Ben Walker reveals the gems of the NQ – tea, cake, espressos and beer houses
It seems that every other week some place new opens in the Northern Quarter, not just ensuring this inner city Manchester district continues to keep ahead of its Northern counterparts, but also creeping towards parity with some of the hip areas of London.
First up, stimulate the senses at North Tea Power with the finest coffee in Manchester – though saying that, it’s the finest coffee I’ve ever had. Their espresso fulfils all the criteria for near perfect coffee: body, aroma and flavour. The delicate crema, sharp acidy of high-altitude Arabica beans, a full, almost syrupy body and heady fine and fruity aroma combine to make this the ideal place to start this tour.
Perked up, head down Tib Street to the stylishly vintage Sugar Junction. Here, you will be nearly overwhelmed by the doily decoration and tables resplendent with beautiful china tea sets. This is the place for elevenses. A pot of tea and a slice of cake is just simple, traditional and absolutely spot on. Having taken the title off Teacup as the central Manchester’s premier tea and cake joint, Sugar Junction is a must-visit venue.
The morning by now will be old and the sun is nearly past the yard arm. We shall have a nose in the newest addition to the NQ, Beermoth, an outlet of the most exclusive and different beer. What is most impressive is that the collection here is completely different to those of Carringtons or Microbar and thus is a great addition to the Manchester area.
Port Street Beer House dominates the beer scene of the North of England. I know Leeds fans will champion North Bar, but I feel PSBH shades it. A lot of bars in Manchester have a bottle selection out of this world, but it is the on-tap beer here that is truly outstanding. It is kept beautifully and is simply delicious. Of the dozen-plus taps there have been in recent months such choices as Seville orange beer, an Odell and Thornbridge collaboration, chocolate milk stouts, Magic Rock – basically something from here, there and everywhere. I cannot praise this place enough.
Having built up a sufficiently ravenous appetite, head to Soup Kitchen. This is inexpensive, wholesomely satisfying food. I always opt for that most classic of combinations, soup and sandwich; last time I had cheddar, onion and ale soup with a cheese and chutney sandwich. A splendid lunch to sate one’s hunger but the homemade pies and traybakes are worth a try too.
By now, fed and watered, maybe just a half of bitter or a comforting latte? The serene atmosphere of 57 Thomas Street should do the trick here. This is a beer house for the Manchester Marble Brewery, offering cask and bottle versions of their tipples (their storage makes the same beer differ tremendously). They also have a superb pub snack system, where you choose a selection of charcuterie and cheese to nibble at instead of the old dry roast. You can lounge over a beer and a game of chess or dominos to wile away the late afternoon, which is simply lovely.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of places to go in the NQ, but I have endeavoured to assemble an itinerary that will allow you to sample the best in sweet and savoury food, tea, coffee and beer – all of which can be done without breaking the bank. Take the jump from Fallowfield and the university and reach out and embrace the NQ. You will be repaid with delectable rewards.