James Martin's Manchester eating out tips as he returns to Bolton Food and Drink Festival
We sat down with James Martin at Bolton Food and Drink Festival 2023 to talk about the event’s continuing success and why he keeps coming back.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Bolton Food and Drink Festival took place over the August bank holiday, welcoming hundreds of vendors and hundreds of thousands of visitors – including a few famous faces.
Each year, the town centre is taken over by rows of food stalls, craft stalls and street performers, while celebrity and local chefs share their skills with crowds at live demos. This year there were also bottomless brunch sessions and immersive dining experiences.
The festival celebrated its 18th year this year and chef James Martin has been there for the last 14. He has seen it grow from a small community event to one with attendance figures that eclipse some of the country’s biggest musical festivals.
We caught up with the TV chef on the sidelines of the festival to find out what is so special about it and why he keeps him coming back year after year.
‘Northerners appreciate a day out’
James Martin told ManchesterWorld: “I remember coming here 14 years ago and doing a demo, it was 150 seats in a little tent on the street with a handful, maybe 12, stalls.
“We have a thing in Winchester, Hampshire food festival, which is a hundred stalls on the high street, it’s not this and it never will be this. And that’s the thing, that’s the special, unique thing about this one. I keep telling all my mates, they don’t believe me, I tell them it’s bigger than Glastonbury. More people come here than come to Glastonbury.
“Seeing it grow from what it was to what it is, is just amazing every time I come back. And look at it now, it’s even bigger and better than it ever has been.”
When it comes to the reasons why Bolton Food and Drink has grown so successfully over the years, James Martin thinks it has something to do with Northern charm.
He said: “This area – I’m from the North anyway – they are very supportive. The Northerners appreciate a day out, especially a free day out. That’s the great thing about it, you can walk around, see other stuff. It brings so much to the town, as well, that’s the great thing.”
Bolton Food and Drink Festival has grown so much that visiting it today can be a bit overwhelming. But the wide variety of both food and entertainment on offer, is what makes it such an enjoyable experience.
He said: “Nowadays there’s music, you can go and buy a car here, there’s so many different things from what they were 14 years ago. The food festivals are a title, it’s everything on top of that, it’s not just food.
“The appetite, the love for it is immense. That’s the key to it. Enjoy as much as the suppliers enjoy it, as much as the bands do, as much as the chefs that come and visit.”
Manchester food recommendations
James Martin is no stranger to the local food scene. His restaurant inside the Manchester235 casino at the Great Northern Warehouse has just celebrated its 10th anniversary.
His first recommendation was El Gato Negro, the Spanish tapas restaurant on King Street also praised by the Michelin guide. Elsewhere, the chef also recommended Tast, the Ancoats-based Catalan restaurant co-owned by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, Hawksmoor and Sexy Fish, the high-end Mayfair-based restaurant which is opening a new location in Manchester this autumn.
He added: “There are loads of things that are coming to Manchester. I think that’s the key to it, to support them, to give it stability, that’s the key to it more than anything else. I’ve seen a lot happen, a lot come and go in 10 years in Manchester, and stability and consistency is the way to go. but I’m looking forward to the new places opening up.”