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 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|
|http://figandsparrow.co.uk||+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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