Fig + Sparrow

The Fig + Sparrow logo painted in white on the window, rain lashing down on the street outside.Just a block down the street from the mighty North Tea Power, and a few steps along Oldham Street from its junction with Church Street, is relative newcomer to Manchester’s coffee scene, Fig + Sparrow. Established in 2013, it’s half life-style shop, half café, but 100% excellent. Serving an espresso-based menu using beans from London’s Climpson and Sons, with guest filters on Aeropress and Chemex, plus loose-leaf tea from Newcastle’s Ringtons, Fig + Sparrow also does food. There’s a small but excellent range of cakes, an all-day breakfast menu, lunch, with various specials, sandwiches and a separate toast menu. You have to admire a place that has a separate toast menu.

The front half of the store is given over to the retail arm, selling gifts and various items for the home. The back half houses the coffee shop, with two rows of seating and the counter right at the back. It’s beautifully laid-out, uncluttered and spacious, with wooden floorboards and whitewashed walls and ceilings. Although not much natural light reaches the back, the high ceiling and multiple light bulbs make it surprisingly bright. The result is a very relaxed atmosphere, with quiet, easy-listening music in the background.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Fig + Sparrow, promising much on Oldham Street. I was going to get an outside shot...
  • ... but then this happened.
  • No sitting outside today. Oh well, it is Manchester after all.
  • Not to worry. The interior is really nice. This is the view from the door.
  • There are lots of items for the home for sale in the front half of the store...
  • ... while at the back is the cafe.
  • If you want a chair or bench, you can sit at one of these tables down the left-hand side.
  • Or you can perch on a stool at the big communal table in the middle.
  • Or, for that matter, at the little table on the other side of the pillar.
  • The lovely, blue-tiled counter is right at the back.
  • It's very bright at the back, thanks to lots of light-bulbs.
  • I liked this set (which were at the front). I wonder how they look reflected in the window?
  • Like this!
  • Right, down to business.
  • The drinks menu is painted on the wall to the right of the counter.
  • The food menus (all-day breakfast, lunch and toast) hang on the wall.
  • If you like the toast, then you can always buy the bread.
  • This bread, in fact. Although it was late in the day and almost all gone.
  • However, I'd also come for the coffee, although not the espresso blend...
  • ... This time I was after the decaf in the second grinder.
  • There is also a wide selection of loose-leaf teas if that's your kind of thing...
  • ... as well as a small selection of excellent cakes.
  • Time to put the espresso machine to work.
  • My decaf flat white (in a glass).
  • The pattern in the milk held all the way to the bottom of the glass.
  • My dinner: a feta and spinach parcel on a bed of salad.
  • I took a brownie with me to keep me company on the train. It lasted until Stockport!
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Fig + Sparrow proudly displays its credentials for all to see on a couple of A-boards. The first, at the junction of Oldham and Church Streets, tempts you down Oldham Street, while the second, outside Fig + Sparrow itself, guides you gently inside. Naturally, you may be tempted by one of two tables on the pavement in front of the window. Unless, of course, it’s raining (what am I saying? This is Manchester! Of course it’s raining!).

Taking the sensible option and stepping inside, you enter a long, thin store with gloriously high ceilings: in fact, Fig + Sparrow is as tall as it is wide and maybe four times as deep. Immediately to your right is a window-bar, complete with bar-stools, running the width of the store. However, this is the only concession to the coffee shop in the front half of the store, which is otherwise given over to the lifestyle half of Fig + Sparrow.

The layout is fairly minimalist, with the various goods restricted to shelves on either wall, giving clear access to the coffee shop. Don’t be fooled by the counter/till halfway down on the left: it’s strictly for the shopping half of the clientele. The coffee shop starts immediately beyond this with, once again, an uncluttered layout, leaving a clear path past the seating to the counter at the back.

There’s a central, nine-person communal table, with a three-person table beyond it on the other side of a pillar supporting a ceiling beam. Sitting at either table involves perching on stools though. The other option is a long, wooden bench against the left-hand wall with four two-person tables (each with chair) and, in a little niche at the far end, a four-person table.

The counter’s a thing of beauty, tucked in beside the niche at the end of the bench. It’s a tiled affair, enclosing a tiled serving area which, strangely, has a far lower ceiling than the rest of the store. The till is to the left, followed by the cake, a multi-coloured stack of saucers and, finally, a pair of grinders, one for Climpson and Sons’ Climpson Estate espresso blend, the other for decaf. The espresso machine itself is behind the counter, business-end facing the customers.

The coffee/tea menu is painted on the wall to the counter’s right, with the breakfast, lunch and toast menus hanging on the wall next to it. All the bread is from Trove Bakery, with loaves for sale. I arrived towards the end of a long day touring Manchester for Caffeine Magazine and, needing something to soak up all the caffeine I’d been having, opted for a warm feta and spinach parcel on a bed baby green leaf salad. A piquant dressing gave it some bite, while the parcel itself reminded me of perogi.

In an act of self-preservation, I had a decaf flat white, which turned out to be really lovely. It was served in a glass and was really smooth and sweet, the coffee going particularly well with the milk. This was superbly steamed and held its pattern to bottom of glass, always a good sign.

Finally I took a chocolate and peanut butter brownie away with me. It proved to be very moist, not too sweet and with a great peanut taste. Perfection.

20 OLDHAM STREET • MANCHESTER • M1 1JN +44 (0) 161 228 1843
Monday 08:00 – 19:00 Seating Tables, Window Bar, Tables (Outside)
Tuesday 08:00 – 19:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Wednesday 08:00 – 19:00 Service Order at counter
Thursday 08:00 – 19:00 Cards Mastercard, Visa
Friday 08:00 – 19:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Saturday 10:00 – 18:00 Power Yes
Sunday 11:00 – 18:00 Mobile 3G, Voice
Chain No Visits 11th August 2014

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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