How to Spend a Creative Foodie Break in Manchester

2 June 2023

Creative souls track to Manchester like bees go to honey...

It may be the street art, which injects colour into unassuming corners. It may be the city’s many creative entertainment concepts, like speakeasy-style bars, coworking spaces, art galleries, or literary events.

Manchester’s food scene is no different, with street food, bistros, alfresco-style pizzas, and pop-up food markets demonstrating the same artistry.

The forward-thinking city is just right for a creative foodie break, and the following itinerary will break the recipe down into easily-digestible activities, including creative things to do in Manchester and the most original food venues for northern and international ‘scran’.

Street Food

Food makes Manchester tick. Community-driven food halls, long-established markets, beer gardens, and recently-opened restaurants all make their mark on the city’s streets.

Any investigation into street food scran should start at the city’s Arndale Market. Symbolic of Manchester’s many multicultural influences and well-marketed to the city’s active vegan community, it runs international stalls and plant-powered Sundays.

Track down Quebec-style poutine with crispy curds at the Blue Caribou Canteen, samosa chaat or panipuri at Eat 2 Treat, or Brice Moore’s ramen at Fusion Lab. Holy Crab brings the coast to the city; oysters and crab balls are some of their staple recipes.

Urban eating spots are constantly popping up over the city to drive the local community (and all Manchester-curious folks) together. HATCH’s shipping containers house nine creative foodmakers, including the revered Grandad’s Sausages from Bury. Their gourmet British hotdogs have impressed Mancunians for over 50 years. Hanoi 75, a Vietnamese joint in a double-decker bus which sells bao buns, pho and bun ga, is another hot topic.

Unique Food Venues

Kept in the former Smithfield market of 1858, in the Northern Quarter, Mackie Mayor also drives the community together. Just like a school canteen or the hawker venues of Singapore, seating is arranged in benches. Stalls sell scran such as rusty pizza, hot coffee, bao buns, tacos, and burgers.

Based in another historic venue, Escape to Freight Island merges fashionable food with festival vibes. The setting is within the former Mayfield railway station, but the party turns from food to a dance hall come midnight. Expect Vietnamese dishes from Mi & Pho, pasta from Belzan, and fresh DJs.

Manchester is wonderfully multicultural, and its food scene is no different. The city’s Caribbean community, who mostly reside on Moss Side in south Manchester, have brought home cooked west Indian cuisine to the streets.

Curried goat or jerk chicken can be tracked down in Rad’s in Ancoats or Rita’s Reign in Piccadilly. The curried goat at Mama Flo’s is slow-cooked and renowned in the Caribbean community, and a family-like welcome is always guaranteed.

Marked by a paifang, Manchester’s Chinatown is the second-largest in the United Kingdom after London. Whether you visit Manchester’s first Chinese restaurant, where Yang Sing’s dim sum has tickled tastebuds for generations, or pick up egg tarts or steamed custard buns from a Chinese bakery, it’s another must.

Then, there’s traditional British scran, like the beef and ale pie of The Great North Pie company, Manchester ales, or Lancashire cheese from one of the city’s many cheesemongers.

One of the bougiest food neighbours is Ancoats. Once a rural area populated with just farms, it was taken over by groups of steam-powered mills in the Georgian period, before the arrival of Italian ice cream in the 20th century kicked off the growth of its independent food venues. Rudy’s Neapolitan Pizza, whose pizza is listed as one of the best pizzas in the world in the guidebook Where to Eat Pizza, is just one example of Ancoats’ international foodie fame.

Self-guided street art tour

Manchester’s food venues prove that creativity is in every turn, not just in every spud. Street art confirms this theory. Tribal portraits remember those who are fighting for independence in West Papua. A blue tit mural raises environmental awareness. Bottle sketches, meanwhile, push city goers to think of sustainability.

A gin distillery tour

It’s always gin-o-clock in Manchester. The Manchester Gin Distillery is a family-run business in the city centre with a 1000-litre copper still, and a Manchester Gin distillery tour will quickly get you acquainted with the ways of how gin-making is done in the big smoke.

It’s clear that Manchester’s food and entertainment venues are set to take visitors on a wild flight of fantasy, especially when it comes to Lancashire cheese, curried goat, or beef and ale pie. All that’s left is to decide whether to go solo or join a Manchester food crawl.