We love a good food hall. Our first experience of one which truly blew our socks off was Mercato Centrale in Florence — so many amazing foods in one place. And when we went to NYC in 2018 we managed to eat at a different food hall everyday.
But we live in Manchester, and this fine city is blessed with an ample selection of food halls which we love... so here's our run down of them.
So my vote for favourite food hall in Manchester has to go to GRUB, although it's much less "formal" than the others on this list. Essentially it's a venue with a rotating list of street food vendors. On any given day there'll be between 4 and 6 vendors serving various sweet and savoury delights, so you can be sure of something different each time you come. Sunday's are "plant powered" where everything on offer is suitable for vegans. There's also a bar selling great craft beers – again, including vegan options.
GRUB is something of a hidden gem. It's tucked away with virtually no external signage until you stumble upon it. It's a cool venue with great food and drink and a really laid back vibe of people enjoying the atmosphere.
The tricky thing to explain about GRUB is where it is because it moves. During winter 2018/19 it has been located at Fairfield Social club – a large vaulted space underneath a railway viaduct near Piccadilly station. Last summer it was located in an open air yard at Mayfield – I don't know if it will be heading back there this summer because that building is earmarked for redevelopment (and will be part of Manchester Pride 2019), so keep an eye on their Twitter account for more info.
One thing to note – GRUB has been flirting with the idea of going cashless, so make sure you bring some plastic to pay with!
The Mackie Mayor occupies one of Manchester's old market halls which has been lovingly restored to create an amazing space. It's split across two floors with seating on both, and the ground floor has various food vendors set up around the edge. Again, there's a wide range of foods here but I've got to give a shout out to the fish and chips which takes a British classic and elevates it to another level! It's always busy here, so be prepared to hunt for some space. The process is pretty simple – pick a table and note the number, then go and order some food from the counter(s) of your choice, telling them the number of where you're seated. Pay up and they'll come over with your food when it's ready.
If you're looking for a gift, there's also a nice wine and spirits shop here. And if you're after something lighter there's a coffee shop on outside of the main hall. The biggest thing against the Mackie Mayor is that it's probably the most expensive place on this list, but the combination of food and venue is probably worth it.
As you walk out of the city centre along Oxford Road, you'll come to an underpass where the Mancunian Way goes overhead. Beneath all the cars is a little oasis of calm – Hatch is a small courtyard surrounded with converted shipping containers, each of which contains a business. The units here are let on short leases, so businesses change fairly quickly but there are three "anchors" – a branch of the fabulous Takk coffee, a nano-brewery called Öl, plus another bar Elektric Box. In addition to them you can expect three or four food vendors.
There are also a number of other units here which at various times have hosted a variety of other shops and retailers, although at the time of writing many of them are empty. The biggest downside to Hatch is simply that it's outdoors, so in cold and wet weather the outside seating area isn't ideal...
Is this the one which started the food hall trend? Quite possibly.
Altrincham Market is a bit of a journey out of the city centre, but still easily reachable (Altrincham is the last stop on one of the Metrolink tram lines). I believe this is run by the same people as the Mackie Mayor, but Altrincham Market came first and – some would say – revitalised the town centre.
There are basically two adjacent halls here – one is very much like the Mackie Mayor with a central seating area and a wide variety of food vendors around the edge. This place is hugely popular... in fact, each time I've visited I've never managed to get a seat in here.
Fortunately, nextdoor there's another hall with a mixture of food vendors and craft stalls, giving this place a wider range of appeal – you can come here for gifts and home ideas as well as food.
The Market at The University of Manchester
OK, so this one is a bit out of left field... but there's a surprisingly good food hall tucked away at the University of Manchester. Located inside University Place (the large, round grey building on Oxford Road, opposite the Manchester Museum) you will find The Market.
This used to be a fairly run of the mill University catering venue but in 2018 it was transformed and now houses a number of independent food vendors, most of which are famous names on the Manchester food scene including Yard & Coop from the Northern Quarter, the fantastic Manchester Coffee Company, and Vietnamese favourite from Ancoats Vnam.
You need to be aware though that this place is only open during University term time, and can get packed out at lunchtime. I'm not strictly sure if this is open to the public, but I do know the food is great!
The Manchester Arndale Centre is well known for its shopping, but there's also a food market here. If you enter via High Street you'll find the market – it's split roughly in two. The half on the left (as you enter) was just retail units for a long time (and at first glance, still is) but if you venture inside you'll find some food stalls and seating. The other side is just food, covering all sorts from protein filled boxes for a post-gym fix, through craft beer, Vietnamese and Thai, a greengrocers and more. Down at the far end you'll also find what ( think) is the only fishmonger in Manchester city centre.
It's crowded, it's busy, but there's lots to choose from here.
OK, so this last one might be stretching the concept a bit, but right at the opposite end of the tram network to Altrincham lies the town of Bury, with it's famous market. In fact, the market has been voted "best market in Britain" on multiple occasions, including this year! This is a market in the traditional sense, selling anything and everything but there are plenty of places to eat here too, including the original branch of Manchester legend Katsouri's. You'll also find plenty of places serving northern traditions like pies... and you have try some of the local delicacy, Bury black pudding!