Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Manchester Coffee: My Top Picks

I only started drinking this beloved beverage about 2 years ago. It was a rapid consumption curve from nothing, to perpetually seeking out the best caffeine-fix this city has to offer. Here are my favourite places, they are in no particular order. I can't rank them and where I go depends on my mood, what ambience I'm after and what brew I'm craving. If you think I've made a tragic mistake in leaving one of your favourite coffee spots out - please do tell! I may be yet to discover an espresso gem! (Or maybe I just don't rate it, we'll see). For more info on these chosen cafes below, click on their names to go to my full reviews. I feel I must add, my favourites will probably change as my coffee taste develops. I'm an aspiring coffee aficionado. Bear with.

GRINDSMITH - Greengate Square, near Manchester Cathedral

A really interesting brew bar: an eco-pod located a stones throw away from Manchester Cathedral. Excellent coffee, including wonderful affogato's. Not only is the coffee here really really good - its location makes it a cool place to sit and consider the meaning of life for some time. 

FYG & SPARROW -  Oldham Street, Northern Quarter

Fyg & Sparrow may be my favourite coffee corner in Manchester....I have such a soft spot for this place. They do great coffee, I LOVE their flat white. The staff are lovely and friendly. The atmosphere and decor is great as the coffee bar is tucked at the back of a delightful arty gift/card shop. Also, a bonus is that they stock 'Trove' bread -  an artisan bakery in Levuhnhulme that satisfy my need for quality bread including sour-dough rye and walnut bread. A strong Americano and a wedge of rye toast - a great way to start the day I'd say. 

NORTH TEA POWER - Tib Street, Northern Quarter

NTP Cappuccino

I love this place in the winter, especially during the manic and somewhat oppressive Christmas shopping spree a few blocks away in the Arndale. Its an escape from the bustle, a calm safe haven in which to tranquilly breathe, think and most importantly enjoy an exquisite coffee. Yes its called North TEA Power, and they do indeed have a diverse selection of teas, but its the coffee that draws many to this place. It's not cheap, I find it a tad stressful forking out £2.70 for a Cappuccino - but for an occasional pleasant pause from the central city buzz its worth it. The food on offer is also good - a nice array of fresh bakes and sandwiches. NTP also offers a guest espresso for if you ever want a change from their house blend 'Deerhunter' espresso (which makes a gorgeous flat white!) 

TAKK - Tariff Street, Northern Quarter

Besides loving the brownies here, the coffee, once again is fab. Takk is a cool space, its pretty big - minimalistic and totally hip. The tables are like old school desks and the bulbs are most aesthetically pleasing. The staff here are super-friendly and passionate about what they do. Like most of these coffee houses, Takk are currently offering a cold-brew as-well as traditional espressos. The granola at breakfast is really good, as are the lunch-time sandwiches. Along with Caffeine & Co, I'd say Takk has the best food offerings amongst this selection of coffee houses. 

CAFFEINE & CO - Spinningfields/ St James Square

Caffeine & Co is a small, hip, artisan coffee house tucked in the corner of Spinningfields - the trendy business heart of central Manchester. Caffeine & Co offer seriously good loaf cakes - I particularly like the banana or the gingerbread loaf. If you're lucky they often have a cheeky sample to try at the front! Additionally this is the perfect place for a hearty lunch-time soup or stew. This isn't the place for a diverse tea selection - if that's what you're after head to the likes of 'Proper Tea Rooms' on the other side of the centre. Instead Caffeine & Co bring quality espressos to this at time somewhat intimidatingly swish area. My favourite way to drink their coffee is their 'cortado' - a bargain at £2. Their flat white is also beautifully smooth and again well priced at £2.30 - at North Tea Power this costs £2.70!! I'm yet to try Caffeine & Co's 'kakao' selection having always opted for a caffeine kick. However, during the cold winter months I will head to this cosy corner to try some of the white, milk, or dark chocolate beverages that they offer.  The interior of the cafe is tastefully done, the metal chairs, chunky wooden tables, counters and walls bring hybrid industrial-rustic feel. I like it.

Note: there are two Caffeine & Co's - I've been talking about the one in Spinningfields, their smaller sister cafe mirrors the cake/espresso quality and is tucked on a side street a stones throw away from Albert Square. It is really small so not a place to have a group meeting!

JAVA - Station Approach, Oxford Road/ Uppermill/ Victoria Train Station

Java does a dam good coffee. It's both a little tucked away from the Oxford Road corridor and simultaneously  prime-location for those visiting Oxford Road station. I love the flat-white here, the cappuccino is too big for my liking - I want coffee not milk! The Americano is good too but I'm yet to try their 'Just pure Java' - where they just let the hot water keep flowing after the espresso comes out to create a stronger drink. Something for when I'm after a real caffeine buzz! The flat-white is quite pricey at £2.60 - so a bit of a treat, but all in all the prices are standard. Java doubles up as a wine bar and a deli. Well, it's not really a deli I feel as they haven't got an epicfood selection, but the olives, nuts, breads etc. that they offer I suppose merit that description-ish. Their larger sister cafe in Uppermill has more food to offer. I've never visited the Java located in Victoria station - but I hear it exists! The man who always serves me is quite charming - bit of a bonus.

Just to say: I live in central Manchester and given my hectic lifestyle of studying and training, I'm rarely in a position to explore Greater Manchester. There's alot of cafes that I want to try in Chorlton - but I haven't found the time to do so! Before long I think I'll do a separate post on places in Chorlton to visit as I do love it. Along with the Northern Quarter, its the area of Manchester that reminds me most of my beloved home-town Bristol.

Not a bladdy Starbucks in sight!

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