Hester Lonergan reports on her favourite Northern Quarter coffee joint
Reviewing often seems a compromising exercise. Most of the time, I go to a restaurant or café with the express intention of recording my experience, noting the seating, the greeting, the atmosphere and documenting with detail the food I choose to fill my belly. Though invariably stuffed, I somehow manage to come away feeling empty inside.
Judging every element of a meal can get old. Looking over my shoulder to make sure that I am not being judged for systematically photographing every single dish and drink in front of me makes me feel awkward (although I should feel right at home, considering the near-necessity of this procedure in contemporary dining). For me, it all detracts from the real time experience of the space. When you spend all your time noticing, you don’t notice the gloriousness of just spending time.
It is because of this, I guess, that I have refrained until now from writing about Takk. It is precious to me, my safe space where I truly zone out and enjoy the ride. Naturally, then, I decided to put my feet on the pedal and analyse precisely what I love not having to analyse.
Located on Tariff Street in the Piccadilly end of the Northern Quarter, Takk sits alongside Kosmonaut (great cocktails) and El Capo (cracking tapas, lovely staff and potent tequila) in an area which seems busier and bustlier each time I walk by. The stand-out venue for daytime hang-out, Takk serves superb coffee, their house roast coming from ‘Clifton Coffee’ in Bristol and the rest sourced from ‘The Barn’ in Berlin. Inspired by Scandinavian coffee houses (hence the name ‘Takk’—Norwegian for thanks), their style of roasting allows for the original flavour of the beans to come through, resulting in light and fruity coffee which is a pleasure to drink black and lends itself beautifully to other additions. The coffee list, while short, reflects the passion of Takk’s staff to deliver impressive, uncompromised flavour.
If tea is more your bag, Takk’s selection of blends from ‘Canton Tea Co.’ more than covers bases—on this occasion, I had a warm and spicy loose leaf black chai, my companion choosing an uplifting and relaxing peppermint. And if you don’t fancy anything hot (very suspicious, considering it’s Manchester we’re talking about), an interesting array of fresh juices and soft drinks line the fridge behind the counter.
When it opened two years ago, Takk served simple breakfasts, pastries and Nordic-style open sandwiches. But since the expansion of the kitchen and recent addition of an extra chef, their culinary repertoire has evolved into something innovative, refreshing and delicious. During my usual late morning visits, I order wild field mushrooms and poached eggs on toasted rye bread. At bang on a fiver, its value in no way compromises its taste and quality. Ingredients are all locally sourced, manager Oli tells me; the bread and pastries are delivered fresh from cult Levenshulme bakery Trove, meat and fish from Frosts in Chorlton, and veg and extras from McCall’s Organics (a new addition to Church Street Market on the other end of the Northern Quarter). Usually, I glug it all down with a ‘long black’, make multiple trips to fill my glass with the icy fruit-infused water laying in wait in big jugs on a side table, and spend the following hour or so contemplating my contentment.
On the morning in question, however, I decided to shake things up for the investigative purposes of the review. The brunch menu, available on weekends, offers a varied and eclectic mix of dishes, from lamb stew with almond breadcrumb crust and mint chimichurri to IPA-infused welsh rarebit. We greedily opted for a duck egg frittata with salmon and crème fraîche, a wild mushroom, cauliflower and quinoa salad, and a pot of dhal, kindly assured by the member of staff that our order wasn’t over-ambitious (still dubious).
The dishes came out quickly, and we cleared our mugs aside, mesmerised by the kaleidoscope of colours on each plate. The beauty of the dishes was matched by their tastes: the rich, velvety frittata disappeared almost instantly; the mellow and Tarka-spiced dhal lasted a little longer, while we marvelled at and savoured its garnish of pickled pink shallots and pomegranate seeds. But the winning dish was undoubtedly the salad. A loving patchwork of textures and flavours, authentically misshapen mushrooms and braised cauliflower smoky and strong enough to make us rethink the vegetable entirely, topped off by a fragrant and earthy tarragon, walnut and rocket pesto. We lingered over the plate as much as our willpower permitted us, but it probably took under ten minutes for us to polish off the lot.
While the trip in question was genuinely in order to review Takk, I admit that its outcome was a foregone conclusion. If you believe the (my) hype, go; if you don’t, go see it for yourself (or miss out). With coffee culture increasingly diversifying in Manchester (Ziferblat, PKB, Grindsmith), Takk’s scandi-cool menu and vibe reserves it a spot at the very top. Add in evening gigs, morning coffee tastings, and quite possibly the most passionate, welcoming and cheerful staff to have ever graced Tariff Street, Takk is the cream of a bounteous crop.
Long mornings and afternoons in Takk soothe my soul. Takk is where I go to feel at ease, to forget about analysing the food and the atmosphere. I know it like an old, yet hole-free and still surprisingly elasticated sock, which I intend to warm my feet with for the foreseeable future. With this, I implore you to do the same. Soak in the surroundings without marking your meal and snapshot the experience for your own memories, rather than for the electronic screens of others. Find your sacred space and cherish it. And if you are sure that your coffee-bond can withstand your shameful hypocrisy, write a review of it.
6 Tariff Street,