Federal Cafe & Bar, Northern Quarter, Manchester
I had only one day in Manchester so I needed a brunch to make it count. I summoned the guidance of my Mancunian-turned-Melbourne friend Katie for some advice. She said I’d love the Northern Quarter and passed on advice to check out Federal Cafe & Bar. It’s a very Antipodean venue. The sign spells out exactly New Zealand and Australian cafe and it lives it up to that in its entirety.
It was my second catch up with my cousin Carly, and who would have guessed we’d be in a completely new city, in another country. I think this venue ticked off both our boxes for a cool spot, sick coffee and perfectly Instagram-able food. Part of me still feels uncomfortable judging cuisine by its visuals, but eating with your eyes is just as important. And it’s the only sharing that makes people jealous.
Federal Cafe & Bar is an independently owned coffee shop and there’s even grocery items like (original) Pizza-flavoured Shapes and Tim Tams available. It’s ranked ten on Tripadvisor out of 2,348 possible places to eat in Manchester so it’s packing some serious gravitas. There’s a bit of a queue for a table, but we’re talking Manchester-level queue. So not overly long, though it is for the locals. The venue itself is teensy and in our initial high table we got to know our neighbours’ shoulders a little too well. We moved to a calmer location not long afterwards.
It’s a bit quirky of a system at Federal Cafe & Bar, you have to head to the counter to order. I guess that saves the staff some navigating of the tables but not for you! Carly went for the very vegetarian option of Halloumi and Shrooms (£8). This plate packs a bunch of all good things vegetarian. Two poached eggs, garlic and thyme mushrooms, halloumi, relish, dukkah, rocket and sourdough toast.
I was seriously torn on whether I’d embark on sweet or savoury. This is a common dilemma in the life of a bruncher. The cravings gave in and I ordered the French toast (£7.50). This is served with a slightly unusual mix of berry compote, salted caramel, almonds and mascarpone. I didn’t mind the salted caramel-berry monster fusion, but I did find the volume of the topping overwhelming. Not a huge issue as I scraped it off, but the sweetness of the berry ends up drowning out the bread, which there’s not so much of. I’ve had a lot of good French Toasts this year, including the one at Timmy Green and The Wilson St Pantry. This still stands up in execution.
I did enjoy my experience at Federal Cafe & Bar. It’s a youthful spot, perfect for a catch up and the food and coffee is a treat.