Food festivals are my favourite kind of festival. No sweaty tents or noisy camping neighbours and you get to sample amazing food and drink all day long. This year, Manchester Eats Festival was launched at Heaton Park. With chefs such as Marco Pierre White, Matt Tebbutt, Ed Baines, Mary-Ellen McTague, and Adam Reid on board, you just know that the bar is already set high.
We attended on Sunday 8 July, with the Manchester sunshine also making an appearance. Adam and I were some of the first people there so had plenty of time to peruse around and familiarise ourselves with the vendors before deciding what to eat for breakfast.
It’s safe to say that this was not my first
rodeo food festival and the sheer amount of choice available far surpassed any previous events I’ve visited. From vintage funfair rides and exotic animals in the kids’ village to the Processo tent and urban eats area, the layout was easy to navigate and covered every possible cuisine imaginable.
Being responsible adults and that, we spotted The Ice Alchemists and, after being utterly mesmerised by the technique they used to create their delicious, handcrafted wares, we soon gave in to the lure of ‘Manchester Tart’ ice cream rolls. They literally took a slice of Manchester Tart and turned it into delicious ice cream rolls right before our very eyes – I think there may be some kind of legitimate magic going on. It’s a cliche but I really have been dreaming about this stuff ever since our impromptu breakfast treat and now stalk The Ice Alchemists on Instagram so I know where I can get my next fix from.
We stopped for a drink – slushies for Adam, coffee for me – and got chatting to a guy from Reds True BBQ who was handing out bottles of sauce. For those of you that don’t know, Reds True BBQ is to thank for me and Adam getting together! We had our first date at the Manchester restaurant, chatted awkwardly for a couple of hours and, when he offered me ‘a bite’ of his food, I accidentally ate most of his nachos. It must have done the job though as we ended up married two years later. Thanks again Reds!
There were free (pre-booked) cookery classes at the festival and I’d reserved us a place on the Vegetarian Society Cookery School one to learn how to make a vegetarian breakfast burrito (let’s gloss over our ice cream escapade, for now, shall we?). Skills-wise, the class was fairly straightforward. We fried tofu, mushrooms, peppers, onions, and vegetarian sausage with a pre-mixed blend of spices before adding them to a tortilla with fresh salad. The result was pleasant enough, however, Adam and I agreed that we won’t be tofu converts anytime soon.
Trying to resist blowing the budget in the artisan marketplace was difficult. With a mix of local companies and household names, such as Costco and Hotel Chocolat, I couldn’t possibly have justified buying foodie goods from them all, however, it didn’t stop me lingering for a good while. In the end, I purchased a few pots of ready-to-eat cookie dough from The Cookie Dough Co and we headed back to the street food area for lunch.
Reds True BBQ was giving people the chance to win sauces, BBQ rub kits, and more by playing some traditional carnival games so we joined the queue and tried our luck on the hoop one (I don’t know the ‘proper’ name but you basically have to throw wooden hoops over pegs on an upright board to win). We got chatting to the person behind us and ended up teaming up to play, resulting in all three of us going home with a huge paper bag filled with merchandise. Happy days indeed!
The smell of pulled pork overcame Adam so we ordered a double Pit Burger (Beef patty, Unholy BBQ sauce, premium Black Angus brisket, pulled pork, smoked bacon, burger cheese, Dirty sauce, tomato, onion, pickles, lettuce) and settled down, ready for the impending meat sweats. It was well worth the £6 or so that we paid as, in the restaurant, these bad boys are almost triple the price!
Not long after that, we decided to head home, full and content. Next year, we’ll certainly be attending both days of the festival and pacing ourselves a bit better so we can enjoy even more foodie options. Thanks for having us Manchester Eats Festival – see you in 2019!