ALTRINCHAM MARKET, MANCHESTER

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Not that long ago, someone had a very good idea and pretty much struck gold given the cash cow the newly renovated Altrincham market has become. That sounds cynical but believe me, I’m all in favour. Its shabby predecessor really was in need of an overhaul and the result is an injection of life into a fading town centre.

DSC_0166It seems every family with children below the age of ten is clamouring for a fold up chair at one of the choc-a-bloc tables packed into the new dining hall. The market may be ‘child-friendly’ but ‘buggy-friendly’, it most certainly is not. You have to skirt the circumference, half-inching your way through the furore, and make a concerted pounce the moment you spot anyone even feign a reach for their coat.

Once you’ve bagged a seat, you’re then free to browse the stalls for food – except of course, if you’re the nominated guard dog left at the table. The theory is wonderful, pick and choose from close to ten purveyors of scrummy grub and have your food delivered by runners to the table. The reality is slightly more unsettling. Even ignoring the scramble for a seat, every stall is operating on different timescales and, usually, with a hefty backlog of orders meaning it’s unlikely you will all get your food at the same time. The roaring trade means you could wait up to forty-five minutes for food and even then, the slightly scatterbrain system means there’s no small chance you’ll be delivered the wrong thing.

Essentially, demand far outstrips the capabilities of the tiny kitchens and, for that matter, the capacity of the hall. These are scaled cottage industries and the cracks in the logistical operation really emerge at scale.

It’s a bit of a shame that the pandemonium, for me, detracted a little from what generally is pretty decent, honest grub. The stalls that have hit the nail on the head by doing one thing and doing it well are going down a storm.

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Honest crust make authentic wood fired pizza and offer a really enticing variety of trendy toppings.

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The Great North Pie Co., as you might guess, rustle up hearty pies and some chunky, doorstep sausage rolls.

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The steak from Tender Cow comes in all sorts of guises but is brilliant quality – the steak benedict in particular, looked incredible.

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Other stalls haven’t quite got the pointed proposition right – you don’t immediately know what they’re about so in the tumult are likely to pass by to something simple and guaranteed to be gratifying.

One unifying factor though is the price hike. Prices here are rather inflated as you would expect from the ‘Cheshire effect’ but judging by the crowds, you have to assume they can charge more or less what they like.

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