Mmmm 21: foodie Chorlton

Anyone who really knows Chorlton is well aware that behind all the Evening News’s mischief about hummus and quinoa, it’s actually the best place in the city to shop and eat well. I spoke to a few key foodie players to find out just what makes M21 so tasty.

I think we get the retailers we deserve. In Chorlton, that has meant that when we care about where our food comes from; when we like to cook from scratch and support a vibrant local economy, we’re helping a generation of modern – and at the same time, old fashioned – traders survive and prosper. I mean old-fashioned in the best possible way: our parents and grandparents shopped little and often, buying fresh local food from butchers and greengrocers, bakers and fishmongers. A village atmosphere, personal service – and a good dinner!

As Juliet from Cracking Good Food (who run cooking classes and organise community food initiatives) puts it: “By buying local, residents get genuine enjoyment from food shopping: it’s so much more pleasant to wander about on foot visiting the different shops. This attracts a lot of people from out of the area and Chorlton becomes a ‘food destination’.”

“We are really lucky to be in Chorlton,” says Unicorn’s Kellie Bubble. “Multiples have sucked so many local economies dry. Chorlton has managed to weather the storm with a good combination of interesting food shops and a community that appreciates them.”

Businesses like Barbakan and Epicerie Ludo agree that it’s hard to imagine trading anywhere else. “There’s so much character and personality here,” says Ludovic Piot. “People in Chorlton understand that shopping independent and local is no more expensive than the supermarket. They definitely want – and get – more for their money.

And it’s also about giving something back: money spent locally tends to stay local, so our independents support and buy from each other. “We’re part of a community; we work together to raise money for local charities, use local suppliers and try to look after our local environment too,”says Tea Hive’s Hannah.

New shops, bars, cafes and restaurants seem to spring up on a regular basis and a discerning clientele that votes with its feet keeps standards high. Chris from The Parlour adds: “We’re extremely proud to be part of Chorlton’s thriving food scene and really appreciate the support residents have shown us. We see increased competition from new bars and restaurants as a hugely positive thing.”

We’ll give the last word to Ludo: “What we eat really does matter. Chorlton has such a fabulous array of choice, offered by people who work with passion and enthusiasm. It works well because we have places that complement each other: we’re different in our own right, but collectively, I think we make Chorlton special.”

So where do the experts shop and eat?

Tea Hive: Hickson & Black’s get our vote – we think they’re fab! We use Elliotts and Frosts as suppliers and you’ll often find us in The Beagle or Marble after closing. We had dinner in Jasmine the other night: you’d be pushed to find a better baba ganoush!

Epicerie Ludo: We work with some real indie food champions: John and his fabulous hand-raised pies from All About Pies; divine tarts from Neil Buttery; Chorlton Meadows Honey from Carl, and Jessica’s stunning chocolates from In Truffle We Trust.

Barbakan: We adore Frosts the Butchers and Out of the Blue: they both have fantastic produce and great service. We love eating at the Beagle, The Parlour and the Chorlton Green Brasserie.

Cracking Good Food: We think Hickson & Black’s is a great deli. Khawaja Brothers has an incredible range of stock and is very good value.

And the winners are…

Chorlton boasts a long list of local and national food awards and punches well above its weight in the prestigious Manchester Food and Drink Festival (MFDF) Awards, shortlisted by experts and voted for by the public. 2015 nominations include Tea Hive, Jasmine and The Parlour and voting is open until September 10. Vote Local! foodanddrinkfestival.com/awards.

Here are a few of our favourite Chorlton award winners.

Barbakan Delicatessen, Manchester Road  Barbakan has been a feature in Chorlton for 50 years now, scooping awards including MFDF Best Food Outlet; two Independent British Bakery of the Year awards and three Best Craft Bakery and Speciality Bread Products at the Baking Industry Awards. As well as offering a fantastic continental deli, they make 75 varieties of bread and cake and work all night to bake over 15,000 loaves a week.

Epicerie Ludo, Beech Road  A relative newcomer, Ludo opened in December 2011. Selling all manner of french-inspired loveliness, combined with great local produce, the Epicerie has a convenience store ethos, open seven days to satisfy even the urgent cravings for just-baked baguettes and rose petal jam. The shop won a Hero of the High Street Award in 2013, and was MFDF’s Best Food and Drink Retailer in 2014.

W. H. Frost (Butcher), Chorlton Precinct  Priding themselves on high quality, locally sourced meat, this family business has been serving Chorlton’s carnivores since 1910, picking up the MFDF Best Retailer in 2011. Their operations director is an influential, if sometimes controversial, member of Manchester’s Twitterati.

Out of the Blue, Wilbraham Road  Chorlton’s finest fishmongers (MFDF Retailer of the year in 2007) have their eye on the ball when it comes to ethically sourced, sustainable fish. They always have recipe advice up their sleeves too. Their sushi, made on-site, has become a Chorlton staple. Pass by early in the morning and you can see the Sushi chef working in the window: but watch out, he’s got a knife!

The Parlour, Beech Road  A shining example of simplicity served well, The Parlour won Observer Food Monthly’s award for Best Sunday Roast in 2012 (and was runner-up the following two years); MFDF’s Best Pub in 2012 and nominated for Best Food Pub in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Featured in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, The Parlour offers an excellent beer selection, a relaxed atmosphere, and great food, from local suppliers.

Tea Hive, Manchester Road  Despite having been open only four years, walking into Tea Hive is like a meeting an old friend: the array of home-made cakes, the mismatched furniture and eclectic teapots make you feel right at home. Owners Michelle and Vicky love their food and make everything, from the lemon curd to the granola, from scratch. They’re up for two awards this year: MFDF Coffee Bar/Tea Shop of the Year and Best Coffee Shop in the Northern Independent Retail Awards.

Turkish Delight, Barlow Moor Road  Another long-established, family run business, Turkish Delight offers Mediterranean food to eat in or take away. Mother and son team Tina and Deniz take pride in fresh ingredients, cooked from scratch. In search of quality Chorlton hummus? This is where you’ll find it. One of the big winners at the British Kebab Awards in 2013.

Unicorn Grocery, Manchester Road  Unicorn, which has now been open 19 years, is a grocery with a difference. Run on a co-operative basis, their emphasis is firmly on providing great produce, sourced as locally as possible at a fair price. Their approach has won them numerous awards, including MFDF awards and two national awards: Observer Food Monthly’s Best Independent Retailer; and The Radio 4 Food and Farming Award for Best Local Food Retailer.