The grade II listed former meat market's transformation into trendy food haven is complete... and Gordo's been in for a butchers
The transformation of the Mackie Mayor - Northern Quarter's grade II-listed former meat market, opened in 1854 and abandoned since the 1990s - into trendy food haven is complete (read here for context).
And what a boost for the city centre. Not only does it bring back to life a handsome and significant city centre building, but it provides Manchester, at last, with a real foodie tourist attraction, in the vein of Amsterdam's FoodHallen or the Mercato Centrale in Florence and Rome.
It does something else too. It raises up this whole area of Swan Street and will provide encouragement to developers to fill the empty car parks northwards with new buildings. Money will flow in.
In short, Mackie Mayor civilises a once abandoned and derelict part of the city centre... and also serves wine.
What's on offer?
6 food traders: wood-fired sourdough pizzas from Honest Crust; fish, chips 'n' proper seafood from Fin; steak from Tender Cow; Asian bites from Bao House; rotisserie chicken from Nationale7; brunch, salads and small plates from Little Window.
1 coffeeshop - Wolfhouse Coffee
1 wine bar/shop - from Didsbury and Altrincham's Reserve Wines (ran by Kate Goodman off the telly).
1 beer bar - by local brewers Blackjack (who also run the Smithfield Tavern opposite)
And here, in his own inimitable style, is what Confidential's Gordo thinks...
Nick Johnson, the man who invented Paul Weller's haircut and later turned us to food, appears to have a new success on his hands: an exciting idea called restaurants.
Sir Nick has turned his bachelor's degree in home economics and woodwork to good use in Altrincham, single-handedly saving (alongside partner Jenny Thompson) the old market town. He did this by taking over the rightly famous ‘Alty Market’, restoring it with great sympathy and turning it into a mecca for great street food vendors, enabling them to take a step up and show their rather superior wares in somewhat more comfort than beneath a railway arch in Piccadilly.
Sadly it’s been demolished very carefully and transported, brick by brick, blackboard by blackboard, font by font to the Northern Quarter, and plonked down next door(ish) to Band on the Wall.*
And it took Gordo’s breath away.
If you don’t know the Alty Market style (or have never visited the original daddy of them all, the refurbished fish markets in Boston, USA), the set up is a large, beautifully restored market hall where several grown-up street vendors, positioned in units around the outside of the room, serve food over a counter straight out of their kitchens.
You pick a seat at one of the communal benches, check the number, go choose and pay for your food and drinks. Tell ‘em your number and return to your spot awaiting delivery from a good looking team of front of house folk.
Typically, your time is filled by watching lovely doggies, all of which are cared for like movie stars with bowls of 'DOGGY' water. Gordo gets somewhat jealous of all the attention afforded to these dogs. In his dystopian mind, the Fat One shouts “It’s all about ME... fuck the doggies!”
Gordo and chums had chargrilled mackerel and veg from Fin, a ‘pulled’ chicken sandwich from Nationale7, a porchetta sandwich from the same gaff, as well as various well-chosen wines by the glass and nicely radioactive beer.
The mackerel was scored, oiled, herbed and laid gently onto a charcoal grill, along with green stuff, which included broccoli. It was ten quid and fucking brilliant.
The porchetta, a loin of pork, spit roasted, juicy on the inside, crisp crackling on the outside, was sliced a centimetre thick and laid onto a bun so good it was followed all the way to the table by an angel singing an aria.
The spuds were ordered separately, new potatoes split down the middle and roasted with shallots and garlic. They suffered from being slightly dry, maybe a drizzle of good olive oil would have brought them to life.
Coffee and cakes from Wolfhouse Coffee were truly wonderful.
This isn’t a scored review, but Gordo will say that this food beats the pants off everything else in the city at this level, with the exception of Beastro in Spinningfields.
The Mackie Mayor is a Gordo Go by a Northern Quarter mile.
*This is a porkie, Alty Market is still there.