorn, tortilla Chips, sour Cream) when you order their Patrón Paloma special.

The Washhouse

The Washhouse has three Palomas to try

Laundrette-disguised speakeasy, Washhouse has created three unique cocktails for Paloma Week using Patrón Reposado tequila. There’s a Paloma with coriander syrup; the Palroni with sweet red vermouth and Palmpelle liqueur; and the Frozen Patrón Paloma with grapefruit, basil and tonic sorbet.

Patrón Paloma Week is taking place from 23 to 30 August.

For more information, visit: jiggerbeakerglass.org/article/paloma-week.