Whenever I’m planning a trip to a big city, I make a daily itinerary – this always includes indie cafés. Now, I appreciate that sounds a little too organised but it’s always proved to be the right strategy for seeing everything that needs to be seen in however long it is I’m visiting for. It also means that if the city I’m visiting really isn’t all that good, then I needn’t ever return – silver lining.
Now, a large part of each of these itineraries has included indie cafés, none was this truer than with my first trip to a city I’d always wanted to explore, Manchester. Along with the People’s History Museum, Alan Turing’s memorial and Piccadilly Gardens, were at least a notebook page of suggestions from blogs I’d read, travel guides and advice from those friends and family who’d been previously – who equally understand my need for a artisan cup of coffee. You know, one with a fancy heart on top in the crema.
Being a trained Barista, it’s always a treat for me to see how other coffee cultures compare across the world and this can always be found in a trusty, quirky indie café. So, if ever you are planning a trip to Manchester and want to take in a cup of the good stuff, as well as a cheeky slice of cake, look no further.
With its bold, wooden interior and faint glow, this little gem offers absolutely delicious food as well as an enormous selection of tasty coffees and teas. Each one has a little twist of flavour and are expertly made by the friendly, casual-looking baristas. Not only does this indie café boast loose leaf teas that are every flavour from blood orange to liquorice, they also do pretty much any coffee you’ve ever heard of – including a delicious cold brew. Don’t just stop for a cuppa though, enjoy the hand-made cakes on selection and I implore you to have a New Yorker – spicy but memorable. If you fancy something a little healthier, they also sell warming soups with fresh bread on the side, perfect for relaxing and settling with an indie magazine or two – they’ve got a great collection.
One of the more charming indie cafés in Manchester’s city centre, Sugar Junction, is the Queen of afternoon teas. As you enter, it’s like walking into your Nan’s front room – if it’s still in a state of 50s chic that is. Think vintage cutlery, doilies and crockery with fetching floral designs. Each tea and coffee selection has been hand-picked by the team and are specially blended by local companies for the café itself – try the Sri Lankan-inspired Northern Quarter blend, with hints of caramel and hops. While you’re there, make the most of one of the biggest selection of savoury and sweet delicacies available in the city, all hand-made by the team.
A little less average now, how about something Scandi-inspired? Takk, Manchester’s resident Nordic indie café, has to be experienced. The name of the café itself means ‘thank you’ in several Scandinavian languages. Expect to be surrounded by bearded creatives with a mac under arm, as well as those looking for a cup of crafted artisan coffee. I was most excited about the hand-roasted and drip coffee from Iceland that reminded me of the heavenly Reykjavik Roasters… what I’d give to go back there and watch the sun come up again. This simple but welcoming café is a comfortable hub to hide away in after a few hours pounding the pavements of Manchester, it couldn’t be more ‘Icelandic cosy’ if it tried. Surrounded by Nordic art, design and travel guides, sample an Icelandic Hot Dog – simple, tangy and perfect.
Always with an inspired film quote etched onto its window, the boho Blue Daisy Café, opposite infamous Affleck’s is a great spot for lunch. A people watcher’s ideal, you can enjoy varied vegan and vegetarian dishes in here from its deli counter of dreams in a comfy, colourful interior. Not only that, there’s always a scrummy range of home-made tempting-looking treats to be devoured with an ice tea in hand, just make sure you enjoy one of their eclectic salads first. The only other thing to mention here is that this indie café is obviously a community hub so tends to get quite busy fairly quickly, it’s definitely worth waiting for a seat though, especially in the Summer when you can sit outside and covet one of the table’s daisies.
Fast becoming one of the most popular indie cafés in Manchester, Home Sweet Home, is a traditional American kitchen. Available for Californian breakfasts and brunches as well as New York cake and coffee – your best bet is to head here before a day’s worth of exploring. The first thing that I was hit with upon entering was just how big everything is – I told you, American. The freshly-baked cakes and bright orange egg yolks are as big as your face and should always be washed down with one of this café’s infamous, creamy milkshakes, complete with a cherry on top. If you fancy a savoury dish, try the Cheeseburger Toastie – yeah, you read that right.
Owned by electronic music producer, tea enthusiast and DJ, Mr Scruff, this is one of the more popular picks of Manchester’s indie cafés, a bit of an institution. No matter what time of day it is, be prepared to wait but don’t be put off. In the heart of the city’s alternative Northern Quarter, as many dishes as possible are hand-crafted, locally-sourced, fair trade and organic. Alike North Tea Power, this award-winning café hosts a number of varied loose leaf teas but in addition, also serve Atkinson’s hand-roasted coffee, expertly crafted by Teacup’s baristas. However, it’s fair to say the real star of the show here is the Rainbow cake – Battenburg, raspberry jam and marzipan at its finest – close second best is the Coconut and Carrot cake, delicious to the last bite.
Have you been to Manchester before? What would be your indie café picks for this charming Northern city?