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MCR Jazz Fest: Grub In The Hub

Good food, but why is a pint of 3.8% ale £5?

Written by . Published on July 24th 2014.


MCR Jazz Fest: Grub In The Hub
 

THE BEST thing about festival 'hubs' in Albert Square at the height of summer is that it really doesn't matter which festival it is.

With Jerk chicken it's important to have a good, hefty, flavourful bird to stand up to the potency of the marinade. This ticked the boxes.

They're all fantastic of course, MIF, MFDF, MJF, MDF, MDMA.

Still, if you were only ever to visit the 'hub', where the beer is wet and cold and the sun high and happy (this week anyway), then really, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were all one and the same.

This isn't to say that the Manchester Jazz Festival (18-27 July) isn't a great festival, if you're a jazz fan. Last year it attracted over 60,000 people, 70% of them from out of the city, so clearly it's a big draw.

But if you're as into jazz as you are into collecting asbestos fibres, don't be put off going along to the MJF 'hub'. It's a fairly safe bet that you like a drink, sitting in the sun and stuffing your face.

You'll barely hear a ske-bop or a do-wop. So dive in.

MJF 2014, Albert SquareMJF 2014, Albert Square

We started, as you should during any lunch hour that creeps over 25°C, by a trip to the bar. The Thwaites bar tent appears to be at least seven times as big as it needs to be. Contingency planning we imagine.

There's at least fifteen beers on offer here - probably more - and a few ciders to boot, in bottles and on draught (£3.80 to £5.50). From Wainwright to Red Stripe, 13 Guns to Warsteiner. There's a nifty selection of spirits and wine too, Pimms seemed to be flying off the shelf.

We tried the Hop Sax, an easy-going 3.8% ale specially brewed for the festival that was a touch too tepid and thick for such climes. When the barman said £10 for two pints we stopped short of pouring it over his head. Come on MJF, specially brewed for the festival? At £5 a pint why bother?

This is easily the most expensive ale in the city, certainly at 3.8%

Go for the Kaltenberg Royal Lager instead, cold and light with a hint of malt and served from a massive gold sax.

Thwaites bar: roomyThwaites bar: roomy

Kaltenberg RoyalKaltenberg Royal

There's only three food vendors in the hub, but all dishing up quality tucker.

First off we tried Chaophraya, Manchester Thai stalwarts since the mid-noughties. A meal deal at £7 affords you a starter and a main.

The Thai fishcake starter I'd avoid like a tuktuk driver on acid. 'Orrible, like a Squirrel's training discus. Go for the trusty spring rolls, good 'ole spring rolls.

The Prawn Penang curry on the otherhand was smashing. You could even smell how smashing it was from ten paces. Handsome too. Well balanced and not overly spicy, the prawns were juicy and near-perfectly cooked - quite a feat when the food has to be kept hot outside in large trays - buoyed by a hefty helping of rice and some fresh basil dropped on top. Lovely.

Penang Prawn curryPenang prawn curry

Squirrel discusSquirrel discus

Next we pottered over to Al's BBQ Shack, where the temperature sat somewhere between Death Valley and a belch from Smaug.

'So who's Al?' We ask.

"Al's not here," comes the reply from a happy bald fella behind the counter.

"Where is he?" We enquire.

"Al's not a person, more of an ideology," says the fella.

"What's his philosophy?" We ask.

"To eat BBQ every single day," he says.

Ambitious. But we like Al, we like his BBQ Jerk chicken (£5) even more. Sat on a colour-splashed veg mound of tomato, onion, carrot and jalapenos, we were given three weighty portions of Jerk chicken on top.

With Jerk it's important to have a good, hefty, flavourful bird to stand up to the potency of the marinade. This ticked the boxes. Plentiful and wonderfully juicy on the inside, the skin was sweet and barbecue crisp with a spicy kick to it that'd have your tongue running for the extinguisher given another helping.

You couldn't eat another helping, mind. Your tongue thanks you.

Big Al'sBig Al's

BBQ Jerk chicken on veg (£5)BBQ Jerk chicken on veg (£5)

Ready to blow and only one vendor left.

V Fresh STREET FOOD, if you didn't get that, they do STREET FOOD (it's this new thing, it may take off) keep things simple. You can have Street Wrap or Pot, Street Burger or Beef Street Special (£5 to £6).

To be frank, full to the ears, the only reason we tried V Fresh was to complete the MJF hat-trick. But thank Frank we did. The halloumi and falafel wrap served with salad, homemade hummus, sweet chilli sauce and a yoghurt dressing was beautiful. Perhaps the pick of the bunch.

Img_0078V Fresh

V Fresh wrap (£6)V Fresh wrap (£6)

Pillows of chunky, salty, squeaky halloumi amongst fluffy-on-the-inside hot-and-crunchy-on-the-outside falafel, the heat offset by a cool crunchy salad. And oh the sauces, what a combination. I'll leave it at that. Get some hummus, yoghurt and sweet chilli and put it on something now, right now.

Finish the job with one of Matilda's homemade natural ice creams from £2.50 and you'll be happier than a Beat Poet at a Bob Kaufman gig, or something. What festival is this?

Info and tickets for Manchester Jazz Festival here.

ChaophrayaChaophraya

ChaophrayaChaophraya

ThwaitesThwaites

MJF hubMJF hub

MJF hubMJF hub

Matilda, we thinkMatilda, we think

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

'Good food, but why is a pint of 3.8% ale £5?' But that's the going average rate for pop up bars or bars at events these days. They charge that because they don't have the overheads that bars and pubs do....eh? Hang on!!!

Lisa KenyonJuly 24th 2014.

Sounds great, just don't attempt to get into your local square to sit in the sun and have a bite to eat....with a small dog on a lead... as apparently dogs are banned!! Ridiculous!!

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Sharyn CaseJuly 24th 2014.

Is it ridiculous though? The last thing you want is your dog to be stood on (have seen it happen at Christmas markets, poor thing), biting someone or have it peeing/shitting everywhere!

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

More than likely as a result of idiotic people taking their dogs in the Christmas Markets as peak times, as Sharyn points out.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

The same goes for people taking babies or toddlers to these events during peak times. I'm always stepping on them and they pee and poo all of the time too.

scoochJuly 24th 2014.

I was about to go out to buy lunch when i read your review - spot on with the Prawn Panang - absolutely delicious, thanks for the recommendation. Richard.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

Totally agree re the price of the Ale. I was charegd £5.50 on day one. I also see they have a favourite of mine Vedett ( They spell it Verdett ) that would normally retail at about £2 on sale at £6 a bottle. I actually laughed when I saw that.....

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

The inflation rate in this country is under 2%,yet in Manchester the price of food and drink is rising by far far more than that.What is the justification for this?.London level prices will stop a large majority of people from being to enjoy such events,whether they are free or not.

5 Responses: Reply To This...
Mark McGinnJuly 24th 2014.

Go to a wetherspoons.They're a freehouse with good ales and are cheap. They deserve our business.

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

What's the point of festivals if increasingly the food and drink outlets are priced out of the reach of ordinary Manchester people,though obviously not some smug middle class people like you .

GimboidJuly 24th 2014.

I think you've answered your own question, Anon #2

AnonymousJuly 24th 2014.

Exactly Mark. I think the retailers at the Albert Square events all agree to a set price rate in advance, and one that is a real rip-off. More so when the ale and lager is served in flimsy plastic containers. Which reminds me, I wonder what bright ideas the people over at MIF will come up with for next year.

AnonymousJuly 25th 2014.

It's obviously because of licencing that they have to use plastic containers.

AnonymousJuly 28th 2014.

Right that dogs shouldn't be allowed at these events, they will be over whelmed by the amount of people. And people don't want dogs barking while they are having a relaxing drink. Beats me why people bring dogs into the centre anyway. All drinks that are served outside are in plastic glasses.

1 Response: Reply To This...
LegginsJuly 28th 2014.

I feel the same about women

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