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Sugar Junction review

Femke Colborne loves the mood of a new tea room but not the mayonnaise

Published on April 26th 2011.

Sugar Junction review

TEA ROOMS are making a comeback – at least it seems that way in the Northern Quarter.

There’s the scrumptious Sweet Tooth Cupcakery, the trusty favourite Bread and Butter, the ambitious and clever Cup, and now new kid on the block North Tea Power.

Sugar Junction isn’t just a tea shop: it is an entire brand. It offers bespoke vintage tea parties, vintage-inspired weddings, vintage-themed hen parties and even a vintage caravan for hire.

So can the latest addition to this burgeoning scene, Sugar Junction – on the site of the old Rags to Bitches on Tib Street – stand out from a rapidly growing crowd?

The first thing to say about Sugar Junction is that it is beautiful.

Walking through the door is like being transported to another era – or several at once. The place is immaculately decorated in pale blues and greens, with stripped wooden floors and sturdy antique furniture. There are glittering chandeliers, beautifully upholstered chairs, ornate picture frames, quirky vintage objects in every corner.

One wall is covered with a white neo-classical pattern on a green background, a deliberate ostentation that contrasts well with the stripped-down, warehouse feel of the actual building. Half of the opposite wall is exposed brickwork, and the other half has been plastered to create an arty ‘splitting’ effect. Crackly 1930s ragtime music floats out from speakers, completing the illusion.

And the crockery – ah, the crockery! A picture perfect collection of vintage china, painted with an endless intricate variety of colourful flowers, laced with gold and silver rims - it is pretty enough to eat.

We managed to stop ourselves, however, from eating the crockery. Instead, we ordered a selection of dishes from a small but pleasing lunch menu and a large pot of good old English Afternoon Tea (£4.90). Sugar Junction’s selection of teas is impressive, from ‘safe’ choices like Chai Tea and Lapsang Souchong to the frankly bizarre – China Gun Powder, anyone?

The English Afternoon Tea was crisp and light with a slight hint of bitterness, although I could not detect the ‘citrus notes’ that the menu promised. Brewed from loose leaves and poured through cute mini-filters that rest on top of the cups, this is tea as it should be – just don’t forget to replace the filter when you pour your second cup, or you will end up with a mouthful of foliage.

The food was decent enough with a few problems. I enjoyed the goats cheese and red pepper tart served with mixed leaves (£4.95) – the pastry was excellent, the portion size generous and the salad crisp and fresh. It could have done with a little less caramelised onion and a little more cheese, but on the whole it was a tasty and well executed dish.

The soup of the day, on the other hand – feta, courgette and mint, unmistakably in that order - had flaws I could not so readily forgive. The first flavour to come through was the mint, but this was almost immediately completely overpowered by the saltiness of the feta. This soup wasn’t awful – in fact, it was almost excellent - but the balance of flavours was all wrong.

It was soup and a sandwich for £6.50, so we went for poached salmon with rocket and lemon mayonnaise on brown bread. The bread was soft, warm and delicious and the salmon was good but it could have done with a tiny bit less mayonnaise – the curse of the modern sandwich.

For dessert, we sampled a couple of cakes from a modest selection on display on the counter. All Sugar Junction’s cakes are made on site, so the menu differs from one day to the next. We had a lemon drizzle cake (£2.50) and a slice of refrigerator cake (£2.75), a robust fudge-like concoction made from sugar, white chocolate and cranberries. Health warning: do not attempt to eat refrigerator cake alone. It may endanger your life.

The lemon drizzle cake was moist and flavoursome. We washed the cake down with a small pot of delicious peach tea (£3.10) – fragrant and light, it was the perfect companion to the heaviness of the confectionery.

Sugar Junction isn’t just a tea shop: it is an entire brand. It offers bespoke vintage tea parties, vintage-inspired weddings, vintage-themed hen parties and even a vintage caravan for hire.

Just a little more attention to the food and this place would be something really special. Try it though, for the charm, the decor, the atmosphere, the tea and maybe a cake or two. It’s a good addition to the Northern Quarter – one to be enjoyed during the street parties this Friday when Tib Street and Thomas Street are closed to traffic.

Rating: 14/20
Breakdown: 6/10 Food
3/5 Service
5/5 Ambience

Sugar Junction
60 Tib Street
Northern Quarter
M4 1LG

0161 839 1444

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

GordoApril 26th 2011.

Good piece. But be aware that 'tasty' and 'flavoursome' are banned words in the land of Confidential, they are used in abundance in the bland world of Cheshire GetaLife to curry favour with advertisers; we don't give a f*ck.

SpungleApril 26th 2011.

Nice write-up, nice balance to the piece. And I want to go as well

noisyfishApril 26th 2011.

Totally agree with this review. The food does need a little tweaking. I had the welsh-rabbit, that was a bit too heavy on the mustard. But my tea was lovely and the surroundings are great.

angela10751April 26th 2011.

I agree too, had a lovely Saturday lunch here a few weeks back and can't wait to go again!

duncanApril 27th 2011.

isn't this just jumping on a slightly twee bandwagon ?

JulieJune 17th 2011.

I completely disagree with this review. I went to Sugar Junction last week and had a wonderful lunch, the food is delicious and generously portioned and the tea was lovely- especially the Wendy tea. I'm taking my goddaughter there next week for a girly treat, I love it!

Lauren ParkerJune 21st 2011.

My friend suggested going to Sugar Junction and after reading this review I was put off, but it's completely wrong! The food was excellent, I had the same soup that in this article was "flawed", and it was delicious. I agree with the comments about it being beautiful, it's such a lovely relaxing place to eat lunch, but the comments about the food are wrong. It was a wonderful meal which me and my friends really enjoyed and we're going there for a friend's birthday meal in a few weeks. Don't take this review as gospel!!!

Stevej78June 21st 2011.

me and my wife came here for lunch after shopping. very cosy, tucked away and welcoming. staff were lovely and food was great. rarebit was lovely, one of the best ive had. wife had cream tea and said it was really nice. nice place and nice people.

eileen5540August 30th 2011.

I went today en famille and had truly the best macaroni cheese i've had in a very long time.
The waitresses were both lovely and friendly and my son's rocky road slice and vanilla milkshake were immense. The loose leaf tea list is huge and, for my mother's purse at least, a little too expensive, so she opted for teabag at £1.90 a pot, with some soup and fab chive and onion bread. Now, she's a fussy bugger is The Mothership but she wants to go back. Though she has a suggestion that Knickerbocker Glory is put on the menu.
Love it.

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