Tag Archive for: Freight Island

Back to normal, post-pandemic? Well, not quite. Manchester’s food drink scene faces further unprecedented pressures with the current cost of living and energy crises. Yet the daring, innovative flame still burns bright and hell, do they all know how to party. My morning after lifesaver was the recuperative vibe of the city’s glorious new Mayfield Park.

That’s the ‘back garden’ of Escape to Freight Island, again the venue for the Manchester Food and Drink Awards, where there was a rapturous reception for a parade of independent heroes. As fascinating a set of winners as I can recall. Name me another UK city where the big four awards would have gone to such an eclectic quartet as Where The Light Gets In, Eddie (Walled Gardens) Shepherd, Another Hand and Speak In Code. 

These winners were chosen by a combination of a ‘mystery shopping panel’ selected from MFDF judges, including yours truly, with a measure of public input. Independent Food Producer and Independent Drinks Producer were judged by a panel taste test. The rest of the awards followed last year’s precedent and were solely the result of the (impressively large) public vote. 

Across the board there was evidence of a strong commitment to sustainability, local sourcing, cultural diversity and community values. Buzz words all but sometimes just talking the talk. Not here.

Take the aforementioned ‘big four’. Stockport’s Where The Light Gets In sources produce from The Landing, its own urban gardening space on top of the town’s Merseyway Shopping Centre. Eddie Shepherd is even more hyper-local; his plant-based ‘underground restaurant’ in Whalley Range is driven by the bee hives and herbs in his (walled) garden diners look out on.

In the city centre Another Hand is a committed purchaser of fruit, veg and herbs from Cheshire’s groundbreaking Cinderwood market garden, which supplies several of the establishments on the Awards shortlists. Vegan cocktail specialists Speak In Code, a four minute walk away from Another Hand, is remarkably hands-on. The bartending staff craft the various veg, fruit and spice-led cocktail concoctions alongside plant-based snacks and their own customised ice.

Finally a hugely deserved award cementing the resurgence of Stockport as a gastronomic destination. Restaurant of the Year WTLGI and its baked goods sibling, Yellowhammer, which was also up for an award, had to share the limelight with two of the North’s canniest events operators. I’ve known John and Rosemary Barratt for nigh on three decades and Foodie Fridays, packing the cobbled ginnels around Stockport Market Place, is their benchmark achievement. On the night it earned them both Pop Up/ Project of the Year and the coveted Outstanding Achievement Award. Their on-stage celebration, below, was a fitting climax to a special night.

Here is the list of this year’s winners…

Restaurant of the Year – Where The Light Gets In

Shortlisted: 10 Tib Lane, Erst, The Sparrows, Another Hand, Mana, The Firehouse, Where the Light Gets In.

Chef of the Year – Eddie Shepherd (The Walled Gardens)

Shortlisted: Caroline Martins (Sao Paulo Project), Joseph Otway (Flawd), Sam Buckley (Where the Light Gets In) Patrick Withington (Erst), Adam Reid (The French), Julian Pizer (Another Hand), Eddie Shepherd (The Walled Gardens).

Newcomer of the Year – Another Hand

Shortlisted: The Alan, The Black Friar, Bundobust Brewery, Flawd, Yellowhammer, 10 Tib Lane, Another Hand.

Bar of the Year – Speak In Code

Shortlisted: Blinker Bar, Flawd 9, Henry C, Ramona, Schofield’s Bar, 10 Tib Lane, Speak in Code.

Pub or Craft Ale Bar of the Year – The King’s Arms, Salford

Shortlisted:Bridge Beers, Heaton Hops, House of Hops, Nordie, Track Taproom, Station Hop, The King’s Arms (Salford),

Independent Food Producer of the Year – Dormouse Chocolates

Shortlisted: Great North Pie Co, Holy Grain, La Chouquette, Long Boi’s Bakehouse, Polyspore, Yellowhammer, Dormouse Chocolates.

Independent Drinks Producer of the Year – Hip Pop

Shortlisted: Cloudwater Brew Co, Into the Gathering Dusk, Bundobust Brewery, Stockport Gin, Steep Soda, Track Brewing, Hip Pop.

Pop Up/ Project of the Year – Foodie Fridays, Stockport

Shortlisted: Platt Fields Market Garden, Sao Paulo Project, Suppher, Eat Well Spring Festival, Bungalow at Kampus, Heart and Parcel, Foodie Fridays. 

Neighbourhood Venue of the Year – Bar San Juan, Chorlton

Shortlisted: Baratuxi, The Easy Fish Co, Nila’s Burmese Kitchen, Ornella’s Kitchen, Osma, The Perfect Match, Bar San Juan.

Food Trader of the Year – Burgerism

Shortlisted – House of Habesha, Little Lanka, Lovingly Artisan, Mira, New Wave Ramen, Pico’s Tacos, Burgerism.

Affordable Eats of the Year – Salt & Pepper MCR

Shortlisted: Aunty Ji’s, Bahn Mi Co Ba, Cafe Sanjuan, Levenshulme Bakery, Go Falafel, Mama Flo’s, Salt & Pepper MCR.

Coffee Shop of the Year – Pollen

Shortlisted: Cafe Sanjuan, Factory Coffee, Grind and Tamp, Grapefruit, Just Between Friends, Station South, Pollen

Plant-based Offering of the Year – Wholesome Junkies

Shortlisted: Four Side Pizza, Herbivorous, Otto Vegan Empire, Ruyi, Sanskruti, The Walled Gardens

Wholesome Junkies.

Food and Drink Retailer of the Year – Chorlton Cheesemongers

Shortlisted: Ad Hoc, Hello Oriental, Coopers Lets Fress Deli, Le Social, Out of the Blue, Wandering Palate, Chorlton Cheesemongers.

Foodie Neighbourhood of the Year – Ancoats

Shortlisted; Chapel Street Salford, Monton, Prestwich, Ramsbottom, Sale, Stockport, Ancoats.

Great Service Award – Dishoom

Shortlisted: Bull & Bear, Hawksmoor, Flawd, Schofield’s Bar, Speak in Code, 10 Tib Lane, Dishoom.

Howard and Ruth’s Outstanding Achievement Award – John and Rosemary Barratt (Foodie Fridays, Stockport)

The Manchester Food and Drink Festival, delayed for a week by the Period of National Mourning, continues until Sunday, October 2. Here is my lowdown.  Event images mostly courtesy of Carl Sukonik

And finally a plug for the 25 Eventful Years of The Manchester Food and Drink podcast, which I did with festival founder Phil Jones, top food PR Siobhan Hanley and the doyen of Blue Badge guides, Jonathan Schofield. It was a hoot. Listen here.

It’s always great when some of your favourite food and drink acts get the major plaudits. The weekend buzz was all about Erst in Ancoats being praised to the skies by Observer critic Jay Rayner. Deservedly so. I last reviewed it pre-pandemic and still remember a remarkable experience.

Equally immense has been the contribution of Pollen Bakery, not far away at New Islington Marina. Check out my recent celebration of their 28 hour sourdough. The public obviously share my opinion. They voted them Artisan Food Producer of the Year in the Manchester Food and Drink Awards on Monday, held in the really rather remarkable Escape To Freight Island Ticket Hall. Fittingly Escape themselves won Pop Up/Project of the Year. 

Chef of the Year Rachel Stockley gets a well-deserved hug from Baratxuri co-owner Fiona Botham

But the big winner on the night was Baratxuri, the Ramsbottom pintxos bar that also has a wood-fired outlet at Freight Island. It won Restaurant of the Year and its chef Rachel Stockley (above) Chef of the Year.

Receiving her award, she gave an impassioned speech about the role of women in the hospitality industry. To see what all the fuss is about re Baratxuri and its big sister Levanter read my glowing review from earlier this month.

In total 16 award winners were announced from food and drink establishments across Greater Manchester in this fitting climax to a resurgent Manchester Food and Drink Festival, which saw a record 80,000 visitors coming to the Festival Hub at Cathedral Gardens. 

This year it was an Awards with a difference. The shortlists were compiled by the MFDF judging panel, made up of the region’s leading food and drink critics, writers and experts (including yours truly). Amid challenging circumstances, the ‘mystery shopping’ element of the judging process was paused this year. Instead, the winners were decided entirely by the public – with food and drink fans voting in their thousands via the website. And the winners were…

Restaurant of the Year – Baratxuri, Ramsbottom

Shortlisted: Adam Reid at The French; Erst, Ancoats; Hawksmoor; Mana, Ancoats; Sparrows; Street Urchin; Where The Light Gets In; Baratxuri, Ramsbottom.

Recognising the ‘best of the best’ dining establishments in Greater Manchester in 2021, this category refers to venues visited primarily for a full dining experience featuring table service, alcohol license etc.

Chef of the Year – Rachel Stockley

Shortlisted: Adam Reid (The French); Eddie Shepherd (The Walled Gardens), Mary-Ellen McTague (The Creameries, Chorlton); Patrick Withington (Erst, Ancoats); Sam Buckley (WTLGI, Stockport); Simon Martin (Mana, Ancoats); Terry Huang (Umezushi); Rachel Stockley (Baratxuri, Ramsbottom).

Aiming to recognise the most talented and outstanding work of chefs cooking in Greater Manchester kitchens – their skill, menu, commitment and contribution to the dining scene.

Newcomer of the Year – Ramona, Swan Street
Shortlisted: District, NQ; Open Kitchen MCR; Osma, Prestwich; Pho Cue; Schofield’s Bar; Society; The Moor, Heaton Moor; Ramona.

Recognising the best new food and drink operations to open in Greater Manchester since the last awards decision period (August 2020). Date eligibility: Establishments opened between August 2020 and June 2021. Sponsored by the Manchester Evening News.

Bar of the Year – Albert’s Schloss, Peter Street

Shortlisted: Henry C Chorlton; Kiosk West Didsbury; Schofield’s Bar; Speak in Code; 

The Blues Kitchen; The Jane Eyre, Ancoats, Three Little Words, Albert’s Schloss.

Recognising the best drinking venues in the region that specialise in a “wet-led” offer and aren’t considered ‘pubs’. 

Pub or Craft Ale Bar of the Year – Edinburgh Castle,  Ancoats

Shortlisted: Beatnikz Republic; Cob and Coal, Oldham; Heaton Hops, Heaton Chapel; Society, Manchester; Nordie, Levenshulme; Reasons To Be Cheerful, Burnage; Stalybridge Buffet Bar; Edinburgh Castle.

Recognising the finest pub and beer bars in the region, focusing on quality and range of ales, beers and atmosphere. 

Artisan Food Producer of the Year – Pollen Bakery, Cotton Field Wharf,

Shortlisted: Bread Flower;  Companio Bakery, Ancoats; Gooey, Ducie Street Warehouse; Holy Grain Sourdough, Great Northern Mews; Just Natas, Manchester Arndale; Lily’s Deli, Chorlton; Manchester Smokehouse; Pollen Bakery.

Celebrating the fabulous array of food producers popping up around the region, including bakeries, picklers, pie makers and everything in between.

Pop Up/ Project of the Year – Escape to Freight Island, Baring Street

Shortlisted: Eat Well MCR; GRUB, Red Bank; Homeground, Medlock St; Kampus Summer Guest Events, Aytoun Street; Platt Fields Market, Platt Fields Market Garden; One Central, Charis House, Altrincham; MIF Festival, Festival Square; Escape to Freight Island.

Recognising exciting projects and events and showcasing innovation and creativity within the food and beverage sector.

Neighbourhood Venue of the Year – Lily’s, Ashton-under-Lyne

Shortlisted: Bar San Juan, Chorlton; Levanter, 10 Square St, Ramsbottom; Erst, Ancoats;

The Fisherman’s Table, Marple; Porta, Salford; Oystercatcher, Chorlton; Stretford Foodhall; Lily’s.

This award is set to recognise the superb establishments that are based in the suburbs of Greater Manchester. Sponsored by Roomzzz Aparthotels.

Food Trader of the Year – Wholesome Junkies, Manchester Arndale

Shortlisted – Abeja Tapas Bar, Hatch; Archchi’s; Gooey, Ducie Street Warehouse; Honest Crust; Maison Breizh; Pico’s Tacos; Tender Cow; Wholesome Junkies.
Awarding the Greater Manchester-based food heroes that are gracing our food halls, markets and events with an ever increasing range of gastro goods

Affordable Eats of the Year – Rudy’s, Ancoats and Peter Street

Shortlisted: Abeja Tapas Bar; Chapati Café, Chorlton; Ca Phe Viet, Ancoats; Little Yeti, Chorlton; Lily’s, Ashton-under-Lyne; Mi & Pho, Northenden; Platt Fields Market Garden; Rudy’s Pizza.

Recognising the best venues that are visited for a high value, quick and simple dining experience. Sponsored by Just Eat.

Coffee Shop of the Year: Federal, Nicholas Croft, NQ

Sortlisted: Another Heart to Feed, NQ; Ancoat’s Coffee, Royal Mill; Ezra & Gil, NQ; Grindsmith; Grapefruit, Sale; Just Between Friends, NQ; Pollen Bakery, Ancoats; Federal.

Recognising the best coffee shops and bars in Greater Manchester.

Veggie/Vegan Offering of the Year – Bundobust, Piccadilly

Shortlist: Eddie Shepherd (Walled Gardens, Whalley Range); Four Side Pizza, NQ); Herbivorous, Hatch; Lily’s, Ashton-under-Lyne; Sanskruti, Mauldeth Rd; Wholesome Junkies, Manchester Arndale; Vertigo, several venues; Bundobust (also now on Oxford Street).

This award recognises venues that provide innovative and exciting dining options for vegetarian and vegan diners.

Independent Drinks Producer of the Year – Manchester Gin, Watson Street
Shortlisted: Bundobust; Cloudwater Brewery; Diablesse Rum; Hip Pop (Formerly Booch & Brew), Dunham Massey; Northern Monkey, Bolton); Pomona Island Beer Brew Co, Salford; Steep Soda Co,; Manchester Gin.

Celebrating the many exciting and innovative producers of artisan drinks in Greater Manchester.

Food and Drink Retailer of the Year – Ancoats General Store 

Shortlisted: The Butcher’s Quarter, NQ; Bernie’s Grocery Store, Heaton Moor; Grape to Grain, Prestwich and Ramsbottom; Isca, Levenshulme; Out of the Blue, Chorlton; Unicorn Grocery, Chorlton; Wandering Palate, Eccles; Ancoats General Store.

The Best Food and Drink Retailer celebrates the best food and drink shopping experiences in the region.

Foodie Neighbourhood of the Year – Altrincham

Shortlisted: Heaton Moor, Prestwich, Ramsbottom, Sale, Stockport, Stretford, Urmston, Altrincham.

New for 2021, this award has been set up to celebrate those thriving communities and neighbourhoods in Greater Manchester that continue to build a name for themselves as a foodie destination outside the city centre.

Outstanding Achievement Award – Mital Morar (Store Group)

Recognising someone who has contributed something outstanding to the hospitality industry in Greater Manchester.