The Bolton Food and Drink Festival returns this August bank holidayas the internationally acclaimed event celebrates 18 years in the town.
The award-winning festival is the biggest of its kind in the North West, bringing together celebrity and regional chefs, cooking demos, live music, street entertainment, special events and over 200 market traders.
Running across the long weekend, festivities will kick off on Friday 25 August and run through until Monday 28 August with special events including Bottomless Brunch, comedy dining experiences and a one-time DJ set from TV personality Gok Wan.
Hosted across the town centre, foodies can roam freely as they explore two dedicated music stages, bars, food stalls and plenty more at the free-to-attend festival – from unique gifts to local artwork.
Here’s everything you can expect if you’re heading down over the August bank holiday.
Food and drink
Be the first to try out some scrumptious cuisine from around the world, with over 200 food traders across the town centre on the bank holiday serving everything from burgers and homemade Scotch eggs to Turkish shawarma, donuts, and smokey barbecued meats.
Discover markets, brilliant local food and drink, plus special ticketed events such as Bottomless Brunch, and theatrical dinners like the Fawlty Towers and Live and Let Live Dining Experiences.
This year’s festival will also host lavish bottomless brunches across the weekend in celebration of its eighteenth year in the wonderful Albert Halls complex, featuring a delicious brunch and a wide range of drinks and boozy cocktails.
As for further street food traders to check out, keep your eyes peeled for dedicated roly poly traders Roly Poly Ltd, mezze from Greek Street Food, and Bolton favourite Istanbul’s Kitchen.
Kicking the weekend off with a bang is festival ambassador Michael Caines, who held two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years. Fresh from Lympstone Manor, the much-loved celebrity chef ambassador launches the flagship festival on Friday morning. You’ll be able to catch him in a free cookery demo too.
Starting the show on Saturday is a festival newbie and much-loved chef, stylist, DJ, author and presenter Gok Wan, taking a spin in the kitchen and showcasing some of his delicious Chinese cooking.
Sunday will welcome another new face to the festival when business owner, charity founder, author, food presenter and TV cook, Nisha Katona MBE joins Team Bolton for the first time, leading the way for a spectacular Sunday spread.
Mowgli Street Food’s Nisha will be showcasing her love of Indian cooking in a range of cookery demos bringing new simple recipes to Bolton and sharing her infectious passion for all things food.
As usual, Monday is headlined by festival icon James Martin, whose ever-popular cookery demos bring with them a love of cuisines from around the world and a lesson on how to recreate some tasty dishes.
MasterChef 2023 winner Chariya Khattiyot will also join as part of the festival’s regional chef demos, as will Gok Wan’s brother, Kwoklyn Wan, who is a chef on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch and Amazon Prime series Man With A Wok.
More than 70 performers will descend on the two live stages, with a variety of music and entertainment from around the world, all completely free for festival visitors.
From Irish dancers, choirs, soul, funk, jazz, folk, Latin American, indie, rock, dance and pop, there is something for everybody to enjoy while you soak up the festival atmosphere.
Music lovers can revel in the delights of national artists as well as local performers including Tommy Govan, Mike Roberts, Danny Quin, Conor Peploe, Will Edgar, Holly Jenkinson and John Doyle.
With performers from nine to 80 years old, the festival welcomes all ages at the Festival Main Stage on Le Mans Crescent and the Acoustic Stage on Victoria Square.
Headlining on Friday and making their full band debut at the festival, will be Bolton’s own, The Shed Project plus special guests.
The band, influenced by the Madchester sound of The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, are joined by Marseille, The Jace Campbell Band and The Marbellas.
The fun continues on Saturday as highlights include loop-based, live music dance trio, Scratch Trio, performing popular classic dance anthems.
In addition, alongside the UK’s premier 1980s Electronica/New Wave tribute band, Electromantics are 5-piece band, Baiana Band, playing Brazilian jazz, pop, funk and soul.
Sunday is equally as entertaining with Stax of Soul, a nine-piece soul band born and bred in Greater Manchester, headlining as part of their 40th-anniversary tour.
If you missed the recent tour, then this one’s for you – joining them is Bolton-born Lou Nichols delivering a rocking set of Pink’s greatest hits.
Entertaining Latin music lovers is Guacamaya Latin Band, with the best South American rhythms and most popular songs in Europe.
Last but not least and joining the lineup on Bank Holiday Monday is Bhangra Smash Up, a 3-piece, high-energy drumming band playing popular chart and dance music.
Closing the festivities are five-piece party band, The Shivers, covering your favourite party songs and guilty pleasures. The perfect way to celebrate the festival turning 18!
The live music stages are free to enter and no tickets are required. But you can quench your thirst at one of the bars while you sing along to your favourite tunes.
As if this wasn’t enough, there’s The Afterparty with Gok Wan & Co to tuck into in the Albert Halls Theatre on Saturday evening.
A full seven hours of house and dance classics from not only Gok Wan himself but a feast of well-known guest DJs including Phats & Small, Sweet Female Attitude and Rio Fredrika.
The family-friend festival encourages parents to bring the kids to try their hand at arts and crafts and join in with fun games, activities and magic tricks, or get their faces painted.
This year, organisers are bringing back the fantastic family zone on Le Mans Crescent, right at the heart of the Festival.
Elsewhere, you’ll find strolling, world-class street performers to keep the party going wherever you are around the town centre, not to mention lots of delicious food and live music.
The main festival is free to attend, however, some special events such as the bottomless brunch, Gok Wan afterparty, Faulty Towers and Live and Let Live Dining Experiences do require tickets.
The majority of the festival’s celebrity chef demos are also ticketed, with standard tickets priced from £15 and concessions available for senior citizens and children under 15.
About Bolton Food and Drink Festival
The North West’s biggest and best food festival, every year Bolton Food and Drink Festival draws thousands of foodies to the Greater Manchester town for a long weekend full of flavours. Last year’s festival welcomed over 450,000 visitors over the four day weekend.
Now in its eighteenth year, it runs every year on August bank holiday weekend across four days. In previous years, the festival has welcomed the likes of Hairy Biker Si King, Ainsley Harriot and festival favourite James Martin.
Featured image – Supplied
Food & Drink
Inside the underground Manchester noodle bar serving Chinatown’s spiciest scrans
Over in Chinatown, there’s a relatively new little noodle bar that’s been making a big, spicy stamp on the city’s dining scene.
Its owner, Wendy Ren, hails from the Chinese province of Sichuan – a region that’s home to giant pandas, traditional Sichuanese opera, and some of the spiciest food going, thanks to its famous Sichuan pepper.
Also known as the Chinese prickly ash, the citrus-like peppercorn leaves a tingly numbness in the mouth and on the lips that you’ll either love or hate.
It’s an acquired taste, by all accounts – but those who love it can’t get enough. In fact, on my visit during a packed-out Wednesday lunch service, Wendy stopped to chat with an Italian family holidaying in Manchester who had been in to eat three days in a row. Now that’s an endorsement if I ever heard one.
She’s opened the restaurant alongside her Cantonese husband, Ken Chen, but the recipes are all hers – and on our visit she laughs with us about how it has taken him some time to get on board with her spicy food, saying: “he found out pretty quickly that he either eats it or he doesn’t eat at all.”
For big fans of spice, this is fast becoming the absolute go-to spot in Chinatown – and for those who aren’t so tough, don’t worry, because Wendy’s put some things on the menu for you too (and possibly, also, for Ken).
Called Noodle Alley, the restaurant is tucked away underground on Faulkner Street and beautifully decked out in red and green with little nods to the famous wide and narrow alleys of Chengdu.
Formerly home to China City, a real old-school Chinatown legacy restaurant, the space has a special place in Wendy’s heart.
She tells me that she and her husband used to come and eat here “all the time” when they first started dating, so the location really means a lot to both of them.
Chinatown restaurants aren’t exactly known for their glamorous interiors, and China City, Wendy jokes, was one such place – with the same old carpet, and the same old tables that had been used for the past twenty years.
Now the space is her own, though, it’s markedly different – lovingly decked out in cheerful colours, with little green windows, hanging lanterns, and bamboo rattan paneling on the walls.
Her story of getting into the restaurant business is something of an unusual one. Prior to opening Noodle Alley, she tells me, she spent nearly two decades working at The Marriott Hotel.
After seventeen years of service and the birth of her second child, she asked to go part-time but her request was refused – so she quit the very next day, and began building her own route to independence.
It was during the Covid lockdown, she says, that she really got into cooking group meals – making meals for her friends and spending hours in the kitchen busying away happily over her stove.
A friend with several restaurants in Chinatown suggested she start her own business, and the rest – as they say – is history.
Dish-wise, her menu spans a mouthwatering selection of dry noodles, soup noodles, street food, and small plates, including the likes of deep-fried wavy potato chips with chilli and Szechuan pepper and steamed beef strips wrapped with chilli paste, numbing Sichuan pepper, and five-spiced rice powder.
Dan Dan noodles, the Sichuan dish we probably all know the best, don’t feature – they’re a bit old news now, apparently, and Wendy has some cooler alternatives for us to try.
One is her Su Jiao Mian, a mixture of minced pork, sesame sauce, and house chilli oil, the other is the Wan Za Mian, a fiery mixture of spices combined with minced pork, soft yellow peas, and more chilli which Wendy says is “one of the most popular noodles in Sichuan.”
Apparently, if you’re eating with the cool kids in Sichuan, you should order this. Not one to argue, I dig in – and it’s safe to say her food is pretty damn exceptional. Almost immediately, I’m planning my next trip back.
Other signature dishes here include Wendy’s steamed beef strips, which can be eaten alone or dipped into one of her noodle soups, and a dish of ‘saliva chicken’ – a crunchy, cold, textural dish with steamed chicken, fresh chillis and ribbons of cucumber that sit swimming in a bath of homemade Sichuan chilli oil, so named because it literally makes your mouth water.
We also opt for a dish of pork knuckle with butter beans in an umami-rich pork bone broth. Not one for the faint-hearted, even Wendy seemed a little cautious to recommend this one, but as fans of ‘the weird stuff’ we insist – and it really ends up being a highlight of the meal.
We end up needing a little help with it. It’s a slippery bugger and I end up wearing a fair bit of the broth. before she returns with a knife and fork to cut it up properly for us.
That broth it’s in, though, is so beautiful I could happily bathe in it. Some might say I did, to be fair. As for the soft, succulent pork meat? When sliced into tiny morsels and dipped into an extra special Sichuan chilli oil she retrieves from the kitchen, is something else entirely.
If this is Sichuan heaven, then I’ll happily stay here forever. From plump hand-made dumplings stuffed generously with flavourful pork and drenched in chilli oil, to chicken giblet soup noodles, there’s so much on the menu I will be coming back for.
And for those who really can’t handle the spice, I guess I’ll be recommending the scallion oil noodles with soy sauce and crispy egg. No matter what you order here, I don’t think you can go too wrong.
Featured image – The Manc Eats
Food & Drink
Top Manchester chef to host special £250 dinner – but vegans aren’t welcome
The French at The Midland Hotel has revealed it will host an exclusive dining experience next month with Hubert de Billy from the esteemed Champagne house Pol Roger – but there won’t be anything on the menu for Manchester’s vegans.
Adam Reid at The French is set to host an exclusive dinner next month as the esteemed chef patron joins forces with one of France’s most luxurious Champagne houses.
Taking place on Friday 6 October, diners will be treated to an indulgent four-course dinner pairing Lancashire lad Adam’s stylish Northern cooking with matching wines.
Due to the specific nature of the vent, however, specific dietary requirements will not be catered to on the evening – so vegans are being warned to stay away.
Wines will be introduced and described by none other than Monsieur de Billy, the fifth generation of the family-owned Champagne house and Pol Roger’s great-great-grandson.
Founded in 1849, Pol Roger is regarded as one of the finest of all the Champagne houses.
Guests will be given the opportunity to taste the prestigious Pol Roger Champagne, a notable favourite of late Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with some snacks on arrival before digging into a sumptuous four-course meal.
At £250 a head, it’s not cheap – but then we are talking about one of Manchester’s most premium restaurants, collaborating with one of France’s most prestigious Champagne houses, so it seems par for the course that you’ll be paying a pretty penny for it.
Starting at 6.30pm, things will kick off with glasses of Champagne and special snacks made by Adam Reid and his team before diners are seated in the plush restaurant for their meal.
Tickets for the event are strictly limited, and due to the nature of this event, specific dietary requirements will not be available to be catered for including vegan and dairy-free diets.
Whilst vegans and dairy-free folk might be feeling a bit left out, for the rest of Manchester it’s an opportunity to dine in one of the city’s most famous restaurants.
For those who don’t know the history of The French, in 1974 it made history as the first Manchester restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star.
Back then, it was Chef Gilbert Lefevre at the helm and it really did what it said on the tin – serving opulent plates of escargots, foie gras, and caviar, even committing right down to the menu itself, half of which was printed en français.
The restaurant retained its star for three years, before losing it in 1977, and would go on to have some ups and downs before coming under the stewardship of Simon Rogan in 2013, with its now-Chef Patron Adam Reid working underneath him as Head Chef.
Rogan – already then a proprietor of the Umbel group including L’Enclume, Fera at Claridge’s, and Rogan & Co – famously ended his five-year contract with the hotel two years early after failing to get a Michelin star.
That same year, local lad Adam took on the top dog role and in 2017 re-positioned the offering to reflect his own style – essentially making everything more relaxed.
He dropped the complicated place settings, brought in music so that diners no longer feared dropping their forks, introduced a new chef station in the restaurant, and revised the menu to pay homage to his Lancashire roots.
Under his stewardship, The French at The Midland typically serves an 11-course tasting menu featuring dishes inspired by picky teas, miniature cheese and onion pies, and steaming cups of beef tea served alongside Pollen ‘French malt’ bread and thick pats of beefy butter.
This special Pol Roger dinner is a one-off at the restaurant. It marks the beginning of a new chapter at Adam Reid at The French with its chef patron and head chef looking to host more collaborative events going forward.