“Meals make the society, hold the fabric together in lots of ways that were charming and interesting and intoxicating to me. The perfect meal, or the best meals, occur in a context that frequently has very little to do with the food itself”– Anthony Bourdain
Separation, both temporary and tragically permanent, has brought communities closer together than ever over the last 16 months. Enduring a year without a family Sunday lunch or a pissed up BBQ with your mates in favour of staring at the same four walls, while you and your unwashed and uncut hair await your fifth Deliveroo of the week, has been a grotesque existence to suffer through. The vigour with which the general public soared back into restaurants and pubs over the last two months was proof, if ever it were needed, that we are a society that, at it’s absolute core, yearn for the simplistic; A pint, a plate of food and people to share it all with.
It is this exact spirit which the late, great Anthony Bourdain championed for the last two decades before his untimely death, in 2018.
The chef turned world travelling documentarian and iconic adventurer covered all manner of subjects across various ends of various spectrums during his multiple circumnavigations of the globe (much of which is meticulously documented in Drew Magary’s breathtakingly good biography in GQ a few month’s after his passing), whether they be culinary, political, socio economic or just stupid, half cut bar debates. The one constant that remained, however, was food and drink as the ultimate unifier. It didn’t need to be the best quality produce, it just needed to be enjoyed in an atmosphere of tolerance and trust – The happy places where we can most comfortably feel like ourselves, whether it’s nursing a solo pint on a slow afternoon or Lady and The Tramping a ramen noodle with a best mate or partner after one too many between-course cocktails.
This Friday (25th June) will mark the third annual ‘Bourdain Day’, on what would have been the great man’s 65th birthday (almost unthinkable to fathom he was only three years shy of pensioner age when he passed, isn’t it?). The day was christened by two of his closest friends, chefs Eric Ripert (who had accompanied Bourdain on his final trip, to Strasbourg, in June 2018) and José Andrés, who told Esquire in 2019 that, “I hope that this is a place that many people will go, will enjoy life, will have a drink. They will cook, they will go to a food truck. They will go to [a] picnic. They will go to [a] street vendor. A hot dog, a fancy restaurant, whatever. And they will toast Tony and wish, ‘Happy Bourdain Day.’”
“I suffered so much grief after what happened that I only hope people will turn all that grief into happiness of life, and remembering how Tony made the world a smaller place by bringing us all together.”– José Andrés
Turning grief into happiness is precisely what we, as a society, have been attempting to accomplish for the last few months, once the doors to hospitality were flung back open, albeit still with varying degrees of restrictions and dangers in place.
Many of us will have suffered the heartbreak of grieving for a loved one, while countless have mourned job losses, the disappearance of their favourite establishments, relationships, you name it, we’ve all grieved in one way or another since last March and this Friday, in memory of a man who so often made us forget our anxieties by allowing us to learn of vibrant, far flung cultures and cuisines, we can continue that process in the most positive, beautiful way possible. By not only toasting Uncle Tony and the invaluable life lessons he taught us, but by indulging in the pastime he became so renowned for – breaking bread across countless tables around a city, from back alley noodle shops to Michelin Star manors and, of course, to Waffle Houses.
So, this philosophy surrounding Bourdain Day had us wondering how we would spend the most idyllic 24 hours working our way round Manchester, from breakfast to ‘bab. As we mulled over our choices, we decided that we could do with a little inspiration from a smorgasbord of the city’s residents, each extremely well known and respected within their fields and, perhaps most importantly, all armed with impressive appetites.
Over the next couple of days, we will bring you the ideal Bourdain Day of half a dozen pretty fearless eaters and drinkers, all of whom are indebted to Bourdain’s own fearlessness, honesty and adventure in one way or another. Not only will this gastronomic sextet reveal where they would send their custom on their day, but they will also share what the former Les Halles hellraiser meant to them personally and where they would have taken him would they have had the opportunity.
So, pre-amble out of the way, here’s onto the opening tag team…
Up first we have the Philippines’ finest, Zosima Fulwell, better known to anyone with even the scantest knowledge of street food in Manchester as Mama Z. You may very well have a bottle of her banana ketchup or Hot Zos in your cupboard right now (if not, we heartily recommend you rectify this immediately and allow your life to be completely and utterly changed) and will have very likely sampled her ludicrously delicious Filipino offerings at any number of pop up events over the last four years, including Hatch on Oxford Road, Grub, Station Hop in Levenshulme and even our very own EATMCR Takeover at The Refuge recently, where she paired up with Pippy Eats to sling some dangerously good noodle dishes.
Being half Filipino, half English and growing up in the Middle East, Zosima is a ‘third culture kid’ who shared her heritage and culture with friends from various different countries during her formative years. It is this pan-cultural identity and knowledge that makes Mama Z such an intriguing and exciting personality for an event such as Bourdain Day.
On the other side of today’s opening round is Luke Cowdrey aka Luke Unabomber – one half of DJ duo The Unabombers, Homoelectric & Homobloc promoter, restauranteur, raconteur and kebab connoisseur. Yes, he’s also off the funny videos on instagram, early Sheffield, Brammall Lane, Sean Bean, what’s wrong with that? Move it on…
Luke, who owns and operates many of the city’s most ambitious and exciting eateries such as The Refuge, Volta, Electrick and the little speakeasy just off Piccadilly called Escape To Freight Island, previously joined us for an immersive kebab tour-cum-history lesson round Rusholme, last year and it was with this experience in mind, on top of his decades of travelling the world, relentlessly tackling all manners of cuisine, that led us back to him. Once again, he failed to disappoint.
So where are our opening act starting their respective days?
Breakfast, Brunch and, erm, Elevenses? (Twelveses as well?)
“My ideal Bourdain Day would definitely have to start with a walk into town,” begins Zosima, “you know, to work up the appetite, but I’d grab some things to eat on the way.”
“ I would walk down Upperbrook street and hit Venus for a cheeky Lamb Pide and a Turkish coffee outside.“– Zosima ‘Mama Z’ Fulwell
Luke meanwhile, is opting for a meal often hilariously chastised by Bourdain in Kitchen Confidential. Brunch.
“I would definitely go to Trove, I love their brunch, it feels really gentle, really beautifully presented, great ingredients, amazing coffee. Their coffee, for me, is in the top three in the city. I love both the Levenshulme one and the one in Ancoats. The bread’s great, obviously. They’re not trying to be too clever but it’s very modernist. I would always take someone there for a new school kind of brunch and a great neighbourhood atmosphere. The merguez sausage is phenomenal there. I’d also head to Another Heart To Feed. They’ve produced something quite momentous there and the lad from Northern Ireland who does their coffee, I forget his name now, but he’s one of the best baristas in the city.
“Anthony Bourdain would love what they’ve done, he’d recognise that it’s not just style over substance. Both have developed their menus so well, they’ve done it very slowly.”
As with all day long sessions, sometimes more than one breakfast is an absolute necessity, as Luke attests with a quite bold strategy of not only an elevenses (not heard of that course since the ’90s tbh) AND a pre-lunch twelveses. Then again, if it is the most important meal of the day, you might as well have it three times just to be sure.
“For elevenses, it would definitely have to be North Tea Power. I think they’re the greatest when it comes to coffee in the city. Everything they do is so subtle and wholesome without any shouting or showing off. Their cheese toastie is a thing of utter genius, so I’d have that, one of their freshly squeezed orange juices and a macchiato. That for me is the stuff of the Gods.– Luke Unabomber
“Then it’s onto Federal’s Just Natas in the Arndale. They’re better than anything I’ve had in Lisbon or Porto. Taking a box of them for a sit in the Northern Quarter is a wonderful thing.
Long Lunches and The Beginning of Bevs
Tastebuds and stomachs sufficiently awoken, lunch is next on the agenda as well as, quite importantly, those first thirst quenching bevs.
“Further up the road from Venus is Seoul Kimchi” continues Zosima on her journey into town, “another spot I really love and such a hidden gem. If I was with a pal I’d share a main, probably a Bibimbap or Tofu Kimchi stew with a side of Beef and Kimchi dumplings.
“You are pretty much halfway to town so I would walk that food off and get a drink in town, probably in Ancoats square in Jane Eyre on a sunny day. If I got a bit peckish I would definitely get a portion of the ham croquettes because they are one of my favourite things and a great little bite.“
For Luke, meanwhile, he’s getting his early afternoon serviced just off Cheetham Hill Road.
“For lunch, there’s a few places but one that really stands out for me, and I’ve been there so many times the last couple of weeks, is That’s Thai, on Cheetham Hill Road. It’s owned by a couple and it’s attached to an MOT garage, so the wife runs the cafe and the husband runs the garage. I told an MEN reporter about it a few years ago and have regretted it ever since.
“It’s such an off piste, back alley, hidden gem sort of place but it’s serving the best bowls of Thai food in Manchester.“– Luke Unabomber
“Their Pad Thai is the best I’ve ever had, bar none. But all the other dishes they’re serving there are authentic bowls that you just aren’t getting anywhere else in the city. Their broth is magical. The flavour and the depth is on another level.
“When you get there, quite often, there’s a fair few rum lads knocking about, but they all behave because the woman who owns the place is very matriarchal, so they don’t muck about. If he was still alive today, I’d have loved to have been able to take Anthony Bourdain there, it’s definitely his sort of place. You go there and get away from everything, it’s no nonsense, authentic Thai street food or peasant food or whatever you want to call it. I just love it.“
“Similarly, if I’m having a bowl of noodles, I might also go to Mi & Pho, which is one of my absolute favourite places. You know they’re doing something right when people are flocking to Northenden for Vietnamese food. Their pho is utter magic and all the flavours and ingredients they use are really on point.”
However, as we have explored before, Luke’s appetites also lie in the Middle East when it comes to his lunchtime habits.
“At Kurdistan Cafe, they do everything really well, but what you want are the proper Kurdish lamb kebabs, done over the wood grill, which gives them this gnarly crispness on the outside, but somehow keeps them tender in the middle. Mix them with the flatbreads from their tandoor and you’ve got something very special. What I also love there is the soup they bring you before the kebab, which is a traditional dish made with turmeric I think and a few other herbs and spices. But yeah, the go to are the long lamb kebabs done over the wood grill. Then they serve that with pickles, parsley, onions, tomatoes and top it off with sumac, which gives it that acidity to cut through. It’s all so fresh and the combination of flavours is amazing.
“It’s a place you walk into and, much like That’s Thai, you feel like you’re walking into someone’s home and again, that makes it somewhere that I’m sure Anthony Bourdain would have loved.
“Just down the road from there, at Al Jazeera, I go for the Qabili Palau, which is a traditional Afghani lamb dish cooked over rice with this amazing broth. They do it better than anyone there and it’s just a great meal to share with someone which, again, I know Bourdain would have loved.”
“If I’m getting a shawarma, I’m going to Al Zain. I would say to get there between 1-3pm, because they will sell out. That’s probably the perfect time to go and get the lamb, don’t get the chicken, go for the lamb shawarma with all the salads, pickles, chilli sauce and yoghurt, which they make in house.– Luke Unabomber
With Zosima settled at Jane Eyre with a plate of stomach lining croquettes, Luke continues with his pint based plans.
“Drink heavily with locals, whenever possible.”– Anthony Bourdain
“I’d start at The Levenshulme, which is in Levenshulme, as you might have guessed. It used to be a proper old school Irish pub back in the day and it was taken over by two gay lads, I think about two years ago now. They’ve decorated the front of the pub in a giant LGBTQ rainbow and I just loved the balls it took to do that in an area which has never had a gay pub or club. I go in because it has this amazing mix of people and characters, which is how a pub should be and for that reason it would go down as one of my favourite places, even though I’ve only just started going there. Again, the type of place Anthony Bourdain would love, the realness of it, it’s no bullshit. The two lads that run it, they don’t fuck about, they’re really friendly, really decent. But if you fuck about with them they’re gonna sling you out.
“Across the street you’ve got some of the more new school places in Levenshulme, which is changing so much and I think Bourdain would have loved it there. It’s become arguably the most exciting area in Manchester. If I was only to go to one area for this day it would be Levenshulme. It’s almost got that early Northern Quarter feel to it. It’s very mixed racially, there’s not a lot of money there but with that comes a complete authenticity and warmth and community. Nordie there is probably my favourite craft ale bar in the city. It’s more than that though, they do natural wines and amazing food and I just love their attitude there.
“I’ve then got to go to Northenden Untapped, which has the best selection of Pomona I’ve ever seen anywhere, which is crafted to such a high level of finesse it’s almost like drinking wine. The owners of Northern Tap are so rooted in the area, they’re Mancunian born and bred, Lee and Debs. It’s a perfect example of a bar done right. They also serve Wrexham Lager, which is really weird, but Wrexham Lager is amazing and I love the fact that it sits next to some of the most forward thinking beers around and natural wines.”
But while a selection of the more modernist, craft bars are high on Luke’s agenda, one particular pint reigns supreme, which is, of course, the black stuff.
“The best pint of Guinness in Manchester, which I love, despite the recent fucking need to be ‘Oo look at Guinness, bit obvious, bit commercial’ fuck all that, I love Guinness and the best pint of it is in Fiddler’s Green in Levenshulme. It’s a rough old gaff occasionally but everyone behaves themselves and the woman who runs it does so with an iron bar. You won’t get a better pint of Guinness in the city.
“Likewise with the Jolly Angler, which is tragically shutting down, if you had to take Bourdain to one place for a lock-in, it’d be there. I’m not knocking them but they had less product than Kwik Save in early Russia. There was about three fucking drinks on the back bar but they did the best Guinness and the guy and his mum who ran it were the nicest fucking people. It was a community pub in the most perfect way.“
Approaching the evening, cheeks warmed and eyes beginning to lilt ever so slightly under the influence of a few afternoon liveners, it’s onto the next course…
Dinner/Tea, Whatever You Want to Call It, We’re All Mates Here…
“We could actually end up hitting Oneplus on Oxford Road depending on my mood. We are so lucky to have such fantastic eateries in the city and the list is endless. If anyone fancies doing this day with me, let me know.”
We may just have to take Zosima up on her offer and hit up every single on of Sugo, Bundobust and OnePlus, just to be on the safe side.
Mama Z would also likely have a fellow diner in Luke at OnePlus, who heralds the three storied Chinese dining powerhouse as one of the best spots in the city.
“Noodles wise, my favourite place has to be the basement of OnePlus. Honestly the lunchtime food they’re doing in there is the best in the city. They have a limited menu with about eight dishes, it’s a big Chinese community, particularly students, who eat there. I love it. They all think I’m fucking mad. It’s always delivered perfectly.
“My partner’s half Chinese, her mum’s from Kowloon, so I’ve grown an absolute love for Cantonese food. The roast meats; duck, roast pork, char sui, chicken, rice and cabbage have become an absolute staple for me. I crave it and when I do I go to Happy Seasons. It’s iconic with the ducks hanging in the window and I always go there for the roast meats.“
As with Luke’s other courses today, he’s not stopping at just one haunt, however.
“I can’t do this day without a curry, so when it comes to Rice and Three, the holy grail is Yadgars. They have specialist curries throughout the week like a fish curry on Tuesday and it’s been owned by the same family forever. I’ve been going there for over 30 years and they still do it and it’s fabulous. However, they do have competition from Real Taste, over in Cheetham Hill. Honestly, they do the best curries in Manchester, it’s rice and three and the customers in there are nearly all from the Asian community. It’s proper food, almost like rice and three used to be in Manchester back in the ’70s around the rag trade. The vegetarian dishes there are a thing of absolute fucking beauty.“
“If I’m not doing rice and three, though, I’m going to Chappati Corner on Derby Street for the lamb nihari, which is the Pakistani equivalent of a Sunday roast. They slow cook a lamb shank in this amazing sauce, I’m not sure what’s in it exactly, but the flavour is incredible. Then you eat it with a couple of chapatis or, if you’re me, about five.”
“Moving away from street food though, I think it’s important in life to have that aspirational magical meal and I think Mana is it. It’s arguably the best place in the entire city and is probably on a level pegging with the best in the country. The Creameries as a neighbourhood spot is fantastic too. The food is produced with a mind blowing level of finesse. Baraxturi is a thing of beauty. There is no other place in the north that matches the raw passion, love and energy they goes into their food . Likewise Erst, who are outrageous. They’re such a dynamic young team there and the flatbreads they make in particular are insanely good.”
But where to take the man himself were he still here today to indulge and immerse himself in our city?
Continuing the trend of Levenshulme love, Zosima keeps it very local for her meal with Bourdain.
“In true Zoss fashion and also being incredibly proud to live in Levenshulme, I would have to take him to Levenshulme Bakery. I would suggest he ate a shawarma on a Samoun as the bread is just so fluffy and delicious, and maybe getting a Fatayer on the side.
“It’s so cheap but just 11/10 banging and somewhere I know Anthony Bourdain would fuck with.”– Zosima ‘Mama Z’ Fulwell
Luke, meanwhile, has already touched on a few establishments where he would happily sink a few suds and slurp broth with the great man, but one place in particular stands out.
“When the modern flow of the city all gets too much, and ‘Manctopia’ engulfs you, if you wanna see where the reaI life is, just walk off Oxford Road towards Hulme, where I used to live for many years and go to Kim By The Sea. It’s one of these outliers of life that have unified all the old clans in Hulme and a lot of people still drink there. It’s the maddest crowd, full of characters who have done things you couldn’t even begin to imagine, sat there having a pint. It’s one of my favourite places to realign, recenter and I’ll guarantee you, it’s somewhere Bourdain would have loved the realness of.“
The aforementioned lessons we learned from Bourdain’s work, whether it be on paper or screen, often centred around making the world seem both bigger and smaller at the same time, expanding people’s horizons and worldview while bringing them closer to us, the viewers. But it wasn’t just the uninitiated among us who were so touched by his efforts. The communities and cultures he reached out to also appreciated the genuine honesty and openness of a world weary traveller, who yearned to better himself through new experiences. Zosima, in particular, explains how Bourdain’s work in the Philippines spoke to her on an emotional and personal level.
“Anthony Bourdain broke narratives especially when he visited the Philippines. He accepted the eclectic mix and unknown dishes of Filipino cuisine, tucking into a Jollibee (the number 1 Filipino fast food chain) and said that in that moment he broke his hatred of fast food. He particularly enjoyed eating another Filipino dish called Sisig on a roadside Carinderia (canteen) and loving it. He saw the Philippines and Filipino people as I do which means a lot, particularly when he highlighted how hard working Filipino OFW workers are in Parts Unknown. ‘Filipinos are, for reasons I have yet to figure out, probably the most giving of all people on the planet’.
“I will always hold a special place in my heart for Anthony. Thank you for recognising and loving The Philippines through our food, our struggles, our people and our culture.”– Zosima ‘Mama Z’ Fulwell
And what of the lessons Zosima and Luke learned from the New Jersey native? What was Bourdain’s lasting legacy on their lives?
“What I learned from Anthony Bourdain was that there was a complete honesty with his work,” begins Luke, “In a world of self proclamation and marketing and fucking campaigns and influencers, he came out as someone with no agenda. He was fragile, vulnerable, passionate, warm and an amazing character. It’s interesting that a lot of young men warm to him and I think it’s a sense of realness, because there was no bullshit or marketing or any of that with him. He was empathetic and he wanted people to win. He loved little places like shitty little backstreet cafes.
“He recalibrated the world to getting back to sitting down with a big fucking bowl of chicken stew like coq au vin or whatever and just getting shit spilled on your shirt and eating like an animal and enjoying it. People overcomplicate food and he took that back.
“I think if he could walk round Manchester now he’d absolutely love it. The wave of immigration has brought a real viagra to the food scene here and the balance is perfect.”
For Zosima, the emotional attachment to Bourdain’s work comes from a personal level that perfectly encapsulates how much his work transcended everything that had come before it.
“I learned from Anthony the universal language of good food, accepting that most food comes from struggle and finding the beauty of that in the most interesting places. He was open and just interested to share the amazing things happening across the globe, giving everyone access to that food culture that perhaps some of us can’t get. He chose to recognise people as people, accepting their history and learning about their culture. He was never a tourist but a guest in many peoples homes and that’s what made Anthony amazing. He chose to be different and that is why he is so missed.”
Part two will drop tomorrow. In the meantime, go follow Zosima and Luke and love their various works and talents. Our city is a much better place for the pair of them being here.