[Stockport] Produce Hall

The story of today’s lunch starts 759 years ago. No, that’s not a typo. In 1260, in the reign of King Henry III, Stockport was granted a licence to hold a market and one has been held ever since, in the square next to the parish church. In 1861, a covered market hall was built with an ironwork structure but glass walls and roof. It still stands, as does the brick produce hall at the other end of the market square from the church. I remember going to the market as a small child. I don’t think I’d ever been to a busier place and I’m sure I kept a tight grip on Mum’s hand. There’d be haberdashery and clothing stalls in the main market hall, easily more than 50 other stalls outside selling clothes, household goods, fruit and vegetables, with competitive traders shouting out their prices. And the produce hall had stalls selling meat, fish and cheese.

But times have changed. Markets have declined in many British towns and Stockport’s, even with its long history, is a shadow of its former self. Folk prefer supermarkets and Amazon. Gone are all the outdoor stalls. But, in the market hall, you can still find local traders. Including the one that sold us rag puddings today – a local beef and suet pie that’s actually quite hard to find outside of its native town of Oldham. And it’s probably the only place in Stockport where you can still buy tripe (although not for us, thanks). Another sold us some “tasty” Lancashire cheese, knocking off the 38p of its price as it’s easier than giving change. Now tell me a supermarket that will do that for you?

As for the Victorian produce hall, it closed due to declining trade. The council, which owns it, looked to find a more popular use for it and, as has happened in a number of local towns, decided to convert it to what I suppose you might call a “food court” for want of a better description. The idea was a central area where folk could sit and eat and drink, surrounded by stalls selling food and booze. The licence to run it went out to tender and it’s fair to say that there has been some considerable disquiet about the outcome. There were just two serious bidders. One, a collective of street food traders, the other a well known local restaurant entrepreneur. Now, you might have thought that the street traders would be an ideal fit but you’ll not be surprised to know that it’s the businessman that got the gig.

Now, to be fair, he’s fulfilled the brief. It’s been a sympathetic conversion of the building (which is Grade 2 listed for architectural importance) and the space is lined with a dozen or so stalls selling different foods. But, almost none of them are independents, however they might look it, but are all parts of the guy’s business empire. But, of course, we had to go and see what’s what.

Now, let’s think about some food. The deal with these places is that you find a table, noting its number, order at the stall and they bring the food to you. So, we had a wander round. There’s the vegan stall, selling “chicken” and “beef” dishes. No thanks – when I want meat, I want meat not some imitation. There’s fish & chips, tapas, spicy chicken, pies (don’t forget we’re in a northwestern town here – pies are part of our DNA). Others doing pizza, burgers, pasta. All that seemed missing to me was a noodle place and someone doing south Asian food. We decided on burgers. Good burgers. The basic one with just a cheese topping and a “Memphis” one which also had BBQ beef on top of the burger – although not as good as the brisket at Central BBQ in Memphis. Bun didn’t fall apart while we were eating – always a good sign, IMO. Skin on fries were excellent and we ordered a side salad as well. Drinks are ordered at another stall, where they had a range of ten or so local craft beers on draft.

It’s not often we go into town but this may become a periodic lunch spot. I see a tapas and meat pie lunch ahead.


I love these comments. Thanks for the post, John.

I love reading about the history behind food places, and this is terrific. I hope they get more independent traders to come into the Produce Hall - having all the different stalls under one owner doesn’t sound too exciting.

Hello John

From today’s Obserrver

The Stockport Produce Hall, a site for various street food-style stands, has been criticised for not including enough independent traders in its repertoire, in favour of large-scale restaurant brands. Now they’ve announced that the brilliant Cambodian restaurant Angkor Soul from nearby Marple, will, have a presence there from this month.

Looks like Mr Rayner is following you !!

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Jay Rayner has taken your complaint and addressed it in his current article. Though the words “by Harters” are missing after “criticised”:

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Are you guys reading the online Observer or a print edition? I had just finished the print version before coming to the computer and there’s no mention of the Produce Hall on Rayner’s pages.

As for Angkor Soul, it’ll be a good addition - I noted in my review a need for a noodle type place. We went to the restaurant last year and found it pretty decent . My review’s below. In that, I mention a Vietnamese palce - Mi & Pho - which I no longer recommend due to it getting very poor environmental health ratings. Since we went , they’ve opened a branch in Altrincham so, I suppose that with this third branch at the Produce Hall, we can now call them a mini-chain. [Marple, Greater Manchester] Angkor Soul

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Online version, John
Sunday morning ritual to see if was a love or loathe from Mr Rayner - I should just ask you in advance clearly !

These days when JR comes to the metro area he’s going to places I’ve never previously heard of. Angkhor Soul was one such.

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