this guide has been a long time coming as, believe me, i’ve drunk a lot of coffee and consumed far too much cake since i first arrived in the city two years ago!
sometimes when i head into town i’m at a total loss as to where i want to end up, there are that many great coffee houses to choose from. but i’ve whittled down my absolute faves here and, whilst this list will no doubt evolve and expand over time, can hand on heart say that whichever of these you choose to visit, you’ll be greeted with a big smile and a steaming mug of quality coffee, and plenty of delectable cake options to choose from as well.
hampton & voúis
located just across the road from the majestic town hall, hampton & voúis offers one of the best window seats in the city for people watching in my opinion, and happily have fantastic coffee and a wide range of sweet treats (from local bakery trove) to provide the perfect accompaniment to the activity. their house coffee blend is hand-roasted by buxton roastery, while their sleek minimalist interiors have been designed by one half of the founding duo, niko voúis. great coffee aside, i’ve also lost count of the number of people who’ve told me i have to try their whole spice chai latte, it’s that good. i have, of course, and can attest to it being every bit as good as they say!
31 princess street, manchester m2
grindsmith bridge street
there are three outposts of manchester-based coffee roasters grindsmith across the city, but the newest opening on bridge street is definitely the one to make a beeline for. while their media city café (my local) has an exquisite stained glass window, the facade of the four-storey building in which the new opening is housed is awash with a beautiful, colourful, floral mosaic that even on the greyest of manchester days is mesmerising. inside, the brilliant white, almost lab-like interior is punctuated with caramel-coloured leather seating, and vibrant neon signage. with a firm emphasis on sharing the craft, ritual and passion for coffee, grindsmith offer a wide range of speciality coffees, as well as breakfast, brunch and lunch menus.
62 bridge street, manchester m3
pollen sourdough & viennoiserie bakery
i never made it down to pollen‘s former home under the railway arches of piccadilly, but since their relocation to the waterfront of new islington marina i’ve been making regular pilgrimages across town to savour their incredible homemade pastries and legendary sourdough. their premises at cotton field wharf are light and airy, with textured concrete walls juxtaposed by light plywood furniture for a classically scandinavian vibe. i usually shun dairy, but will always make an exception for one of pollen’s amazing sourdough pastry cinnamon buns; all crisp and flaky and sugary. coffee is served in sleek ceramic cups by jono smart, and if you’re lucky you’ll be greeted by adorable fluffball maru (a chow chow) at the front door.
cotton field wharf, 8 new union street, manchester m4
idle hands is “not just for those who enjoy drinking, tasting and making coffee, but those who enjoy discussing and researching it.” it’s definitely my go-to in the city when i want to enjoy a long black coffee, as opposed to a (non-dairy) milk-based one, although they do those damn well too. there’s a regularly rotating brew bar offering filter coffees from roasters from around the world, hand brewed on v60 or aeropress. the interior is light and airy, with plenty of plywood and an abundance of greenery, while at the counter you will always find a good selection of pies on offer; the (vegan) cherry pie is certainly one i can vouch for!
35 dale street, manchester m1
just between friends
just between friends is a coffee shop recommendation i like to keep just between friends (haha), because it’s such a tiny gem of a spot! serving up single origin coffee from brixton roastery assembly, which is one of my faves, the interior of the shop features a low, wide window seat with a couple of stools, and three hexagonal tray tables that hinge from the wall to offer an expanding range of seating. on warmer days the front window is pulled back to really open the tiny interior up, whilst there is also a ‘secret’ internal courtyard just behind the cafe (part of the freemount pub) where you’re able to sit with your coffee and feel secluded from the hustle and bustle of the city outside.
56 tib street, manchester m4
from humble beginnings baking doughnuts in the basement of northern quarter bar common, siop shop (aka blawd) opened their first premises on tib street last year to much acclaim. the spacious corner café feels refreshingly fun and down-to-earth, with mismatched furniture, eclectic wall art from a selection of local artists, and a vibrant green counter by manchester design studio you &i. the coffee is good, of course, but what you’re really there for are the doughnuts. there are daily vegan offerings – the glazed ring is a personal fave – alongside tantalisingly tasty sounding options like caramel custard, rhubarb & pistachio glaze, and peanut butter glaze with peanut & chocolate crumb. yum!
53 tib steet, manchester m4
trove, levenhulme’s acclaimed bakery and cafe, opened in ancoats late in 2018, bringing with it their legendary sourdough loaves and simple, seasonal grub. as one of the most popular suppliers of baked goods to many of manchester’s central cafés, trove’s own outpost has distinguished itself by offering a wonderfully serene atmosphere in the up-and-coming ancoats area. set within a light, minimal, scandi-styled space – with triple height windows that let the light flood in on even the grimmest of days – everything is made by hand in-house, using locally sourced and organic ingredients. quality coffee (allpress) also plays a huge part in their menu, from flat whites to v60, served in ceramic cups by local artisans little torch.
5 murray street, manchester m4
located within bustling foodie mecca mackie mayor, atkinsons is a speciality coffee roasters and tea merchants established in lancaster in 1837, who are now sourcing, roasting and brewing some of the highest quality coffees from around the world in manchester’s bustling northern quarter. housed within mackie mayor’s 1858 grade ii listed marketplace, atkinson’s occupies one corner of building and has it’s own external entry, meaning it can open earlier in the day than the main market. the menu offers an ever evolving range of seasonal, single-origin coffees, and there’s even a vintage uno coffee roaster on the premises, dating from 1919, which has been lovingly restored and operates once a week for production roasting.
mackie mayor, 1 eagle street, manchester m4
all photography © kate baxter, aka fabricofmylife