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Takk, Northern Quarter, Reviewed

David Blake wonders what constitutes an Icelandic café? Is it Godzilla?

Written by . Published on December 5th 2013.

Takk, Northern Quarter, Reviewed

ERM BJORK… Eidur Gudjohnson… Sigur Ros… catastrophic banking failure (but then, we've all had that).

Apart from that I could not tell you one more thing related to Iceland. Ice perhaps, but then everyone knows that Greenland has more ice than Iceland and that Iceland has more green than Greenland. It’s one of those regurgitated crap facts that Geography teachers with clumpy brown plastic shoes and a spare pair of pants in their suitcase like to spout.

I’ve never had the urge to kick an older woman on crutches up the arse and out the door before, but one that bogarts the rest of the food then suggests that you have the one remaining sandwich which contains piccalilli (f**king piccalilli?), almost definitely deserves it.

So for me, as for most, walking into an Icelandic-inspired coffee house is like walking into an Azerbaijani-inspired restaurant. They could give you a pukka pie and say it's authentic. There's no point of reference .


The map of Iceland on the wall was most certainly Icelandic. The Godzilla lamp, although marvellous, less so.

“Didn’t know Godzilla was Icelandic?” I enquire with the barista - that’s what they’re called now – or at least that’s what I’m calling myself every morning between 7.45am and 7.48am.

“Yeah, everyone thinks he’s Japanese, but he’s not,” came the chirpy bluff.

Godzilla: Icelandic?Godzilla: Icelandic?I ask what is so Icelandic about the place. Turns out, not a whole lot. “The owner visited a few coffee houses in Reyjavik and just loved the vibe, it's relaxed, cosy. Somewhere to lose a few hours,” the barista tells me.

Still, if the owner has tried to emulate that vibe, coffee houses in Reyjavik must look a whole lot like a good number of cafés and bars over here.

To give it credit, the place looks great, well designed, it's clear to see the owner cares. Clear because as I type this, the owner (Philip I believe) is precariously perched on a stool hanging what look like Yeti bollocks from the window (see above). They turn out to be big fluffy white Christmas baubles.

But it's not dissimilar to neighbouring haunts. It could almost be a sister venue. Throw in a few punters and a bit of grog (of which there’s none here) and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Whiskey Jar or Kosmonaut next door.

If exposed brick, hanging low lighting, black radiators, dark wooden flooring, chalk boards, mismatched furniture, quirky wall art, hip fonts and gay underground saunas are your thing, then Tariff Street is right up your… well, street.


It’s much more serene at this easterly end of Northern Quarter, a spot to escape the buses, the hairshops, the ankles. Take stock. Judging by all the studious types typing away in here, each with at least two Macs (one spare), I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Granted, soaking your contact lenses in the juice of a Bhut Jolokia would be more pleasant than having to look at Hilton House, but this end of the Quarter has a certain NY meat packing quality to it, before the aggressive gentrification and Carrie McBeal types took over: corrugated shutters, tall bricky spaces, cobbled alleys and external rusty fire stairs, perfect for chasing bad guys.

Takk’s heavily graffitied wooden school desks are a great touch, similar again to Kosmonaut. How they’ve managed to source all these cast-offs with no phallic illustrations etched into the wood is a near miracle. No effing and jeffing either. These kids must have been saints. Oh no wait...

Yeah up your PythagorasYeah up your Pythagoras

On the back wall rests an ample bookcase that could barely look more Scandinavian, the TAKK Bookcase £94. Except the ‘A’ would be an “Ä”. More Nordic and enticing that way. The shelves welcome all, the National Geographic, Alfred Wainwright, even Roy Keane. The only man to ever look angry perched next to a Good Pub Guide and a tiny Dalmatian.

TAKK BookcaseTAKK Bookcase

The less scribbly desksThe less scribbly desks

So what of the scran? It started badly. A truly awful woman (who was annoyingly nice) had cleared the place of sarnies (£4) and soup (an extra £2) just before I got there.

I’ve never had the urge to kick an older woman on crutches up the arse and out the door before, but one that bogarts the rest of the food then suggests that you have the one remaining sandwich containing piccalilli (f**king piccalilli?), almost definitely deserves it.

Don't try to order food after 3pm. Because that lady has probably snaffled it. If you do manage the hearty and handsome 'posh' sandwiches look something like this...

A Takk 'posh' sandwich, if you can get oneA Takk 'posh' sandwich, if you can get one

I settled for coffee and cake.

The latte is excellent (£2.60), the cake wasn’t (this was unlucky, every cake since has been delicious). The chocolate and orange tiger loaf cake practically exploded in a cloud of dust when touched with a fork.

Coffee and a pumice stoneCoffee and a pumice stone

Takk pulled it back with brekkieTakk pulled it back with brekkie

If you’re going to run out of food by 3pm then the cake needs to be up to scratch. With places like Teacup and Sugar Junction close by, sub-par cake just won't fly.

But no establishment should not be judged solely on one bad slab of cake. Everyone has a misfire now and then. Yesterday I wrote ‘right’ instead of ‘write’. Unacceptable yes, but it happens. And receiving the sad news of no food and a bad slab, associates that have been regulars, nay disciples of Takk since its opening earlier this year hoiked me back the following morning for breakfast.

And what d’ya know, the breakfast was near perfect, very fortifying after I was nearly killed by the Takk sandwich board throwing itself at me in the blustery street. ATAKKed you might say.

The porridge with honey and cinnamon sugar (£3.50) was gratefully received, and dare I say it, Christmassy. Once again the coffee was flawless and the accompanying espresso brownie (brownie you sigh, well sod off, £2) was deliciously rich with an optimum level of squidge. So good I forgot all about that bad slab. What bad slab?

Takk had pulled it back. But if it's luncheon you're after, get there well before 3pm - you know, when normal folk have lunch - and if you see a lady on crutches, kick her. It’s a dog eat dog, woman eat my sandwich world.

Takk, 6 Tariff Street, Northern Quarter, M1 2FF. Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm. Sat 10am-6pm. Sun closed.

Follow @takkmcr


Rating: 15/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 3/5. First cake crap. Breakfast great.
Drink: 4/5. Coffee brill. No perfect score without booze.
Service: 4/5. Happy
Ambience: 4/5. Hip

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

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

SquirrelitoDecember 5th 2013.

Got the look spot on there, but they need to double the prices for the authentic experience. I'll be giving this place a try. There's a bit of Reykjavik that has a NQ / Chorlton feel. The rest is more of a "The most northerly town in the world that looks like Warrington" vibe.

AnonymousDecember 5th 2013.

For a truly authentic, albeit Finnish experience, if anyone is in the area, try The Nordic Bakery in Golden Square W1. Fantastic place.

Ghostly TomDecember 5th 2013.

I found TAKK a few weeks ago and have to say it was a great find, well worth searching out....

AnonymousDecember 5th 2013.

EDITORIAL COMMENT. Objectionable rant removed plus the nasty row it below as per recent rant guidelines article: www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Rant-And-Comment-Policy-Manchester-Confidential…

AnonymousDecember 5th 2013.

Was in the Nordic Bakery last week, tempted in by the smell of cinnamon. Having just got back from Iceland, Takk have definitely nailed the laid back vibe from over there. Plus the food is delicious, had many a tasty sandwich in Takk.

AnonymousDecember 5th 2013.

Hey Guys, Its Philip from TAKK here... Thanks for the review... just wanted to respond to some of the issues in the article. As for running out of lunch goodies at 3pm... this is pretty rare, but we had a particularly busy lunch period on the day of the review. All our sandwiches and lunchtime food are prepared freshly on the day... we are still growing and getting busier, but this is a tough judgement call at some points. As for what constitutes an Icelandic coffee house. We are careful to point out we are not a theme cafe. We are inspired by the people, landscape, music and places in Iceland. All of our inspiration for TAKK came from regular visits to 101 Reykjavik district. We wanted to create a cosy, yet functional space that was serious about the coffee and somewhere you can spend more than a few minutes downing a coffee. The textures, woods and informal space is a hallmark of many coffee houses and venues in Reykjavik including cafe Mokka and Kex Hostel. Hopefully those that have had the pleasure of spending time in Iceland will know where we are coming from. Also glad that you enjoyed the coffee... The main focus at TAKK is on the coffee, we want to be serving some of the best coffee in the city... this will always remain our focus as we move forward. We are a coffee house that's why we opened and why we have been successful so we're glad you enjoyed your lattes. We are constantly tweaking the cake offering and take your comments on board... and as you found out our brownies are pretty damn good. Hope this does not come across as defensive it's just we are passionate about our coffee and TAKK as a space and business. TAKK :-)

2 Responses: Reply To This...
David BlakeDecember 5th 2013.

15/20 is a good score

AnonymousDecember 5th 2013.

I was keen to visit until Philip said 'serious about the coffee'.

JohnDecember 5th 2013.

I have been to takk quite a few times now. it's ace. tasty sarnies, mega coffee and great cakes. Nice staff and the interior is spot on. Not sure what this reviewer is on about. however, checking out his page on twitter...he looks like an extra out of TOWIE so i'm not surprised he didn't get it! Keep it up Takk. ps your brownies are to die for!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonDecember 5th 2013.

'get it'? Get what? It's a cafe so what exactly is there to get John? I've been in and seems spot on to me. Never had a duff cake though

AnonymousDecember 6th 2013.

If you don't 'get' what the NQ is 'about', you're not allowed to live, shop or socialise there.

LissyDecember 5th 2013.

LOVE Takk. spend many an afternoon in there working and reading. Food is always very tasty. Went to an ace evening gig there too...best place for a coffee in NQ.

Poster BoyDecember 6th 2013.

And stupidity is when you can't help it. Ignorance is when you choose not to understand..."

AnonymousDecember 7th 2013.

No perfect score possible without booze? How very sad.

AndrewDecember 9th 2013.

I popped in for coffee over lunch midweek and counted 6 iMacs. This place is the height of hipster pretention.

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