by Polly Checkland

From wicker hampers to supermarket sandwiches, the ingredients of a picnic are something of a moveable feast (if you’ll pardon the pun). The idea, however, is always the same: pre-packed food, eaten in the great outdoors. For obvious reasons, this al fresco activity is experiencing a renaissance right now, partly through necessity, but partly also in recognition of the joys of eating in the fresh air. Happily, Manchester has a wealth of fantastic, independent shops and markets from which to furnish your pannier, rucksack or tote bag with treats. Buy local, avoid plastic where you can and always take your litter with you – in essence, opt for an experience that’s kind to the parks, gardens and countryside that make such perfect picnic spots.

A deli is always a good place to start when packing for a picnic, and Manchester has plenty of excellent ones. In town, make for Salvi’s at the Corn Exchange for olives, Italian sweets, absurdly fresh mozzarella, antipasti and more. Newcomer 3 Hands Deli  at the Great Northern Mews is another brilliant option: it stocks an incredible selection of cheese, olives, cured meat, bread and other baked goods. Also great for cheese, as well as meat for barbeques, is The Butcher’s Quarter in the Northern Quarter – they are stockists of cheese from I.J. Mellis of Edinburgh, one of the best in the country, as well as wines supplied by Reserve Wines in Didsbury.

The suburb itself is home to A Taste of Honey, where there’s a selection of freshly-prepared salads, sandwiches, cakes and more behind the counter, and The Cheese Hamlet, a family-run business that’s served the people of Manchester for over 60 years. Over in Chorlton are vegetarian Indian treats from Lily’s Deli, with award-winning craft bakery and continental delicatessen Barbakan diagonally opposite across the road. Isca is the place to head to in Levenshulme; here you’ll find organic deli goodies alongside a careful selection of natural wines.

Which brings us, neatly, to the question of where to buy wine, beer and fizz from, should you be looking to include alcohol in the proceedings. For wine, it’s worth browsing the immense selection of over 400 bottles to take away at Salut Wines, each one hand-picked by the knowledgeable team. Alternatively, there’s newcomer Blossom Street Social in Ancoats, from the team behind the much-loved (and now much missed) Hangingditch Wine Merchants. Away from town, head to the aforementioned Reserve Wines in Didsbury, or to Tiny’s Tipple in Chorlton, an independent bottle shop stocking around 350 quality wines at any one time. For beer, your best bets are specialist craft beer shop Beermoth, award-winning tap house and bottle shop Heaton Hops, or The Epicurean in West Didsbury, Heaton Moor and Chorlton.

In terms of dessert, Siop Shop competes with Gooey (currently pre-order collection from Ducie Street Warehouse) for the best donuts in the city. In fact, Manchester is blessed with a number of excellent, independent bakeries: Pollen on Ancoats Marina serves exquisite cakes and pastries, as do Trove (Ancoats and Levenshulme) and Long Boi’s Bakehouse. For something a bit different, head to Ho’s Bakery in Chinatown, which has been serving up traditional Hong Kong patisseries for over 30 years.

Perhaps the easiest way of shopping for a picnic though is to head for one of Greater Manchester’s markets. Here you’ll find an assortment of the supplies mentioned above, all in one place. Levenshulme Market, Altrincham Market and Manchester Arndale Market are some of the city’s best. Once you’re fully stocked – go forth and picnic!