New York has Williamsburg, Los Angeles has Silverlake and Manchester has the Northern Quarter. The creative hub of the city is home to a host of independent shops, restaurants and bars, as well as the highest concentration of independent cafés and coffee shops in the city. Whether you are a vegan or a coffee aficionado, there is plenty on offer in our top ten pick of cafés.
Fig + Sparrow
The front section of Fig + Sparrow sells lifestyle goods such as bags, candles, cards and prints. From the street, all you can really see of a seating area is the window and outdoor seating, which is a good vantage point to look out onto busy Oldham Street. On entering, it comes as quite a surprise how far the café goes back. The furniture is mostly all wooden, including a wooden deer’s head, giving the atmosphere an interesting interplay between rustic and modern. There is a wide selection of teas and coffees, about which the staff are all knowledgeable, and they stock Trove’s bread which makes for delicious sandwiches.
Fig + Sparrow, 20 Oldham Street, Manchester, UK, +44 (0)161 228 1843
North Tea Power
The interior of North Tea Power, with its bold wood and artwork, reflects the food and drink that are on offer: simple and high-quality. It boasts a wide selection of loose leaf teas and an equally impressive coffee menu that makes North Tea Power a must-visit for both tea and coffee lovers. The staff expertly serve hand crafted coffee and they also introduce new, experimental creations throughout the year. While the drinks are the star of the show, there is also a good selection of food available as an accompaniment to your speciality brew. Specials change daily, but you can expect to find grilled cheese, salads and soup on the menu.
Oklahoma is one of the more vibrant cafés in the Northern Quarter and features a gift shop alongside its food and drink. Oklahoma was founded in 1998 and has recently had a makeover, so even if you’ve been before, it’s worth another visit. In its entirety, Oklahoma is huge, covering over 2000 square feet of floor space. The vegetarian café offers a wide range of coffees, teas, cakes, breakfasts, soups, salads and sandwiches. In the café, you can browse through over 500 titles in their art-house DVD rental library and take in the eclectic goods that are for sale in the gift-shop. This is what the Northern Quarter is all about.
Oklahoma, 74-76 High Street, Manchester, UK, +44 (0)161 834 1136.
Sugar Junction is one of the more refined cafés in the city centre and offers some of the best cakes and afternoon teas. The interior is very retro, with 50s style, dainty, vintage cutlery and crockery. The teas are all handpicked by the team, with both teas and coffees being specially blended by local suppliers for Sugar Junction. All of the food is homemade by the team which, considering the size of the sweet and savoury menus, is quite an impressive feat. The relaxed and charming atmosphere, as well as the fine china, will give you a pleasant twang of nostalgia that brings a drop of sophistication to the Northern Quarter.
Sugar Junction, 60 Tib Street, Manchester, UK, +44 (0)161 839 1444.
Nexus Art Café is the only cafe in the city centre that also functions as a community art space. The artwork alone makes the cafe worth the visit as it celebrates local talent and creativity in a series of changing displays. The cafe is part of the Central Methodist Church, the home of Wesleyan Methodism, and its main ethos surrounds the Christian values of creativity, community and spirituality, serving both as a cafe and a community space. The menu consists primarily of sandwiches, jacket potatoes and soup. The ingredients are all locally sourced and they have a range of homemade specials which are made to order.
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