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REVIEW | Rapha Cycle Club, St Ann's Square

David Blake on the achingly hip cafe above St Ann's new luxury cycling store

Written by . Published on November 4th 2014.


REVIEW | Rapha Cycle Club, St Ann's Square
 

"ANYONE heard of Rapha Racing?" I shout across the office.

If like me you have as much interest in Rapha's £300 Yak-leather GT riding shoes as you do in driving gloves made from the little webbed feet of Magellanic Penguins, then there needs to be more and it needs to be tasty. Luckily, most of it is.

"It's a cycling clothes brand... an expensive one," replied a colleague who cycles 30km each day in full Team Sky kit flashing the calves of Pheidippides.

"How come they've applied for a booze licence in St Ann's Square?" I ask.

"How should I know? Go find out," came the response.

Utterly fair.

Rapha Cycle Club Manchester opened without so much as a ding-a-ling behind St Ann's Church up St Ann's Passage (careful) last month. Though I'm told by Pheidippides-calves that any cyclist worth their mettle has heard of Rapha.

Rapha Cycling Club, St Ann'sRapha Cycling Club, St Ann's

The upmarket British cycling clothing brand - founded in London in 2004 - now have 'Rapha Cycling Clubs' blending retail and cult cycling memorabilia with food and drink in a list of global cities that read like a would-be supermodel's bucket list: London, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Osaka and San Francisco or LDN | NYC | TKY | SYD | OSK | SFC if you're in marketing. 

Now they've arrived in Manchester. How about that, eh? Ole smokey-faced bang-toot-hiss Cottonopolis kicking it with the fashion capitals. Of course, it has much to do with Manchester being the home of the British Cycling Team, but we're still allowed to be smug that before Rapha Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Amsterdam, Rome, Edinburgh and Brussels, came Rapha Manchester.

And with the current proliferation of cycling across Britain - particularly nostalgia for the era of Eddy Merckx and those tinsy, erect peaked cycling caps you've probably seen on Thomas Street - Rapha could barely have timed it more perfectly.

Img_0504

RaphaRapha

On both lunch time visits the place was teeming with activity, staff members carry bikes over the shoulder and up-and-down the stairs, an athletic middle-aged couple size-up matching merino track jackets in the store, whilst in the cafe two lunching techies discussing 'java scripts' attempt to make sense of a pink La Gazzetta dello Sport Italian paper.

It's all terribly European - re-runs of French-language Tour de France coverage even plays looped on the wall-mounted TVs - but as pretentious as this all may sound (and it doesn't get much more pretentious than marketing videos containing extracts from The Tempest) there's an instant and tangible sense of community in Rapha. And it's not all skirt and no knickers, the store puts on neighbourly rides for customers every weekend.

Still, if like me you have as much interest in Rapha's £300 Yak-leather GT riding shoes (yep, Yak) as you do in driving gloves made from the little webbed feet of Magellanic Penguins, then there needs to be more and it needs to be tasty.

Luckily, most of it is.

The cafe's food menu is split between 'pre-ride' (served from 8am to 11am) and post-ride (served from 11am to 7pm). 'Pre-ride' (breakfast) is your usual healthy selection of granola, yoghurt, porridge and pastries (from £1.80 to £3). 'Post ride' (lunch/late-lunch) is mainly sandwiches, a bresaola, red onion and dijon mustard sandwich on ciabatta (£4.50, main image) was ok but too bread-heavy and tried its darndest to suck all moisture from the mouth. Fortunately, little juicy yellow heirloom tomatoes fought back.

Bresaola, red onion and dijon mustard on ciabatta (£4.50)Bresaola, red onion and dijon mustard on ciabatta (£4.50)

Sharing platter (£9)Sharing platter (£9)

The sharing platter (£9, ideal for two) was where Rapha impressed. A beautifully presented, colour-rich and lunch-perfect chopping board of Italian cured meats (prosciutto, bresaola and mortadella), cheeses (edam and mozzarella), roasted red pepper, tomatoes, olives and ciabatta bread with dipping olive oil and vinaigrette. Delicious. Not one duffer on the whole board.

For those on 'pre-ride', Rapha Manchester source coffee from local success story, Ancoats Coffee Co., and brew a cracking flat white (£2.50). For those on 'post-ride' or for those who don't give a monkeys whether it's pre, post or pished, there's also one solid red, one solid white (£4.50, 175ml) and a full bottled selection of Manchester brewers Tickety Brew's range (all £3.80).

So that's bicycles, local indie coffee, sharing platters and microbrewed craft ale covered. Rapha may split opinion amongst the cycling community ('those who either love it or can't afford it', according to The Telegraph) but you have to hand it to the brand, this lot know their way around the zeitgeist.

But the great thing about being up here in Rapha, as you sit perched above King Street folkscoping those below with a droop of musty, tender bresaola hanging from your bottom lip and a pale in hand, is that you really needn't be in the market for chamois cream, pink Italian newspapers or even Yak. You can simply be after a cracking little city centre caf' with charm and charisma.

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ALL OUR SCORED FOOD REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY MANCHESTER CONFIDENTIAL. REVIEW VISITS ARE UNANNOUNCED AND COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT OF ANY COMMERICAL RELATIONSHIP.

Rapha Cycling Club, 5 St Ann's Alley, Manchester, M2 7LP.

Rating 15/20

Food: 7/10 (sharing board 8, sandwich 6)
Service: 4/5
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, 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away

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Wayne RenshawNovember 4th 2014.

Great place great food ...about time we had a cafe for cyclists..and great organized rides to...wish Rapha Cafe a great 2015 ...

Poster BoyNovember 6th 2014.

Harry Hall never needed a caff.

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Latest Rants

Anonymous

The staff should wear clothes made out of corn flakes.

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Jonny

Dress the staff as Tony the Tiger and the honey monster, otherwise i'm just not interested. ;)

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Another Tim

Actually, it seems like this pricing model is designed to encourage eating fast and getting out of…

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Another Tim

I don't think it's a silly question at all. Possibly not in keeping with the spirit of the place.…

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