Federal Café & Bar

Detail from the A-board at Federal Cafe & Bar, proudly proclaiming the serving of "Brinner" of Friday evenings.I swear that the good people of Manchester were waiting for me to leave…  I’d been visiting for the inaugural Cup North back in 2014 and no sooner had I left, than it seemed a slew of new coffee shops opened, led by Federal Café & Bar, which, by the way, does what it says on the tin. By day, it’s a café, while by night, it morphs into a bar, although, as I discovered, the staff will happily serve you coffee long into the night (and, I suspect, alcohol during the day).

The coffee side of the equation is handled by Kiwi transplants, Ozone, supplying the Hodson blend and decaf on espresso, with a couple of single-origins on pour-over, impressive when you consider the (lack of) available space. There’s a small selection of wine (five) and beer (four), plus loose-leaf tea, hot chocolate and soft drinks.

Federal’s other main strength is food. This is prepared on-site in an impressively compact kitchen which takes up half of the (not very much) space behind the counter. There are decent breakfast (until noon), lunch (from noon) and brunch (all day) menus, plus, on Friday/Saturday nights, one of the greatest inventions ever, Brinner!

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Federal Cafe & Bar, another addition to Manchester's growing speciality coffee scene.
  • On the corner of High Street & Back Turner Street, it's a narrow wedge, with the long side...
  • ... running down Back Turner Street. The outside seating's a bit optimistic for November!
  • The A-board proudly proclaims one of mankind's greatest achievements: Brinner!
  • The door is at the thick (far) end of the wedge. Stepping inside, the counter's to the left...
  • ... and the seating is to the right.
  • Starting to the right of the door, there's this three-seat window-bar...
  • ... then comes this eight-person communal table.
  • Following that, things start to get a bit narrow...
  • On the right, just before the tip of the wedge, is another small window-bar.
  • The bulk of the seating, however, is along the back wall. A row of two-person tables...
  • ... runs in an L-shape along a comfortable-looking padded bench.
  • Another look at the communal table, sensibly-placed at the widest part of Federal.
  • A view back towards the door and the counter/kitchen.
  • The final piece of seating is this high shelf-table opposite the door as you enter.
  • Although there are plenty of windows, Federal also has lots of lights.
  • However, in the evenings, the main lights are switched off to create the correct atmosphere.
  • All that's left are the bare bulbs in the windows and above the tables...
  • ... which does make for some good reflections.
  • There are also candles on the tables: very atmospheric, but makes photography tricky!
  • So, to business. Federal serves all its drinks from this rather small counter at the back...
  • ... while all the food is prepared in this even smaller kitchen to the left.
  • These, sadly, had been baked for consumption the following day. I wonder if they'd notice...
  • There's enough room for a two-group La Marzocco, with house-blend & decaf...
  • ... while, despite the cramped conditions, Federal manages to squeeze in a filter station...
  • ... with the EK-43 grinder and hot water boiler tucked away at the back.
  • There are aslo beans and other goodies for sale.
  • The coffee and soft-drinks menu hangs above the counter...
  • ... as does the alcohol (wine and beer) menu.
  • The specific coffee on offer is displayed on cards hanging down over the counter.
  • There's Ozone's usual Hodson blend & these two single-origins: a Colombian & a Rwandan.
  • Friday (& Saturday) night is Brinner night (Brinner = BReakfast & dINNER).
  • I, naturally, couldn't resist. My dinner: Eggs Benedict with avocado & halloumi.
  • I paired this with a decaf flat white.
  • Always a good sign when the latte art lasts to the bottom of the cup!
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Federal Café & Bar sits on the corner of Back Turner Street and the High Street (at least, that’s what Google Maps tells me, despite an address of Nicholas Croft, which runs parallel to Back Turner Street). Perhaps it’s easier to say it’s just around the back of the Arndale Centre or by the Shudehill metro stop. However you decide to describe its location, it’s worth finding.

Opening in late 2014, Federal Café & Bar is a welcome addition to Manchester’s specialty coffee scene, following on where the likes of near-neighbour, North Tea Power, have led, albeit in a more traditional bar setting. The actual building is wedge-shaped, with, surprisingly, the narrow end of the wedge on the corner, where there’s a solitary window. One of the long sides runs along Back Turner Street (Nicholas Croft), regularly punctuated by windows, while the door is at the far (thick) end of wedge. There’s a row of tables outside, which I felt was somewhat optimistic for Manchester weather, particularly in November!

Stepping inside, the counter is immediately to your left, with the rest of the space to your right, narrowing into the distance. Directly opposite you is a high six-person table with bar stools, while the far wall has a long, padded bench running along it, lined with two-person tables. There are a pair of window-bars along the other wall, with a long, eight-person table between them. Overall the effect is to create a cosy, welcoming space, particularly on the rainy (it is Manchester, after all) evening that I was there.

I was impressed with both Federal’s coffee and food offerings given the (lack of) space. The counter is split in two, with the coffee on the right (where there’s just enough room for a two-group La Marzocco and its grinders) and the kitchen on the left. Despite this, Federal offers the likes of a piccolo on the espresso menu, plus a pair of single-origins on V60 or Aeropress, which change every week. Perhaps it was the setting that led me to think that it would be a bar serving a bit of coffee, but far from it, with the staff all very knowledgeable and passionate about the coffee.

Since it was late, I had a decaf flat white. Having had Ozone’s decaf before, it held no surprises, but it was very smooth, well-balanced and perfect for that time of the evening. Particularly impressive was the milk, which held the latte art to the very end.

The food is equally impressive, particularly when considering it’s all cooked on-site (the cakes are all baked there too). I was there on Friday evening and was delighted to discover that on Friday & Saturday nights, Federal does “Friday Night Brinner” (that is, breakfast for dinner). This is an excellent idea and a natural follow-on from brunch. I was very tempted by the baked eggs, but predictably went for the Eggs Benedict. However, I was torn between having halloumi and avocado, until the waitress said I should have both. She’s a genius.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Eggs Benedict, the eggs being done to perfection and the toast also exceptionally well-done. While I liked the avocado, I didn’t think it particularly complemented the eggs. The halloumi, however, was an excellent match: I’ll definitely be having that again.

9 NICHOLAS CROFT • MANCHESTER • M4 1EY
http://federalcafe.co.uk +44 (0) 161 425 0974
Monday 07:30 – 20:00 Roaster Ozone (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:30 – 20:00 Seating Tables, Window-bars, Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:30 – 20:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Cake
Thursday 07:30 – 20:00 Service Order at Counter
Friday 07:30 – 20:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Saturday 09:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 09:00 – 17:00 Power Limited
Chain No Visits 6th November 2015

If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, check out the rest of Manchester’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Manchester.


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