Carnival at Freight Island, Ticket Hall, Freight Island, 11 Baring St, Manchester, M1 2PZ – Visit Now
Carnival at Freight Island just gets better. Today, we’re devouring the brand new Sunday roast options at food hotspot, Escape To Freight Island, the sprawling food and drink metropolis found behind Piccadilly Train Station and next door to the city’s greatest pub and small-gig venue, the Star & Garter.
It’s a pleasingly affordable offer, considering the quality, at two courses for £25 or three for £29, with a few extra bits if you’re feeling greedy, which I almost always am.
As such, let’s begin with the short rib nuggets. They’re a close cousin to the wondrous meat options on the midweek Carnival menu – two hefty dark cubes, packed full of soft slow-cooked rib meat, mixed up with a small amount of Ogleshield cheese, with a big dollop of kimchi ketchup on the side. No surprise, they’re excellent. Eat them while they’re piping hot and marvel that a place as sprawling as Freight Island can come up with some of the city’s finest food.
For starters, the chilli cheddar churros. Again, served piping hot with a paper-thin batter, containing delicious tangy cheese innards, stringy (in a good way) and gloriously satisfying. There’s a little paper tub of pickle dip for extra tang, and a big handful of grated cheese chucked on the lot at the end, because why not? It’s not the healthiest dish in town but it’s not meant to be. It’s meant to be a Sunday treat and it ticks every box imaginable.
We also try the confit duck leg. It fits the Carnival ethos of high-quality meat with no extra nonsense: a single, beautifully cooked duck leg, all crispy skin, hints of five spice and rich, rich flavours. At first glance I did want some kind of carb addition (a pancake or blob of mash) but it truly doesn’t need it – the red cabbage ketchup adds a dazzle of flavour as it is.
But as good as these opening options are – and they are very good indeed – we’re here for the main act: the roasts. We opt for the beef and porchetta, and the plates are a treat to the eye.
The gravy recipe belongs in The Smithsonian
The beef is a slow roast 34-day aged rump of beef, served pink. It comes with a monstrous Yorkshire pudding resting on top, and let’s take a minute to admire it. It’s bigger than Usyk’s fist, crispy around the edges, soft and lightly gooey in the centre, like every great Yorkshire pudding.
Then there are a few roast potatoes, again with perfectly crispy edges and soft in the middle, carrots and dark green cabbage, all cooked perfectly, all tasting great. The gravy recipe belongs in The Smithsonian, as an example of how it should be done: rich, savoury, sweet – a host of aromas, perfectly balanced and taking the entire plate to all-new heights.
The porchetta comes with the same extras, but if push came to shove, I’d say opt for this one, especially if you have an adventurous palate. Sure, the beef is fantastic, possibly the highest quality around in Sunday roast terms, but the porchetta is something else entirely. It’s stuffed with sage, pancetta and peach, giving it a unique flavour profile which works wonders when combined with the varying textures of the meat.
If you’re still hungry, which you won’t be, there are two desserts on offer. The sticky toffee pudding proves too much even for my never-ending stomach, so strawberries, elderflower and honey mascarpone it is. It’s a multi-layered delight, all sweet and tang, full of beautiful English summer flavours.
Escape To Freight Island has been a triumph since it opened, attracting many, many thousands of people for drinks and high-quality food. Now they’ve set their sights on Sunday roasts and the results are remarkable. If you’re a roast dinner aficionado – and if not, why not? – you’re in for the treat of your life.