CRAB balls, poutine and empanadas are all going getting a roof over their head this April as three of the region’s finest street food traders open in permanent sites.
First up on Friday, April 12 is Yakumama, the South American specialists whose name references a monstrous, man-eating snake mother that lurks in the Peruvian Amazon.
After crowdfunding success, the Yak has found a stylish new lair in the Pennine border town of Todmorden. Yakumama creators Marcelo Sandoval and Hannah Lovett (above) have always flipped between Manchester and Leeds, with regular middle ground stints at the Magic Rock tap in Huddersfield, so the new venue seems appropriate.
The pair’s skills won them ‘Best Street Food’ at the 2015 Manchester Food and Drink Awards. Since the turn of the year they havegrafted hard to transform the characterful Old Co-op into bright, laid-back bar, putting drinks on an equal footing with their determinedly casual food offering. One condition of tenancy is they must go down the veggie/vegan route because of its previous incarnation as a wholefood hub – which is a blow for those of us coveting Marcelo’s signature beef empanadas.
Still a visit when they were running trial pop-ups on the site demonstrated the quality of the offering, with recipes based on Leeds-raised Marcelo’s Chilean heritage. Try the Pastel del Choclo, Jerusalem artichokes cooked in tomatoes, onions and dates, topped with creamed sweetcorn and breadcrumbs.
This settling down is now a natural progression for the best of our street food operators. Fellow contenders in Manchester's Leftbank Kitchen Traders competition a couple of years ago have set up permanent restaurants – winners Beastro on the Spinningfields site, over in Marple Chaat Cart and in Ancoats Hip Hop Chip Shop.
Next up, taking a unit in the Arndale Centre’s progressive South Side is Blue Caribou Canteen from Wednesday, April 17. The self-styled ‘Poutine Boys’ Vincent Bernier and Graham Gartside-Bernier may have failed to linch financial backing on BBC 2’s My Million Pound Menu, but it certainly heightened the profile of the ‘curds, chips and gravy’ dish that’s an obsession in Vincent’s native Quebec.
Bolton-born Graham met Vincent in London in 1999 when their gap years intertwined. Their mutual love of poutine was sealed during three years living in Quebec but on their return to the UK it took a further two years to get their street food business off the ground. During which time they had all their branding in place. Why?
“We just couldn’t get the right cheese curds – it was very frustrating,” says Graham. “There’s no way we could pass off frozen chips, gravy and mozzarella, say, as the true poutine. Anyone from Canada would instantly notice the difference.”
If you have yet to try this moreish snack, the ‘true poutine’ consists of crispy skin-on fries, Quebec-style cheese curds and a rich veal or mushroom gravy. Although Blue Caribou do some ‘creative variations’. We remember vividly back when they were based at B.Eat.
In their new Arndale home Blue Caribou are promising Montreal-style hot dogs, hot chicken dipped sandwiches, craft beers from Quebec, maple syrup sodas and other French Canadian treats.
In a neighbouring unit will be Holy Crab. Lou Henderson, co-owner of the seafood specialists with Hannah Eddleston, is edging her bets on when they will open. “Either the 17th or 18th, not sure, can’t wait,” she told us.
ToM has been a huge fab of the HC offering over its three years of existence, at GRUB and at the supper clubs at Runaway Brewery, taking over the basement at Kosmonaut bar and for 12 weeks last summer occupying one of the containers at the Hatch food and retail hub on Oxford Road. Throughout they have sourced their fish from Chorlton’s brilliant Out of The Blue.
They even provided the langoustine shells for a Manchester Beer Week collab with Marble Brewery to create a Langoustine and Pineapple Gose beer, named ‘LanGOSEtine naturally.
If that was a ‘Marmite’ brew, then they incorporated the real thing in a recent autumn special of oysters in a Marmite cream (above) with Hannah’s acclaimed chips.
Oysters, preferably Colchester, will continue to play a major role in Holy Crab at the new venue, leased until 2021. “We are planning an oyster happy hour every day after lunch,”
Scots lass Lou tells us, also confirming their signature crab balls will be a fixture on the menu. These can be a life-changing experience – deep-fried breadcrumbs surrounding sweet, soft crab meat with a hint of chilli and cheese, served up with a brown crab mayo.
The Arndale snack menu will feature filled brioche buns, perked up with Szechuan spice or chipotle. For veggies there’ll be a rice bowl with a pescatarian fish option.
Yakumama, Old Co-op, 29 Rochdale Road, Todmorden OL14 7LA. Blue Caribou Canteen: Snack Bar du Québec and Holy Crab, Arndale Market, 9 High St, Manchester M4 3AH.
WHOLESOME JUNKIES SIGN UP TOO
And for the confirmed vegans? A third Arndal3 unit, opening date still to be announced, will be home to Wholesome Junkies with their plant-based ‘junk food’. They are promising their own twist on Buddha Bowls at the new site alongside favourites such as their truffle burgers and jackfruit burgers.