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Teacup review

Jonathan Schofield really really hates overuse of the word 'organic' but likes the food and his new legal high

Written by . Published on March 17th 2010.

Teacup review

What is it about haloumi that is so beguiling?

Is it that grilled quality that brings out the primal barbecuing caveman in us? Is it the spam-like nature of the cheese when grilled that provokes pleasant childhood memories - and maybe seduces vegetarians too?

Is it because we've always fancied eating our mousemats and that haloumi is the closest we'll ever get?

Organic. The word conjures images of nineteenth century Methodists giving out leaflets in working class districts telling people to live sober, upright lives. It reeks of smugness and sanctimoniousness, of recycling fascism.

For me it's all three, I'm always chewing on a bit of mousemat.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, then haloumi is a hard, salty sheep's cheese, which you have to cook to make edible. Otherwise its only use is as a building material.

Off the top of my head (or have I got this from the wonderful Penguin Companion to Food - you guess), the word is one of the last remaining ancient Egyptian words from Coptic – the spoken version of hieroglyphics - that survives. In its conserved form it's called mishsh. This can get infested with tiny worms which is a bother but not disastrous and the cheese can still be eaten. The Egyptian proverb 'Dud il-mishsh minnu fi' comes from this phenomenon which means 'the problem is built into the situation'. Cute.

Teacup has its own problems built into the situation.

First the food, though, which isn't a problem.

Teacup's £4.25 haloumi kebab comes complete with heated up pitta bread and a fetching and very compatible sweet chilli sauce and salad. It's excellent. This is the definitive fine light lunch dish with a perfectly timed haloumi main feature: I could have eaten it three times over. The kitchen also knows how to charm with a delicious pair of scambled eggs on a toasted bagel for £3.25. Again timed just right, the eggs were gently moist a fact proclaimed by their shine, like that on a good pelt.

On another occasion dining companions had a chicken pesto ciabatta, which was declared the best, juicest, freshest ever, and a houmous platter, which had thick, strong, almost truculent houmous. This is how the chickpea reduction should be, rather than the smooth polyfilla supermarkets supply.

Teacup does cakes in a big way. These are homemade and look splendid on the counter and in the cabinet. The lemon poppyseed with a bit of cream was simply gorgeous, a coolly confident cake. Try that one folks. The chocolate gateau needed to be microwaved for it to arrive at the right temperature and then proved far too sweet. The chef should temper that, while the problem of having a chiller cabinet was all too apparent - and admitted by the excellent chap serving us.

So food wise, although not great for fill-up mains, Teacup has a lot going for it.

Now for the bad news.

The eggs were labelled 'organic' (I wonder if some transport cafes advertise their eggs as 'battery'). The chicken and the houmous were 'organic'. In fact on two sides of an A4 menu Teacup uses the word 'organic' fourteen times. F-0-U-R-T-E-E-N.

This is needless, as anybody would assume that Teacup used 'organic' food, in otherwords non genetically modified or pesticide heavy grub. Perhaps its overuse is not just to describe a physical characteristic but to hint at a state of mind. That by coming here you are a certain 'type', you're joining a party, signing a manifesto.

Organic is after all the perfect new puritan word. A word for those who wish the world to be a lot nicer and less beastly and just wish the rest of us would try harder to make that happen - try as hard as they are at least. It conjures images of nineteenth century Methodists giving out leaflets in working class districts telling people to live sober, upright lives. It reeks of smugness and sanctimoniousness, of recycling fascism. It stinks of monoculture, of exclusiveness trying to be inclusive.

Teacup should lay off all the up its own arse 'organic' idiocy. I reckon that when it next writes the menu it should completely leave out the word. We'll just trust it to be organic, most of the best restaurants are these days without laying it on so thickly.

Because behind all the self-conscious worthiness this is a lovely little destination place for a light lunch, or a meeting, or a chat. The décor is fun with polka dot tablecloths, nifty tilework, pop art and all. Even the service has improved in speed of delivery since it opened as Cup a couple of years or so ago.

Especially lovely is the tea from Manchester DJ Mr Scruff's own brand of Make us a Brew Tea. The tea is the USP, the thing Teacup celebrates and rejoices in.

I've had English Breakfast, the Chilli and Mint and the Look Lively varieties, the latter with lemongrass and yerba mate. The pick is the Chilli and Mint. I would cross the city for one of those soul-lifting delights.

Phew folks, talk about legal highs.

Maybe I'd even cross the city for that lush grilled haloumi too. I just don't want a lecture. I really do not want to feel part of any back-slapping 'organic' club.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 7/10 food
3.5/5 service
3.5/5 ambience
Address: Teacup
53-55 Thomas Street,
Northern Quarter,
M4 1NA
0161 834 2005

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

CheesemanMarch 22nd 2010.

I agree, the overuse of organic and locally sourced is dreary. As long as the food tastes good.

NortherngeezerMarch 22nd 2010.

Correct................organic = overpriced. Most of us are happy with just plain old quality with no fancy titles. As for haloumi, i've tasted cardboard with more flavour, not that i'm a 'cereal' cardboard eater you understand.

CASMarch 23rd 2010.

The thing is with these places is when they get the ineviatble rent increase as an area improves they just can't afford it on tea and cupcake sales. Pretty little place though.

IanMarch 23rd 2010.

Organic = better flavour (not talking out my arse, I've done several blind taste tests, it always wins).

Perhaps they could put the O word in a mission statement (or menu introduction) and be done with it, I agree excessive use is obstructive to menu reading, but it should not be ignored entirely.

CASMarch 23rd 2010.

Just a quick point, is it better to have a strawberry organically grown in Asia, Africa or South America and then shipped accross the world or have a farm in the Peak District that uses some harmless chemical or similar to make it possible to grow their strawberries in our climate? Assuming both taste similar, which 9 times out of 10 they do as food loses freshness when going on a world tour.

Tyson ThebeerhoundMarch 23rd 2010.

Cas, good try, but (1) the green miles card doesn't automatically trump the organic card. And (2) are there any "harmless" chemicals? Obviously, the solution is to grow organic strawberries in the Peak District!

CASMarch 23rd 2010.

Nice solution, but you see my point. Personally to me the food miles win over organic every time. I just don't see the need to transport food across oceans and this is an issue much more important than whether something is organic or not, to me anyway. It's disgusting to me that we still import lamb from New Zealand, I find this bizarre. If we have any serious will to do something about global warming, then this has to be addressed.

Leigh ScottMarch 23rd 2010.

Walked passed a camera crew there today and I went in and found that they will probably let your CAR. GO. IN but your not allowed to bring AN.CORGI. IN… How odd I thought sat at a table with an apple and a rock cake shaped like a CRAG I NO from my climbing days…Across from my table I saw a toothless city fan trying to spark up a Cohiba but was swiftly reprimanded by a French waiter who screamed “NO CIGAR”! and duly went on to make racist reference to the city’s club owner muttering something about a RAG.ICON. A little bemused, I called the abrupt French waiter over and said GARCON. I am not happy with all this ORGANIC wording everywhere please can you sort it out for me? Besides the restaurant reviewer ‘Schofield’ might just tell you to climb out of your arse…
He didn’t listen and I was ejected with my rock cake and apple which I gave to a passing tramp that poked it down the middle with a rusty umbrella to give it A CORING.
Turned out the tramp was Ricky Tomlinson filming for a new show, I asked him what he thought of this place. He looked me up and down, snatched a bite of my cake and said “ORGANIC my arse”!

CASMarch 23rd 2010.

That's quite good that ;)

William ShakespeareMarch 23rd 2010.

Scotee, we should erect a statue to you for that. Locally sourced of course, made out of traditional ingredients that have not been genetically modified.

hidden in the depths of the bbc websiteMarch 23rd 2010.

I don't worry about global warming Cas,I can't change it anyway.


Polar BearMarch 23rd 2010.

There is no such thing as global warming. An eskimo told me. I ate him. He was organic.

O'RganicMarch 23rd 2010.

Schofield's right some of those cakes are hit and miss, the firmer mixes being the best. But Teacup has a real way with eggs. Try the poached ones. I believe these are organic. I must ask Mr S.

AnonymousMarch 23rd 2010.

This place used to be great, however the past few times we've been, the service has been shocking- mainly from one guy who we guess is the owner- he is constantly rude and acts as if we are honored to be eating there. He once decided to preach to us about how organic everything was when we complained about our scrambled eggs on toast taking 45 mins to arrive but then he informed us that these wonderful eggs were being cremated in a microwave!!!! Needless to say they tasted foul. Teacup needs to remember that there are plenty of excellent places to eat for lunch and not treat its customers like uninformed food idiots. Shame as this used to be a great relaxing place to eat lunch

Doh!March 23rd 2010.

I love haloumi, but would advise those that don't not to order the haloumi kebab.

Strongly recommend the porridge with blueberries. Breakfast heaven.

FMarch 23rd 2010.

Does anyone have an email address for the owners of this cafe?

NQMarch 23rd 2010.

Agreed re the manager/owner dude. EDITORIAL COMMENT: No personal attacks please on individuals, therefore the last part of this rant has been removed.

George OrwellMarch 23rd 2010.

Christ, it's like 1984 in ere

MadonnaMarch 23rd 2010.

I agree George, now go and buy my latest single, Get into the Groove.

George OrwellMarch 23rd 2010.

People buying that should all be burned.

Smyth HarperMarch 23rd 2010.

Those cakes look amazing, but I too have heard that the customer service is not up to scratch, so haven't been in...

Matt CzyzykMarch 25th 2010.

Seems to be busy most days I pass there at lunch time. Proper 'right on' crowd though. I'll take my trade elsewhere.

teacupMarch 25th 2010.

Thanks for the positive comments Jonathan. We weren't intending to reach a level of piety about the provenance of our food, but it seems we have. So, we're about to launch a new menu, and will reduce the 'organic-ness'. We're never going to please everyone, but we can resolve this impression. Gary

AvoMarch 26th 2010.

Does anyone know if Teacup is open over the Bank Holiday weekend?

TEACUPMarch 31st 2010.

Hi Avo. Yes Teacup is open every day over the Easter weekend.

Johnny TaskerMay 20th 2010.

Beware of overcharging .
The concept is good but badly executed .
When the staff ' panic ' you find more of them behind the counter
than punters at the tables.
Beat avoided

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