Tag Archive for: Chefs

The shortlisted nominees for the 2023 Manchester Food and Drink Festival Awards have been announced. The Awards are the most prestigious in the North West and celebrate the region’s outstanding hospitality talent, with winners to be revealed at the MFDF Gala Dinner on Monday, January 29, 2024. 

There are 114 exceptional venues, traders, places and people nominated across 18 categories celebrating a resurgent year for Greater Manchester’s hospitality industry. This year’s roll call takes in the whole breadth of talent flourishing in our region – from talented takeaways and superb street food vendors to Michelin-star dining and some of the newest and most exciting additions to the scene. 

The shortlisted nominations have been compiled by the MFDF Judging Panel, taking into account award submissions from the hospitality industry. The panel is made up of the region’s leading food and drink critics, writers, and experts. The awards are now open to public vote on the MFDF website. 

A ‘mystery shopping period’ will now commence alongside the public vote. During this period judges will visit nominated venues for an incognito dining visit, and will score venues based on their experiences. Then on Monday, November 20, 2023 the polls will be counted and combined with the judges’ scores, and the winner of each category will be chosen. 

The MFDF 23 Award Winners will be announced at the MFDF Gala Dinner & Awards at the New Century Hall (above) on Monday January 29, 2024, tickets for which can be purchased by emailing isabella@foodanddrinkfestival.com. Your hosts for the evening will once again be Matty White of Manchester’s Finest and Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch and BBC Radio Manchester’s Anna Jameson.

To vote please visit this LINK. The nominees are…



St James Building, 61-69 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 6EQ

Lily’s Indian Vegetarian Cuisine

85 Oldham Road, Ashton-under-Lyne OL6 7DF

Bahn Ví

New Century Kitchen, 34 Hanover Street, Manchester M4 4AH

The Walled Gardens

Alness Road, Whalley Range, Manchester M16 8HW


14 Brazennose Street, Manchester M2 6LW

Speak in Code

7 Jackson’s Row, Manchester M2 5ND

Flawd Wine

9 Keepers Quay, Manchester M4 6GL

The Mekong Cat

47 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ


Fat Pat’s

88 Portland Street, Manchester M1 4GX

Ad Maoira

34 Copperas Street, Manchester M4 1BJ

Unagi Street Food & Sushi

10 Park Place, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M4 4EY

Ciaooo Garlic Bread

93-95 Shudehill, Manchester M4 4AN

Wright’s Fish and Chips

86 Cross Street, Manchester M2 4LA

Maida Grill House

38 Liverpool Street, Salford M5 4LT

Al Madina

76 Wilmslow Road, Manchester M14 5AL


18 West Ashton Street, Salford, M50 2XS


Sureshot Brewing

4 Sheffield Street, Manchester M1 2ND

Stockport Gin

19B St Petersgate, Stockport SK1 1EB

Cloudwater Brew Co

7-8 Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP

Tarsier Spirit

Unit A5, Bankfield Trading Estate, Coronation Street, Stockport, England, SK5 7SE

Pod Pea Vodka

Irlam, Manchester

Manchester Union Brewery

96D North Western Street, Manchester M12 6JL

Squawk Brewing Co

Tonge Street, Manchester M12 6LY


Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP



Cotton Field Wharf, 8 New Union Street, Manchester M4 6FQ

Great North Pie Co

Kampus, Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GL

La Chouquette

812A Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 6UH


Ducie Street Warehouse, Manchester, M1 2TP 


15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ

The Manchester Smoke House

123 Waterloo Road, Cheetham, Manchester M8 8BT

The Flat Baker

Unit 2, 23 Radium Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AY

Companio Bakery

Unit 6, Flint Glass Wharf, 35 Radium Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AD











Grapefruit Coffee 

2 School Road, Sale M33 7XY

Cafe Sanjuan

27 St Petersgate, Stockport SK1 1EB

Another Heart to Feed

10 Hilton Street, Manchester M1 1JF

Idle Hands Coffee

35 Dale Street, Manchester M1 2HF

Bold Street Coffee

53 Cross Street, Manchester M2 4JN


105 Manchester Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9GA

Ancoats Coffee Co

9 Royal Mills, 17 Redhill Street, Manchester M4 5BA

Siop Shop

53 Tib Street, Manchester M4 1LS



Exhibition, St George’s House, 56 Peter Street, Manchester M2 3NQ

Chaat Cart

Society, 100 Barbirolli Square, Manchester M2 3BD

Triple B

24 Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester M25 0LD

Tawny Stores

Yellowhammer, 15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ

Little Sri Lanken

Reddish, Stockport

Pico’s Taco’s

Mackie Mayor, 1 Eagle Street, Manchester M4 5BU

Oh Mei Dumplings

Fat Pat’s

88 Portland Street, Manchester M1 4GX


Nila’s Burmese Kitchen

386 Third Avenue, Trafford Park, Stretford, Manchester M17 1JE

Great North Pie Co

Kampus, Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GL

Cafe Sanjuan

27 St Petersgate, Stockport SK1 1EB

Noodle Alley

Basement Level, 56A Faulkner Street, Manchester M1 4FH

Tokyo Ramen

55 Church Street, Manchester M4 1PD

Lily’s Deli

Unit 2C, Henry Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 5BA

House of Habesha

Central Bay, Unit 32, Quayside, Media City, Salford Quays, M50 3AG

Ornella’s Kitchen

10 Manchester Road, Denton, Manchester M34 3LE


Ad Hoc Wines

28 Edge Street, Manchester M4 1HN

Out of the Blue Fishmongers

484 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9AS

Littlewoods Butcher

5 School Lane, Heaton Chapel, Stockport SK4 5DE

Wandering Palate

191 Monton Road, Eccles, Manchester M30 9PN

New Market Dairy

1 Central Way, Altrincham WA14 1SB

Petit Paris Deli

10 King Street, Manchester M2 6AG

Cork of the North

104 Heaton Moor Road, Stockport, SK4 4NZ

La Chouquette

812A Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 6UH


Our Place

Platt Fields Market Garden

Platt Fields Park, Platt Fields Market Garden, Fallowfield, Manchester M14 6LT

Tawny Stores

Yellowhammer, 15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ


Blossom Street Social, 51 Blossom Street, Manchester M4 6AJ

Little Sri Lankan

Reddish, Stockport


Fare Share

Units E1-8, New Smithfield Market, Whitworth Street East, Openshaw, Manchester, M11 2WJ


Ply, 26 Lever Street, Manchester M1 1DW


The Marble Arch

73 Rochdale Road, Manchester M4 4HY

Track Brewery Taproom

Unit 18, Piccadilly Trading Estate, Manchester M1 2NP

The City Arms

46-48 Kennedy Street, Manchester M2 4BQ

Runaway Brewery Taproom

9-11 Astley Street, Stockport, SK4 1AW

Fox & Pine

18 Greaves Street, Oldham OL1 1AD

Reddish Ale

14 Broadstone Road, Reddish, Stockport SK5 7AE

Station Hop

815 Stockport Road, Levenshulme, Manchester M19 3BS

Heaton Hops

7 School Lane, Stockport SK4 5DE


The Jane Eyre

One Cutting Room Square, 14 Hood Street, Manchester M4 6WX


64-72 Spring Gardens, Manchester M2 2BQ

Red Light

4-2 Little David Street, Manchester M1 3GL

Sterling Bar

4 Norfolk Street, Manchester M2 1DW


184 – 186 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3WD

Schofield’s Bar

3 Little Quay Street Sunlight House, Manchester M3 3JZ

10 Tib Lane

10 Tib Lane, Manchester M2 4JB

Flawd Wine

9 Keepers Quay, Manchester M4 6GL


Restaurant Örme

218 Church Road, Urmston, Manchester M41 9DX

Stretford Canteen

118 Chester Road, Stretford, Manchester M32 9BH


132 Bury New Road, Prestwich, M25 0AA

Ornella’s Kitchen

10 Manchester Road, Denton, Manchester M34 3LE

The Oystercatcher

123 Manchester Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9PG


15 Lower Hillgate, Stockport SK1 1JQ

Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop

7 Town Street, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 5AA

The Jane Eyre

60 Beech Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9EG



184-186 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3WD

Higher Ground

Faulkner House, New York Street, Manchester M1 4DY

Schofield’s Bar

Sunlight House, 3 Little Quay Street, Manchester M3 3JZ

Where The Light Gets In

7 Rostron Brow, Stockport SK1 1JY


8th Floor, Blackfriars House, Manchester M3 2JA

Wood Manchester

Jack Rosenthal Street, First Street, Manchester M15 4RA

Sterling Bar

4 Norfolk Street, Manchester M2 1DW

Tast Catala

20-22 King street, Manchester M2 6AG



8th Floor, Blackfriars House, Manchester M3 2JA

Higher Ground

Faulkner House, New York Street, Manchester M1 4DY

Restaurant Örme

218 Church Road, Urmston, Manchester M41 9DX

Fold Bistro & Bottle Shop

7 Town Street, Marple Bridge, Stockport SK6 5AA

The Jane Eyre

60 Beech Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9EG


Minshull House, 47 Chorlton Street, Manchester M1 3FY

New Century Kitchen

34 Hanover Street, Manchester M4 4AH

Stretford Canteen

118 Chester Road, Stretford, Manchester M32 9BH


Joseph Otway (Higher Ground)

Danielle Heron (OSMA)

Luke Richardson (Climat)

Julian Pizer (Another Hand)

Shaun Moffat (The Edinburgh Castle)

Patrick Withington (Erst)

Seri Nam (Flawd Wine)

Mike Shaw (MUSU)


Higher Ground

Faulkner House, New York Street, Manchester M1 4DY


8th Floor, Blackfriars House, Manchester M3 2JA

Another Hand

Unit F, 253 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN

10 Tib Lane

10 Tib Lane, Manchester M2 4JB


132 Bury New Road, Pretwich, M25 0AA


9 Murray Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6HS

The Spärrows

16 Red Bank, Cheetham Hill, Manchester M4 4HF


42 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF


Recognising people who have contributed something outstanding to the hospitality industry in Greater Manchester.

What links the sprightliest greenery in my early summer garden with a dish created in 1962 at a railroad halt at the head of the navigable Loire? L’oseille is what the French call sorrel and in the unassuming industrial town of Roanne two chefs created culinary magic by marrying this acidic, zesty herb to a salmon escalope.

I first read about it in 1978 in remarkable book called Great Chefs of France, essentially a handsomely illustrated roll call of all the figures who created ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’. Roanne-based Les Freres Troigros, Jean and Pierre, sounded the most fun. Asked to create a dish for Paul Bocuse’s Legion d’Honneur lunch for Giscard d’Estaing, they came up with Escalope de saumon  a l’oseille and the rest is history. I have been slavishly following the recipe for this delicate, almost Zen-like dish since 1980 when the brothers published their own cookbook, Nouvelle Cuisine, part of a series translated into English that included Cuisine Minceur by Michel Guerard, the only one of that groundbreaking kitchen generation still alive.

By 1968 the brothers had gained a third Michelin star for the restaurant, which it has held ever since, while morphing from the station’s Hotel Moderne, prospering from the Route Nationale 7 running past, via a more sophisticated makeover in 1976, to its current incarnation after a switch to a rural site in 2007. Jean died of a heart attack in 1983, Pierre in 2020 at the age of 92, the Troigros legacy long since consolidated in the hands of Pierre’s son Michel (and now a new generation). Influences on the menu in recent times have been Japanese, a logical extension of the pared down intensity of the original Nouvelle Cuisine movement.

Alas, I’ve never eaten in the restaurant proper. On a press trip to explore the wines of the Roannaise region a Troigros lunch was organised for us. A lovely prix fixe three courses yes, but it was in a spin-off down the street, the Cafe Epicerie Le Central. It cost just 23 euros, quarter of the price of a main at the big place, where the other day I struggled to find salmon with sorrel on the website menu.

My own sorrel crop has mostly been perennial. When one year it failed we were rescued by a cutting from the unlikeliest of sources, the Michelin-starred Mr Underhills in Ludlow. 

Chris Bradley was virtually a one-man band at the stove (hence a no choice five course menu) with his wife Judy front of house. Quite a team, both now retired, the building down by Dinham Weir sold on as a private house. 

The no choice dinner we had in the garden was utterly memorable with salmon and sorrel as a starter. Which led to our lament about our own lost herb. Not only did Judy come up with a replacement from her own garden, she even volunteered Chris to drive us back to our hotel in the absence of Ludlow taxis. Now that was Michelin star service. Here’s my take on the original Troisgros recipe…

Salmon in a creamy sorrel sauce – a dish that has stood the test of time


1kg fresh middle cut of salmon, skinned; 80g fresh sorrel leaves; 2 shallots;  500ml fish fumet; 4tbsp dry white wine; 2tbsp Noilly Prat; 400ml double cream; 40g butter; juice of ½ lemon; salt and freshly ground pepper; small amount of arachide or other light oil.


Divide the salmon into four fillets and put them between two sheets of lightly oiled wax paper and flatten the fish evenly, using a mallet. Remove the stems from the sorrel by stripping the central veins from each leaf.

To prepare the fish sauce put the fish fumet, white wine, Noilly Prat and shallots into a saucepan and cook over high heat until a near glaze is reached. Add the cream and reduce until the sauce is slightly thickened. Add the sorrel for around 20 seconds while stirring. Then incorporate the butter off the heat.  Before serving add a few drops of lemon juice

To cook the fillets, sprinkle salt and pepper on the least presentable side. Heat up the oil (or use a non-stick pan), then add the salmon with the seasoned side down for 25 seconds. then turn to the second side for another 25 seconds. The salmon should be undercooked since it will continue to cook after plating. Add the sorrel sauce, enlivened with a squeeze of lemon, to each warmed plate then add the salmon. Voilà!

Just nine months ago came one of my eye-opening culinary moments of 2022. Despite the launch hype, stylish new city hotels are rarely accompanied by a food offering that hollers ‘destination restaurant’. I had high hopes for The Alan, just across from Manchester Art Gallery. I’d tasted head chef Iain Thomas’s food during his fleeting stint at the Edinburgh Castle in Ancoats. Yet even I wasn’t prepared for the series of masterly dishes he rolled out from the open kitchen for my review.

Flash in the pan? I returned, this time sitting at the kitchen counter with a hard-to-impress foodie friend. He was impressed. Not just by the cooking but also by the commitment to sourcing at odds with the corporate bean counters. The indie Manchester restaurant supports its quality local suppliers like a badge of honour – Cinderwood for salad and veg, Polyspore for mushrooms Crafty Cheeseman, Littlewoods butcher’s and the like. Plus his own allotment produce, where possible.

Iain wasn’t missing a trick. Yet by the autumn his time at The Alan was unravelling. At 36, the much-travelled Tameside lad was desperate to do his own thing. Joining him in this dream is David O’Connell, former sales and marketing director at The Alan. Together they have set up Our Place. For the moment it is a pop-up catering operation, espousing the sustainable concerns the duo share.

Hence the series of supper clubs they are staging as guests of waste campaigners Open Kitchen at their cafe and bar in the city’s People’s History Museum. The first is on Tuesday, December 13 at 6.30pm, priced at £35 per ticket. Do check but this seems to be sold out. Never fear, there will be a further 10 there before the end of April. Monitor their site and social media for other Our Place events.

Before this public launch I was lucky enough to be invited to a private Our Place event at The Perfect Match in Sale. Shortlisted for Neighbourhood Venue of the Year in the 2022 Manchester Food and Drink Awards, it is run by Andrea Follado, from an Italian family of  Prosecco makers, and Jazz Niven, once a teen prodigy in the Midland Hotel kitchens, where she worked with Iain. On the night, though, the menu was all of Iain’s making – a melange of ox tongue with Polyspore mushroom, Yorkshire Pecorino and pearl barley; cured rainbow trout (main picture) with Hyde beetroot and nasturtium; shoulder of cull ewe cooked in hay and hispi cabbage; Macondo 60% chocolate parfait and mulled fruit.

The seeds of Our Place were sown during the lockdowns when Iain, without any furlough safety net, found a sense of purpose in the community growing hub that is the Hattersley Projects in Hyde.   Following on from that gorgeous taster meal I quizzed Iain about his plans and their genesis…

Tell me about your allotment and what it means to you. Obviously how it helped during lockdown but also how it influences your food. 

“The allotment is a place that I have a lot of passion for. It is a piece of land that has done some good in my local community, but it could do so much more. I look at people like MUD (Manchester Urban Diggers) with awe and what they have achieved, and I ask why that cannot happen in my part of Manchester? I have realised that we have an amazing piece of land, we have great volunteers, but it breaks my heart that we cannot get the investment we might if we were in a more fashionable part of Greater Manchester.

“The lockdown was a weird time. I wasn’t permitted to see my family in the early lockdown. However, I was allowed on the allotment in a polytunnel with other people as we were technically food producers. So in a similar way to David’s situation in London, I ended up with a chosen family that supported me through the hard days of being alone.

“The revelation for me was the true meaning of seasonality, and how climate change is impacting that. I have worked in restaurants such as 21212, and Rocca in St Andrews. Whatever we wanted, we picked up the phone to a supplier and it could be with us from anywhere in the world. 

“In lockdown, not being on furlough and having virtually no money coming in, I was heavily dependent on the vegetables I was growing. If there were no onions growing or in season, I had no onions. At the moment we are coming into winter, and it has been a mild winter, so I have loads of nasturtiums and globe artichokes coming through… it shows the effect of global warming, as they should not really be thriving in the UK at the moment.”

Explain the Open Kitchen link-up and you and David’s commitment to sustainability.

“I had worked with a friend at the Devonshire Arms by the name of Shawn Lee and, after speaking with him, found out about the sustainability behind Open Kitchen. They are food interceptors, and for example they take food from supermarkets that was bound for landfill; for example, they recently had a crop of cauliflower come in that was not the right shade of white for the supermarket contracted with the farmer. 

“Tons of perfectly good food would have been binned straight from the field, were it not for the work of people like them. So although it is not the same kind of sustainable food that I pursue, it was something that David and I were attracted to when deciding to work with Open Kitchen as a venue.

“I think our passion and commitment to sustainability is born out of the working relationship we had in our prior positions. We had never met until January 2021, when I came on board as head chef in a hotel in town. David had come up from London the summer before, and we were hired to make reality a sustainable business. However, it soon became very corporate and we were doing and saying things about being sustainable, that were not truly in the spirit of being sustainable. We both decided that we had had enough of working for other people, and toeing the party line. We wanted our own place, to make our own decisions.”

Was the dinner you served at The Perfect Match a typical example of Our Place’s ethos?

“Yes it was. While Open Kitchen’s way of being sustainable is based on ‘what food is available that would otherwise go to landfill’. I am very much about: what food does the butcher, the farmer, the grower have right now and what can I do with it? What do I fancy cooking today? It can cause David some headaches; as a sales and marketing guy, he is used to telling guests what they can expect to eat. I want to cook what I want to cook, based on my mood and what is available and in season. For example, sustainable meat is a process. When I was prepping for the meal you enjoyed, it was a two month process discussing the cull ewe for the main dish.”

(NB: Culled ewes are retired breeding ewes that for one reason or another have lambed for the last time. They generally come into us between 4-6 years of age, having lived out a happy retirement out on the lush grasslands of Scotland. The meat therefore is complex, gamier in flavour than lamb.)

Who will be your main suppliers? 

“I love the work done by Marcus and the team at Littlewoods, and it will be local butchers like them that I work with. I love the idea of talking in October about an animal with the butcher, hearing about the progress on the farm, and being a part of the story from field to plate. You have passionate individuals like Mike at Polyspore, doing great things with mushrooms in Altrincham and Crafty Cheeseman; two sets of people doing what they love and enjoying life. 

“When it comes to vegetables, we have some great producers in the region. Cinderwood Market Garden are doing great things; their recent celtuce crop has been the talk of the town lately, and David and I were very lucky earlier in the year to be on their plot and see the crop being sown. You also have suppliers like Manchester Urban Diggers, Organic North, and then of course my own garden and plot on my allotment.”

Davey Aspin and Paul Kitching are obviously inspiring chefs you’ve worked with. What have you learned from them? Any other heroes?

“Paul Kitching is very eccentric. What I learned from him? How to word it is very hard, I need to pause a minute and think about this one. People always say to you: ‘What is a restaurant you would like to eat at blah, blah, blah’ and one for me would be Juniper (in Altrincham). Gutted I never got to eat there. As a young chef, I kind of knew about it and I hear lots of crazy stories about ‘not mushroom’ and some out there stuff. 

“I was lucky to work with him (at 21212 in Edinburgh), when his food became more adult, I guess you could say. His ideas were brilliant. Sometimes working there was frustrating, as I didn’t quite get what was going on. But the lesson for me was when I left that kitchen and came back to eat there 14 months later, that I realised what a great chef he was. One thing that chef Paul said to me was ‘there is a reason I don’t cook chicken liver parfait, sauternes jelly and brioche. Anyone down the road can do that…’ and that is why he did things like his event space POD, Paul’s Odd Dining. That is his vision of craziness, and it works.

“Without Davey Aspin, I would be flipping burgers. I was just a chef at The Midland until I worked with him. He is very underrated in my opinion and it breaks my heart when the Michelin Guide comes out that he doesn’t get a star. The man touches a piece of food, it is beautiful and deserves recognition. He treated me like a brother and a part of his family, and taught me 90 per cent of what I know, to be fair. David likes to tease me, after an instagram message from Davey, that my lamb fat cabbage is thanks to Mr Aspin.”

Is the ultimate plan to have your own restaurant? I presume at the moment it’s safer not to have responsibility for your own bricks and mortar?

“100%, but David and I are two lads who met in a hotel, and don’t have the money yet. For the first time in a while, we both felt that there was no ulterior motive and we could trust each other. David and I want to pursue the things we are passionate about in hospitality, but making them feel accessible. We want to really be real, not just say ‘we are real’. We want to showcase artists and creatives that are challenging and interesting, not just say we champion them but go for the more commercial avenue when it doesn’t make money. I really want the food I serve to be local, seasonal, and sustainable. Not just say it as a marketing ploy… I will never use an avocado for example.”

Tell me about Our Place’s commitment to helping the homeless into work.

“That is really an idea down to David. At first I was sceptical, as I can imagine it is not an easy process to help someone from the street to a stable life. David talks a lot about his mum, who you can tell was a rock for him. The one thing you pick up from him is how his mum believed in loving people; the least, the last, the lost. It is a phrase David always uses when talking about Betty and his upbringing with her. 

“When she died just before the pandemic, he was alone with her and there was no one who could or would come out to help that last night. It had a real impact on David, and he was diagnosed with PTSD. Of all the people that approached him at his lowest point in lockdown, and dared to intervene and ask ‘how are you?’ It was a homeless person on Mare Street, Hackney who helped David. I think he just wants to repay that.”

At the Perfect Match David stressed the community aspect, featuring artists, musicians, spoken word etc at your events. How is this coming together?

“With the artists, it is slowly but surely coming together. There is a really vibrant community of young artists and creatives in and around Greater Manchester, a lot of whom David was working with in his last role. The challenge is that there is not a lot of money in art, especially when you are at the start. We want to introduce and connect people.

“We believe that post-pandemic, there is a desire for community. However, we also want to make sure that we are bringing people together from different places and backgrounds. We want anyone to feel comfortable eating with us. You do not have to be educated, you do not have to be cool and hip. You just need to have respect for others, and enjoy really good food that we hope will save the planet one dish at a time.”

Imagine your near-perfect restaurant bucket-list served up over 17 nights in a single venue one chilly January just off the A59. Yes Michelin-starred Northcote’s Obsession festival is back and spreading its horizons. Founded in 2001, this really is a unique celebration of stellar chefs that is really unique. Even the AA Hospitality Awards, not the most adventurous, gave it its ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’.

The 2023 incarnation runs from January 20 to February 5. 20 world class chefs with16 Michelin stars between them will make the trip to the luxury Lancashire hotel, now part of The Stafford Collection. It will kick off on Friday, January with 20, as is customary, Northcote’s own Lisa Goodwin Allen at the stove – this year in tandem with fellow Great British Menu stalwart Niall Keating. 

Lisa has this week been named named Ayala SquareMeal Female Chef of the Year 2022. She said at the ceremony: “Being an ambassador like this and inspiring the next generation of cooks, so that the next cohort of female chefs does great things, is really important to me. It’s vital that we nurture young talent, and provide them with all the tools they need to succeed…As an industry we need to be flexible; something I’m passionate about reflecting in my kitchen and with my team.”

Two women chefs also at the peak of their powers join Lisa to cook at Obsession’s grand Obsession 23’s grand finale on Sunday, February 5 – London legends Monica Galetti of Mere and Nieves Barragan Mohacho of Sabor.

All the meals in between look equally inspirational. What thrills me most about the intense 17 day showcase is that, post-pandemic, there is a returning global presence. France and Portugal feature. 

I’ve been lucky enough to stay and dine at the Yeatman in Porto, so the appearance on Saturday, January 22, of its 2-star chef, Ricardo Costa, is a big statement. 

His restaurant in the wine-driven hotel above the Port houses has been showered with awards and he was named Rising Chef 2016 by Relais Chateaux, Chef of the Year 2009 by the Portuguese magazine Wine; “Chef of the Future” 2012 by the International Academy of Gastronomy; and Best Chef in Portugal (2013) in the Gastro Arco Atlantico prizes.

At the same time the quality of the British contingent is proof of the vibrancy of our own restaurant sector in decidedly difficult times. My pick? Chetan Sharma of Mayfair’s Bibi on January 24, Alex Nietosvuori of Hjem in the North East on February 3 and the Ritz’s dynamic duo of John Williams & Spencer Metzger on February 2. Though I’d not be averse to meeting Anna Haugh of Myrtle on January 27. She has been a breath of fresh Irish air presenting the current Masterchef. 

The full list is here. People can register for tables for Obsession23 from Thursday, November 10. Each meal is priced at £185 per person, including a Louis Roederer Champagne and canapé reception, five course menu, coffee and petit fours. A specially paired wine flight can be added, starting from around £65 per person. The official charity for Obsession23 is Hospitality Action. To date, Obsession has raised almost half a million pounds for the charity.  

Northcote, Northcote Road, Langho, Blackburn BB6 8BE. 01254 240555. For information on a variety of gourmet breaks visit the website.

It’s too easy to pin ‘Magnificent’ to Obsession but it’s a perfect fit for Northcote’s gourmet festival. For over two decades, with ever-starrier line-ups of guest chefs, it has lit up the depths of January. Last year, alas, the lights went out as the shadow of Covid cancelled all hospitality.

Now it’s storming back, ambition undimmed, from January 21 to February 6 2022 at the Michelin-starred Ribble Valley stalwart. Caution remains with an absence of global big hitters but this is more than made up for by 16 chefs, with 15 stars under their belt, from the UK and Ireland.

In announcing the cast of Obsession 22 Northcote exec chef Lisa Allen was quick to point out the big plus of this approach and I’m inclined to agree. After a torrid 18 months and more for the industry, and with staffing and supply headaches that won’t go away let’s celebrate ‘our own’. Their world class quality but also their energy and durability in the circumstances.

Not that there’s anything remotely parochial about the schedule below, tickets for which go on sale on Tuesday, September 28. It ranges from the high profile Michelin likes (above) of Matt Abe (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay), Simon Rogan (L’Enclume) to Obsession newcomers Roberta Hall McCarron from Edinburgh and Jordan Bailey from Co KIldare (below) alongside familiar telly faces Tom Kerridge and James Martin. Bailey, who runs two Michelin-starred Aimsir with his wife Majken, particularly intrigues me. Once a key part of the Restaurant Sat Bains team, he was later head chef at 3-star Michelin Maaemo in Oslo before they moved to Ireland in 2018.

As is traditional, Lisa Allen kicks off the 14 days of dinners on January 21 and she returns for a formidable female Grande Finale on February, when she teams up with Monica Galette and Nieves Barragan Mohacho.

The lineup: 

  • Fri Jan 21: Lisa Goodwin Allen, Northcote, Ribble Valley (1 star) 
  • Sat Jan 22: Matt Abe, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London (3 stars) 
  • Sun Jan 23: Mickael Viljanen, Chapter One (previously The Greenhouse), Dublin  
  • Mon Jan 24: Jordan Bailey, Aimsir, County Kildare (2 stars) 
  • Tue Jan 25: Simon Rogan & Tom Barnes, L’Enclume, Cumbria (2 stars) 
  • Wed Jan 26: Roberta Hall McCarron, The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh 
  • Thu Jan 27: Alex Bond, Alchemilla, Nottingham (1 star) 
  • Fri Jan 28: Galton Blackiston, Morston Hall, Norfolk (1 star) 
  • Sat Jan 29: Hrishikesh Desai, Gilpin Hotel & Lakehouse, Cumbria (1 star) 
  • Sun Jan 30: Kenny Atkinson, House of Tides, Newcastle (1 star)  
  • Wed Feb 2: James Martin, celebrity chef and TV presenter 
  • Thu Feb 3: Tom Kerridge, The Hand & Flowers, Marlow (2 stars) 
  • Fri Feb 4: Atul Kochhar, Atul Kochhar Restaurants, London  
  • Sun Feb 6, Grande Finale feat Monica Galetti, Mere, London; Nieves Barragan Mohacho, Sabor, London (1 star); Lisa Goodwin Allen, Northcote, Ribble Valley (1 star) 

Lisa said; “Obsession 22 is particularly special. After having to cancel this year’s festival due to the pandemic and with the hospitality industry taking such a hit, we’re all ready to put on a show of culinary brilliance. This year it was only right to bring all corners of Britain and Ireland together, focusing on the incredible talent that we have on our shores, but still with an injection of different styles of cooking, different regional ingredients and different flavours. We have some great emerging chefs like Alex Bond, and much-loved household names, as well as some of the UK’s best female chefs, joining us.”  

Tickets for Obsession 22 go on sale on September 28 and are priced at £160 per person, including a Louis Roederer Champagne and canapé reception, five course menu, coffee and petit fours. A specially paired wine flight can be added, starting from around £65 per person. For more information visit this link.  VIP hospitality packages are available to book for six or more people in the Louis Roederer Room or at the Chef’s Table, from £2,350 + VAT. A few lucky (and swift) guests might be able to book one of Northcote’s 25 boutique bedrooms. Northcote, Northcote Road, Langho, Blackburn BB6 8BE. 01254 240555. Here’s my review of Northcote’s five-course tasting menu.

What’s Italian for après le déluge? What I recall of the last Festa Italiana in 2019 was struggling out of sodden summer wear after some very non-Med weather drenched Cathedral Square. I’d have happily braved rain squalls in 2020 if Manchester’s most family friendly food event could have gone ahead, but that pesky pandemic played damp squib.

Still the forecast looks set fair for the August Bank Holiday weekend this year, with restrictions lifting. Fingers crossed then for th premed heatwave; the line-up looks a treat. OK, it’s not the place to catch up with the bright young masters of Italian cuisine. But a veteran trio of celeb chefs is always good value – step forward Gennaro Contaldo, Aldo Zilli and Giancarlo Caldesi to join those mere striplings, Festa organiser Maurizio Cecco (Salvi’s) and Fran Scafuri  (Tre Ciccio) in the on-site kitchen.

And if cookery demos are not your thing there’s a wealth of other foodie treats to get you salivating across the Festa (Fri-Sun Aug 27-29, 11am-11pm each day).

“The Festa is born out of Manchester’s Italian community and heritage; drawing huge inspiration from the traditional festivals in Italy and adding a touch of Mancunian flavour to create a weekend dedicated to bringing people together to enjoy authentic Italian food and drink, cooking masterclasses, banquets, movies and live music.” That’s what the organisers say and they’re not wrong on past evidence. Here’s the full programme:

Banquet – Festa Marquee

On Saturday, August 28, in partnership with Parmigiano Reggiano, legendary Italian restaurateurs, authors and UK TV favourites Gennaro Contaldo (Saturday Kitchen, Two Greedy Italians, Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast), and Giancarlo Caldesi (Return to Tuscany, Saturday Kitchen, Sunday Brunch), will be joining Maurizio Cecco to talk guests through the menu. Buy tickets here.

Masterclasses – Festa Marquee

On Friday August 27 there will be a series of family masterclasses for those attending with children. At 1:30pm Sienna Cecco, Maurizio’s 12-year-old daughter, a talented chef with her own YouTube channel and TV appearances under her belt, will be hosting a cooking demo to teach kids how to make simple and tasty dishes with ease, and at 2:30pm, Julia Martinelli from Pasta Factory will deliver a fun kids pasta masterclass.

Sienna is back the next day at 12:30pm with another family masterclass. Then there will be back-to-back workshops and book signings hosted by Gennaro Contaldo at 1.30pm and Giancarlo Caldesi at 2:30pm. On the Sunday Gennaro will be back at 12:30pm with another masterclass and book signing, and at 1:30pm Tre Ciccio’s Fran Scafuri will be taking guests through a very special recipe. At 2:30pm, celebrity chef and award-winning restaurateur, Aldo Zilli, above, (The One Show, This Morning, Celebrity Masterchef) will be hosting a masterclass and book signing.


Throughout the weekend Café Cannoli will be selling cannoli made using authentic ingredients imported directly from Sicily, local lads Paul and Mike from I Knead Pizza will be bringing their wood-fired oven along to serve up their Neapolitan pizza, while NQ Sicilian will be serving artisan gelato, coppa della casa, brioche gelato and brioche col tuppo. Pasta Factory will be serving up simple dishes, paired with handmade sauces inspired by Puglia. Paradiso Authentic Italian will be contributing its fresh tiramisú range. Festa stalwarts Proove will provide Neapolitan wood-fired pizza, while Lucky Mama’s will debut with their extruded pasta, homemade sauces and signature savoury/sweet dough balls. Not forgetting T’arricrii’s Sicilian specialities arancini and fritto misto and Tre Ciccio’s traditional Italian deli.


Peroni doesn’t just do drinks; the brew-based showstoppers will be popping up their portable cinema throughout the weekend, complete with bean bags, deck chairs, popcorn, Peroni on tap and themed classic movie screenings of Cinema Paradiso, Romeo and Juliet and La Dolce Vita. The cinema will be located in Cathedral Gardens trees with a Peroni bar adjacent.

Exploring Italy beyond pasta and pizza

This website is a homage to Italian specialities. Read about my passions for Cotechino, Bottarga and Colatura d’Alici.