Thursday, September 14, 2006

Manchester Mallrat

Yesterday was my birthday, so I celebrated by giving myself the afternoon off to drift around Manchester doing non-important things in a non-hurried manner. I went by the new Arndale food market, which is quite nice and clean - though they didn't even have any bins yet. It only opened a few days ago, but I heard reports of sushi, so I hustled over.

The sushi is sold by Wing's, which have opened a pan-asian concession that sells pad thai and chinese dishes but also has one of those rotating sushi treadmills with colour-coded plates. I don't like them so much. It's cheaper and nicer to buy it from the sushi "pick and mix" - a rack of frustratingly individually wrapped pieces - where I paid about £4.85 for six pieces, soy sauce, wasabi and ginger (yes, you have to buy the condiments). The selection was really limited - shrimp, salmon, tuna and a number of awful things with tuna salad clearly meant to entice those philistines who aren't keen on raw fish. No unagi, either. The quality was good, the fish fresh - I wondered if it came from the lovely and enormous new fish market round the corner? I'll be going back.

The rest of the market was cool; the best things looked to be Gastronomica, which sells a glorious array of Italian-style dried meats (porchetta sandwiches, etc.), an extensive produce stall and a cute little stand selling fancy tea and scones, where I tried to sell the owner on the delights of boba tea - the iced tea with tapioca pearls that I became addicted to in Taiwan and NY but haven't been able to find over here. I'm not sure she was convinced. The Polish deli is actually more of a Polish grocery, selling cookies and margarine imported from the motherland. Is Polish margarine really that different from British margarine?

Then it was into the new, expanded Arndale Centre. This place now goes on and on forever, like a huge American mall, with a bewildering number of shiny new stores. They've opened the bit called the wintergarden, which I thought had a nice ring to it, but it turns out all that means is part of the mall has a glass roof. It's all so anonymous and generic looking that it made me anxious. Thankfully, they've still got the scrotty old market down in the bowels of the beast, where ten minutes in the warren of stalls hawking mobile phone covers, plastic boots and manicures will make you feel much better.

Before I left, though, I went to check out the new Waterstones Arndale, which is oddly being marketed as a "concept store". I didn't really get the concept. The colour scheme is different - all pale gray and metal to suggest hipness, I guess - but it's basically a smallish Waterstones with a tiny, bizarrely curated magazine section. And I missed David Hasselhoff by about 20 minutes. He had been there signing books, and the staff were all wearing autographed t-shirts that read "don't hassle the Hoff." Can we stop saying that now? I bought Anansi Boys and went to go read it in Cathedral Gardens, and for once it didn't rain.


Anonymous said...

Surprised I didn't bump into you. I hear the market stalls have all taken out five-year leases, which is good news. I imagine I'll be buying cheese and sushi there soon, and I hear they have (arguably) the smallest bar in Britain. One handpump.

Waterstones: is the concept that people can sit around and read, a la a library?

Did you visit Hotel Chocolat?

Happy birthday, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Well thats me inspired to have a gander tonight on our way to Wagamama!

Oh and a belated Happy Birthday! :D

android said...

Sounds like your birthday was a relaxing one. Must go and check out the new food market. You articulate an ambiguity I've sensed too over the years of Manchester's regeneration: on the one hand the positive growth of the city's markets, cultures, architecture, and diversity, but on the other hand a slightly sinister commercialism and authoritarianism which you sense is often on the edge of becoming total.

Anonymous said...

Some good bits in the Market. The Polish stall is worth a bit more of a browse than you suggest, Polish margerine might not be that different but Polish Jaffa Cakes with choices including cherry or blueberry were tempting. They also sold packets of stuffed Polish pierogi dumplings which are worth a try.

Kate Feld said...

Anonymous, thanks for the tip re: the polish place. I admit a lot of my disapppointment was probably down to expecting a NYC-style polish deli. I find the word "deli" is used very differently over here, and sometimes it throws me.

And no, Mancubist, I didn't check out hotel chocolat or the tiny bar - will have to the next time.