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Soup Kitchen Review

Femke Colborne isn’t bowled over by this bowl of soup, or the sandwich for that matter

Written by . Published on August 30th 2011.

Soup Kitchen Review

SOUP Kitchen has made valiant efforts to broaden its appeal in recent years, offering an extended menu with daily specials in addition to its trademark soups and opening late in the evenings.

I like the concept, the atmosphere and the canteen set-up of Soup Kitchen, but it has lost sight of what should be its main raison d’être – serving good (hot) soup.

Before writing this review I had been to the place a few times on a Saturday night, and had always enjoyed the vibe. Positioned conveniently across the street from Noho, it attracts a slightly more laid back crowd who can’t be bothered to queue around the block for half an hour. With regular live music, guest DJs and a good selection of beers, it has become a lively and important part of Northern Quarter night life.

On this, my first visit during the day, the atmosphere was decidedly more low-key. Soup Kitchen is, to all intents and purposes, a canteen. The long refectory tables and benches, blackboards scrawled with the day’s specials and salad bar behind a glass screen all point towards the fact. So I was expecting nothing more than good, solid canteen food.

Soup And SarnieSoup And Sarnie

When I saw the prices on the board, however, my expectations were raised. At £4 for a bowl of soup and £6 for a ‘premium’ sandwich, I got the feeling that perhaps I had been wrong to judge the place on first impressions. Encouraged, my friend and I ordered two soups, two sandwiches and one of the specials, and sat back, hungry and full of hope.

For a place whose name would suggest it specialises in soups, Soup Kitchen’s offering is disappointingly predictable: today’s selection consisted of pea and ham, potato and lemon thyme, creamy mushroom, chicken noodle, carrot, orange and coriander, and vegetable mulligatawny. The first thing I tasted was the pea and ham soup. I wouldn’t say it was cold, but it was definitely on the wrong side of hot, and the chunks of ham were rather tasteless. But the actual soup had a nice thick, rustic, homemade flavour.

Tempted by the ‘any soup and house sandwich for £6’ deal, I had also ordered a ham salad sandwich on granary bread. The bread was not fresh, the ham was average and the tomatoes were mushy. And if my bread was bad, my friend’s was even worse – you could have knocked someone out with the roll that came with her mulligatawny soup. The soup itself wasn’t much better: under-seasoned and also verging on cold.

Stale RollStale Roll

My friend also ordered a ‘premium’ goat’s cheese and roasted vegetable sandwich on ciabatta bread. From what we could tell, the main difference between premium and house sandwiches is that the former are served on a nice chopping board with four cold, chewy potato wedges. The bread was not so bad this time, but the quantities were all wrong – completely overwhelming levels of goat’s cheese.

We also ordered a portion of aubergine stew (the other special of the day -braised pork and rice, had already run out by 1 o’clock). The vegetables were fresh, but this was also cold and didn’t taste of anything apart from tomato puree.


Maybe I’m being a bit mean: the atmosphere at Soup Kitchen is lovely, relaxed and studenty, and it was nice to see a few people settling down on the refectory benches for some relaxed daytime drinking.

The canteen set-up works well, although we were slightly confused at the beginning when someone appeared at our table with a notepad asking if we were ready to order, but then told us we had to go to the bar. We also forgot to order drinks, and when we returned to the bar to correct our mistake, they rang them through the till straight away without asking if we’d like them added to our bill.

I enjoyed the slice of chocolate and cranberry crunch we ordered for dessert, a sort of rocky road-style affair with cranberries instead of marshmallows, though I don’t know what they are thinking displaying such a sorry-looking plate of lemon cupcakes with the likes of the Sweet Tooth Cupcakery and Sugar Junction just around the corner.

Choc SliceChoc Slice

There is also an impressive selection of drinks, including four varieties of hot chocolate, eight types of tea, reasonably priced coffees (£1.80 for an Americano) and a large selection of draft and bottled beers. The sharing platters look tempting (£12 for two people), and would provide an amiable accompaniment to a bottle of house wine, £8 before 8pm.

I like the concept, the atmosphere and the canteen set-up of Soup Kitchen, but it has lost sight of what should be its main raison d’être – serving good (hot) soup.

The best thing I can say about the food is that the portions are generous; but with so much competition in the Northern Quarter, you just can’t get away with charging £6 for a stale sandwich, no matter how big it is.



Soup Kitchen
31-33 Spear Street
M1 1DF
0161 236 5100

Rating: 12/20

Food/drink: 6/10

Service: 3/5

Ambience: 3/5

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

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

How long ago did you visit? Sweet Tooth changed hands over a month ago and is now a cafe.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Simon BinnsAugust 30th 2011.

Are you in the wrong place Anon? This is a review of Soup Kitchen.

SaffronAugust 30th 2011.

Sweet Tooth was mentioned in the above review Simon

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

Utterly load of cods wallop this review!! Food is fresh & fantastic!!

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

Absolute load of cods wallop!! The food is fresh & fantastic!!

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

Which part of the cod is the wallop?

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

i had that aubergine stew and it was brilliant! Just couldn't finish it because it was massive, wanted the pork, but if it's too tasty to last the day, can't blame them!

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mark GarnerAugust 30th 2011.

a word of advice; if you have anything to do with Soup Kitchen, welcome criticism as it will make you stronger by listening and acting on it. Pride comes before a fall.

Phil DAugust 30th 2011.

Hmmm, wonder whether a few of the anonymous comments above are from the soup kitchen staff....or am I talking cods wallop?!
Good review, and a fair reflection of expectations due to price not being reflected in the food...

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

Whenever I've been to Soup Kitchen, the staff have been rude and/or abrupt. So I don't bother going in anymore.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Alfredo OlivaSeptember 7th 2011.

My partner and I are regular customers and can say the staff has always been courteous and friendly, no complaints there. They usually smile if you do as well, you know?

Alfredo OlivaSeptember 7th 2011.

and I'm not a member of the staff and in fact don't know anyone

Ruth AllanAugust 30th 2011.

Sweet Tooth does seem to have closed its city centre branch now. Femke makes a reference to it in this article which is slightly misleading but you get her drift. Stores selling fresh cakes nearby include Home Sweet Home (good), Teacup (good but weird and expensive) and North Tea Power (solid).

Robbie ShevlinAugust 30th 2011.

when this place changed hands, it bombed, sorry but it has - it was my regular lunch spot as i work round the corner but now there are far better lunch spots like Home Sweet Home who hits the exact same homely food menu that Soup Kitchen misses
MCR food competes to get better and better on quality and price, its such a shame this place can't compete. how about a change of chef and some significant effort before it slides out of the market competely.

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

The staff behind the pass have a face like a slapped arse most of the time.

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

From Megan:

The food from my experience has never been anything less than a tasty, filling, reasonably priced lunch.

Mainly though, this review doesn't really do the venue justice to simply allude briefly to the fact that Soup Kitchen is now a fully fledged night-time venue and a great one at that. For most, being tired of visiting the same old bars around the NQ, the Soup Kitchen, with its relatively new basement extension, offers one of THE best nights out in Manchester. Great music, great venue, nice crowd, reasonable priced entry and drinks.

Also, don't know why the author is so obsessed with SK being so true to it's name...the extension of activities clearly illustrates that it is no longer just a place to buy soup from - and what's in a name?!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

Erm it's a food review so.....

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

really, cos i'm quoting verbatim when i say 'Soup Kitchen Review'...it's a misleading review so....

AnonymousAugust 30th 2011.

Soup Kitchen is a great concept with badly executed, lazy food and has been for about 6 months now. I work in the NQ and it has serious competition from fresh and innovative cafes and bars who have really upped the game of an affordable and tasty sit down lunch. Soup Kitchen (food wise) has unfortunately been a last resort for a while.

I blame the recent decline on the the not so recent change of hand.

Mark GarnerAugust 30th 2011.

Femke, well written and fair, you have reflected all the comments I have heard of Soup Kitchen; the new owners need to review their offering.

the Whalley RangerAugust 30th 2011.

didn't know this venue had changed hands - in a Portsmouth, not Man City type of way... will be extra careful when I go next time, thanks.

NickAugust 31st 2011.

This is officially Soup Kitchen here, no other messages on this board are from our staff or anybody in connection to us. We are gutted at the poor service of food on your visit. We welcome any criticism as this helps us produce a better all-round service.

In the time that we have been here (March 2010), there have been many changes that needed to occur and our aim has always been to provide longer service hours (7 days and late nights) with an ethic of serving a great selection of fresh casual food and drink in a relaxed venue.

Having succeeded in producing this for the evenings and weekends consistently, our focus has been back on the lunch service for some time, introducing new staff and menus-your reviewer caught us on our work in progress, but we know this is not acceptable.

We have built up a strong rapport with customers at every level of the business as reflected in some of the comments above. We accept that what we do is not to everyone’s taste but for those who understand that we are trying to do something unique in Manchester (café, canteen, bar, gallery, zine shop and event space) we apologise and thank you for being loyal.

Soup x

TwitchyAugust 31st 2011.

I agree with this review wholeheartedly. I used to love SK for a wholesome lunch in the winter from a small menu done well. However, having had a couple of less than satisfactory experiences in the last 6 months so, I now keep on walking past and head to one of the many more consistent places nearby. I love the canteen concept and decor. I wish they'd return to the stripped back menu, good value, served fresh and tasty....

EditorialAugust 31st 2011.

Hi Nick. Good work on the response and for taking the review in the right way.

It's good to know you're committed to making the offering as good as it can be, and it's evident that you value customer feedback.

AnonymousAugust 31st 2011.

I've eaten at soup kitchen 4 days a week+ for the past 6 months and I've never experienced cold soup, it's been consistently hot and tasty. I'd say £4 is pretty cheap compared to NQ prices for homemade soup. Also, when is too much of a headline sandwich filling ever a bad thing? Granted goats cheese can be overpowering but if you have too much in your sanger then just take it out and eat it on the side. The difference between the premium and house sandwiches is that the premiums ones are club sandwiches and for my money pretty good value for a large portion that hits the spot tastewise too.

AnonymousAugust 31st 2011.


AnonymousSeptember 1st 2011.

Absolutely all of the specials are underseasoned and bland.

J] MasonSeptember 1st 2011.

I'm sorry but £6 for a sandwich!!!

At that price it'd have to be good jeez....

1 Response: Reply To This...
NickSeptember 3rd 2011.

To be clear our house sandwiches are £4 , a £6 one is a premium club sandwich that comes with side salad and potato wedges. Chicken breast & bacon club being one of them.

KarenRSeptember 1st 2011.

I used to love the soup and salads from SK. But it's been decidedly average for a long time now, and at £4 a pop I expect much more from a bowl of soup. I have a lot of love for the Soup Kitchen, but do agree that they need to up their game food-wise.

AnonymousSeptember 1st 2011.

the mackerel salad is divine.

IzzySeptember 2nd 2011.

Sorry, but how much do people think they should be paying for home-made soups and sandwiches? You can pay nearly four quid for a sarnie at M&S. Food ingredients, in case you haven't noticed, have sky-rocketed over the last year or so - next time you do your weekly shop, think about how much you were paying la year ago; it's exactly the same for a restaurant or cafe

the Whalley RangerSeptember 4th 2011.

doubled, izzy? I used to spend a fiver for both in there...

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousSeptember 4th 2011.

Yep, some food prices have doubled.....

AnonymousSeptember 7th 2011.


le sacre francaisSeptember 4th 2011.

smells like 'rip off britain' zut alors!

AnonymousMarch 27th 2012.

Only time I've ever been here is when I was served a hair in my soup. Never again.

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