AN away day down the Silk Road for the ToM team. No, we didn’t make it to Samarkand; Macclesfield had to do. Still it has it own exotic allure. One local told us he thought Picturedrome was “too posh for Macc”. It was all very well for Nick Johnson’s Market Operations to open gourmet food halls in Altrincham (Market House) and the Northern Quarter (Mackie Mayor) but a former cinema and bingo hall in a Cheshire town that’s more gritty than glitzy?
That’s a little unkind to a characterful townscape that already boasts some plucky indie operations. Yoking street food traders of that ilk into a family-friendly whole was the key to Johnson’s food hall revolution, now an aspirational aim for many small towns, neighbourhoods. Think regenerative goose that laid the commercial egg. Not so easy to pull off.
When we arrived at Picturedrome we recognised many of Johnson’s familiar gang, Honest Crust sourdough pizza, Tender Cow/Fin (steak and fish), Sam Joseph chocolates, Reserve Wine and the Jack In The Box craft beer bar.
They share the trademark communal canteen, seating 180 with nine kitchens and the two bars, with newcomers Terroni pasta (who also offer a signature slow roasted porchetta sandwich for £10.50) and Macc bakery Flour Water Salt, selling freshly baked pastries, Mancoco coffee and loose leaf tea. Alongside is Levantine specialists Rubens where you can find the likes of baked Turkish eggs (£8) orYorkshire lamb kofte (£9.50).
Expect more traders, including Savage Mussels, when the outside yard opens before Christmas. Inside vintage movie clips flicker across the far wall in homage to a movie matinee past.
Chalked on a board in the foyer a sign declares: "Picturedrome is the third spiritual sister in the Market Operations family… an attempt to enrich lives by providing high-quality, everyday food in a social setting – where families, friends, and strangers get together around shared tables and ‘break bread’. If we can win our way into Macclesfield hearts we hope we can return the favour and become the beating heart of this great and ‘proper’ town and find our part into its noble history.”
Whatever, this is a cherishably smart conversion, with its own special character. Whether it sparks an urban regeneration similar to what happened in Altrincham who knows? As we tucked into a £12.95 Honest Crust Pizza Neapoletana with its intense garlicky and smoked anchovy flavours we thought Picturedrome at least the equal of its Market Operations siblings. Lucky Macc.
Picturedrome, 98 Chestergate, Macclesfield, SK11 6DW.