Although being allowed to enjoy food somewhere other than my kitchen seems like a distant memory right now, last month, Lucie and I attended our first ‘Plant Powered Sunday’ at GRUB, Manchester. Based at the Red Bank Project, Cheetham Hill (I think it might be classed as the Green Quarter now and is about a 10 min walk from Victoria Station), GRUB is one of Manchester’s biggest street food fairs and host Europes first weekly vegan street food market every Sunday. GRUB is free to visit and dog friendly which, let’s be honest, is a bonus for everyone involved.
I won a Twitter competition for free food and drink at GRUB so we went along to join their sixth birthday celebrations. My own diet has gradually become almost entirely vegetarian over the past couple of years. I was keen to find more options that could help to erase the memory of trying specialised vegan food for the first time, an occasion that has since seared itself into my brain. This was in the form of faux bacon strips circa 2005 and, despite the promises of, ‘Honestly, you won’t even be able to tell the difference’, I was mildly traumatised by the crumbly texture and synthetic Play-Doh aftertaste that lingered for days.
We’d pre-booked a table indoors, purely due to the rain predicted, however, it’s worth noting that GRUB has a green, quirky outdoor space too. Once seated, we browsed individual menus from each trader. Given the COVID restrictions, it was table service only on this occasion; in ‘normal’ times, you’re free to mooch around. It wasn’t an issue for us as The Hall is a beautifully cosy, creative setting that I could have happily stayed in all evening. Lucie and I had 5x food vouchers so, in the name of trying new things, decided to share a dish from each stall.
We opted for:
What’s Your Beef – The ‘Don’t Have a Cow’ burger, made up of a homemade veggie bubble and squeak patty infused with edam and panko, mexicana cheddar, spinach, red onion and homemade chipotle ketchup (they also do brilliant home delivery kits; ideal for lockdown).
Fritto – A cheese, tomato and bazil panzerotti, which is a deep-fried calzone type foldover thing the size of my head. You can find out more about Fritto and the awesome work they do as a social enterprise here.
Wallace and Sons – Bao buns filled with soy-braised cauliflower, pickled fennel, sesame and tofu dressing with hot sauce.
Seitan’s Kebab – Served on a traditional Lebanese flatbread, the doner kebab contained strips of seitan, fresh lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickled peppers and cabbage topped with chilli sauce and homemade garlic sauce, served with a side of fries.
Bakeorama –Vegan peanut butter and jam cookie. I’m a notorious sweet tooth and long-term fan of Bakeorama so the temptation to just use our vouchers for five desserts instead was strong.
All of the food arrived quickly and it came as a pleasant surprise to discover that things have indeed moved on when it comes to plant-based food offerings. The dishes were fresh, packed with flavour and it was hard to tell the difference from most of their ‘classic’ meaty counterparts. Even Lucie, who is a firm carnivore, was happy to tuck in and polished off the kebab in the blink of an eye. GRUB is currently closed due to ‘Lockdown V.6752’ in Manchester but you can still order some delicious treats online for delivery or collection via GRUB-E-MART in the meantime.
*There was no obligation or request for me to share this post. In the interest of transparency, our food and drinks were complimentary via the competition win. I’m in a fairly privileged position in that I’d have been able to fund the meal without it hurting our budget too much so I decided to make an equivalent donation to Mustard Tree; a charity supporting the local community through various initiatives, helping to tackle homelessness, social isolation and poverty.