Above : Tuesday’s Special, hot Pot, served with a green and coucous salad and homemade mustard dressing.
Resplendent with quirky art and green gingham table clothes, alive with the sound content diners tucking into their lunch, cake and coffee; the Veggie Café is a rare jewel in the otherwise relatively barren campus culinary landscape.
Proprietor Leslie Brown has run a café in the Pankhurst Building, the Contact Theatre, and has now been located in the Schunk Building since 1999. For well over a decade the Veggie Café has been serving food with locally sourced ingredients, including what Brown says is the secret, “TLC”. The intricate knowledge of each dish by the fulltime staff of five means that a whole range of dietary needs can be met because, according to Brown, “we know exactly what is in everything, as it’s all made here”.
To announce your suppliers is to express a pride in what you produce. The bread is sourced from Brown’s local bakery near Saddleworth, the vegetables are from her local green grocer in the village of Greenfield, again local to Brown. The herb garden outside the window of the café is a delightfully renewable source of intense natural flavours that are found throughout the menu. The stock, the base of the all the soup, which is possibly the most popular dish on the menu, is sourced from Kent, a very rare stock, well worth the extra transportation as Brown exclaims it is the “best on the market”.
There is no doubt that the homemade lasagne, quiche, soups, and daily specials are an absolute treat every time. Served with a green and a second salad of often either couscous or potatoes, the customer always leaves full, satisfied, and keen to return. And indeed the customers here are a cross section of the immense cultural diversity that exists at Manchester, and plus the popularity amongst academic staff, this canteen is a social leveller like no-other outlet on campus.
Yet this is not just an eatery per se; it is a local joint where people come to seek comfort and friendliness, a warm welcome and a little piece of calm way from the hegemonic march of the soulless Food on Campus juggernaut. The Veggie Café has a sense of history, a unique charm that can only occur from years of dedication and quality service. Brown and her team clearly understand what it is to contribute to a successful student experience, just go and see the queues at brunch, lunch, and afternoon coffee time, this place achieves student satisfaction, and for that reason Brown is contributing to the University in her own, individual, and wonderful way.
Above: The herb garden, offering fresh bursts of flavour thyme and again.