Levenshulme market – so good I went twice

Levenshulme market The Moocher

There’s good things happening in Levenshulme at the moment, people. And one of those things is the new market.

Manchester City Council started a market last year in the station car park but decided it wasn’t profitable enough to continue. Despite that, a group of local residents and business people have formed a committee to continue running the market.

The market is still based in the station car park, which means there’s some parking available for visitors. Lots of the stalls are from local businesses but there are also many more from other areas come to test out the murky inner-city waters. It’s so good to see businesses coming into our little area and so so good to see it well supported by the community.

It was good news that my freezer was almost empty so I set out with the plan to fill it as full as possible. With more than 40 traders there, this was by far the best market yet. Despite the blizzardy arctic conditions, there was a dazzling array of food, vintage clothing, beauty, organic fruit and vegetables, art and some warming boozy drinks from POD Deli.

And yes, I did visit twice in one day. Mainly because my toes were frozen in my scratty ol’ Cons the first time round so I ran home to warm up, only to venture out again in my furry boots to procure some barbecue lunch from Fire and Salt BBQ. The spiced brisket of beef was succulent and pink, with a drenching of Jack Daniel’s sauce.

Other good buys include some potted meats – hare and wild boar – from The Moochery (top photo). I also stocked up the freezer with a pile of meats from Savin Hill, while my wind-chapped hands were soothed by some really rich hand cream I bought from Bayspring, which smells amazing.

Also check out these amazing Manchester Tarts from Robinson’s the Master Bakers.

Levenshulme market - Robinsons bakers

Bobby’s Bangers was a welcome addition with a wide variety of sausages, all of which could be bought individually so you can try all the flavours. We chose sage and onion and red onion – and have scoffed them already. Bobby had braved the snow and dug himself out of his home in Oldham JUST to bring us sausages, people. Applaud the man (despite his lack of apostrophe).

Chaat Cart is another favourite and market regular. Their samosas are truly amazing – light and delicately spiced, with a fruity tomato chutney, yoghurt sauce and tamarind sauce.

levenshulme market - chaat cart

Another foodie regular is Pudding Pie Cafe, which offers really reasonable pies in many flavours. We bought a steak and Lancashire ale pie, but I wish I’d also got a pork and cider one as well. Please come back to the next market!

Levenshulme - Pudding Pie Cafe

This Is Lullaby by Vicky Brown sells beautiful children’s clothes made from upcycled and vintage fabrics and is definitely worth a look.

Levenshulme market - This Is Lullaby

The market is on every fourth Saturday of the month from 10am until 4pm. By an intense algorithm and calculation, I have deducted that makes the next market Saturday, April 27.

The market takes place in the train station carpark, which is just behind the main high street. If you’re on foot, you can cut through by Edward Mellor estate agent or Hennigan’s Bar.






Afternoon tea at And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon

And the dish ran away with the spoon didsbury

Winning an afternoon tea at West Didsbury teashop And The Dish Ran Away With The Spoon was a delightfully lovely surprise. I’d forgotten that I entered a competition on Didsbury Life, so was most pleased after a very hectic week to receive a phone call to tell me I’d won.

Having been open for a year-and-a-half, the little tearoom is set on Burton Road, in the heart of West Didsbury. With gorgeous retro chairs and tables, vintage cake stands and vivid turquoise blue walls, Dishes and Spoons is a relaxing, bright and airy space.

It’s not just cupcakes here, there’s everything from carrot cake, red velvet cake, scones, biscuits and even retro hardboiled sweets. This is a Great British celebration of traditional baking at its best.

The slabs of sponge are washed down with a choice of loose teas from the Brew Tea Company in Liverpool or fair trade Union roasted coffee.

Cakes at Dishes and Spoons

The afternoon tea is available on Saturday and Sundays from 1pm, and at £10.95 per person is amazing value. With a tier of sandwiches, freshly-baked scones and three cakes EACH, this is a belt-loosening treat. It has been recommended to me before, but I’d never had a chance for a tasting session.

Sandwiches are either egg mayonnaise or ham and mustard and are really just a polite nod to savoury before the cakey-sconey fun begins. The scones were beautifully light with that home-baked freshness and are served with a choice of jams and cream.

Chocolate-dipped strawberries are an attractive juicy palate-cleanser before the final tier of cakes. We were given cupcakes, chocolate brownies, red velvet cake and carrot cake. See what I mean about the amazing value for money? We didn’t manage all the cakes in one sitting, and got them packaged up to eat over three days.

The chocolate brownies were the moistest, fudgiest, most delicious brownie I’ve ever tasted. It still tasted good a few days later, and surprisingly hadn’t dried out at all. With a thick cream cheese topping, the carrot cake was a chunky hunk of goodness, and the cupcakes were delicate and pretty. The red velvet cake was just as tasty, with the deep red coloured sponge seeming quite dramatic against the white cream filling and topping.

Dishes and Spoons is run by Anna and James, who came back from a trip to Australia with a yearning to create the amazing treats they found (although I didn’t realise that Oz was famed for its cakes). Burton Road is the perfect places for this venture. I can see why it’s so popular, appealing to students, young professionals and families.

They also do a roaring trade in take-out, giving a fantastic bustle to the place. But be warned, they do sell out so don’t be late!

This teashop exemplifies everything Manchester does best. An independent place, full of personality doing what they do very well and doing it with passion.

230 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2LW (opposite the co-op)
W: www.dishandspoonfood.co.uk
T: 0161 637 5517
E: thebaker@dishandspoonfood.co.uk
T: @dishesandspoons


Bringing Lowry to Life

Lowry Piccadilly Gardens

In case you hadn’t noticed, the University of Salford are doing some very exciting things at the moment. With their new Mediacity:uk presence sharing a building with ITV and being near the BBC, their media students are going to have some great opportunities.

This Saturday (November 12) will see Lowry’s painting of Piccadilly Gardens from 1954 brought to life in 2011. How the hell would they do this, you ask?

Well, a digital projection in Piccadilly Gardens will project the movements of passersby into a screen where special motion capture technology will transfer their movements to Lowry characters. People will be able to stand in front of the screen and see themselves depicted as a Lowry painting character.

Over at Mediacity:uk, visitors will be able to see the entire painting re-created with Piccadilly Gardens and the characters, with movements taken from real-time shoppers and passersby.

Lowry didn’t paint many recognisable Manchester or Salford landmarks – many of his paintings were composite, or of places that don’t exist anymore – so this is a really interesting painting. Not sure what Lowry himself would have made of the Communist-looking concrete Piccadilly Gardens of today.

University of Salford Believe event

This innovative stunt is just one part a showcase of digital art and technology at the university’s Mediacity building, called Believe. It sounds like there’s loads of cool stuff going on there this weekend.

You can visit the university’s onsite TV studios and virtually star in an adventure with BBC’s Dinosaur Planet and then download the clip to keep forever. In the building’s ground floor exhibition space guests can have a go at some fun digital video games on iPad-like touchscreen tables, while a dazzling 7m x 3m video wall with the world’s best resolution will show impressive film and animation.

Called Believe, the event is free of charge and is open from 10.30am-5.30pm on Saturday, November 12 at the University of Salford, MediaCityUK, Salford, M50 2HE.

Visit www.salford.ac.uk/believe for more information.




Artisan Markets, Castlefield

Castlefield market

Castlefield Artisan market

It couldn’t have worked out better. We had nothing planned, and it was a mild November day with searing blue skies and a low afternoon sun.

Scanning through my Twitter feed on Sunday morning, I noticed a tweet about Castlefield Artisan Market, which is on the cobbles under the viaduct near Dukes 92.

With a great mix of food, vintage stalls and craft, this was the best market I’ve been to in a long time. Jazz was blasted out across the cobbles, with a troupe of dancers, doing a ridiculously cool dance routine. The upbeat music gave the event a really lovely atmosphere and gave everyone a smile on their face.

We stocked up on salt marsh lamb from Cockerham in Lancashire, as well as speciality sausages, cakes and delicacies from Taste of Anatolia, among many other delicious items.

This is exactly what Manchester has needed for many years, and I can’t understand why the council hasn’t been able to organise something like this. Although saying that, the best events come from innovative individuals doing something they’re passionate about. And in true Manchester fashion, this isn’t just any old farmers’ market – it’s so much more than that.

Castlefield Artisan Market will take place every first Sunday of the month, from 10am to 4pm. The next event is December 4 and there is a special Christmas market on December 23.

Come along and show your support.

Surburban Series plates by Lisa Mouncey, from Broadstone Mill

Surburban Series plates by Lisa Mouncey, from Broadstone Mill

Shopping-tastic at Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair

As I mentioned, October is always festival month in Manchester, with loads of different events going on. My favourite is Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair because it’s full of beautifully-stunning handcrafted work for you to buy.

I think it’s because I would love to be creative and crafty, but I just don’t have the skills or the patience. So I really appreciate the craftsmanship and handwork when someone else IS crafty and arty. And I get to buy pretty things, which I also love. Jewellery, ceramics, glass, textiles and homeware from designer-makers across the UK are all piled into one venue from October 20-23.

GNNCF has just won the Best Small Event at the Manchester Tourism Awards, which is very well deserved seeing as the whole event is put on by the just organisers, Ann-Marie Franey and Angela Mann, with a team of volunteers.

Now in its fourth year,  this event is taking place at Quay House at Spinningfields, instead of the marquee of the last two years.

Some of you know that I did the PR for this event for the first three years, but had to step down this year as I had my little boy in March. So this year, I’m attending purely as a fan and seeing as it’s right near my birthday I’m looking forward to spending some birthday pennies.

One of the hardest things to get across the the press and consumers is that craft doesn’t necessarily mean knitted tea cosies made by someone in their spare time (although there’s nothing wrong with making tea cosies in your spare time!). This contemporary craft is the work of professional artists and designer-makers, who dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft.

This event is perfectly placed for Christmas, and it’s lovely to buy people individual gifts made by craftspeople from all over the UK, instead of some tat from Primark.

Many of the makers return year after year as Manchester is such as good market, and there’s a lovely atmosphere. Last year the organisers also added a Graduates section to showcase the best work from all the degree shows. This is a great way of supporting new makers and is returning this year.

There’s a massive variety of work on show at this event, but I’ve just pulled out some of my favourites:

Hannah Nunn

Hannah Nunn
Hannah run Radiance Lighting in Hebden Bridge and also creates these stunning papercut lights with botanical designs. She also does gorgeous fairy lights and children’s lamps with names on them, which I have my eye on!

Lucy Elsie Harvey

Lucy Elsie Harvey

Lucy Elsie Harvey is another regular at GNCCF and her unusual and striking jewellery and pieces always make an impression on me.

Jane Dzisiewski

Jane Dsisiewski

Janes creates these beautiful resin bangles and stones for necklace pendants, with intricate and subtle designs. All of these are the result of lots of labour with the sanding machine!

Jane Blease

Jane Blease
Another lighting maker here. Jane is based in Manchester Craft and Design Centre and makes these impressive wooden lights, with cut-outs and embroidery.

Sarah Thirlwell

Sarah Thirwell

Last year, one of my favourite purchases was one of these small wooden vessels by established maker Sarah Thirwell. All of her work has a beautiful simplicity, and much of it is made using recycled materials.

Check www.greatnorthernevents.co.uk for all the details. See you there.
Directions to Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair.


Festival season: Manchester Food and Drink Festival

copyright Edge Street Events

Yes, festival season is upon us. Autumn in Manchester sees Manchester Food and Drink Festival, Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair, Buy Art Fair, Manchester Literature Festival and Manchester Science Festival. I think that’s it. Did I miss any off?

The Food and Drink Festival is looking mighty fine so far this year, so here’s my highlights.

Mr Manchester Is Ace always goes to the whisky festival with his friends, and I usually leave the area until he’s been decontaminated. The Lowry Hotel is hosting for the first time this year – they won’t know what’s hit it.

This year I’m going to the Third Big Indie Wine Festival at the People’s History Museum for a sensible evening discussing the merits of old world vs new world, and assessing the acidity, aroma and structure of some fine vinos. OR I’m going to go and swig as much wine as I can with my mates and get dizzy.

Some of the independent wine stores involving in showcasing their grapes are: Reserve Wines, Harvey Nichols, Hanging Ditch, The Vineyard and Origin Wine.

Other attention grabbers from the 2011 line-up involves the man himself, Mr Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who will be giving a talk and cookery demonstration on Friday, October 14 at 1pm.

Hugh Fearnley WhittingstallI love his whimsical olde English programmes where he jauntily whips up a feast for some village folk using berries he’s plucked from the hedgerows, a hand-reared salmon and some home-churned butter. I wonder what he’ll make of Manchester?

MFDF is also having a Best of British street food at the festival hub, which reflects the latest trend in gastronomy. Although I think perhaps that street food is at its best in parts of Asia, when you fear for your health (or guts) while simultaneously wondering what the hell you’re eating. Although you can, if you want, replicate that fear by purchasing a hot dog a 3am from a stall in the city centre.

I also love the idea of the Nominee Trail, which will be taking a group of food-lovers round a selection of the award nominees for best bar, best restaurant and best newcomer to decide for yourself who is the fairest of them all. Except will you remember them all when you’ve had a drink at each?

Other festival highlights include band Elbow’s new bitter, in partnership with Robinsons, to celebrate the launch of their new album, Manchester Chocolate Festival on October 8 and the tempting sounding Spirit and Cocktail Trail.

Manchester Food and Drink Festival takes place from October 7-17, with the main festival hub being at Albert Square again.


Dunham Massey and Little Heath Farmshop

Dunham Massey deer

Dunham Massey is definitely the most visited place by the Family Hughes this summer. Having purchased our family-friendly National Trust membership just before I dropped, this pram-friendly park is now a much-loved favourite because it’s only about 25 minutes from our house in South Manchester.

With wide gravel paths, this gorgeous 300-acre deer park is just the right size for a stroll before you’re ready for an ice cream. The deer are really used to visitors so happily graze right near the paths, and you can get a real close up view.

I also saw a sign for night walks called Dunham After Dark, where you go on a guided tour at night time to see bats, owls and other nocturnal animals. I thought this sounded amazing.

Little Heath Farm Shop Dunham Massey

However, I must admit that it’s not just Dunham Massey, nor the Cheshire Farm ice cream that’s the favourite part of the daytrip.

It’s Little Heath Farm Shop which we discovered tucked away behind the Axe and Cleaver pub (also well worth a visit). Run by an incredibly friendly family, they sell their own Aberdeen Angus and Hereford Beef, which is all reared on their farm “at nature’s pace”, as they put it.

Every time we go out for a stroll, we stop off here and buy enough to fill our freezer for the next month. The beef has a beautifully deep mature flavour and is really good value compared to some farmers markets.

Little Heath Farm Shop fruit

Yesterday, we had a beef brisket simmering in its own juices in our well-used slow cooker, which after a good eight hours, had a mouthwateringly tender texture that just flaked apart at the sight of a fork.

Our other faves include the mince, which stays lovely and firm when cooked, unlike the sludgy stuff you buy from supermarkets.

The shop also sells free-range pork, sausages, gammon, lamb, and when in season, Dunham Massey venison. The fruit and veg is all good quality local produce, and sourced from local farms if they don’t grow it themselves.

This is a genuine farm shop that sells proper farm-grown food, unlike many of the so-called farm shops across Cheshire, which bizarrely stock pineapples and peaches and other stuff that’s clearly not grown in the UK, nevermind nearby.

Dunham Massey

Directions to Dunham Massey

Little Heath Farm Shop

Directions to Little Heath Farm Shop



Gardening galore: Bud Garden Centre

Echinacea Bud Garden Centre

A small garden centre based in Burnage, just off Kingsway, has recently been taken over by new owners. Brenda and Severine have brought their wellies, trowels and expertise and given this little haven of plants a new modern makeover.

With a fresh new website, Twitter stream and lots of flyers around the area, this is now a thriving new business.

Currently only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (and Bank Hols), Bud Garden Centre has a bright and colourful range of flowers, plants and shrubs. Today there were some huge dahlias, which caught my eye, but I bought an echinacea plant. The tall bright pink flowers (top photo) grabbed my attention and Brenda gave me some advice on where to plant it.

Entrance Bud Garden Centre Burnage

One of the best things about small independent businesses is the advice you can get, which is essential for novices like me who don’t know their perennials from their annuals. We’re very lucky in South Manchester, as we also have Hulme Garden Centre and Village Stores in Levenshulme as quality independent suppliers of plants.

We’re currently giving our scrappy backyard a makeover, but I’m quite cautious about what I can plant without it withering in the inevitabley frosty winter ahead of us. Brenda was really useful, helping me decide which plants will have time to set roots down and then hunker down until spring.

Bud Garden Centre also specialises in organic and sustainable gardening, which is going to be mega-useful when I get my veg planter going in the spring.

If you love plants and gardening, this is definitely worth a visit.

Inside Bud Garden Centre Burnage

Follow Bud Garden Centre on Twitter.

Web: www.budgarden.co.uk

Get directions to Bud Garden Centre.


A trip down under: Australasia, Spinningfields

It was Mr Manchester Is Ace’s birthday, we had a babysitter and it was a Saturday. We wanted to go out, have a few drinks, spend stupid amounts of money on food and forget all about sterilising bottles and changing nappies for a few hours. The world might not have been our oyster but Manchester certainly was.

Seeing as Australasia is the latest must-go restaurant in town we decided to check it out. Situated underneath the new Armani store, just off Deansgate, Australasia occupies what used to be the MEN basement, I believe.

Clearly a lot of attention has been given into making a basement seem, well, un-basement like. White floors, walls and furniture make it seem like you are sitting in a conservatory, with light just bouncing here, there and everywhere.

Our Australian wine waiter instantly impressed us by giving us a iPad to browse through the impressive wine menu. I was happy with a glass of the cheapest fizz (Thomas Mitchell Brut, Semillon, Trebbiano from Australia, £5.50) and across the table a Brazilian Pinot Grigio Riesling (£24.50 a bottle) was a good choice.

Australasia manchester main courses

The menu takes in sushi, small Asian plates, big soups and main meals. However, it didn’t quite seem to gel together as much as it could do, perhaps because the influences are taken from such a huge continent.

For example, we ordered the Pork belly with pineapple curry (£14.50), but there was no rice on the menu. Chips or sweet potato mash were the only carbs on offer, which doesn’t seem very Asian – perhaps this is the Australian part of the cuisine?

However, that was the only slight criticism I can think of and every course had an amazing level of detail and flavour. The pineapple curry was beautifully made, with fruity highlights and small crunchy chunks of pork belly artfully arranged down the side.

My Ocean trout fillet (£18.50) came with a foam (which I scraped off) and was surrounded by a pretty arrangement of pancetta, mushrooms, caramelised onion and Maderian shallots. The rich, deep flavours of the mushroom and onion juices really highlighted the delicate fish beautifully.

Australasia Manchester sushi sashimiWe had started with a fantastically put together sushi and sashimi platter (£19.50). Generous portions of sashimi – including tuna and salmon – was served simply with California rolls and other sushi. There’s something about sashimi which makes you eat it slowly and respectfully, absorbing all the flavours.

Although the first two courses were amazing, it was the creative desserts (all £7) that really stood out. Tiny tasty sensations were plated together to form a sensational experience. Even on a terrible photo taken with my camera phone, how amazing do they look?

My pineapple-themed dessert involved passionfruit marshmallow which was a world away from marshmallow sweets and had the texture of what you think a cloud would feel like. Alongside this were pineapple parcels filled with a tangy sherbety pineapple puree, while a cool fresh pineapple sorbet pulled the trio together.

Australasia Manchester dessertSimilarly amazing was a Chocolate pave, with a tiny but perfectly made blobs of sour cherry thick jelly, Griottine cherries and a very delicate miso ice cream. Both desserts were surprisingly light and crafted so delicately and so impressive looking I kept showing the photos to people.

The attention to detail across the whole restaurant – food, wine, decor, waiting staff – was truly exemplary and Australasia has already made a great impression on Manchester, and this new kid on the block seems to have been welcomed with opened arms.

The bill came to around £90, which actually isn’t that bad when you see how much food we ate and were drinking glasses of wine instead of picking a bottle.

Apologies for the terrible quality of the photos. I hadn’t intended to write about this so had to take them with my mobile phone.


Directions to Australasia






Long Causeway, Burnley

Long Causeway tarts

Long Causeway Farm Shop is situated up near Burnley and is run by the three former owners of That Cafe in Levenshulme, which sadly for M19 closed last year. The trio now work on their smallholding, and sell their produce at farmers’ markers and at their own farm shop once a month.

We regularly used to go to Ashton Farmers’ Market (last Sunday of every month) and know exactly how good their little tartlets and cakes are (see above photo). So we decided to go and visit their smallholding, and made it just before it closed at 2pm. Luckily they hadn’t sold out of those tartlets so good we’d driven 35 miles to buy some.

The haddock chowder tart (all tarts are £1.40) was delicious with a spicy kick of chilli livening up the smoked fish, and came with a sprinkling of crunchy cheese on top. Long Causeway Farm’s own lamb was shredded and baked to perfection in another tart, and given a topping of minted mushy peas. Next up (hey, we were hungry) was the king of the crop – the pork, sage and apple, which tasted like really juicy stuffing with a sweet slice of apple across the top. All truly amazing and worth the journey.

Long Causeway meat

We also bought a heavenly pear and almond tart (£1.40), which had the most perfect crunch to the pastry, plus a bag of their home-reared lamb and pork, and a jar of bursting-with-freshness pesto (£3). A loaf of caramelised onion and walnut bread (£1.50) is everything bread should be: crusty on the outside and bouncy and full of flavour on the inside.

All the produce from Long Causeway is incredibly reasonably priced considering it is all homegrown and lovingly baked.

We’d envisaged a lovely day out in the countryside but didn’t really find much to inspire us around Burnley, ending up at Hollingworth Lake in Rochdale for ice-cream.

If you appreciate good well-looked after meat, make the effort to source some from Long Causeway  - it’s worth the effort.

Directions to Long Causeway