The grass is so often greener, so hearing folk over in Leeds speak so fondly of Manchester as the coolest city in the North West with a lot going on isn't a surprise. But I'm not sure forward thinking Manchester residents would quite agree. Yorkshire trumps just about every other county in the country with its commitment to quality produce and delicious food, and Leeds has something already we're only just getting a taste of in Manchester – post burger indie food that's as well made as it is exciting (the two, unfortunately, don't always accord). I am sorely disappointed to be so incredibly busy at work to not have the time to head over to Leeds for any more of the Leeds Indie Food Festival than our 'Meet The Brewer' last week at Tall Boys. The line up was and still is incredible.
But I'm not disheartened, because I'm not trapped within the M60. That Leeds has plenty of very cool places to eat and drink is a wonderful thing – I have somewhere to check out, and Manchester has somewhere to give it a little poke in the ribs, playfully prompting us to sit up a bit and put more of the right things first (produce, seasonality, quality, over places that look nice, and don't 'rip people off').
I had the pleasure of hanging out with Iwan Roberts from Common both before our Meet The Brewer and after, bookending my talk and Q&A with many conversations about how Manchester moves forwards – with a push, or a pull? How can we excite and devote our efforts to modernity without offending folk who like things the way they are already thank you very much?
We look up from our conversation over dinner, to a now full room at Bundobust, and in another conversation later, to a very packed room upstairs in Tall Boys. In neither place, as also in the nearby and equally wonderful Laynes, or Friends of Ham, are customers fed empty statements. Instead, things are very much simplified, and humanised – quality, full, and rich, in all its glory, is near exclusively what's on offer. If it's things for a price, or the stuff you can get in your a food corporation's latest pub to local convenience food outlet, there's chance already in abundance elsewhere, right?
The guys at Tall Boys have done a great job. Their shop come growler fill bar is pretty much what I'd love to see in any city, a stone's throw from the main drag, accessibly to the many that pass, and the many who make their destination a seat upstairs with a glass of fine beer in front of them. With so many events on that night, the guys tell me that it'll get full upstairs for our meet the brewer, but maybe right at the last minute. By 7:30pm the upstairs room was standing room only, with the sort of courteous gathering one can only hope for – late arriving attendees were given space alongside those that had arrive well ahead of time, welcoming in other like minded food and drink aficionados.
I've presented a few meet the brewer type events, and conducted many brewery tours, but I've never experienced a room as attentive nor as quiet. Attention builds a remarkable energy that I tried to pass straight back by way of enthusiasm and detail. Although many said it on their way out at the end of the night, if those listening and questioning had as much fun as I did talking and answering in that room, then we all had a fantastic and memorable night. It felt as if every last thing was being savoured – the buzz and atmosphere in the room, the setting of a progressive, quality focused business, the samples of beer, and also the words and stories. How wholesome!
Leeds, through its progressive food and drink, has established and deepened a quiet revolution in businesses packed full of people. Thanks Leeds Indie Food Festival, and Tall Boys, and all our other friends in Leeds for leading the way, and inspiring us to greater heights.
Below are images captured by Jessie Leong shooting that night as part of Leeds Indie Food Festival.