Manchester Food & Drink Festival (September 2004)

Manchester Food & Drink Festival (September 2004)

Not so long ago the idea of a food and drink extravaganza in Manchester would have been greeted with hoots of derision. Yet only five years or so since it started in fairly modest fashion, the Manchester Food & Drink Festival is an eagerly awaited annual event. This year, it's bigger than ever.

It takes place from October 1 to 14 and the packed programme has many highlights. They include an appearance by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall at the Bridgewater Hall. The River Cottage escapee holds forth on Monday October 4, when he will prepare a selection of delicious recipes from Meat, his latest book, in a live cookery demonstration. The evening is also a chance to listen to the affable Hugh talk about aspects of his work and life at River Cottage and as a food writer, plus his unquestionable commitment to real food and home cooking.

Throughout the two weeks the festival is on, there are all kinds of events taking place across the city and there's even a 'fringe' festival in Didsbury and Chorlton. The full list of participating restaurants, bars, cafes, department stores, museums and galleries as well as the full programme is on the festival website. There are guest appearances from celebrity chefs, cookery demonstrations, and a special Food and Drink awards gala dinner at Manchester town hall -- hosted by chef Simon Rimmer from Greens restaurant in West Didsbury.

A major focal point for the festival ambience will be St Ann's Square, which will be the venue for a special market offering the finest produce from the region. From cheese to black puddings and chocolate, it will all be there. For the first time, there will also be a Festival Restaurant here, supervised by award-winning chef Robert Owen Brown from nearby gastro-pub The Bridge. Another marquee will feature other chefs demonstrating their skills. The celebs will include Raymond Blanc, and Gilly Brooks (of This Morning fame). There are fine food markets also at The Printworks and Tib Street.

Watch out for special offers during the two weeks the festival is on. Livebait has a special seafood menu , just £25 for two courses. Plus champagne at only £17.50 a bottle. Café Paradiso at the Rossetti offers two Mediterranean-style courses for £12.50. And the various establishments owned by KroBar will have a raft of Danish delights. Over at Harvey Nicks it's just £9.50 if you want an Absolutely Fabulous-style lunch in the brasserie. Newish eaterie Establishment is the venue for champagne and wine-tastings. And if you're a cheese fan, there's the cheeseboard challenge at Love Saves The Day deli on Tib Street. At Manchester Art Gallery there are visions of health in the shape of a selection of Healthy Option meals. Five types or fruit and vegetables will be on offer for the kids, via the Gallery's Hungry Monkey Lunch Boxes. Out in the suburbs, chef Andrew Nutter has a festival special at his new Nutters HQ in Norden.

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