Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2011

Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2011 logo

The highlight of this year’s culinary calendar in Manchester, MFDF 2011, gets underway tomorrow. The Manchester Food and Drink Festival has been running since 1998 and for me it’s by far and away the best foodie experience the city has to offer.

Manchester has often been sneered at for its lack of really high-end, Michelin-star standard restaurants and quite rightly so. For a city of this size to offer such little in the way of gastronomic brilliance is a bit of a joke. Edinburgh and Birmingham can do it, so why can’t we?*

But for 11 days every year, the place I call home offers up the MFDF, or as it should be titled, “The Engraved Apology”. A fantastic celebration of food and drink that goes a long way towards making up for the shortage of gourmet treats during the rest of the year.

I’m not going to do a preview, as there are way too many things to cover and half the fun lies in just turning up to the Festival Hub outside Manchester Town Hall and seeing what’s going on. Over the years this unguided approach has rewarded me with dozens of freebies, countless enjoyable cookery demonstrations, an item off my Foods To Try Before I Die list and my first ever three-Michelin-star food.** You really can’t go wrong.

(Besides, the official website will tell you everything you need to know.)

But what I will do is outline my plans for the next few weeks and say how excited I am to get stuck in.

The plan for tomorrow is to head down to Albert Square on my lunchbreak and see what’s on offer. They’re making a big thing about street food this year, so I’m hoping there’ll be lots of things to choose from for a dinnertime gorge. After I’ve finished work, I’m going to go back again with some friends and give the beer tent a thorough examination.

(Like many people, I imagine, I’m going to be trying to walk that delicate line between nicely drunk and too drunk to enjoy the rugby at 6am on Saturday morning.)

After England are done giving France a darn good thrashing in the World Cup quarter-final***, I’m off to the Big Indie Wine Fest at The People’s History Museum. I missed this event last year, so I’m doubly keen to go this time, even if it ends up more hair of the dog than sophisticated wine-tasting (from the sounds of it, it was a bit like that last year anyway…)

I’ve got a table booked at MFDF champion The Mark Addy immediately afterwards and am eager to see if they can deliver me a meal as good as they did last month. The restaurant actually first came to my attention at MFDF a while ago when I saw a great presentation by chef Robert Owen Brown. Not sure if he’s on again this year(?), but if they’ve not invited him back, someone needs shooting with one of those gun cartridges he serves herbs in.

Sunday I’ll probably rest, but I intend to be back again throughout the week to see what else I can treat myself with. I’ll definitely be there on Saturday, when I’ve got tickets to the Manchester Whisky Festival at The Lowry Hotel. I enjoy whisky, but I’m a complete and utter novice, so I’m hoping this will point me in the right direction and send me down the path of the connoisseur.

Can’t wait until tomorrow. Let the consumption commence!


*The new Michelin UK guide came out today, and surprise surprise, Manchester didn’t feature again. You can see the full list, including the three restaurants in Birmingham and five restaurants in Edinburgh to carry a Michelin star, here.

**A note of caution here – I’m pretty sure that it was MFDF that one year had a Heston Blumenthal stand, but I’m not 100% certain. Why he’d be up here for another event I don’t know, but even if that was the case, it’s still a story I like to tell.

It wasn’t long after The Fat Duck had been named the world’s best restaurant, but as Heston was barely on TV at that time, few people knew who he was and as such nobody seemed to care that two of his development chefs were sat in a faux ice cream truck outside G-Mex selling three-star-Michelin food. There was literally nobody there when I went up to sample a red wine slushed ice and millionaire shortbread and I remember thinking how crazy it was that here was food from a world-renowned genius chef and nobody in Manchester gave a shit. Maybe that’s why we have such mediocre restaurants.

Anyway, my first taste of the three-star stuff didn’t exactly blow me away. The millionaire shortbread was perfect, but it was about the size of my thumbnail, so was hardly something you could savour for long. The ice was interesting at first, but was very one note and quickly became boring and sickly. I think I threw some of it away.

***I’m trying to be optimistic. France are terrible. We’ll be alright, won’t we?

You can read further posts on MFDF11 below:

Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2011: Cheese Fest

Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2011: Big Indie Wine Fest

Manchester Food and Drink Festival 2011: Manchester Whisky Festival


Posted on October 6, 2011, in Foods To Try Before You Die, Manchester and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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