Food Editor Ellie Gibbs samples the canteen-style offerings of the Northern Quarter’s Soup Kitchen.
At around £6.50 per dish, Soup Kitchen is little pricey for something that takes its name from a concept based on providing free nourishing food, but this is made up for by the generous portions and vibrant, quality ingredients pleasantly un-reminiscent of a school canteen. Begrudging dinner ladies are replaced by bubbly staff, stinginess exchanged for extra helpings.
Soup Kitchen have a relatively fixed menu with daily changing soups. This works well for variety as each time you can expect to find something new and enticing on the menu, with reassuring knowledge that the fail-safe jerk chicken, Caribbean dumplings with jack fruit and sweet yam curry will be present and steaming away in their industrial sized steel buckets.
Everything is served with the option of jumbo purple coleslaw, chickpea salad, fresh herby tomatoes and help-yourself bread rolls. Water is available in thick swing-top glass bottles on the bar which is perfect if you’re the type to drink at least 3 pints with every meal and feel embarrassed to continually nag the waiter (I hate being served a half pint – of anything).
The serving counter also doubles up as a bar which comes fully stocked with the usual NQ-style craft beers, quirky bottled brews and range of tasty liqueurs. It’s worth mentioning that SK has a downstairs club so it’s theoretically somewhere you could spend the whole night. Long trestle tables make this a good spot for large parties for evening drinks, though the music is a little loud even in the day so be prepared to raise your voice for a decent conversation. Or just resign to enjoy your food in silence and save your talking topics for later.
That being said, the restaurant is cosy and friendly and perfect for a lunch that’s guaranteed to be delicious. Being able to walk through the door and be comfortably sat down with a ceramic bowl of hot food in the space of five minutes is a blessing that the Northern Quarter would struggle without. There’s no waiting for a table, no risk that it might not be right, and no gamble on how long it will take for the food to arrive.
The atmosphere is warm, wholesome and the embodiment of what its name derives from with extra funding, which I suppose is exactly what it is – apart from its customers are not homeless, though they may dress like they are (guilty).