• Jay Rayner and Jasmine Hemsley head a brilliant MFDF 2018 line-up

Jay Rayner and Jasmine Hemsley head a brilliant MFDF 2018 line-up

6 June 2018 by Neil Sowerby

NOW the countdown really begins to the 21st annual Manchester Food and Drink Festival (September 27-October 8) with the first announcements of its star-studded programme.

At the centre of 12 glorious days celebrating the city’s magnificent and ever-evolving food culture will be the revamped Festival Hub, featuring the debut of the striking Dining Dome (central in artist's impression above) on Albert Square. 

The Hub will open for business at 12pm on Thursday,  September 27 and finally close its gates at 11pm on Sunday, October 7. Open daily from 12pm-11pm, this location of the biggest Festival Feast yet will be free to enter. After that it’s up to you with so much on offer.

Jasmine Hemsley and Jay Rayner are just two national foodie stars lined up for 2018, but it’s not just about names, it’s about also showcasing the city’s own culinary luminaries. From beer brewers to ice cream makers, from chefs to gin distillers, this is a Festival that Manchester builds together. Think of is as just one all-you-can-eat banquet, culminating, as always, in the MFDF Gala Dinner and Awards on October 8 – held this year for the first time in the stunning Victorian Gothic surroundings of Gorton Monastery (below). 

The first programme announcements…

The New Look Festival Hub Albert Square, 12pm-11pm daily 

Visitors can expect a re-designed site with exciting new structures, live experiences and the biggest programme of events yet, in the shadow of the great Town Hall. One such new feature will be the Dining Dome – a giant, spherical foodie palace, hosting specially curated banquets, supper clubs and food parties. Across the cleverly expanded site dozens of street food heroes and our top restaurants will serve up their specialities. Plus there’ll be a new look Festival Bar featuring all of Manchester’s breweries; beer buses and gin containers; a better-than-ever music stage; and a non-stop calendar of food experiences. 

The Dining Dome Banquets The story so far at the exciting new pop-up space at the Hub. 

Cottonopolis and MFDF present… 'Battle Royale’ Thu Sept 27 and Fri Sept 28 (tickets on sale soon)

Cottonopolis’ Secret Supper Club events are gaining national acclaim for taking immersive dining experiences to the next level. This special MFDF version is to be the brand’s most ambitious yet as the Dining Dome will be transformed into a specially curated dining production of Battle Royale… perhaps with a little less dystopian carnage than the movie.

Jasmine Hemsley and  Trove Supper Club Sat Sept 29 (tickets on sale soon)

Wellness goddess, lifestyle guru, founder of Hemsley + Hemsley, Jasmine is coming up for a special collaboration with MFDF and the award-winning artisans of Trove Bakery to create an Ayurvedic menu inspired by Jasmine’s latest book East by West. It will all be paired with Trove’s natural wine collection. 

Family Food Fest Sun Sept 30 (free)

Join MFDF, Clint Boon and friends as the Hub goes extra family friendly with a host of activities for a Sunday Fun-Day. The Dining Dome will be given over to foodie fun for mini masterchefs – from pizza making to arts, crafts and entertainment – while a chilled-out family disco courtesy of Manchester legend Clint Boon will take over the bar marquee.

The Rabbit in the Moon @ The Dome – Pop Up Supper Club Mon Oct 1 (tickets on sale soon)

Head Chef John Granaghan at Manchester’s Rabbit in the Moon is bringing his stunning, space age plates of food to the futuristic Dining Dome for one very special night only, with an exclusive menu curated for this unique MFDF experience. 

Caviar and Champagne Tasting with Randall & Aubin’s Ed Baines Tue Oct 2 (£25, tickets on sale now

Bridge Street’s fabulous Randall and Aubin team up with The Gourmet Caviar House to present a rare gastro opportunity. Guests will be guided through the restaurant’s house Champagnes, partnered by some of the most exquisite caviars around, in the expert hands of R&A founder Ed Baines and ambassadors from the Gourmet Caviar House.

‘A Trip to Brazil’ A Gastro Guide with Fazenda’s Francisco Martinez Wed Oct 3 (£50, tickets on sale now

Fazenda’s exec chef, Francisco Martinez – formerly at the five-time winner of Best Restaurant in the World El Bulli – has designed a one-off menu exclusively for MFDF. Guests can expect an avant-garde dining experience that showcases Brazilian food at its best – an eight-course menu paired with four wines from Brazilian producer Miolo. Profits donated to Action Against Hunger.

Hatch Pop-up Supper Club Thu Oct 4 (tickets on sale soon)

Hatch, the new pop-up food, drink and retail destination on Oxford Road and a selection of its fantastic street food traders will be taking over the Dining Dome for the evening staging a special Hatch Supper Club. Each course will be provided by one of their top notch, home-grown and independent street food heroes making for a fabulous and eclectic feast. The menu will be paired with beers from Öl – Hatch’s on site nano brewery and topped off with coffees and desserts from Takk, the artisan coffee house also situated at Hatch. 

Spanish Feast by Lunya, Baratxuri and Evuna Fri Oct 5 (tickets on sale soon)

The city’s spectacular Spanish restaurant scene is celebrated by this extraordinary food fiesta as three of its finest collaborate to showcase that country’s regional cuisines– from Catalunya to Basque country and beyond. A glorious evening of authentic, artisan ingredients and stunning wines.

Also at the Albert Square Hub…

Double Dutch G&T bar 12pm-11pm daily

Created by Dutch twin sisters Joyce and Raissa de Haas, Double Dutch’s drinks range uses only natural ingredients blended with the highest quality water from the North of England to create crisp and fresh mixers. This award-winning new kid-on-the-block is bringing their colourful container bar to the Festival. Swing by to grab a gin of your choice with gorgeous Double Dutch mixers including the well-balanced Pomegranate & Basil and a fresh summer-infused Cucumber & Watermelon. Plus, the bar will also be serving  more classic variations as well as hearty ‘Dark and Stormys’ for the rum fans.

Manchester Brew Fest 12pm-11pm daily

Celebrating the region’s beer boom, where craft stars Blackjack and Cloudwater rub shoulders with ales from the big North West brewing families, including Robinson’s, JW Lees and Hydes. 

MFDF Cider Fest 12pm-11pm daily

The popular Cider Bar will offer the likes of Weston’s, Addlestone’s, Sheppy’s and Bad Apple. And, of course, there’ll also be a range of flavoured ciders including lemon and lime, mango and apple and pear. 

The Brooklyn Brewery Bus 12pm-11pm daily

The cult New York brewery will be bringing a new American yellow school bus to the Hub serving up a range of brews from their Perennials and Seasonal ranges. Favourites like Brooklyn East IPA, Brooklyn Lager and Bel Air Soul will be on tap alongside their full range of seasonal beers, including Brooklyn Brown, Sorachi Ace, Scorcher IPA and Post Road Pumpkin Ale.

Street Food

The UK’s thriving street food scene will be well represented (full line-up is being finalised) alongside ‘street’ incarnations from some of the city’s best operators – such as Bundobust, bringing their brilliant trailer to the Fest, and Baratxuri, who will be firing up a Basque roast and charcoal grill. Other confirmed names include Shoryu Ramen, Proove with their new Italian street food concept and Tampopo.  

Live Music 

The City Life Music Stage will once again be hosting a line-up of musicians and DJs worthy of a food festival based in one of the world’s most musical cities. Confirmed artists so far include Clint Boon, The Hayes Sisters and Whoever and the Somethings. 

Across Manchester look out for…

The 11th Big Indie Wine Fest Manchester Hall,  Fri Oct 5-Sun Oct 7 (tickets on sale now

After a fabulous debut in Manchester Hall’s grand, Grade II listed surrounds last year, Festival fave the Big Indie Wine Fest will be returning for an extra special, bigger-than-ever event with an extra session added for a three-day tasting extravaganza. Sessions: Fri, 6pm-9pm; Sat, 2pm-5pm, 6pm-9pm; Sun, 2pm-5pm.

MFDF and Albert’s Schloss Present The Jay Rayner Quartet Albert’s Schloss, Fri Sept 28, from 6pm (free but booking essential)

The country’s most famous restaurant critic, Jay Rayner (below), rather liked Albert’s Schloss when he visited earlier this year for his Observer restaurant column. So much so that he has agreed to bring his Jazz Quartet to the venue for a night of music, storytelling, food and drink. As well as being an award-winning writer, journalist and broadcaster, Jay is now a successful recording artist and performer. Made up of some of Britain’s best musicians, including Jay’s wife who is an accomplished jazz singer, the quartet will be performing a repertoire from the great American song book with special attention paid to numbers about food and drink. Plus a special Jay Rayner menu will be served throughout.

20 Stories Festival Dinner Mon, Oct 1 (tickets £65 on sale now, email Rebeccaw@danddlondon.com)

The most glamorous of Manchester’s new restaurants provides an opportunity to sample a very special three-course menu and wine flight created especially for MFDF at an exclusive price – spectacular views included.

Manchester Shares – Small Plates Safari Various venues, Fri Sept 30-Thu Oct 4

Foodies are challenged to try out as many Manchester restaurants as they can during the Festival as dozens of the finest restaurants in the city offer up a signature small plate along with a beer, wine or spirit for just £5. Anyone visiting all the restaurants on the safari will be in with a chance of winning an overnight stay at one of Manchester’s finest hotels. Participating restaurants include Tampopo, Lunya, Ashas’s, Fazenda and Catalan newcomer Tast. Full list to be announced.

Bookatable Festival Feast Various venues, Thu Sept 27-Mon Oct 8 (book tickets here

Back for its third year, thisnhugely popular series of limited edition, bespoke dining menus, created by Manchester’s restaurants especially for tMFDF in association with Bookatable will be on offer throughout the Festival.

Action Against Hunger’s Moveable Feast Various venues, Thu Oct 4 (tickets on sale soon)

Festival charity partner Action Against Hunger and MFDF bring you theopportunity to access the exclusive private spaces of a range of amazing restaurants and the cuisine of their renowned chefs, all on one special evening of fine food in the name of a great cause. Diners will be taken on the ultimate food adventure, enjoying a course at each restaurant of a specially designed menu. With only 15 places at each location food fans are advised to snap up these tickets fast. All money raised will go directly to support Action Against Hunger AAH’s work trying to end child hunger in over 45 countries around the world.

Hawksmoor Festival Banquet Date to be announced (tickets on sale soon)

Hosted in Hawkmoor’s glorious private dining room, this is a feast to end all feasts created by the team at this former MFDF Restaurant of the Year, Hawksmoor. Last year tickets to this special, intimate dinner sold out fast and so speedy booking is recommended – watch this space.

MFDF Gala Dinner and Awards Gorton Monastery, Mon Oct 8 (ticketed)

This sparkling culmination of the Festival will be taking place for the first time in the stunning surrounds of Gorton Monastery. The most coveted and highest profile food awards in the North of England will, as usual, be distributed to a room packed with the region’s food and drink ‘A list’. The Awards Shortlist will be announced on June 27.

A salute to the Hub, Manc foodie treasure

Phil Jones, founding director of MFDF told us:  “We called it ‘The Hub’ when we first started out on Albert Square, as a casual comment on it being the centre of everything. As the Festival and Manchester has evolved, our beloved Hub has really lived up to its name. It has come to embody the heart and soul of MFDF and is its own little foodie neighbourhood, popping up once a year as a place that food lovers can hang out for 11 wonderful gastronomic days. 

“It is a melting pot of everything that is fantastic about Manchester and its food scene. This year we’re giving The Hub a makeover and bringing even more of our greatest events there, while still taking in some of the city’s most spectacular venues too.” 

Keep up to date with all further Festival announcements via their website

MFDF SPONSORS: Double Dutch, Brooklyn Brewery, Bookatable, Quorn, Manchester Hall, Manchester Evening News and, of course, Taste of Manchester.