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Tea 42 Reviewed

Neil Sowerby would like to see white leather go the way of the wheat

Written by . Published on February 10th 2014.

Tea 42 Reviewed

I THINK tea leaf overload prompted my esteemed editor to channel me to sample Tea 42.

I’m not sure how big a gluten-free gap in the market there is, but I’m happy this particular dietary regime is being catered for. I’d just prefer the white leather to go the way of the wheat.

While he was assessing the Assam at hot Propertea in the Cathedral Visitors Centre I was consigned to another cuppa-pun venue up on High Street across the tramway from the Arndale’s fragrant fish market. 

Tea 42, High StreetTea 42, High Street

A major selling point of Tea 42 (ouch), set in the former premises of the gent’s outfitters from hell, is its gluten-free emphasis. Consequently, the city’s Hollinwood-based print organ sent a wheat allergy sufferer to inspect. He was impressed – especially with the bread, the difficult bit.

My approach was more oblique – based on same editor’s decision to despatch a non-beer drinker to review the Robinson’s Brewery Visitor Centre Cafe (like a eunuch in a brothel, she did brave the ale-flavoured ice cream, mind). 

I don’t do cake or tea much, but was buoyed by the presence on the menu of booze and savoury mains featuring gluten, which helped me on arrival to overcome the menacing sight of white leather banquettes (think 47 King Street West and its dowdy ilk) and wall shadow cut-outs reminiscent of old school Indian restaurants called Moghul Dynasty or Amritsar Palace. Is it the glam outpost the edge of the Northern Quarter has been crying out for – or a World of Leather showroom? 

Cut-out the cut-outsCut-out the cut-outs

Three-tier constructions of cakes and delicate sandwiches passing by looked impressive, but, as with the array of 'speciality hand-blended teas' named Detox Bang Bang and Storm in a D Cup, we passed and doggedly pursued lunchtime meat and alcohol. 

Sourcing looks good, as you’d expect from head chef Martin Small, once of Lyme Park. So for my companion, Ruth, the Great North Pie Co’s Ham, Pea ‘n’ Tea was an obvious choice; I chose the belly pork (main photo) from a limited mains menu (it’s obviously not the major concern here; built to maintain a diner flow between breakfast, afternoon tea and beyond). 

The online menu spiel is a bit mouthy, but then the owners, who run a successful aparthotel business, do plan to 'roll out' their Tea 42 concept big-time nationally from this prototype, so the talk has to be talked.

Still, there’s no excuse for: 'unique main dining options crafted only from fresh local ingredients mixed with an edgy style and just a sprinkling of humour'. None of which was apparent in the pork (£11.50) and pie (£10.95) – both of which were excellent, if uncomplicated.

Ham, Pea ‘n’ Tea (£10.95)Ham and pea pie (£10.95)

The pork belly was fibrous and unfatty with crunchy crackling and you felt the honey presence in the accompanying root veg; the ham and pea pie was mite salty, but the pastry was crispy and the tea chutney from Galore! matched well, along with mushy peas, naturally.

The drinks list boasts the biggest selection of gluten-free beers in the north, mostly sourced from Belgium, while tea – Earl Grey and green – features in the cocktail list.

But I wanted to check out the wine, available by the glass in three sizes, there's three whites and three reds. Nobilo’s Drylands Pinot Noir from Marlborough in New Zealand was the priciest at £10.95 for a 250ml glass. I went for the cheaper 175cl. Unfortunately, it lacked any obvious Pinot qualities, if you discount a lingering earthiness.  

Ruth fared little better with her 'signature cocktail' adventure, the  Champagne Tea (£9.75), a tricolour flute of berry tea, chambord and champagne as topping was sweet and insipid.

Chicken skewers (£6.95)Chicken skewers (£6.95)

Starters were a dull bunch. My piri piri chicken skewers (£6.95) lacked any chilli heat, or any kind of taste, while a tiny pot of tomato, red onion and lime salsa salad offered even less oomph. Sad.

More Galore! chutney and 'artisan toasted shards' accompanied Ruth’s venison and chicken liver pâté starter (£7.50). Gamey and grainy under its cap of fat, it was hardly beyond gastropub staple level. 

By the way, an artisan bakers selection of (gluten-free) breads with balsamic vinegar, olive oil was available at a whopping £4.95. Could 'artisan' and 'craft' as vague nods to quality be retired now please? Though, I am in favour of little poems inscribed in the toilets in praise of the whole catering operation.


We should have gone for a pud, but the plan is to return for afternoon tea and see if the sweets and cakes are the real deal – lunch wasn’t quite. By then our waiter, at a quiet time of the day, might have remembered to bring over the second round of drinks we ordered (we didn’t raise the issue and weren’t charged).  

I’m not sure how big a gluten-free gap in the market there is, but I’m happy this particular dietary regime is being catered for. I’d just prefer the white leather to go the way of the wheat. 

You can follow Neil Sowerby on Twitter @AntonEgoManc 


Tea 42, 58 High Street, Manchester, M4 1EF. Tel: 0800 043 42 42

More info here

Rating: 12/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below) 

Food and Drinks: 7/10 

Service: 3/5 

Ambience: 2/5

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

Window cakes

Window cakes

Tea 42 barTea 42 bar

Champagne Tea %28%26#163%3B7.95%29Champagne Tea 

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MeFebruary 11th 2014.

I had the breakfast here the other weekend, and it was reallly good. Having frequented everywhere in the NQ to death we thought we would give it a chance and it is definitely one I'll be revisiting. They dont do a full english but do all the components so we ordered one of the open breakfast sandwiches and added whatever item we were missing, and it was spot on. Tea is £3.55 which I thought was a little steep for Breakfast Tea, but you do get free refills. Atmosphere aint my favourite, and the smoothie I got was still full of frozen not so smooth fruit, but the food was great.

AnonymousFebruary 11th 2014.

£3.55 for tea. Crikey.

AnonymousFebruary 11th 2014.

I agree about the interior. Added to this is the shocking lighting; it feels a bit like you're sitting inside Barbara Cartland's white Range Rover with the halogen's on full beam and pointing inwards. The cakes and bread though are really amazing. Being gluten free is a bonus as I can go along with my coeliac partner. I've been going every week now for a while and have learned to ignore the horrible interior. Try the cakes !

AnonymousAugust 27th 2014.

Went here last weekend for Breakfast, and ordered the Cornbeef Hash w/ Fried duck egg, and a hashbrown for side. The price is reasonable, as are the quantities of food, when it finally arrived. We waited 40 minutes for food to be served, and when it was the hash brown was tasteless, the egg rubbery and the cornbeef hash burnt. The menu does still appeal to me, and the lunch menu seems quite tasty, but due to my poor experience here I will unlikely return.

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