Today’s the day: Manchester Picnic at Piccadilly Gardens

Phoebe Hurst

Local food, ice cream for grown-ups, gastro pop-ups and giant Jenga: the Manchester Picnic returns.

Nothing beats a good picnic. There’s something about conquering an unmarked patch of land with no more than a tartan blanket and the agreeable thud of a well-packed hamper (or, if you’re more like us, a rucksack full of mismatched Tupperware boxes and some bananas) that satisfies the Sir Walter Raleigh urge in all of us. Claiming the great outdoors in the name of lunchtime is one of the best things about the summer, even if it does spark the odd insect-related insurgency.

The Manchester Picnic takes outdoor eating to new levels when it returns to Piccadilly Gardens this weekend. Now in its fourth year, the three-day food festival features 25 traders serving all manner of freshly cooked fare, with a programme of live music and entertainment on the side. Foodie highlights include grilled Kleftiko in fresh pitta from local Greek restaurant, Papa G’s, giant paella from Las Paelleras, and The Tibetan Kitchen’s Himalayan dumplings served with a “special” chilli sauce. For the less globe-trotting palate, Leeds pop-up takeaway Fish& offers sustainably sourced fish and chips, while Hoggie’s Hog Roast provides a traditional spit roast, complete with homemade seasoning and apple sauce. And for dessert? Moo Moo Milkshakes are on hand with chilled treats and the “ice cream van for grown-ups,” Ginger’s Comfort Emporium’s dollops out marmalade toast and treacle tart flavoured ice cream.

Chow down on grilled Kleftiko, giant paella and Himalayan dumplings with a “special” chilli sauce

This year’s Picnic also goes green-fingered in honour of urban gardening festival, Dig the City, which opens during the same weekend. The Picnic celebrates with a “gourmet garden party” theme and encourages visitors to nip over to the National Trust tree house in Exchange Square for post-picnic den-building. Sunday also sees a range of family-friendly activities including face-painting, giant Jenga and Connect 4, as well as music from Unity FM DJs. Children are also invited to bring their favourite toy to take part in the festival’s Teddy Bear’s Picnic – because it would be rude to have a picnic without inviting at least a few bears.

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