FOOD AND DRINK FESTIVAL 2011
hadn’t planned on visiting the Manchester Food and Drink
festival. In fact, I didn’t even know Manchester was having
a Food and Drink Festival. But finding myself with a hungry
belly and some time to kill during the Grimm Up North event,
I decided to hit the streets in search of something quick and
tasty. After being waylaid by The Tiger Lounge (great décor,
cheap beer, unappealing customers), I found myself meandering
towards Albert Square, where I spotted a large marquee, with
the sound of German Oompah music coming from within. Now, there’s
only one reason why you average British bigot would put up with
that sort of thing – beer. And sure enough, I found myself
in a huge tent hosting both an Oktoberfest – lots of people
wandering around with large steins of Veltins – and a
small but effective ale festival. Hallelujah! I ordered a pint
of Stumbling Monkey – hoping the name wouldn’t prove
prophetic – and headed off to investigate the food stalls.
There was a mouth-watering variety of grub on offer –
enough to make me curse my lack of time and money. It was a
global fest – Indian, Brazilian, Spanish, Malaysian, American
and more, as well as deserts, vegetarian and retro food…
of which more in a moment. I was predictable drawn to the Chilli
Tent, where I checked out the veggie curry on offer from local
Tapas joint Sandinista, which was pretty tasty and filled a
hole nicely (I felt bad as the enthusiastic chap serving thrust
deal flyers into my hand, knowing I couldn’t take advantage
of them), but of course, what I was looking for really was something
fresh… something I hadn’t tried before.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that it would turn out to be
British food. After all, our traditional native cuisine has
been widely superseded by more interesting, exotic and –
let’s be honest – tastier food from across the world.
But while British food has traditionally been bland and not
particularly appetising, there’s really no reason why
that should be the case – it just needs to be reinvented.
It was Masterchef finalist Tom
Whitaker who was doing the reinventing today and opening
me up to new culinary experiences. Spotting me eyeing his stall
with some suspicion – trying to work out just what it
was he was offering – me called me over and offered a
free sample. This seemed a good deal, and I was mightily impressed
with the unusual sausage roll type bite – the pasty filled
with a rich, thick and hard-to-identify filling. To say I was
surprised to find it was black pudding, that widely sneered
at food that no-one under Seventy seems to have willingly eaten,
would be an understatement. But there was no arguing with the
tastebuds, so I bought a full tray, complete with mash ‘n’
gravy – about as British a meal as you could expect.
Now, I imagine Whitaker’s black pudding is to the normal
stuff I assume you can still buy what a premium sausage is to
a sawdust-filled budget banger (it was listed as a fennel and
black pudding sausage roll), so I’m not suggesting anyone
runs out to buy one from their local supplier. But this was
gorgeous, and the mash a great accompaniment. It seemed to me
to be exactly the sort of thing you want from an event
like this – the opportunity to try something new (or a
new twist on something old) and expand your food horizons. An
open mind is definitely a must for events like this.
After the food, it was back to the beer tent for another pint,
before reluctantly taking my leave. Next year, this event will
be in my diary in advance and I’ll do it properly.It's
certainly the best event of this sort I've so far attended.
Manchester Food and Drink Festival runs until October 17th,
with assorted events taking place. If you are in the area, it’s
not to be missed.