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This'n'That Cafe Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield goes for the original rice and three

Published on July 9th 2014.

This'n'That Cafe Reviewed

THE first rule of This'n'That is you can't find it - unless you're a regular.

It's a bit like Deborah's house in the Pulp song 'very small with woodchip on the wall.'

The second rule is upon leaving This'n'That you'll bump into a posh tourist saying: "I say, I read in all the magazines, FHM, The Chap, that This'n'That is quite the thing for a cheap eat Mancunian lunch. You couldn't tell me where it is? There'd be a shilling in it for you."

Every person who half knows anything about Manchester food knows of This'n'That.

National journalists are the worst using the venerable cafe as a fallback option when asked about the value-end of the food market in the city. They've been told by a friend of a friend of a friend about it ten years ago and stored it for a 'list' article. Hence its celebrity and very own tourist trade.

Still, it deserves its reputation for longevity alone. The place opened in a mythical time when David Bowie still wore face paint and cars were beige. It's thought of as 'the pioneer'.

Modest entrance and modest within


Modest entrance and modest within

There are plenty of other curry cafes in the area, Yagdar for example, remnants of the former Asian controlled ragtrade hereabouts, but This'n'That is the best known. Whether it actually pioneered the concept of rice'n'three is a fact lost in history but it's the cafe we all credit. 

After the fourth time of looking you'll find This'n'That on Soap Street. The name is perverse. This is one of the few back alleys to have escaped gentrification in the Northern Quarter. The crumbling, damp, deformed little thoroughfare is the urban landscape equivalent of a human target on Channel 5's Bodyshock.

Inside This'n'That is equally raggedy-arse.

If Reds, the Americana food purveyor in Albert Square cost £1.5m to fit-out, This'n'That cost 30p. It's a bit like Deborah's house in the Pulp song 'very small with woodchip on the wall'. In fact you could imagine a lugubrious but insouciant Jarvis Cocker perched on one of the plastic bus shelter seats reading a curled at the corners paperback.  

Deborah and her house with friends


Deborah is entertaining in her house with friends

I was here on a mission.

We're doing a Best of MCR Cheap Eats article beginning with short reviews of places such as this. Thus I had to locate a full meal, no discounting allowed, for around a fiver in the city centre. This'n'That felt right.

My rice and three cost £4.90. Bingo. I had rice, two meat and one veg, but you can get the 'three' in any combination of meat and veg. I thought what the hell, live a little and got a chapati too, which was either 40p or 50p I forget - more expensive than the fit-out anyway.  

Hearty and filling


Hearty and filling

The pile of Basmati rice was lovely, a lamb steak curry was sturdy, a chicken curry lacklustre but a spinach, potato and carrot veggie curry was heroic.

The food filled me. It provided spice - and all those curries and rice bunched up in a chapati sandwich was the bee's knees. The food won't win any beauty competitions and I'm not sure it's better than Yagdar but hey, it's the pioneer. 

The staff smiled, the place even at 2pm on a Wednesday was satisfactorily full. People talked.

I, Billy-no-mates, people watched.

The wine range was extensive as Cheshire Life say, consisting of free jugs of tap water or sugary soft drinks. I had the water.

I left happy. And sober. For once. 

Perfect seedy alley action perversely called Soap Street

Perfect seedy alley action perversely called Soap Street

Round the corner, upon leaving, there was a dandy chap with a monocle and a smoking jacket. He waved me over: "I say, I read in the magazines, FHM, The Chap, that This'n'That is quite the thing for a cheap eat Mancunian lunch. You couldn't tell me where it is? There'd be a shilling in it for you."

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 


You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

This'n'That, Soap Street, off Thomas Street, City centre. 0161 832 0708

Rating: 14/20
Food: 7/10
Service: 3/5
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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21 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Daniel JamesJuly 9th 2014.

Excellent place, menu changes daily (different each day of the week) and always a friendly service.

Charles CohenJuly 9th 2014.

Dear god, my father drove a beige Hillman Hunter in the late 70's, all hot plastic seats and sweaty legs. A bit like This'n'That I suppose. It's not perfect, but it's a great place to cure a hangover. Thanks for the review, unlike some it's not afraid to point out it's shortcomings while still suggesting a visit.

AVOJuly 10th 2014.

Is the 3 roast meats and rice at Happy Seasons close enough to a fiver to feature in the cheap eats article? Go on, I'll lend Gordo a couple of quid to go down there.

AnonymousJuly 10th 2014.

Finally! A review that isn't about burgers or Italian food. I'm surprised nobody mentioned This & That earlier.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 10th 2014.


Richard HJJuly 10th 2014.

I do love a sturdy curry.

Voice of the Ironing BroadJuly 10th 2014.

Don't tell everyone else...been going here since it opened.

Emma AthertonJuly 10th 2014.

Love This n That. I find the veggie curries to be the tastiest.

AnonymousJuly 10th 2014.

Has anyone mentioned This & That?

JoanJuly 10th 2014.

You're making me hungry.

JimJuly 10th 2014.

I've been waiting almost a year for this "best of cheap eats" article! I'm sure it was originally planned for last summer! Personally I prefer Yadgar to This & That but they are both good! That alley isn't nice though. I often see men "relieving" themselves in the doorway late at night

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 10th 2014.

'I often see men "relieving" themselves in the doorway late at night'? You should get yourself a different hobby Jim.

JimJuly 10th 2014.

Yes you're probably right!

AnonymousJuly 21st 2014.

This cheap eats thing has been running for longer than Forest Gumps.

AnonymousJuly 10th 2014.

What are its opening times?

SimonJuly 10th 2014.

Ambience 4/5? I could eat this food everyday (if I didn't mind knocking a dozen or so years off my life expectancy) but the mere use of the word 'ambience' is an exaggeration here and 4/5 is hilarious. It's a dowdy, worn-out and plain cafe with fluorescent lights and whitewashed walls. I know you're measuring against other dowdy, plain cafés but even then.. (you get the point, I suppose)

1 Response: Reply To This...
StuartJuly 16th 2014.

SIMON, I was eating in TnT at the same time as Mr Schofield that day (I'm just out of shot) and I can assure you that the ambience was at least 4/5. The conversation was sparkling, SPARKLING. There's attractively coloured fixed seating, nic-nacs on the walls from various countries and copies of football annuals from the 1970s for you to peruse while you queue to be served. How much more ambience can one man ask for I ask, HOW MUCH SIMON?

JimJuly 10th 2014.

I've just noticed it's got 4 out of 5 hygiene rating which is surprisingly good. The yadgar only gets 1 out of 5!

Nickster123July 14th 2014.

Love love love this place...total gem!

EbertJuly 16th 2014.

A Manchester gem.

AnonymousJuly 21st 2014.

Is this place new ?

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