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Ffroth vs Sweet Tooth Cupcakery

Lynda Moyo visits two new Northern Quarter cafes that could do with teaming up perhaps

Written by . Published on July 9th 2010.

Ffroth vs Sweet Tooth Cupcakery

What do we want in winter? A hot water bottle, a 30 tog duvet and mum’s home cooking. What do we want in summer? A new dress, a trendy pair of shades and a cafe where we can sit and people-watch others, in their new dresses and trendy shades.

Whilst it’s difficult to compare two cafes with seemingly totally different agendas, my main concern with both Ffroth and Sweet Tooth is that when the last milkshake of summer is slurped and the heavens open up, will teas and coffees provide enough trade in an area that already has some very decent caffs?

We also want milkshakes, lots of milkshakes, available on every corner of the city in case we get the shake shakes - that is of course, if the influx of milkshake - themed cafes is to be believed. I feel congested just thinking about it.

So do Ffroth on Nicholas Croft around the corner from Oklahoma and Sweet Tooth Cupcakery & Milk Bar next to Pop Boutique on Oldham Street, do the milkshake thing? And in any case how do they measure up to other cafes in the Northern Quarter and against each other.

Starting with Ffroth - it’s a relatively quiet cafe that sells breakfast, brunch and lunch-time snacks such as sandwiches, paninis and some brilliant milkshake concoctions. I opted for the Mancunian Marathon under the assumption that this would be a milkshake I couldn’t slurp down in 10 seconds flat. However, Marathon actually refers to the birth name of Snickers and is in this case, combined with ice-cream and topped off with chocolate and chopped nuts (£2.75). They also sell milkshake versions of Crunchie bars, Aeros, Oreos, Bounty and Nutella.

Mixing chocolate bars, ice-cream and milk is nothing new, but let me tell you these are some of the best I’ve tried in the city centre and almost on a level with my favourite - M1lkshake in the Arndale. There are less flavours at this one though and the recipes have already been figured out for you, but I guess that at least saves you standing there for 10 minutes, trying to work out if Munchies and Ferrero Rocher will actually go well together.

The food on offer at Ffroth however, isn’t quite as exciting as the shakes, but I went for one of the more exciting sounding wraps - Halloumi and mixed peppers - along with an old favourite, BLT. The wrap was juicy and stuffed full of ingredients, but the BLT, although the size of a door stop, was about as dry as one too.

Ffroth doesn’t have the people-watching factor either, as it’s situated next to the tram tracks in rush on by zone of the Northern Quarter. It’d have to be a very distinctive and special cafe for me to bother trekking that way. The only thing that kept me in there was the milkshake and that was marked down for coming in a plastic takeaway cup, despite me sitting in.

The Starbucks copy-cat sign shows lack of originality at Ffroth (I thought that was quite funny, Ed) and my experience showed they have the ability to mess up even the simplest of sandwiches - so again a bit like Starbucks. All in all it just doesn’t seem worth it, but if I was passing and had a milkshake craving, I’d stop by for a take-away.

Sweet Tooth Cupcakery & Milk Bar on the other hand is up a totally different street- in terms of location and aspirations. Doing everything it can to be down with the Northern Quarter clique, it’s arty-farty, airy-fairy, cutesy-quirky, all rolled into one.

It doesn’t sell much, but I was happy to sit in there with a drink and a cake and watch the world go by anyway. The premises are tiny but staff have used what they can and positioned the 50s diner seating facing the window and tea party tables and chairs outside. They are keen for you to stay rather than take away. It’s about the surroundings as much as it is about the shakes.

Milkshakes come in the traditional milkshake glass here and there’s a wide variety to choose from. Quite different to most of the other milkshake places like Ffroth, whose milkshakes have been given modern twists, Sweet Tooth take it back to basics. Milkshakes here are much thinner and use old fashioned ingredients such as gingerbread, various fruits, peanuts, sherbet and syrups. We tried one of the ‘five dollar shakes’- a blend of Green & Black’s chocolate with ice-cream, milk, syrup, cookies and fruit (£3.25).

After a lot of indecisiveness we also tried a Raspberry Sherbet shake (£3). There are lots of options on there but the menu isn’t the easiest to decipher and some items such as Boston egg cream, don’t have enough description. Luckily the girl working there knew her stuff and talked us through the options, but it didn’t make it much easier to choose as some of the combinations are totally unheard of. I’d recommend going in there on a sunny day and picking at random, then sitting on the chairs outside and awaiting your surprise.

Cupcakes make up the other half of this cafe and like the milkshakes, there is plenty of choice too. We took a chocolate cupcake topped with peanut buttercream and Smarties (£1.75). The cake itself was on the dry side, but that could have been because it was the end of the day. The peanut buttercream on the other hand was the type of topping that could form the cement on the house Hansel and Gretel discovered. Dreamily delicious. Gift boxes of cakes are scattered around the cafe for purchase and there’s also the option to order freshly baked batches.

Whilst it’s difficult to compare two cafes with seemingly totally different agendas, my main concern with both Ffroth and Sweet Tooth is that when the last milkshake of summer is slurped and the heavens open up, will teas and coffees provide enough trade in an area that already has some really decent caffs?

Ffroth has the upper hand in the sense that it sells hot food, but as mentioned before they need to step up their game in the kitchen massively if they are to be of any competition in this area. Sweet Tooth is limited but given its tiny premises, eco attitude and presence in Pop Boutique, it might just manage to get through quiet periods for a while, or perhaps they may have a rethink and decide to sell more than just cake and shakes. Better still, maybe Pop Boutique may give them a bit more room to expand.

It’s definitely pleasing to see a couple of new cafes pop up and if anything, these two could learn a thing or two from each other about balancing the menu, the look and of course the books, if they are to be successful. Here’s hoping.

Rating: 11/20
Breakdown: 5/10 food
4/5 serivice
2/5 ambience
Address: Ffroth
9 Nicholas Croft
M4 1EY
0161 839 7979

Rating: 13/20
Breakdown: 5/10 food (cakes)
4/5 service
4/5 ambience
Address: Sweet Tooth Cupcakery & Milk Bar
Pop Boutique
34 Oldham Street
Northern Quarter,
M1 1JN
0161 236 3877

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

Nigel4126July 8th 2010.

Cupcakery is bliss!! I have a friend who is totally addicted already!! ;-)

round the cornerJuly 8th 2010.

I tried a cupcake from Sweet Tooth last week, and I too found it dry. The icing also had an odd oily quality to it - it might keep the icing soft, but it's unpleasant on the tongue. At £1.75 per cake, although I think it's a sweet little place, I'm not sure I'll be rushing back there to try another one.

Much more impressed with North Tea Power on Tib Street, who I'm sure you'll be reviewing soon...oh and the fresh lemonade slushy at Oklahoma is AMAZING - a large is a reasonable £3.00 and is a lovely citrus treat on a hot day.

rrrichJuly 8th 2010.

I agree. North Tea Power wins hands down.

The cakes and biscuits always seem to be different and freshly baked! Not a dry over sugared cupcake in sight!!!

The music is always perfect for chilling out with a cup of popcorn tea.

Plus the owners are probably the coolest couple in the northern quarter ;)

AnonymousJuly 8th 2010.

On subject of Cupcakes, I visited CUP Thomas Street at weekend and had one of their home made raspberry cup-cakes. Whilst I love and applaud all food that's home made including cake, this one was just too too sweet - I am known for liking all things sugary but this was just too much even for me. Also on a boiling hot saturday they need some kind of air con or even fans. Nice place though a welcome addition to Northern Quarter

Catherine SJuly 8th 2010.

Being a mormon and living in the Northern Quarter, I find it difficult to integrate into the local community as I can't indulge in drinking, smoking or dancing. Even going for a coffee at Teacup is forbidden. I am therefore ecstatic that Ffroth has opened and I can finally leave my apartment to go for a soul cleansing glass of chilled milk.

Carl BurnhamJuly 8th 2010.

Think you've missed the point in your review. Isn't Sweet Tooth meant to be a 'boutique' cup cake store and not a cafe and from what I have seen they are doing it rather well.

Not had a cake from there but I know plenty of people that have (with no complaints) but the coffee is spot on, the vibe is good, and the staff are friendly enough.

Any business opening at the moment deserves credit and we should make an effort to support them.

Good luck Sweet Tooth! (and the others mentioned!)

Chris CracknellJuly 8th 2010.

Sweet tooth is a real pleasure, taking the simple act of enjoying a cupcake into a whole new dimension. I love the fact that every cake has a famous alter ego and I never miss an opportunity to have a five dollar shake when I am in town.

More power to them I say.

Polish boyJuly 9th 2010.

Sweet Tooth is a nice and welcome change, I don' t think it's trying to be a cafe though! Hot chocolate for me and a couple of of Barry White's for the kids, can't be beaten. Think this is their second outlet so I'm guessing they know how to survive on "teas and coffees"

round the cornerJuly 9th 2010.

I'd agree that Sweet Tooth are trying to be a bit like Hummingbird - selling the experience of buying posh cupcakes in a box for parties etc. rather than a cafe, but with a few seats just to get that side of trade in too. £19.00 for a dozen - not too bad for a special occasion, too much for every day treats. I wish them well, just wish the cakes tasted nicer.

I think part of the issue is that cupcakes are quite fashionable now, people might buy them because they look great - but the taste can be a let down.

I'd agree re: Teacup's cakes as well, they are quite expensive (although a lot of them are made with organic ingredients, which does add up) - but the carrot cake and raspberry cheesecake we had recently were minute portions, cost around £3.50 each and they were dry and disappointing. I'll stick to coffee there.

Scott NeilJuly 10th 2010.

a few outlets have been and gone from that (somewhat unkind) Ffroth location, no? hopefully they can change that. w Oklahoma over their shoulder it could be a big ask.

Kerry MooreJuly 18th 2010.

I personally think there are now just too many people who believe that they can bake cupcakes and make a business out of it. The reality is that although they can look pretty, if the taste isnt there then its money wasted! I too agree with some of the comments here, I love the style of Sweet Tooth and have tried cakes from both outlets of cupcakery but unfortunately found the cakes dry and an unpleasant after taste with the icing. A new cupcake shop has opened in Sale and win hands down on taste for me..their Red Velvets are to die for!

Paul David WigleyJuly 20th 2010.

We checked this place out the other day,that is myself the wife and kids. I nibbled a Dita Von Teese whilst my better half gorged on Edith Piaf. Mine was delicious and Tracey said she had no regrets about hers (yeah ok)
This place may be 50s inspired but it aint been adversley affected by rationing. The kids had a cherry and chocolate Milkshake both containing an array of sinful ingredients, and both said they were scrum (fully satisfying their sugar fix). Good luck to them I say. Oh and the member of staff was lovely!

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