LIKE the cuckoo heralding spring, one of the most eagerly awaited moments in the foodie calendar is the opening announcement of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival programme. And here it is, freshly unveiled at Hispi in Didsbury, one of many exciting new arrivals on the scene it is celebrating.
This array of confirmed events and personalities is all the more momentous this year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the UK’s biggest urban celebration of food and drink.
The countdown starts here to a contemporary culinary extravaganza that also pays homage to two decades of remarkable change in the city’s gastronomic landscape and all the talented chefs, operators and producers who’ve made it possible.
Smack your lips at the star-studded line-up below, but remember it’s only the start – week by week there will be regular updates and additions, including in June the prestigious MFDF Awards shortlist.
So here we go with a helter-skelter roster of events, including the unique ‘Birthday Banquets’ at the iconic Mayfield Depot, where chefs will include our Hispi host, Gary Usher (above), street food pop-ups, masterclasses, hidden iconic venues and packed, party times at the traditional Albert Square Hub.
Here on stage the public can check out the best yet roll call of acclaimed foodie names. For starters there’s…
Simon Shaw: Spanish Pop Up Feast, Festival Hub, September 29.
The founder/chef patron of El Gato Negro will be hosting a truly authentic Spanish pop-up feast including modern and traditional Spanish flavours and techniques.
Deliciously Ella: MaE Deli Pop Up, Festival Hub, September 30. Award-winning cookery author and entrepreneur Ella Mills will be bringing her MaE Deli brand to Manchester via her first ever pop up event outside London.
Aiden Byrne: Festival Banquet, Demo and Book Signing, Manchester House and Festival Hub, October 3 and 7. Festival fave and one of Manchester’s most revered food celebs, Aiden Byrne will be staging a six-course tasting menu and wine flight at Manchester House and launching his new book at the Festival Hub with a live cookery demo.
Gary Usher: Hispi Meets The Unabombers, Mayfield Depot, October 5. Food innovator Gary Usher of acclaimed eateries Sticky Walnut, Burnt Truffle and Hispi will be taking over historic venue The Mayfield Depot alongside The Unabombers for a night of food, drink and music to remember. More details below.
Matthew Nutter: Vegan Banquet, Festival Hub,October 5. The man responsible for Stockport being labelled one of the UK’s best food suburbs will be hosting a seven course vegan tasting banquet.
Kate Goodman: Beer and Wine Tasting Masterclass, Festival Hub, October 6. Bringing together rival tipples, Kate is teaming up with Manchester brewing legends Cloudwater and Altrincham Market House legends Wolfhouse Kitchen & Bakery to offer some expert matching tips. Ticketed.
Thomasina Miers: Banquet and Cookery Demo, Mayfield Depot and Festival Hub, October 7. As well as hosting her Mayfield Banquet (more details below), Thomasina will be live at the Festival Hub Cookery Theatre performing a demo and signing copies of her new book ‘Home Cook by Thomasina Miers’.
Nisha Katona: Cookery Demo and Book Signing, Festival Hub, October 7. Owner of Mowgli restaurants, TV personality and food writer Nisha Katona will be sharing her skills at her first MFDF cookery demo, and will be signing copies of her new book, ‘The Spice Tree’.
Kwoklyn Wan: Cookery Demo and Book Signing, Festival Hub, October 7. Brother of stylist and foodie Gok Wan, Kwoklyn will be coming to Manchester to demonstrate recipes from his new cookery book ‘Chinese Soul Food’ and signing copies afterwards.
• TWO venues stand out – the Festival Hub and the Mayfield Depot – stalwart MFDF epicentre and intriguing newcomer. Here’s the lowdown.
The Festival Hub, Albert Square, M2 4JW, September 28-October 8. Free.
Heart of the action, the redesigned Festival Hub, will remain at its traditional home on Albert Square, and will be a ‘better than ever’ bespoke, pop-up food village, open from 12pm – 11pm daily. In situ throughout the Festival will be the city’s best mix of street food traders (from Manchester and beyond), Vin Van Voom Wine bar, the MFDF live music stage, the MFDF Live Cookery Theatre, a brand new beer bar focused around the best Manchester brews, and the biggest programme of pop up events, masterclasses and workshops yet.
Don’t miss the weeklong, ticketed Pop-Up Restaurant Festival there. Pencilled in so far are Altrincham’s brilliant Sugo Pasta Kitchen (Tuesday, October 3). Plus on Monday, October the Just Eat Student Supper Club, a collaboration with the Manchester Universities to serve up a take away tasting menu. The popular ‘go to’ food delivery service is partnering with some of its most popular restaurants who will bring their own versions of street food to the Festival from September 28 to October 8.
MFDF @ Mayfield, Mayfield Depot, Baring Street, M1 2AD. September 30-October 7. Ticketed.
This abandoned railway station, one of the city’s most jaw-dropping spaces, is the location for MFDF’s 20th Birthday Banquets. Breathing new life into this forgotten space, Mayfield will be transformed for the Festival into an extraordinary dining room. A unique, one-off chance to eat and drink in an awe-inspiring, historic landmark.
Saturday, September 30 – MFDF and Tampopo 20th Birthday Party.
Authentic, independent Pan Asian restaurant is 20 this year, too. These two iconic Manchester food brands will be celebrating their joint birthday together the only way that both know how…with one great big gastro birthday party in a magnificent location. Expect a hedonistic mix of fabulous food (above), full moon fun and Manchester icons.
Thursday, October 5 – Hispi Meets The Unabombers.
A collaboration between food and drink innovator Gary Usher and club alchemists-turned-restaurateurs The Unabombers, this huge banquet-come-food party will bring together two of the hottest food brands in the North – The Refuge and Hispi – along with the DJ magic of Unabombers duo Luke Cowdrey and Justin Crawford.
Saturday, October 7 – Thomasina Miers: Day of the Dead.
Forget the infamous "Spectre" opening scene, Thomasina Miers, the red hot Mexican food entrepreneur, brings a new gastro take on the infamous ‘Day of the Dead’ with a Mexican banquet every bit as fantastical as the venue in which its taking place.
So what’s to drink at the Festival?
MFDF Big Indie Wine Fest, Manchester Hall, 36 Bridge Street, M3 3BT. Friday and Saturday, October 6 and 7. Ticketed.
Where would MFDF be without its BIWF? This year it offers the bonus of a new venue the Grade II listed Freemasons Hall now being transformed into a stunning food and drink focused space. Perfect then to host this celebration of wines from Croatia to French independents and masterclass sessions, including a not to be missed on from the BBC’s Kate Goodman.
Fever-Tree Gin Garden and the Dark Spirit Den, Festival Hub, September 28-October 8.
Another firm festival favourite back with a new twist – that Den, hosting a programme of live entertainment and Fever-Tree’s new dark spirit mixers range, including cola, ginger ale and ginger beer.
20 Years of Beer, Festival Hub, Saturday, October 7.
Connor Murphy from MCR Beer Week and Paul Jones from Cloudwater will be teaming up with some of the best brewers in Manchester to give an insight into and tasting of the past 20 years of beer in Manchester – from the ‘big family’ breweries to the explosion of independent microbreweries, which has brought global fame.
‘MFDF and MCR Beer Week’, citywide, September 28 to October 9. Free and ticketed.
The Festival is teaming up with MCR Beer week to create a programme of beer focused events to run throughout the Festival in some of the best bars, pubs and breweries across the city.
And for something sweet….
Manchester Tart Off, Festival Hub, Sunday, October 8. Free.
In celebration of 20 years of MFDF, organisers are resurrecting a competition that was staged in year one the search to find the best Manchester Tart in town. Greater Manchester folk will be asked to put their heart into the tart and enter their homemade creations so that the ultimate Tart of Manchester can be crowned. Entry details will be revealed soon; to find out more email George@foodanddrinkfestival.com
The Festival Fringe, various locations, September 28-October 8. Various prices/some free.
As well as the core Festival events mentioned so far, there’ll be a whole host of other wild and wonderful food happenings across Manchester’s spectacular range of restaurants, bars, cafes, delis, museums and more. The full Festival Fringe programme will be announced over the coming months. Participating venues will include Manchester House, Harvey Nichols, Hawksmoor, Gusto, Epernay, Stockport Foodie Friday, Australasia and many more.
Gala Dinner and Awards, The Principal Hotel, Oxford Road, M60 7HA. Ticketed.
Once again the spectacular and iconic Principal Hotel is hosting the annual Awards, more coveted then ever in this special 20th year. The Awards shortlist will be announced on Thursday, June 8.
MFDF thanks its sponsors…
These include Brooklyn Brewery, Poretti, Shed Head, Just Eat, Bookatable, Fever-Tree, Vin Van Voom, Manchester Evening News, caterer.com and The Principal Hotel.
The final word from Phil Jones, Festival Founding Director (pictured last year with the winning Foodie Friday folk) : “It only seems like yesterday that we got the first Festival off the ground. It’s been part of the city’s cultural make-up ever since, growing each year. We’re proud to have been on that journey with Manchester’s food and drink industry and to showcase what is now an internationally recognised city and event.”
Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2017, Albert Square, Manchester, M2 4JW and citywide. September 28 to October 9. All operators who think they deserve a place on the Festival stage are encouraged to join in the big celebrations! Interested parties should email firstname.lastname@example.org.