So it’s about time I got my head down and wrote about this wonderful event. What with a holiday to Tunisia and then Glastonbury Festival, things have been a little hectic of late, but finally, here goes!
The Kitchens is situated at Leftbank, Spinningfields, Manchester – a retail and residential development which is home to some of Manchester’s biggest names on the Food & Drink scene (Tattu, The Oast House and Iberica – to name a few). The company behind the development, Allied London, have given 6 of Manchester’s best street food and pop-up traders an opportunity to have their own ‘bricks and mortar’ for 12 months.
After twelve months there will be a winner – the prize will be the backing and partnership of Allied London, so assumedly they will be able to open their very own place, somewhere else. One question this springs to mind is; where will that leave the other 5? No idea, but rather than dwell, let’s focus on the here and now: Six completely awesome indie food-traders have their own space to create fantastic menus and dishes to feed the masses. And based on what I’ve tried so far, the food does not disappoint.
Leftbank is the canal side of Spinningfields, not far from Scene Indian Street Kitchen and next to The Dockyard pub. The layout of The Kitchens is pretty simple, but not quite what I expected (although I can’t put my finger on exactly what I did expect). The 6 traders are divided straight down the middle, with 3 on one side, 3 on the other, facing each other. In the middle, there is a fairly large (outdoor, but covered) area which includes some grass, and some sand for kids to play in. There is also some outside seating, in the form of beer-garden style benches. Inside, the three traders’ kitchens sit adjacent to each other, and there is some indoor seating in the form of high-stools and window tables (think Starbuck’s style, looking out towards the courtyard).
Now you hopefully have a feel for what the place looks like overall, let’s get to the main point. The food. At the launch, they were running a special deal where you could dine at one trader for free – you just had to delve your hand into a tub of wooden knives & forks and unwrap them – whichever traders’ name was on the back of the cutlery was your freebie for the event. The one I chose, rather awesomely, had no name. This meant I could choose. So I headed straight over to YAKUMAMA…
YAKUMAMA serve Latin American inspired street food that is all homemade by the lovely Hannah and Marcy – a couple duo who make everything from scratch. I first met them at Altrincham Market and I must say they are a very down-to-earth and genuinely nice couple. Their food is infused with ‘colour, fire and creativity’ according to The Kitchens website, and I cannot disagree with this statement. Their dishes are full of bold, hearty flavours and they have really gone to town to make their kitchen standout. It features a vertical, tropical garden on each side which really fits in with their Amazon forest-like theme.
I chose the Honey and Lime Chicken Wings with Papaya, Mango and Coconut Salad with Palm Sugar, Roasted Peanuts and a Lime, Chilli and Honey Dressing. OMG. It was as good as it sounds, it was as good as it looks. So fresh, zingy, a hint of spice from the chilli and sweetness from the honey and palm sugar. It came with a huge pile of chicken wings which were so fresh and succulent the juicy meat just fell off the bones. Loved every bite. I also tried a generous portion of their signature Chicharrones homemade Latin spiced pork crackling with Guacamole – crispy, salty, crunchy and delicious. Looks impressive too!
At the time, their gas wasn’t working (which was a huge shame – I hope Allied London have pulled their finger out and got this sorted now!) – as the other dish I was desperate to try was their Crispy Calamari with Cayenne & Paprika, Whole Fried Chillies, Lemon Aioli and Maldon Sea Salt. I know. Are you drooling yet? Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?
In true foodie style and determined not to just try one of the 6 vendor’s offerings, I decided to visit Bangers and Bacon as I had heard so many good things about them, including their Chef’s Table events. Their kitchen is directly opposite Yakumama, across the courtyard.
BANGERS & BACON do awesome things with pigs. Sounds wrong, but trust me, it is so, so right! Run by trio James and Heather Taylor and Richard Brown – these guys really do know what they’re doing in the kitchen when it comes to celebrating the wonder that is all things PORK. According to The Kitchen’s website, they are “bacon bandits, sultans of sausage, back bacon billionaires,” enough said, really. On the night of the launch I tried a variety box which showcased some of their signature dishes: Porchetta – Rolled and stuffed Porchetta (middle of pork marinated in herbs garlic and stuffed ) served on a toasted Pletzel Roll with salsa verde and mixed leaves. Mutha Porka – Italian infused pork patty wrapped in homemade dry cured streaky bacon and mature cheddar cheese, on a bun with Slaw and homemade Mustard Pickle. All of which tasted completely divine!
I also tried their Sausage Nuggets – which speak for themselves, Manchester Calamari – which is crispy pig’s ears and Bacon Brownies – yes, you read correctly, the most awesome brownies with bacon pieces made by Ginger Tart. All of their food was delicious, especially the Mutha Porka burger which was so succulent tasty.
My friend and company for the evening, the lovely Jo from Taste Today, picked out CHAAT CART for her freebie option. These guys serve ‘real Indian street food’ so I think she was pretty impressed with her choice (loves a bit of spice). Chargrilled spicy chicken Kati roll with mint and yoghurt dressing and rainbow salad, which she really enjoyed, and looked delicious…
On this occasion, I was (clearly) too full to feast at any of the other traders stalls. Below is a background of them all, and some pictures that I (probably rather annoyingly) took of friend’s food…
HIP HOP CHIP SHOP are an ‘un-traditional’ fish & chip shop inspired by the inventive ethos of hip-hop culture. You can follow them on twitter here. And feast your eyes on some of their yummy offerings below:
MUMMA SCHNITZEL serve ‘Schnitzel love in a bun‘, put simply as per the Kitchen’s descriptions. I have tried their chicken burgers before at other food events, are they are the Schnitz-niz.
WHOLESOME & RAW according to The Kitchen’s, these guys serve “fruit and veg ALIVE with enzymes and nutrients prepared and juiced before you”. Sounds kind of boring, right? Well let me tell you, on the launch night they were serving up a storm. Their kitchen seemed really popular, and on the specials they were serving up Raw Pad Thai and it honestly looked so fresh and vibrant. It’s great to see such a healthy street food vendor on board too, showing that flavour doesn’t always need to be full of calories!
Overall I really enjoyed the launch of The Kitchen’s and I really wish the guys all the best in finding their ‘bricks and mortar’ feet. Having had a chat to a few of the traders, I think it has taken some getting used to, but hopefully they are being supported by Allied London in any way possible!
Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.