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Cafe At Manchester Craft And Design Centre Reviewed

Jemma Gibson gets transported to a higher plane of art and craft

Published on July 13th 2011.

Cafe At Manchester Craft And Design Centre Reviewed

“HOW HAVE I never been here before?” I announced (silently, for I was alone) when I arrived.

This place, and its relaxed simplicity, shows Manchester, and the Northern Quarter at its best,

The building is as beautiful as the editor had promised, and the studios lining the walls and surrounding the cafe conjure a tiny secret artistic community. In the cafe itself, the decor achieves farmhouse chic with perfection, and the addition of suitable music (Bon Iver and Paul Simon) and young staff in casual shirts and floral dresses only add to the serene scene.  First impressions of this place were good indeed

I chose from the sparse menu (two sandwiches, two toasties and two salads) a hummus sandwich (£3.75) and elderflower cordial (£1.95). The sandwich arrived bountifully garnished with homemade coleslaw, watercress and balsamic vinegar and suitably rustic crisps. The sandwich itself wasn’t quite as exciting as the garnish, the similarly rustic bread was tasty but the filling was more carrot than hummus or spinach, and the apple chutney promised on the menu was a sparing spread of spiced sultanas – it was good rather than outstanding. The addition of a small screaming child to the ensemble, just as my sandwich arrived, was less than gratefully received.

But that coleslaw deserves a special mention. It was divine, and deliciously simple, principally comprised of bite size chunks of sweet and tender apple, with traditional shreds of cabbage and carrot and a delicious hint of curry. I’ll be back for more.

Hours later, when I came out of a super-relaxed trance the cafe had caused me to fall into (I wondered why you were so long on this review – Editor), I went and ordered a latte (£2.25) and carrot cake (£1.95). The coffee was just right, not bitter, not earthy, but smooth and sophisticated. The carrot cake was, well, like all the other routine carrot cakes I’ve ever apart from the lavish smear of cream cheese frosting that in truth far surpassed the cake itself.

The only issue I can take with this place, which may sound like a petty matter, is the climate. The beautiful old glass building doubles as a greenhouse, making the area in front of the cafe very hot indeed when the sun shines. To counter this problem, a door to the side was open, which the wind banged open and shut every two minutes and lifted my napkin off the table each time.

However, I hardly see that being a problem every day.

What is definite is this is one of the most pleasant places I have found to sit and eat and read a book or do nothing.  The charming blue and white and floral crockery, tables painted in the most perfect pale green, normally reserved for National Trust properties, and the mix of red brick and cream tiles and wooden floor, create a setting with a real sense of authenticity - plenty of people would pay a small fortune to recreate it in their own kitchen.

As I dreamed and drifted through lunch I eavesdropped on snippets of conversation such as, “Oh yes I cycle to the Cornerhouse” or “I recognise that floral bike, whose is it?” (if you own a bike and lots of canvas shopping bags and grow your own food, I think you’ll be very welcome here).

Seeing the artists and craftspeople who occupy the studios coming and collecting their lunches, and everyone who came by smiling and saying hello to the staff, gave me the sense that I’d become part of a large, extended circle of friends.

This place, and its relaxed simplicity, shows Manchester, and the Northern Quarter at its best, and is, without doubt where I’m taking my mum next time she comes to visit.

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

Cafe at Manchester Craft and Design Centre
17 Oak Street, Northern Quarter
Manchester, M4 5JD, 0161 832 3416

Rating: 16/20
Food: 6/10
Service: 5/5
Ambience: 5/5

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

AnonymousJuly 13th 2011.

God I love this place, never eaten in the cafe but the shops are just stuffed full of gorgeous things

MJuly 13th 2011.

Wasn't the craft and design centre supposed to be moving to The Hive building on Lever Street? Sounded like a bad move.

Years ago I recall one of the shop owners saying they struggled to get footfall and council wouldn't pay for signposts to the Craft and Design centre from Market Street (...yet they'll build it a new home).

Given the in some ways unfortunate rise in popularity of of Thomas Street, I think this place could be advertised better. It's a hopscotch away from some very established areas.

Lizzie GarveyJuly 19th 2011.

.... a hopscotch away - I'm having that one !

Marilyn FetcherJuly 25th 2011.

The cafe has just re-opened, with new management & menu - looking forward to sampling their food. The Craft Centre is WONDERFUL, but boiling hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter - that's what you get with a gorgeous old building!

AnonymousJuly 28th 2011.

had lunch here earlier this week - lovely butternut squash tortilla and salad (including a delicious chick pea and cucumber mixture!) really nice food and the tea is worth a mention - no tea bags in a cup just huge leaves in your own cafetiere style pot -- and a lovely building to sit in - heaven

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