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Propertea Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield loves a new teahouse let down a little by the food

Written by . Published on February 4th 2014.


Propertea Reviewed
 

TRANQUILITY is tea.

I'm surprised this recent opening given its soothing air, its proximity and relationship with the Cathedral and its principal product, hasn't gone for a pun in its name such as Tranquilitea rather than the more Wolf of Wall Street Propertea.

The latter puts me in mind of bricks and mortar and deals done in slick offices rather than an authentic stab at providing aromatic beverages. 

As I sipped I grew wings and hovered close to the ceiling. It was bloody gorgeous, uplifting, almost intoxicatingly so. "Aaaah," I sighed slightly too orgasmically. 

Still tranquility is tea as I said above. The design of Propertea emphasises this calmness. It's a lovely space with light pouring in from the double height windows. Decoration is provided by the bar with rows of tea jars, the piled high cakes and doors.

Yes, doors.  

Propertea inside

Propertea inside - spot the doors at the counter

For a place with three entrances there are around fifteen doors. The designer either suffers from extreme claustrophobia or has hit upon a cracking way to adorn a ripped out nineteenth century building and give it an air of antiquity. 

Doors on their sides partition the room, other doors upright or again on their sides provide a crazy and curious panelling down the counter. 

It's classy and characterful. 

The range of teas shines out, cries out. Drink me they say. Try something different, they demand.

So I went for the £4.20 pot of Indian chai. This is an 'Assam black tea with a blend of sweet and warming chai spices, for a flavoursome and aromatic treat'.

In India, the blurb continues, chai is drunk following a meal because the spices help promote digestion and cleanse the body. But I wasn't in India and my body always needs cleansing so I drank it with food - more about the latter in a minute.

My Indian chai came with a timer and honey to sweeten the beautifully presented beverage. As I sipped I grew wings and hovered close to the ceiling. It was bloody gorgeous, uplifting, almost intoxicatingly so. "Aaaah," I sighed slightly too orgasmically. 

Indian chai makes you flyIndian chai makes you fly

The ladies on the next table looked shocked.

The audience, like the decor, often gives the place an air of antiquity. Propertea acts as cafe for Manchester Cathedral which like all cathedrals acts as a magnet for the elderly. The sound of the Grim Reaper's footsteps becoming louder concentrates the mind on the value of an afterlife and pushes people to church and temple. 

But then again the elderly flood tearooms the country over. There's something very Anthony Trollope about them, a genteel serenity. Non-threatening probably. Safe. Not Wetherspoons.

Serenitea would have worked as well. 

But Propertea is far more than God's waiting room, it weaves its magic for all age-groups. There have been young tea fiends in on each of my three visits. As the reputation of Propertea spreads I expect the numbers of younger fans to climb. 

By the way I've also enjoyed a glorious English breakfast tea for £2.90 a pot and a fine Earl Grey at Propertea. A hibiscus tea from Egypt made from hand-picked and sun-dried flowers, was deep red and too aggressive for me. It wasn't my cup of tea at all (I've been waiting for the right moment to make that magnificent witticism. I think it's been more than worth the wait). 

Red and heavy hibicus with scones

Red and heavy hibiscus with scones

Food was ok, not a patch on the drinks but adequate if very samey. Of the six toasted sandwiches on my visit five contained cheese. Given the range of teas I think the management here could probably think of other types of sandwiches to reflect the variety of the char. 

As it happens the doorstop rye bread with thick cut ham, Swiss cheese and bechamel was robust and a good filler. Given the strong character of rye bread it wasn't massively different to a pastrami and Swiss cheese toastie or even a ham and Swiss cheese with sauteed mushrooms and mustard toastie. Swiss cheese is a theme it seems, although which Swiss cheese is never specified. All the toasties cost £4.

It'll probably have cheese

It'll probably have cheese

Scones, jam and cream (£3 per person I think) was very good: nicely balanced, never stodgy scones, with real cream (obviously) and jam as sweet as love.  

Generally though, the food needs to liven up, a few proper meals on the menu wouldn't go amiss. It's wholesome but limited at present.

By the way traditional afternoon tea is £16 per person or supplemented with a bottle of Prosecco, £40 for two. A cream tea, scone and a brew, is £4.90. There's wine as well if the teas don't deliver the requisite kick, plus coffee, juices, smoothies, ginger beer and so on.

But tea is the thing. 

The place is a joint venture between Teacup on Edge Street in the Northern Quarter and Yvette Fielding, well-known ghost-hunter from TV show Most Haunted. Fielding has been hankering for her own teashop for yonks while her main business partner Gary McClarnan of Teacup has been a tea fanatic for years. Actually more of a tea freak.

A tea freak and spook botherer

A tea freak and spook botherer

If you ask for information from McClarnan about one of the teas, you might have to book the afternoon off. He loves each tea leaf like a child and will regale you with stories of trips off beaten tracks up lonely hillsides in the East where virgin nuns in veils pick tea with gloves made from the softest unicorn hide so as not to bruise the delicate object of their desires. 

"Aaaah," they must sigh as they do so, slightly too orgasmically. 

Fortunately what that level of tea enthusiam from McClarnan ensures is a quite remarkable bonanza for the tea-lover. The design of Propertea matches the skill of the brews.

This is a sweet place. A delight. It just needs the nosh to catch up.

 You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE.

Propertea, Cathedral Visitors Centre, 10 Cateaton Street, City centre, M2 4WU. 0161 832 3220

Open: Monday to Saturday 10am-6.30pm, Sundays 10am-5pm

Rating: 14.5/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 2.5/5
Drinks: 4.5/5
Service: 3.5/5 
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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, we get carried away.

Yvette Fielding does a shift in her teashopYvette Fielding does a shift in her teashop

There is a correct way with tea you knowThere is a correct way with tea you know

Inside view of a silver van, not sure whyInside view of a silver van, not sure why

Tea and toastieTea and toastie

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

Ghostly TomFebruary 4th 2014.

....classy teashop selling good quality food and teas in a great location, what's not to like?...

3 Responses: Reply To This...
Jeremy ShineFebruary 4th 2014.

Depends where you are on the political spectrum - as Marx makes clear, 'Propertea is theft'

Hero
GordoFebruary 10th 2014.

nice one Jeremy

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 10th 2014.

You're right Jeremy. Marx loved grog that's why he said: 'There is a spectre haunting Europe, the spectre of caffeineism.'

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2014.

Great but looks a bit stark and not inviting if by yourself....

JimFebruary 5th 2014.

I don't really like how you've changed your scoring system on this review so that instead of being out of 10 for food it's now out of 5. I realise this is so you can give a high score for the drinks but it makes it harder to compare this with similar places where only the food is rated. I prefer standardised scorings!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 10th 2014.

I think mancon should do away with scores all together. no confusion then and would make the writers talent and considered views the centre of attention.

AnonymousMarch 1st 2014.

Tried this place recently and the tea was great, brilliant service and lovely decor. The toasties were deeply unpleasant though, meagre and uninspiring filling with dry, overly perfumed bread. Will return for tea and cake though.

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