Nowhere quite represents a city like its cafés. It’s the perfect window on city life and the go-to place for visitors and locals to take time out, have a break and watch the world go by. Want to escape the chill? Head to a city café for a warming flat white and people watch while your plan the rest of your day.
Our favourite coffee and lifestyle expert, Celeste Wong, aka The Girl in the Café, has the lowdown on café culture in Manchester….
We all know that Manchester the home of Coronation Street and Manchester United football club, but I can now see why it also has the fastest growing house prices in the country – probably because it has been ranked the most liveable city in the UK for the past six years. So when my friends decided to move to this great city - not only was I extremely envious of that but also of their first step onto the property ladder. When they invited me to their baby shower (yes, they’re getting married and having a baby too) I thought, ‘how can life get any better up there for them?’ As it turns out, it can, because the coffee and café scene is alive and kicking, which was the thing that got me sold!
As you know, I love travelling abroad, and even though I’ve lived in London for over a decade, I’ve done an embarrassingly small amount of travel around the UK! Recently, like a magpie I was drawn to Antler’s new luggage set; one huge one – for my long trips abroad home to NZ, one medium sized suitcase for my European surfing-adventure trips and a carry-on cabin case for…Short weekends away…!
So I decided to make the most of a weekend in Manchester to see what all the fuss was about and scout out some of Manchester’s best coffee shops, to share with you. Surely it’s not that good, right? I also made a quick video to show you how I pack for a weekend away. I usually find packing stressful because my outfit is always so dependent on how I feel, the occasion and of course the weather! But I think after all the travelling I do, I just might have got it sussed!
Recently I discovered the “Kon-Mari” way of packing so you can see everything in your suitcase, because you fold clothes vertically instead of flat. I’ve tried it a few times now, and it’s revolutionised my trips! I can see all my clothes at one glance and I don’t have to dig through to find something. So check out my video if you’re into efficiency. Maybe you’ll figure out a way to improve on it too. Let Antler know! When I was in Manchester, I walked to all of these cafes by foot with my suitcase (except to Trove, and Another Heart to Feed) and it was super easy to do. I was a bit nervous because the streets aren’t smooth, but those suitcase wheels were surprisingly hardy!
On the whole, I was super impressed by the standard of coffee in Manchester and it’s so exciting to see. I remember when London’s coffee scene was only in its infancy, just behind Melbourne’s third wave growth, so it’s exciting times up here. I’ve made a “short list” of the coffee shops that I think serve great coffee but I wouldn’t expect you to visit ALL 13 of them over one weekend like me (as I’m a bit mad). Manchester has SO MANY great cafes and reviews are subjective, so below I’ve tried to give you a sense of the vibe so you can choose for yourself where you think might suit your tastes best, for what you want and for the occasion. Having been in the café and restaurant industry many years of my life, I thought that overall, service was pretty good too. I noticed there were a couple of places that I thought could have picked up the slack a bit, but it might’ve been an off-day for the Life’s too short for bad coffee, so if you’re visiting Manchester, have fun and I hope you enjoy your coffee from my list!
West Village, 220 Burton Rd, West Didsbury, M20 2LW The legend goes, after establishing themselves elsewhere in Manchester, their lease sadly came up but friends of theirs who had a bar called West Village offered them the space during the day. Perfect fit and an ideal opportunity I say! You can tell the couple who run and own AHTF have spent time down under with a menu offering and vibe that definitely reflects this. It’s down to earth and casual, but slick and well presented. Even though it’s a little out from the town centre, I’d highly recommend breakfast or lunch here. Serving Allpress coffee from a machine that’s on a moveable cart so that the space can be transformed into a chic bar at night. It is such a fantastic example of good people coming together to offer something great and make the absolute most of an opportunity.
TGITC Tip: Go with a group of friends for those brunchy vibes.
231-233 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4EN Probably the furthest from the town centre of the below list, but still super close to the main part of the city and worth a visit (I’m talking a further 10 minutes walk). This place is a large workspace cafe and offers both coffee and booze – the best combination. You can’t miss the Deansgate cafe as it’s directly across from the Church of Scientology – which I had a lot of fun making instagram super zooms from the window bar with my espresso… They roast their own coffee off-site and have a small but solid food and coffee menu that includes nitro coffee too! I really enjoyed my espresso. It was strong but had lovely bright notes and it’s always a little special when they accompany it with a small glass of sparkling water to cleanse the palate.
TGITC Tip: Get an Espresso Martini and spy on the scientologists
1 Eagle St, Manchester, M4 5BU This place is great, especially since you can grab your coffee here in a beautiful light ‘glasshouse’ and then go feast inside at the Mackie Mayor food hall! I wish we had one this nice in London. Atkinson’s roasts their own coffee so there is plenty to chose from. They have auto-brewers too which is cool to watch and they have a really good range of home coffee equipment too. I just held a pour over workshop there with Atkinson’s founder, Caspar and the German coffee brand Melitta. It was such great space and awesome to try all their coffees too.
TGITC Tip: Try the nitro coffee and grab a bag of beans or loose leaf tea for home.
35 Dale St, Manchester M1 2HF These guys have recently moved into this permanent spot. It’s a bright, light spot and I love their sweet treats, especially the pies! Too good to resist. The décor is simple and clean and their breakfast and lunch menu is comforting – with Turkish eggs, cowboy beans or loaded fries with your lunch! Their coffees are always rotating from all over the world with previous guest roasters like Heart, Good Life, Koppi and much more. When I was there, they had Heart Coffee roasters in the hopper (from Portland).
TGITC Tip: Flat white and definitely a slice of pie!
6 Tariff St, Manchester M1 2FF This seems to be the most well known café for coffee and breakfast in Manchester, based in the trendy Northern quarter. It has a cosy, bohemian indie vibe and is pitched as a creative space with big long tables like a cafeteria and also smaller old school-like desks to sit at. Their Nordic style coffee is roasted by Clifton Coffee Roasters and has a familiar breakfast menu. I really liked their Nduja dish as well as their scrambled eggs and chilli with broccoli. The last time I was there they had guest filter coffee from Manhatten coffee roasters (Amsterdam) and this time, Fjord coffee (Berlin).
TGITC Tip: V60 and a something eggy.
The Department of Coffee and Social Affairs
7 New York St, Manchester M1 4JB If you’ve been to London you may have come across this café before. It took me about 8 minutes to walk to from MCR Piccadilly station. This new(ish) kid on the Manchester block was such a lovely delight to walk into. The Roastery Department in London who roasts for all of the Department of Coffee’s cafes is always really good. The cafe is surrounded by glass and has a really bright and clean feeling that’s been tastefully decorated throughout with sectioned off parts for privacy. It’s great for freelancers as there are bar benches to sit and work from, yet it would be a perfect place to have group meetings to both work or use as an event space because the space is huge, but strangely doesn’t feel too big in the way that it’s been thoughtfully set out. The bar/service area itself is small and offers batch brews, it’s known bottled cold brews as well as espresso based coffees.
TGITC Tip: Batch brew or a cold brew and get in there early.
31 Princess St, Manchester M2 4EW This café is a pretty spot that I ended up in, while on a slight detour. It’s a great option for vegetarians and vegans to go to as their menu caters to this. The café is small and intimate and has a cute corner with an old movie spotlight lamp. It has quite a zen, calming vibe. They use Buxton coffee roasters and have some quick treats on the counter to grab.
TGITC tip: A piccolo and a cinnamon roll or energy ball, and people watch on the street.
20 Hilton St, Manchester M1 1FR This café is around the corner from Takk and has things on the menu like soft boiled duck eggs and soldiers! Cute! I went during lunch time and although it was busy it had a really relaxed, happy, bustling vibe with “My girl” (by the Temptations) playing through the speakers. It’s complete with a grocery section, a retail section and even sells luxury scented candles for the home! My flat white came in a glass and was pleasant and staff were friendly. They use Caravan coffee roasters and a range of other guest coffee too, like Pelicano, Mancoco Ltd Roasters, and they also have Blendsmiths’ non-coffee products for sale too, like chai, matcha and turmeric blended powders.
TGITC Tip: Flat white and grab some Blendsmiths to have at home.
9, Royal Mills, 17 Redhill St, Manchester M4 5BA Up in the Ancoats area (I assume it’s where it got it’s name) they are situated in an old converted mill amongst businesses and residential apartments. The café is in a brick lined cave-like space with a Giesen Roaster positioned directly behind the counter to admire as you order. The food menu is generally toastie and sandwich based, with some sweet treats on the counter. When I arrived, they weren’t roasting, but I have a feeling they get through their fair share of coffee. My phone seemed to have limited 3G but I didn’t ask for wifi so it was a good time to chill, catch up on my notes and enjoy my espresso which was bright and vibrant.
TGITC Tip: Espresso & digital detox
9, Royal Mills, 17 Redhill St, Manchester M4 5BA After walking up a few steps into a huge space there is large counter to greet you and many sections to sit in. I managed to pop in here for a quick bite before I headed back on the train. They use Origin Coffee Roasters, so the coffee is good and the menu is simple but satisfying. Great for work do’s and freelance workers.
TGITC Tip: Latte, salad and laptop
56 Tib St, Manchester M4 1LG A really cute café that is quaint and lovely - I really like the frontage. With its hexagon shaped table-tops and its outdoor bistro chairs and front window that opens out, it has a bit of a modern Parisian feel to it. They serve London coffee roaster’s Assembly coffee. It has a creative, chic vibe and they sell indie jewellery there too! It’s perfect for twos – as in a couple or two friends to catch up. It’s a good place to pop in for a take away if you work or are staying nearby or are going for a spot of shopping!
TGITC Tip: Takeaway coffee and a quirky gift for yourself or a friend.
1032 Stockport Rd, Manchester M19 3WX
This place is has such a bright, rustic but super chic interior with wild flowers decorating the space and a killer menu. They serve Allpress coffee and make their own bread and cakes and have a wholesale side too. Everything is delicious. Their rye bread is so tasty. When I went for breakfast I had their plate of pickles which was incredible! I never knew pickles could be so delicate and taste so good. They also make a range of products from jams to coffee face scrubs! So it’s perfect for that weekend stop, if you’re visiting friends.
TGITC Tip: Have a flat white with breakfast, and don’t forget to take a slice of brownie for on your way.
Unit 2B, Cotton Field Wharf, 8 New Union Street, Manchester M4 6FQ I went here but it was closed. It’s only open Wednesday through to Sunday. However I feel it’s important to mention them because I’ve had multiple, MULTIPLE recommendations to visit Pollen Bakery. My friends love it, and I admit, their breads and baked goods are everywhere in other good cafes, so I have some authority to say it must be good!! I’ll definitely get some bread or sweet treats to share with my London buddies next time! Check them out. Don’t’ forget that *Cup North is on very soon at the Victoria Warehouse this on the 3rd and 4th November for what promises to be their biggest and best event yet. It’s sort of like a mini London Coffee Festival. So if you’re really into your coffee and want a weekend up in Manchester full of food and good coffee, maybe that is a great weekend to escape and explore.
Come on! What are you waiting for?
(1) The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Ranking for 2017