Where should you go this weekend? Food Fight at the Great Northern – UPDATED

For some reason, food courts do not seem to be as popular in France as they are in Britain (and elsewhere for that matter!). My first experience of a place where you can all eat food from different restaurants and still sit together (my very own definition of a food court) was thus fairly recent, when I had the chance to go on holiday to Malaysia a few years ago. As you can guess, I loved it.  The only thing that I found hard was choosing where to get my meal from, too much choice.

Anyway, it wasn’t until I moved to Manchester that I had access to this kind of place. From the not-so-exciting Arndale Food Court to more sophisticated venues, one particularly stands out: Food Fight. Although it technically isn’t a food court, it is still a place “where you can all eat food from different restaurants and still sit together”, and that’s what matters, right? This pop-up street food event brings together the finest dirty food you can find in Manchester: a plethora of South-Western style snacks, burgers, hot-dogs, you name it. Add to that an attractive choice of cocktails and funky music provided by the resident DJ, and you’ve got the perfect Friday night outing.

So, I ended up in Food Fight last Friday, not knowing what to really expect. The whole concept is a bit unusual, but as soon as you get into it, it is very much enjoyable. Although it opens at 5pm, there is no need to get there that early, we showed up at 8 and had no trouble getting in. First, we decided to share a cornet of almojabanas from El Capo: cheese and chilli fritters from Puerto Rico, which turned out to be very tasty. I then had a hot-dog from Piggie Smalls. Now, hot-dogs are usually my preferred choice of street-food, as I never cook them myself. This one had the quirky name of Chilli con Kanye (among a choice of Amy Swinehouse and Notorious P.I.G), and consisted of a frankfurter topped with chipotle sauce, chilli con carne and crushed Doritos. The meat was good, as well as the sauce, which was perfectly spicy. My friend had a burger from Chow Down, which was, according to him, delicious.

For drinks, we both had a Dark and Stormy, ginger beer mixed with rum, which wasn’t bad at all, and then my friend had a Moscow Mule, which I do not need to introduce, and I had a Hot Winter. The Hot Winter turned out to be a surprising mix of warm Rekorderlig with spices and rum: very nice for a cold November night.

The only thing we didn’t quite get our head around was the token system in use to pay for the food. Basically, before you order, you have to collect 1£ and 5£ tokens from a stall, which you then use to pay for your food order. The prices weren’t outrageously high, although it all adds up quite quickly. The cocktails were 6.5£ each, the almojabanas were 3£ (more than enough to share between the two of us), the hot-dog was 6£ and so was the burger. So expect to pay about 15£ each, or more if you decide to try different cocktails. The portions are big though, so you do get your money’s worth.

If you want to go with a large group of friends I’d recommend you book a table to make sure you’ll be able to all sit together. The place was not too crowded when we went, but you can expect it to be on a different night. GOOD NEWS: although it stopped for a few weeks across Christmas break it is back on from the 23rd of January!

It is located in the Great Northern Warehouse, and you can access it from Deansgate (just across the Santander Bank). It closes pretty early – 12am – so you can still go and party the night away after paying it a visit. Let me know how you find it!

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Soup Kitchen

One thing you need to know about me is that I absolutely love Soup Kitchen. Whether I am in need of a mid-shopping cup of tea, a filling meal, a pint or a good night out, I know it will never let me down.

As one of the first places I’d been to in the Northern Quarter during my first year in Manchester, it remains my favorite. In fact, chances are, if you are one of the happy few who came to visit me here, you have been introduced to SK. I indeed believe that there is no better place to go after going through a flight and a long bus ride all the way from the airport. You got the idea, the first place I usually take my visiting friends from home is Soup Kitchen.

If I were to describe it with one word it would be “hybrid”. Is it a bar, is it a cafe, is it a club? Well, as you can guess, it is all of them. Now, what can you expect from it? In the daytime, you will find people working om their laptop drinking coffee and small groups of friends enjoying the delicious food at the communal wooden tables. As the sun sets, a happy crowd will start invading the place in search of a good craft beer or a pint of quality cider.

On certain nights, the basement will be open for a gig, or the infamous Remake Remodel, a night of alternative rock and roll and 1960s to 1980s gems.

If you happen to go on a Sunday, you may have the chance to see the tables covered with blank paper. Sharpies are provided, and you are free to draw whatever pleases you. Although I am not sure it happens every week, you might get lucky. It also occasionally hosts local art exhibitions.

Food-wise I would recommend the pea and ham soup, as well as the onion and ale soup. The sandwiches are equally good, with a special distinction for the cheese and tomato relish one. The main menu changes every so often, offering a variety of stews (vegetarian options available) and pies, as well as salads. They also serve cakes, (from the classic lemon drizzle to the not-so-common chocolate-avocado tart.) Although the prices are a bit higher than in more student-y areas, it remains reasonable. Expect to pay about 10£ for a main and a drink, perhaps 12£ if the drink is alcoholic. The staff is also super friendly.

Located on Spear St just off Stevenson Square, it is ideally situated at the heart of the Northern Quarter, a 5 minutes walk away from the Arndale.