Whilst some take pleasure in being waited on I much prefer being in control of my own experience, because I like the convenience of going up to place my order when it suits me. There’s no pressure to order within the first 15 minutes of arriving and no waiting for the bill which is a real pet peeve of mine. So when Liam and I heard about Stretford Foodhall on Twitter, we knew we had to go and scope it out.
More recently, we have found ourselves choosing foodhall experiences over a restaurant because we enjoy the relaxed yet buzzy atmosphere, and ‘no care in the world’ vibe. Not only are they great at catering for different appetites they’re the perfect stop off point for any drink occasion.
When I heard about Stretford Foodhall, instantaneously Mackie Mayor and Altrincham markets sprung to mind. I had set my expectations high and dreamt of the rustic features, upcycled furniture and a mixture of enticing smells that I would stumble upon when walking in.
And after all, who doesn’t love a good foodhall?
Located just off the main road it wasn’t too complicated to find although Google Maps seemed to think so. After trying to direct us to PureGym car park (was it a sign?!) we eventually stumbled upon a free parking spot on a side road – result! The surrounding area seemed rather run down and not what we had expected, given the well-suited location of it’s sister store in Ancoats up and coming neighbourhood.
Atmosphere and environment
As soon as we walked through the doors we were greeted with chilled and happy people. Surrounded by those out with their other half, friends, work colleagues or family, we very quickly learnt that this was a place to please the masses. There was something for everyone.
"We've got a convenience store, a bar and coffee shop, and three street food vending stations - that's us in a nutshell. We offer every day groceries and complement it with local, niche, quirky and dietary products.”
And it was just that. Even a florist, live DJ and small children’s play area, although I was rather relieved there were no children in sight given I was hoping for a relaxed, Friday evening. Some browsed the isles filled with packaging-free dry food stations whilst dogs sat eagerly, waiting for food to drop onto the floor.
Scandinavian style benches, warm tones and ‘thrown together’ street food vendors all made up the quirky nature of this place and complemented each other well.
Food & Beverage
I must admit we were expecting a few more food vendors than just three. We soon found out that there is a rotation of vendors to give both new and established businesses a chance to showcase their unique cuisine. We were presented with:
- The Ottö-Men – Contemporary Mediterranean and Ottoman inspired cuisine
- Dirty Franks – a selection of loaded fries and hotdogs
- Manzoku – Asian inspired street food
I was drawn to The Ottö-Men menu, purely because I couldn’t quite understand it and so straight away resorted to a quick Google search. I was left drooling at the mouth but was no closer to a decision, so I asked for recommendations from the the eccentric and energetic chefs. With a simple yet happy ‘leave it with us’ I returned to my scandi-bench hopeful and delighted that I had only spent £7.50.
Liam’s turn, he edged towards the Asian street food stall but returned disgruntled to find they’d sold out OF EVERYTHING! Off to Dirty Franks he went.
Whilst waiting for food I thought I’d check out the bar. It would’ve been rude not to try, so there I stood sampling the craft beers that are all locally made and ordered two pints of Manchester Union lager.
Food was served and my meal looked like a bush tucker trial to fill the full camp. Aesthetics aside, there was sweet and sour, soft and crunchy, hot and cold, bright and beige. IT WAS HEAVEN!
The store felt very organic and ’natural’ with plenty of refillable and recyclable products available.
The shelves were lined with everyday essentials and locally made food and drink, with an array of vegan and gluten-free options. Something that caught my eye was the dedicated isle of refillable dry-food stations and cleaning products that uses plant extracts and biodegradable ingredients.
“People still need stuff, you just need to give it to them in the way that they want it today,” says Mital. “Stretford has been starved of a premium offering, and customers have thanked me for opening this here.”
Whilst at first I couldn’t quite grasp how this would work in the local area, it later dawned on me that we’re living in a world moving at such a rapid pace towards a sustainable future. There’s a huge desire and need for ‘cleaner’ products for both personal health and the environment. How will the big chain supermarkets keep up?
Business owner, Mital Morar, describes Stretford Foodhall as ‘a hub and social space’ and it is exactly that. Filled with local businesses and local products that the locals desire, it is the perfect set up. Mital has listened to his customers and created a space that brings the community together and provides something completely fresh and new to Stretford.
"It's about giving people a change from the norm. It's a huge extension on what convenience retail can look like in the future… The traditional view of a corner shop or a pub or a shopping centre and high street - all that's gone now in my opinion. It's changing.” – Mital Morar.