Fuel is a bastion of veggie food and delicious beer
As a committed carnivore, Fuel Café was always going to have to work a little harder to please. I had heard vegetarian and vegan friends rave about the warm atmosphere and great food, particularly their veggie and vegan fry-ups, but I’d never made the effort to visit until I spotted the cafe when walking along Oxford Road in Withington on a drizzly and dark evening. The bright lights of Fuel drew us in, and we decided to give temporary vegetarianism a chance. It’s definitely a cosy place to spend the evening, with cushy sofas and bright murals decorating the space, and the staff are friendly if slightly lackadaisical – expect a nice chat as you order rather than super-fast service.
The food is innovative in its use of ingredients to create relatively standard dishes (burgers, wraps, salads etc.) but that have been given a twist to combine interesting flavours in new ways that don’t leave you dreaming of their meaty equivalent.
My friend’s butternut squash, feta and olive bruschetta (£6) was tasty and filling, a generous portion that satisfied while tasting healthy and fresh. Another had The Triple Decker (£5.50) which is a Fuel classic – a club sandwich combining halloumi, hummus and roasted vegetables. To be honest it was nothing hugely innovative or special, but it was tasty, the portion was generous and included chips and some interesting salads, so for the price it made a good meal. I had the dish of the day (£6), a salad of goats cheese, roasted vegetables and walnuts, served with pittas. The combination was delicious, and for once I didn’t find myself thinking that it could have been improved with the addition of bacon (something that I personally think is the case with most meals), but little things highlighted the cheap and cheerful nature of the café.
Putting hot cheese and roasted veg onto lettuce was always going to make it wilt, and eating cold cucumber and hot courgette in the same mouthful was quite odd. But it feels harsh to criticise when the overall experience was once of tasty, filling and wholesome food in warm and cosy surroundings. Another attraction for visitors, their food preferences aside, is the truly excellent range of beers available.
Fuel definitely stocks the largest selection of beers and ales for miles, you’d probably have to travel to Deaf Institute to better it, and it’s worth a visit for that alone if you fancy a relaxed evening trying out new and interesting beers.
Overall Fuel feels like a community hub, drawing people together for everything from open mike nights to quizzes to craft circles, and the food is so affordable and the welcome so genuine that you forgive some elements of amateurishness. Fuel might even win me round to the idea of a vegetarian fry-up, although at the moment I remain unconvinced that a hangover can be cured by anything other than bacon. But if anyone can change my mind, it will be them.