Escape to Freight Island, Mayfield Depot, 11 Baring St, Manchester, M1 2PY – Visit Now
The Escape to Freight Island posters have been everywhere in Manchester over the past few months, but what exactly is it? The adverts channel a pre-Beeching idea of British holidaying, combined with a European sense of communal drinking and dining – or as much as possible in the COVID-19 era.
And that’s exactly what Escape To Freight Island. A forward-thinking market, packed with superb street food vendors, creative bars, performance areas and more – think ‘mini-Glastonbury’ and you won’t be far wrong. For the launch weekend, the space known as ‘Platform 15’ opened up to the public; a 600 capacity area with a live band playing a pitch-perfect soundtrack (we walk in to a brass-heavy cover of ‘Step On’, wonderfully).
The city has a new must-visit destination for all kinds of reasons
Everything is ordered through the app, for obvious reasons, but it works seamlessly. Drinks from the Platform 15 bar arrive lightning fast, and we don’t have to wait long for food. First up, Madre, a wildly popular taco joint with a restaurant at Liverpool’s Albert Dock, and now a stall here. The chicken tacos are things of beauty – two eye-catching slate-grey tortillas, packed with thick, hot chunks of roast chicken, smeared with a fiery sauce and topped off with finely chopped onion and coriander. As small plates go, they’re the perfect kick-off for a night of eating and drinking, particularly when paired with the tortilla chips and salsa dips.
The BBQ king prawns from Baratxuri take a little longer to prep and cost a little more, but they’re easily worth the wait and extra few quid. Half a dozen of the fattest prawns in Manchester, cooked on a heavy-metal open-air grill that sends delicious aromas around the courtyard, lightly drizzled with a not-too-strong sauce, and placed on a bed of gloopy, moreish risotto-style rice. A visit to Escape To Freight Island isn’t complete without trying at least one dish from Baratxuri, and this is the standout option, by some measure.
Some advance warning about the pizzas from Voodoo Ray: these slices are huge. For a few quid, you get an enormous slab, on a thin crispy base with all the classic options for toppings, and some more unusual selections. If you’re feeling exceptionally hungry you could order an entire 22″ pizza, but the slices will be enough for anyone. We recommend the pepperoni, although the goat’s cheese pizza, bizarrely named The Giorgio Moroder, is a solid choice too.
But Escape To Freight Island is more than just a place to go and eat some nice street food. It promises to be a key go-to destination for this long-overlooked section of Manchester, perfectly lined-up with social-distancing regulations, and with a great space for live acts and DJs. If you fancy something a little more old-school (or a punk gig), the always-excellent Star & Garter pub is just around the corner, and we eagerly await the chance to pop back in for a drink at this vital part of the city’s nightlife scene.
When the 1m regulations are finally put to bed, this space will become a phenomenal destination for all kinds of events, from live music to dancefloor action, and it’s designed to work alongside all the various types of Manchester weather. It’ll undoubtedly be one of the city’s best places to dine and drink in the sun, and when the weather invariably goes wet and windy, there are plenty of ways to avoid the rain.
All this should come as no surprise, considering local legend Luke Unabomber is one of the key figures behind it all. Not only one of Manchester’s most-acclaimed DJs, he’s also behind some of the most exciting events and venues in the city, including Homoelectric, Volta, The Refuge, and more. The knowledge that Escape To Freight Island can, and will, open out into a space capable of hosting many thousands of people, means the city has a new must-visit destination for all kinds of reasons.