Continuing a theme of Coffee Spots in glorious Victorian shopping arcades, I present Pot Kettle Black (PKB), which has been gracing Manchester’s coffee scene since the start of October 2014. The Barton Arcade, home of PKB, is one of the most beautiful I’ve seen and PKB takes its lead from there, with gorgeous external features and some of the most ornate and sumptuous window art there is.
Stepping inside, PKB is one of the most beautifully-appointed coffee shops I’ve ever visited. It’s a spacious delight of glass, wood and ornate ironwork, with some great tiling thrown in for good measure. There’s a wide range of seating options and, with the laptop/smart phone generation in mind, power outlets have provided at every possible opportunity. While this might be at odds with its Victorian heritage, it’s a welcome addition.
However, a beautiful environment is not much use without some decent coffee to serve in it. Fortunately, PKB scores highly here too, with Workshop’s Cult of Done and decaf on espresso, plus guest filters through Aeropress and V60. There’s loose-leaf tea as well, with a tempting selection of cakes, sandwiches and a small breakfast menu, including porridge and toast.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Manchester’s Barton Arcade, just off the main thoroughfare of Deansgate, isn’t huge, but, with a floor-plan like a lower-case ‘h’, it soars above you, rising a full three storeys, topped by an impressive glass canopy and surmounted by an even more impressive glass dome. A Victorian cathedral to commerce, you might say. Even better, walkways around the two upper levels (which are largely given over to offices) allow you to view it from various different angles…
Pot Kettle Black (PKB) occupies the top corner, facing the downward and cross strokes of the ‘h’, so two of its four sides are fronted with glass. Long and wide, there are three main entrances to PKB, all punctuating the long side, one in the centre and one each on either end. A fourth entrance opens onto the street running along the far side of Barton Arcade.
I suspect that PKB occupies what was once three separate units, one for each door. Each is separated by a thick pillar, but otherwise it’s thin, iron frames and glass, so PKB is flooded with subdued light. The doors themselves are in the centre of each unit, inset slightly, which creates little nooks to either side, reminiscent of Cardiff’s The Plan. The first three are filled with low, round tables with two or three stools for seating.
Entering the left-hand door, PKB stretches out to your right, counter at the far end. Immediately ahead is a 12-person communal table running width-wise across the store, while to the left, three four-person tables lining the window that runs the width of PKB. Beyond the communal table is the cosy corner, a long, padded bench against the far wall with a low coffee table and four armchairs in front of it.
To your right, the store narrows a little and is dominated by a high, 14-person communal counter-style table. This runs length-ways down the centre of PKB, high bar-chairs providing the seating. Beyond the table is a small bar by the water station, while to the right, is the counter, another tiled affair. There’s plenty of space between table and counter, allowing room for those queuing to order or waiting for takeout.
Despite the preponderance of windows, PKB has a generous provision of some really lovely light-fittings, ensuring it remains bright on even the gloomiest Manchester days. Bare, wooden floorboards, dark grey walls/pillars, white tiles and free-standing, bright red internal pillars combined to provide a pleasing, harmonious visual experience.
I visited on Friday lunchtime, when it was bustling, and on Sunday morning, when it was quiet and relaxed. I had a piccolo to begin, beautifully presented on a metal tray with a glass of water and wafer biscuit. I’ve always found Workshop’s Cult of Done to go well with milk and so it was here, combining to produce a smooth, sweet drink. I paired this with an almond (Bakewell) tart: crunchy, crumbly pastry, sweet interior, hint of raspberry jam and strong, but not overpowering, taste of almonds.
I followed this up on Sunday with a massive bowl of creamy porridge, four slices of lovely, crunchy toast and a decaf flat white. As before, the presentation was beautiful. Like the Cult of Done, the decaf was very sweet, combining well with the milk, giving me a gentle introduction to my morning.
|UNIT 14 • BARTON ARCADE • DEANSGATE • MANCHESTER • M3 2BW|
|Monday||07:00 – 19:00||Seating||Tables, Coffee Chairs, Bars|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 19:00||Food||Breakfast, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 19:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Thursday||07:00 – 19:00||Cards||Mastercard, Visa, Amex|
|Friday||07:00 – 19:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Saturday||09:00 – 17:00||Power||Yes|
|Sunday||10:00 – 17:00||Mobile||3G, Voice|
|Chain||No||Visits||31st October 2014|
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Manchester’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Manchester. You can also see what fellow coffee blogger Bex of Double Skinny Macchiato made of Pot Kettle Black when she visited in 2016.
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