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An Outlet review

Colette Bernasconi finds a venue with daft name offering a smooth re-invention of the coffee-house genre

Published on March 9th 2009.


An Outlet review

When Love Saves the Day closed on Dale Street, it looked like the end of the road for a venue with a brief history.

But now a deli-cafe called An Outlet has moved in and is looking good. It even forced me to reconsider the slight prejudice against yuppie Seattle-style cafés that I'd brought with me from the US. There were loads of ‘indie Starbucks’ over there, full of earnest hipsters self-consciously scribbling in notebooks while sipping horribly expensive organic free-trade double skim lattes.

This café, while being cut from the same cloth - it fancies itself a hang-out for creative types -has plenty to redeem itself.

There are all the distractions for one thing. These could keep you busy for ages. There’s a book exchange, a choice of six different newspapers, chess and scrabble, free wi-fi and a stack of virgin notebooks next to a cup of pencils. All that's missing are the slouchy couches.

The décor looks the part: massive black and white photographs of fifties folk horsing around; a long excerpt of a Diane di Prima novel scrawled on the wall in chalk; lush green vines pushing through the industrial-design style metal grating that holds up the lighting.

That the design is strong shouldn’t come as a surprise as An Outlet was created by architects and designers Martin Stockley and Warren Bramley. Their office lies above the café so all they need is a fireman’s pole through the floor to make it really convenient. Stockley did the engineering on No1 Deansgate and Urbis to ensure they don’t fall down.

As a coffee-house for drinks, it has everything you'd expect, from macchiatos to lattes (vanilla and hazelnut syrup option) to chai tea and everything in between. They have adopted the annoying Starbucks principle of not having a ‘small’ of any of the drinks. The coffee is good, a caffeine blast without that annoying and cloying chocolate after taste so many of the coffee-chains seem to carry. It has a wide-awake edge too. An alcohol licence should arrive later this month.

The menu maintains the standard. The food has something for vegetarians and carnivores: the adventurous and the less so. They serve breakfast at prices between £1.20 to £3.75, ranging from granola with fresh fruit to sausage or bacon on ciabatta bread.

There’s both a vegetarian and meaty soup for £3.50 (about a 50p mark-up on take-out prices), along with a choice of 10 triple-decker sandwiches such as roast chicken with red onion marmalade and baby spinach; pastrami with horseradish and cream cheese (£3.50). They also have simpler sandwiches at £2 such as ham and mustard and cheese and pickle. Their salad bar (about £4.50) boasts exotic options such as figs, roquette, harissa dressing, roast root vegetables and Puy lentils.

The combinations in most of the sandwiches seem to work well, and there are enough robust textures there to keep give them crunch and depth. The roast chicken one being typical. The dinner menu – served from 3 pm - includes Lancashire cheese and pate with local oatcakes, Parma ham and figs. There's a choice of about ten other dishes, from between £3.50 and £7. At the moment the place is open from 8am-7pm.

An Outlet is also a mini-deli with spices, coffee, pasta, jams and all sorts of treats. The common denominator between the items, according to lovely waitress Olga, is that they are “things that nobody else has.” The other common characteristic is that the groceries are expensive, but not abusively so.

It seems that An Outlet is a quality place, offering everything that was good about the original Seattle coffee-house genre: interesting décor, an alternative menu, and a plethora of pastimes for the idle. At Confidential we're not sure about the name though: seems the sort of thing dreamt up in a pub which real customers find hard to remember and is useless on web search engines.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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9 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DominicMarch 9th 2009.

Great independent coffee shop for Piccadilly. Good food and drink in a very relaxing environment. Reminds me of the NoLita Coffee houses in New Manhattan. Free wireless means I can escape the noisy office and get things done :)

annaMarch 9th 2009.

Can't wait to try this place, looks great! The last few weeks of final semester at uni should see me regularly ensconced in here with head in several books!

JennMarch 9th 2009.

Well I like it, best hot chocolate I've had in a long long time and very friendly staff. I have yet to eat there but will soon!

EditorialMarch 9th 2009.

Remember folks we rate venues, as stated under the rating scores, against others of their type: 'Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes'.

Mcr ManMarch 9th 2009.

14/20? very generous. I thought this new addition to Dale st was a tad bland and no where nr what Love Saves the Day use to be. 10/20 may be more fitting.

Red KenMarch 9th 2009.

Ed , surely there should be a 10% reduction when you take food away , not a increase ?

AnonymousMarch 9th 2009.

Does it still have the amazing carrot cake?

Kevin GordanMarch 9th 2009.

Very pleasant indeed. A very pleasant place. All right you know. No more than that.

AnonymousJanuary 4th 2013.

This place is now called North Star Delicatessen.

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