Local guides

A modern version of an old idea: The best food halls in Manchester
Published 05 April 2022

Credit: The Produce Hall, Stockport

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? A food hall or a market hall? Indoor street stalls, micro-restaurants or a posse of static food trucks lined up like a covered caravan park? Takeaways that are not-takeaways. Eating in or eating out, food vendors or food shops, boundaries and definitions are increasingly blurred. Whatever you call it, this hybrid way of grazing-cum-eating (and shopping) has become increasingly familiar in cities such as Manchester. Clarissa Hyman enjoys a tour of the best Manchester has to offer.  

 

Honest Crust | Mackie Mayor | Instagram
Honest Crust. Credit: Mackie Mayor/Instagram


Mackie Mayor

In Manchester the new food hall experience was kick started with the opening of Mackie Mayor. Originally the city’s fresh produce market, Nick Johnson’s re-invention of the soaring Grade II listed building under a fabulous glass roof galvanised the city’s dining scene, and set the pace for the blossoming of the idiosyncratic, hip Northern Quarter. Nine topnotch kitchens and bars include Tender Cow who specialise in rare breed beef (great steak sandwich!) and Honest Crust, ever-popular for sourdough pizza. The atmosphere hums with laid-back conviviality and a dollop of Manc madness. And, there’s a children’s play area hidden under the stairs. You might never get them home but the grown-ups can’t talk: it’s all too easy to come for lunch and not leave till the last tram home. 1 Eagle Street, Manchester M4 5BU

Dokes
Dokes Pizzeria. Credit: Society/Facebook

 

Society

Open all week, five independent kitchens have come together to provide much-needed grazing opportunities near the Bridgewater Hall. There’s also a cocktail bar and specialist taproom by Hebden Bridge craft brewery Vocation. The famous five feature bloody big burgers from Slap & Pickle, pan-Asian food from Manzoku, much-admired South Indian street food from Chaat Cart, seasonal pizza from Dokes Pizzeria and Korean street food from Yoki Social Table (the KFC, Korean Fried Chicken, is a must). Resident and guest DJs boost the basement evening energy - just don’t fall in the adjoining wild-fowl water feature. Basement, 100 Barbirolli Square Manchester M2 3BD 

Sam JOseph
Credit: Sam Joseph Chocolate/Instagram

 

Altrincham Market

Alty Market, as it’s usually called, is a mix of permanent vendors and changing guest traders: it is also made up of three parts. Set up by the people who brought you Mackie Mayor, they’ve managed to bottle the buzz and create a venue that is on-trend but not toffee-nosed or achingly hip. The indoor food hall, known as the Market House, is open every day but Monday; the New Market Square has seating and some food stalls; and the outdoor covered market which houses both fresh produce and artisanal vendors is open every day except Monday and Wednesday. Some of the food makers to look out for include the Great North Pie Co and Sam Joseph for handmade chocolates and pastries. Greenwood Street, Altrincham WA14 1SA 

Madre at KAmpus
Credit: Madre/Kampus

 

Kampus

Described as Manchester’s ‘garden neighbourhood’, Kampus is a new residential city centre area close by both Piccadilly Station and the canal. It’s a maze of little streets, gardens and terraces plus a well curated collection of good independent food and drink outlets (some open now, some due to open shortly). Strictly speaking it’s not a food hall but a cluster of permanents and pop-ups that have come together like a rock supergroup. Madre will feature sizzling Mexican and South American plates; go to Yum Cha for Chinese dim sum and roast meats; Great North Pie for award- winning pies; and the fabulous Pollen bakery for sourdough and viennoiserie. Aytoun Street, Manchester M1 3GL 

Escape to Freight Island
Credit: Escape to Freight Island

 

Escape to Freight Island

Roll up, roll up - we have here something that defies categorisation. A redefined urban landscape hewn out of an abandoned freight depot has become a super-sized home to food stalls, bars, culture spaces, music, films, comedy, circus acts and goodness knows what else. The food outlets are equally idiosyncratic and kinda mean (in a good way) from top Berlin-style doner kebabs to Jalisco-style shrimp tacos and New York pizza pies. It’s all big, bad and outta sight. Depot Mayfield, 11 Baring Street, Manchester M1PY 

Mamma G’s Caribbean Soul Food
Mamma G’s Caribbean Soul Food. Credit: The Produce Hall/Facebook

 

The Produce Hall

There have been many changes over the course of Stockport Market’s venerable history but the Produce Hall has been given a makeover with a smart new look from vendors such as Kambuja that offers Cambodian (with vegan choice), tiffin from the Chaat Cart, Mexican and Jamaican food. Regulars always recommend the coffee and cakes: don’t miss newcomer Sticky Fingers, an artisan Polish bakery. Note also the the classic design of the glass-fronted beer bar. 24A Market Place, Stockport SK1 1EU

Sale Food Hall
Credit: Sale Food Hall

 

Stretford Food Hall & Sale Food Hall

The sister outlets share a similar format - a small but ever-changing roster of pop-up vendors who cook fresh on site in airy, open-plan interiors. Expect anything from vegan burgers and tacos to Thai noodles and Korean chicken plus craft beer and quiz nights. Sadly, the service (in Stretford) has been described as ‘shambolic’ but it’s probably improved by now - and they do a good coffee. Chester Road, Stratford M32 and 9BD, Stanley Square, Sale M33 7WZ 

Viet Shack
Credit: Viet Shack/Instagram

 

Arndale Food Market

In the beginning, if you wanted cheap, fast and good lunch scran without giving your hard-earned dosh to the corporate mega-brands, then the Arndale was a pretty good choice. Styling and merchandising were, still are, basic and functional - the space is one the Conran years forgot - but it remains a reliable city centre pit stop. And it does have the advantage of being right next to a very good fish hall (usually packed with discerning and noisy Asian customers.) From a mixed bag, multi-national selection, try bahn mi from the Viet Shack, Portuguese custard tarts, Thai curries, massive burritos, curry goat and jolly rice and spicy yakisoba noodles. Sadly, much loved Salt & Pepper have had to leave recently but are relocating in the Black Dog NQ (Northern Quarter).  Manchester Arndale, M4 3AQ 

NB Do not confuse the Market with the Arndale Food Court unless you’re desperate for a Maccy D’s. And even then...

Hello Oriantal
Credit: Hello Oriental/Instagram

 

Hello Oriental

Three floors of Asian food outlets near the huge student hub of Oxford Road includes supermarket, street food stalls, bakery (hello matcha custard buns!) and cafe - it’s a mind-boggling, technicolour choice of Chinese roasts, dim sum, hot pho, baos. Vegans should try the lurid green Shanghai Xiao Long Bau with gluten-free mushroom sauce; non-vegans can defy with the deliciously messy Katsu breaded pork burger on a pork floss brioche with Tonkatsu sauce. Although a walk from Chinatown, it’s become another home from home for the city’s Hong Kong incomers, and a treasure trove for seekers of Japanese Kit-Kats, fruit mocha and more Sirachas than you’ve had hot hot pots. South Pavilion, 2 Symphony Park, Circle Square, Manchester M1 7FS
 

Oh my Cheesecake
Credit: Oh My Cheesecake

 

Hatch

Boxy, vibrant-coloured containers perch under the concrete flyover and function like a foodie whack-a-mole (or should that be guacamole?). A changing roster of world flavours might include Brazilian-Portuguese, Sicilian, smashed patty bugers, gourmet British hot dogs and cheesecake on a stick - a Lancashire, indeed UK, first. And let us not forget the beloved old school (in every sense) throwback: Cornflake Tarts. 103 Oxford Road, Manchester M1 7ED