Pot Kettle Black

The Pot Kettle Black logo, the letters PKB in a black circle over a red espresso cup, flanked by coffee beans and a pair of portafilters.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.

  • If you are ever in Manchester, make your way to the glorious Barton Arcade...
  • ... where, stepping inside, you'll find the equally glorious Pot Kettle Black!
  • A slightly different view of Pot Kettle Black (PKB).
  • You can admire it from downstairs, or, if you like, head up to the first-floor walkways.
  • The 'front' of PKB...
  • ... and the side.
  • The arcade itself is worth a second look.
  • Seen here from the first-floor balcony at the far end.
  • A panoramic view from the same spot.
  • The ceiling is also worth a look.
  • Back on ground level, PKB has some delightful features on the exterior...
  • ... while the artwork on the windows is nothing short of stunning.
  • And it's not just one window either!
  • More of the stunning artwork.
  • PKB has one of the more ornate logos I've seen in a long time...
  • ... and here in more detail.
  • Everywhere you look there are great touches.
  • Time to go inside: the panoramic view from inside the middle door.
  • The left-hand or front end of PKB.
  • The left-hand end seen from the other side.
  • The communal table in the middle, with the counter beyond.
  • Looking back along the length of PKB from by the counter.
  • ... and the view from the other side.
  • So, back to the 'front', with the communal table and the round tables in the window.
  • A look down the length of the communal table.
  • The round tables by the window.
  • Seen here from a different angle.
  • This is the comfy corner, tucked away at the back.
  • There are also these small tables in the niches in the windows along the side.
  • Another of the small tables.
  • If you don't fancy them you can try the bar by the water staton.
  • Or, failing that, the other communal table right in the centre of PKB.
  • An alternative view of the communal table. Look at all the power outlets!
  • The long view down the communal table towards the counter.
  • Talking of which...
  • The counter itself is a glorious thing...
  • It's got lots of little nooks and crannies, plus stained-glass windows!
  • Let's see what we can find... Why look, it's the Cup North espresso blend!
  • This little shelf behind the counter houses the tea...
  • ... while this one has carafes of water.
  • I loved the lights in PKB. These two, above the big communal table, were my favourites.
  • And in more detail.
  • More lovely light fittings.
  • Last set, I promise.
  • Right, down to business. The comprehensive drinks menu is worth a closer look...
  • Can't disagree with that!
  • There's food too: breakfast, sandwiches and cake!
  • The cake, in detail. It all looked delicious.
  • And the sandwich menu.
  • Don't you just love it when baristas pose for pictures? Hang on, mate, you're out of focus!
  • That's better!
  • The business end of the La Marzocco.
  • My first visit: a piccolo and an almond tart.
  • My piccolo, which came beautifully-presented on a tray, with wafer cone & glass of water.
  • My almond tart, looking for all the world like a large macaroon!
  • I returned two days later for breakfast. Porridge, toast and a decaf flat white.
  • There was the same attention to detail: the espresso cup has fruit compote in it by the way.
  • My toast.
  • Last, but not least, my decaf flat white, just as beautifully presented as my piccolo.
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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.

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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15 thoughts on “Pot Kettle Black

  1. Did you go back and add “crunchy” to the toast bit? 😉
    Ok, ok -I can see SOME bronzed markings of a degree of Maillard reaction in the above shots…but it’s still far from toast ‘Well Done’.
    Nice seedy bread though.

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