Oxford Road, M13

Burrowed under the Mancunian Way, adjacent to Europe’s busiest bus route, there rests an assemblage of shipping containers containing the latest offerings by Manchester’s innovative retail scene. Operated by the team behind Afflecks Palace, the selection includes florists, artists, a coffee shop, a natural wine retailer, a nanobrewery and, of course, street food. Intended to give the community an opportunity to sample independent produce whilst allowing start-ups a flexible space to begin trading, the site has big plans.

Currently, the space surrounds an open courtyard, complete with a DJ booth somewhat exposed to the elements, but plans to expand threefold to include a music venue and plenty more space for retailers, ready in time for the warmer months.

Having been fortunate enough to sample the current term of food traders, including Blue Caribou, Eat & Sweet, El Marchador and Well Hung, I must say the selection was impressive, albeit our weather has not been kind to the outdoor space, meaning food temperatures vary. Plates on offer include Jamaican specialities such as curry goat, the latest Canadian trend in poutine and notable takes on steak sandwiches. If that selection is not for you, or you form part of the growing flexitarian movement, then less carnivorous options a scheduled for the next batch of traders, due in late April, including Holy Crab and Yadda Yadda.

Its major, more permanent installation is Takk, the Northern Quarter hygge themed coffee bar. They have a workspace, serving filter coffee and a selection of loose leaf teas - Silver Needle is a particular favourite – supplemented by an impressive working playlist, including the likes of Four Tet. For those inclined to people-watch, the rectangular bar windows prove an ideal spot to while away the afternoon. For others looking for something stronger, its sister project, Ol, a nano brewery and keg bar, serves up beer straight from the source, with local options such as Track and Runaway also available.

The site is a good example of the showcase of local talent that can come from well-rounded and thought-out infrastructure when it’s built into the plans of more commercially-minded developers - in this case those behind the high-rise Circle Square development next door. This is in part due to the influence of the Afflecks team, who have instilled a soul into what is effectively a storage yard. It’s a space to watch with anticipation as summer approaches.

CM Veys

All photos courtesy of Hatch.