Food at MIF: Festival Square and supper clubs with the city’s top chefs

Festival Square is free to enter and is located on Cathedral Gardens

Manchester International Festival kicks off this week, running for just over two weeks at venues across the city.

The programme includes a wide range of events including gigs, theatre shows, dance performances, installations and other cultural celebrations.

Highlights include Damon Albarn and Arlo Parks at Manchester Central, a sculpture of Big Ben made out of political books on Piccadilly Gardens and an opening night performance which will see 150 Manchester residents among hundreds of dancers take over Deansgate for a unique new dance work.

As usual, Festival Square will be the central hub of the event, with free live music and DJs, guided tours, family events and some great food and drink. This year, Festival Square will be situated on Cathedral Gardens as its normal home of Albert Square is closed for renovations.

Open from 2 to 18 July, Festival Square is always a great place to hang out, grab a beer and some food and enjoy some free live performances.

Food on Festival Square

Festival Square is always a great place to hang out, grab a beer and some food and enjoy free live performances

Mackie Mayor and Altrincham Market favourites, Honest Crust, are returning to Festival Square, firing up their wood-fired oven to serve sourdough pizzas alongside fresh summer salads.

There will be a fully vegan offering from Stellar, a collaboration between Dan Hope (of Firebird Hope, Four Side, KRUM and Plant Grill) with partners Jason Wood and Lou Oates. The menu will feature Barbacoa Yuba Sandos, falafel burgers, Southern Fried Tofu and more.

There will also be food on offer from Heathcote&Co who have been a staple since the very first MIF. They will be serving affogatos, speciality coffee and ice cream floats. Fingers crossed for sunshine.

Also at Festival Square throughout the event are Eat Well MCR, the social enterprise co-founded by chef Mary-Ellen McTague which has provided nearly 45,000 to some of the most vulnerable in our communities since the start of lockdown.

Last year, Eat Well MCR launched their marketplace, filled with meal kits and local produce from a range of independent Manchester food and drink brands. The marketplace has helped to fund their initiative and also provides a platform and support for these indie businesses.

The menu includes a ‘build your own picnic’ with products from some of these partners including pickles and ferments Plucky Pickle, pies and scotch egg Beehive Food, bread from Holy Grain, whipped butter from The Creameries, salads from Cinderwood Garden, hummus from The Refuge, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels and an Eat Well Kimcheese toastie. There will also be other toasties and bagels for children.

Mary-Ellen McTague (centre) from Eat Well MCR alongside fellow Directors Gemma (left) and Kathleen (right)

Chefs and restaurants from the Eat Well MCR collective will be popping down throughout the festival to offer special dishes to diners, starting with some incredible chocolate from Eddie Shepherd of The Walled Gardens Underground Restaurant. Other chefs and restaurants providing specials include Lorcan Kan from Things Palace, Elnecot, Where The Light Gets In, 3 Hands Deli, Blackbird Pantry and Joe Otway from Higher Ground

Mary-Ellen said:

“It’s so exciting to be able to collaborate with MIF again, for me personally but also because it’s the perfect platform to showcase our wonderful marketplace suppliers, the chefs and restaurants in our amazing collective, and to be able to tell our story to the wider community, all whilst raising much needed funds to continue our support work.” 

As well as their stall on Festival Square, Eat Well is also hosting a series of supper clubs with some of the city’s top chefs.

The supper clubs will be hosted at San Carlo Bottega in Selfridges Exchange Square. Five chefs are taking part across four nights with one chef taking the reigns for each of the first three events and a duo of chefs for the final event.

All tickets cost £65 per person which can be booked as tables of two and four only. This includes a four course dinner with a welcome drink, with options to add wine pairings or other drinks on the night.

Anna Søgaard from Erst, 5 July

Anna Sogaard from Erst

The menu for the first supper club will be created by celebrated Sous Chef of Erst in Ancoats. Anna was raised between Florida and Copenhagen and spent time working in Nordic fine dining kitchens before joining Erst in 2019.

The restaurant has since received national attention and praise, most recently being included in the National Restaurant Awards’ top 100 restaurants in the UK.

Book here.

Julià Castelló from Tast, 6 July

Julià Castelló from Tast

The next evening, Head Chef of Tast will take over the kitchen in San Carlo Bottega. Born in Girona, Julià trained in Catalonia, worked in restaurants on the Costa Brava and spent two years at the Michelin-starred Cinco in Berlin before moving to Manchester to open Tast in 2018.

He started as Sous Chef under Paco Perez and was promoted to Head Chef earlier this year.

Book here.

Mary-Ellen McTague from The Creameries, 12 July

Mary Ellen McTague from The Creameries and Eat Well MCR

The following week, Mary-Ellen McTague takes charge of the menu – co owner of The Creameries and founder of Eat Well MCR, Mary-Ellen has helped to provide almost 45,000 meals to vulnerable people in Manchester since the start of lockdown.

She was also formerly the Chef-Patron at Aumbry in Prestwich and Executive Chef of The Real Junk Food Project in Manchester.

Book here.

Isobel Jenkins from Isca and Josh Al-kazhraji from Moorcock Inn, 13 July

Isobel Jenkins and Josh Al-kazhraji

The final supper club in this series is hosted by a duo of chefs. The first is Isobel Jenkins, chef and co-owner of natural wine bar and organic deli, Isca Wines in Levenshulme, and also co-founder of supper club Season’s Eatings.

She will be joined by Josh Al-kazhraji who currently cooks at the Moorcock Inn in Sowerby Bridge. Together they have created a special four-course menu exclusively for MIF.

Book here.

Manchester International Festival runs from 1 to 18 July. To view the full programme and book tickets, visit:

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