As consumers are able to venture out to eat and drink out of home once again, many will be looking for new and exciting concepts to try.

Escape to Freight Island in Manchester is described as a permanent outdoor food market and festival space. The 80,000 sq. ft. site combines restaurant quality food vendors, inventive bars, entertainment, festivals and family focused happenings. Located at Depot Mayfield, it is part of the £1.4billion regeneration of Manchester’s Mayfield district.

Dan Morris, managing director, says, “We want to provide an “escape” for our customers providing a relaxing space and atmosphere, which is also COVID secure. Our vision is to create an international destination akin to Coney Island in New York.”

Future plans include a roller disco and to develop more spaces, as well as exciting offers and events this Christmas.

At the heart of the complex is The Ticket Hall which houses the extensive food market – an “avenue” where customers can sit and watch the theatre of cooking. Dan points out “This is a restaurant, not street food. The vendors are hand-picked with a blend of cuisine. We’ve made sure there are enough of them to meet the demand. They are here for the long haul and we plan to invite more. Customers receive cutlery and napkins as you would expect in a restaurant.”

Vendors include Baratxuri with its wood-fired ‘Asador’ grill roasting large cuts of meat and Krum offering artisanal vegan doughnuts. Or there’s Belzan Pasta Kitchen, the Liverpool-born restaurant serving pasta and classic Italian dishes, Plant Grill serving vegan food and Mi & Pho the award-winning family run restaurant serving Vietnamese dishes. Dan talks enthusiastically about the LA-inspired burgers from The Patty Queen, as well
as Madre, which provides a varied selection of tacos such as Jalisco style shrimp.

A choice of bars are also available such as Forever Changes wine bar with its 100 bottle wine list paired with artisan cheeses and cured meats and the Freight Island Bar serving a wide array of drinks including craft beer from Camden Town and Pomona. Elsewhere in the complex is the Jane Eyre cocktail bar, serving classic cocktails with a twist.

The idea is to create many different experiences for customers. “It’s a multi-use space with a broad customer base,” says Dan. “People can come here with a group and eat steaks from Baratxuri; they can go to the Jane Eyre cocktail bar for an intimate evening or enjoy an evening of live music in the Ticket Hall.”

A recent development is the “Kantina Weekender”, which not only showcases the culinary talent at the venue, but also introduces some of the UK’s most prestigious chefs, cocktail makers, brewers and local restaurant heroes. At last month’s event Sam Buckley from “Where The Light Gets In” partnered with Escape to Freight Island’s Plant Grill while Gary Usher from Elite Bistros joined forces with Forever Changes.

The venue opened last June in the gap between lockdowns. Alicia White, the venue’s bookings manager is also the COVID-19 Safety Officer. “It’s important we keep up-to-date with legislation,” says Dan. “When people arrive at the host desk Alicia briefs them on the lay-out, ordering systems and etiquette. We have a manifesto on our website for customers and send them information in their confirmation email. The food market opened last October but closed six days’ later. We knew it was a risk, but it was worth it. We were sold out for December and January but then closed again. Now there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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