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It was numbing last year when the Manchester Food and Drink Festival was postponed. Man and boy (well almost) I had served my dues as one of its Awards judges and, sitting in at some of its more random events, had oodles of foodie fun over the years.

This September (from the 16th to the 27th) MFDF is back to its fully functioning best and, pandemic backlash permitting, should champion the further resurgence of Manchester’s dynamic culinary scene against the lockdown odds.

I regularly edited the print brochure but that task is now confined to history. The 24th Festival sees for the first time the entire programme of what’s happening and when will be available via a brand new MFDF app. Users will be able to browse the full festival programme, reserve a table at the Festival Hub and vote in the MFDF awards too.

The app can be downloaded in the apple and android app stores by searching ‘Mcr Food and Drink Festival’. 

The jovial Hub before the days of social distancing hastened the postponement of MFDF in 2020

That Festival Hub was switched to Cathedral Gardens from Albert Square when the major renovation of the Town Hall kicked in. Once again it will host a programme of events happening in partnership with the city’s restaurants, bars, cafes and chefs running throughout the Festival.

Some tables will be available to book over the two long weekends, but there will also be plenty of opportunities for walk-ins as large areas will not require reservations.

Even on Monday and Tuesday when it is not open to the public, the Hub will be hosting special Festival events and pop-ups.

Tom Kerridge’s ‘pub’ will be taking over the Festival Hub for a day

What are the top events on offer?

Mon Sep 20: The Bull & Bear Takeover – Tom Kerridge’s restaurant operation at the Stock Exchange Hotel monopolises the Hub for one night only to create a special street  food meets pub grub feast with a live music soundtrack.

Wed Sep 20: Manchester’s Biggest Chippy Tea – Some of the city’s best loved restaurants, chefs, chip shops and food traders, including The Hip Hop Chip Shop, Street Urchin and Lord of the Pies are coming together to create a mammoth chippy tea feast in homage to one of the region’s best-loved meals.

Thu Sep 23: Schlosstoberfest – It may not be quite October but Albert’s Schloss will be getting in the mood with Schlosstoberfest at the Hub. Expect an Oktoberfest Takeover bringing brats, pretzels and lederhosen. Free to attend and no need to book at the MFDF street kitchen they will be serving up Bavarian food and programming a lively night of Schloss-style entertainment.

Bratwurst Albert’s Schloss style can be spectacular

Thur-Sun Sep 16-19: MFDF Street Kitchen Takeovers – MFDF has its own street food kitchen trailer on site at the Hub which where guests will include Evuna, Jackie Kearney and Tast Catala.

Fri-Sun Sep 24-26: Eat Well Kitchen – Eat Well Mcr is the inspiring social enterprise born out of the COVID-19 crisis. Founded by food and drink star Mary-Ellen McTague, Kathleen O’Connor and Gemma Saunders, it provide meals made by chefs and hospitality professionals to people sidelined by poverty. Each day their kitchen at the Hub will feature a different restaurant partner from the Eat Well Collective with all profits going to Eat Well Mcr, including a £1 voluntary donation added to orders. 

Thu-Sun Sep 16-19 and Thu-Sun Sep 23-26: The Just Eat Street Food Chalets – MFDF sponsors Just Eat will be bringing some of their Manchester restaurant partners to the Just Eat Street Food Chalets. They include Peck and Yard,, La Bandera, Vertigo Plant-Based Eatery and JJ Vish and Chips.

There will be an abundance of global street food to tempt Festival-goers

PLUS, an array of street food vendors will be at the Hub over the two long weekends and an MFDF Artisan Food Market will operate from Thu 16 to Sun 19 and Thu 23 to Sun 26. Drinkers are well catered for with a variety of bars on site, while on Fri 17 and Sat 18 Halle St Peters in Ancoats hosts the ever popular MFDF Wine & Fizz Festival.

Participating retailers including Decent Drop, Prestwich’s Grape to Grain, Le Social Wine,  Cork of the North and UKiYO Republic showcasing their wonderful range of Japanese sake. As well as tasting the wines, guests can buy from those on site too and take some very special bottles home. £12.50. Book here

The MFDF Awards 2021 will be presented at a Gala Dinner at the Ticket All at Escape to Freight Island on Monday, September 27. Award nominations are now open. New categories this year include one which demonstrates the regional breadth of the festival – ‘Best Foodie Neighbourhood’.

For full details of the UK’s best regional celebration of food and drink, including its extensive programme of free music, visit the Festival website.