When people ask me “where’s your favourite place eat in Manchester?” I always mention Viet Shack and Fusion Lab.
It’s my favourite kind of food… An explosion of Asian flavours, crispy, juicy BBQ meats piled high on burgers or served on top of fluffy rice or noodles with fresh, zingy, crunchy slaws and salads. It’s all delicious, cooked from scratch and exactly the kind of thing I want to grab at lunchtime – any day of the week.
And all within the humble setting of the Arndale Indoor Market, who’d have known?
These guys have dominated the market food hall for over four years now but they are not about to stop there. In fact, they’re only just getting started.
In my first Meet the Maker post, I went to meet Viet Shack Co-founder, Nelson. He told me the story behind Manchester’s favourite street food stall and revealed all about Viet Shack’s next big venture…
If you don’t know already, they’re opening the doors to their brand new RESTAURANT in Ancoats very soon. Trust me, you do not want to miss this!
But where did it all start?
Viet Shack is run by best friends and lifelong next door neighbours – Nelson and Leo.
Back in the day, they’d have big garden parties; friends and family gathering in their back gardens to socialise and of course to EAT.
Neither of them trained chefs – just two mates who love good food and feeding people. The food was so good at their famous barbecues that friends would say “you should seriously open up your own place”…
At the time, Nelson had it good as a professional stylist and Leo had a secure job as an Accountant. But they were itching to do something new, something edgy and exciting. Was it really worth taking the risk? Quitting their steady jobs to start a street food joint?
On telling friends they were ACTUALLY going to give it a shot, the doubts started setting in “But you’re not even chefs!” “It will never work!” but I guess this negativity just fueled them on to make sure it did work. They’d bought a place, they needed to pay their bills. This was really happening.
In the first week of trade, Viet Shack was selling out each day. Things started to pick up on social media and the place was buzzing! Nelson quit his job as a stylist one week into the start of Viet Shack. Leo followed one week after that.
Within three months they were nominated for “Best Street Food” at the Manchester Food & Drink Awards. It was a record – no past nominee had ever been up for the award having only just opened. The guys went along to the award dinner, fully expecting the big dogs to take the trophy (Almost Famous were surely gonna take it!) but no, Viet Shack took the crown, and it only served to catapult their popularity even further! 🥇🏆🙌
I’ve eaten at Viet Shack so many times now and their sister shack next door – Fusion Lab – is just as good.
Nelson and Leo have earned the love of so many Manchester foodies. All the big food bloggers are fans, including Asian food queen Pippy Eats and Gemma from You Say Tomato absolutely loves their fish tacos!
So what’s next?
Well, they are expanding again. But this time it’s bigger and better.
Next week will see them open their super cool-and-vibey casual dining restaurant in the mighty ANCOATS. They’ve taken over the spot where Squid Ink was – in between the successful Kettlebell Kitchen and the lovely Chaology.
The same Viet Shack food, plus some small plates inspired by Vietnam and Nelson’s mum’s authentic Vietnamese home cooking.
Ice cold Vietnam beers (Saigon and Hanoi) will be available by the bottle and they’ll have a range of Asian-inspired cocktails too.
The guys have renovated the place themselves with help from family and friends (in exchange for a lifetime supply of Viet Shack food, no doubt!) and the decor is a mix of reclaimed items, hip street art and edgy earthenware – but would we expect anything less from super cool stylist, Nelson?! I think not.
They’ve built amazing connections with the neighbours too. In fact, Pollen Bakery is their proud new bread supplier which is sure to take the Viet Shack Bahn Mi to the very next level and I cannot wait to try it!
Are you as excited as I am, for the Viet Shack RESTAURANT? Make sure you follow them on Instagram @VietShack for the very latest updates and I guess I’ll SEE YOU AT THE BAR! ✌️🍻🍹
The photography in this post is by Viet Shack’s food photographer Lucas Smith.
It features a range of the delicious creations from Viet Shack and Fusion Lab. If you want to book Lucas, get in touch on his Instagram page (@lucassmithphoto) or website (www.lucassmithphoto.co.uk). 👏 📷
That’s such an interesting read to find out where it all began. Also, I’ve never been here, can you please take me 🙂 xxx
That is an offer I cannot refuse. Let’s talk dates, lady! It’s so much easier now I love closer, yay! and yep these guys seriously know how to cook – they new place is going to be amazing! xx
Oh my gosh, I am so excited for them to be nearer to my office. I’ll never be away. Lol!
I went on Saturday night and loved it! The new small plates are really special, and the classics are better than ever! It’s quite a big menu but definitely something for everyone. I’ll be back very soon to try the Bahn Mi (bread now supplied by POLEN!) and the Bun Bo Hue (fave noodle dish I ate in Vietnam!) x