The concept of the railway arch as home to a coffee shop (The Fields Beneath or Doctor Espresso – Mama V’s spring to mind), roastery (Neighbourhood Coffee), or, indeed, bakery (Hart’s Bakery), is well-established. For the last couple of years, their ranks have been swelled by Manchester’s ManCoCo, which is, as far as I know, the only combined coffee bar/roastery in a railway arch. Tucked away on Hewitt Street behind Manchester’s Deansgate, ManCoCo takes a little bit of finding, but once you find Hewitt Street itself, ManCoCo is pretty obvious, on the north side of the street.
ManCoCo is both roastery (established five years ago) and coffee bar (18 months). Occupying a single arch, the roastery’s to your left, while the coffee bar’s on the right, the two separated by a fairly heavy-duty wooden partition. The coffee bar is no afterthought, by the way. A substantial operation in its own right, there’s plenty of seating, a decent selection of coffee, including a blend and single-origin on espresso, while you can have any of ManCoCo’s range of single-origins as a pour-over through the V60. While I was there, the choice extended to 11 different beans. If you’re hungry, there’s sandwiches and cake.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
ManCoCo’s arch is a pretty standard affair. Anyone expecting the romance of exposed brick will be disappointed though. As is the case for most modern railway arches, there is a corrugated steel inner shell with a concrete floor. On the other hand, better this than brick dust dropping in your coffee as one of the trains on the line between Oxford Road and Deansgate rumbles overhead every few minutes.
The arch’s opening has been filled with breeze-blocks, leaving space for a recessed, central glass doorway. The coffee bar is ahead and to your right, the counter on the right, the seating on the left, against the partition separating coffee bar from roastery. ManCoCo’s done an excellent job in softening what could be an austere interior. The coffee bar’s on a slightly-raised wooden floor set back a metre or so from the front of the arch, while the furniture and counter are made of wood. Even the partition is wood-clad.
Some natural light makes it in from the door, supplemented by plenty of artificial light. Fluorescent strip lights hang high above you, while a series of bare bulbs with brass fittings project above the tables from the partition.
There’s some seating either side of the door at the front of the arch. To the left (roastery side), are two armchairs, while to the right, against the front wall, is a two-seat wooden bar. In the coffee bar proper, the majority of the seating is on the left. First comes a two-person bar/table at the front of the raised floor. Beyond this are two five-person wooden tables running perpendicular to the partition. Finally, at the back, beyond the counter, a pair of wooden chairs nestle against the far wall, flanking a coffee table.
The counter itself is a lovely structure, made of what looks to be recycled/reclaimed wood. The espresso machine, a two-group La Marzocco, comes first, followed by a twin Mahlkönig espresso grinder. Then comes the till followed by the sandwiches/cake. The filter station, complete with its own grinders, is on the wall behind the counter, where you’ll also find the menu chalked up on a blackboard, with the choice of single-origin beans (plus two espresso blends) next to it on a roll of paper. If you don’t want coffee, I question your choice of venue, but there is tea from the local Brew Tea Co.
There was supposed to be a single-origin Guatemalan on the second grinder (the single-origin changes every week), but it needed a day or two more rest after roasting before it was good to go. Instead, I started with a flat white of the house-blend, which will appeal to those who like their coffee a little old school. Darker than most, it came strongly through the milk.
I paired this with an excellent Chocolate Rollo Brownie: a rich, chocolatey, moist brownie with a Rollo on the top. I followed that up with a very fine toasted pesto, mozzarella and sun-dried tomato panini for lunch. Bursting with flavour, the bread was perfectly-toasted, crunchy on the outside and the soft on the inside.
At the barista’s recommendation, I paired this with a fine Ethiopian Kaffa Forest Estate thorough the V60. A full-bodied coffee, it was not what you would call a typical Ethiopian (we’d already established that I wanted a more robust coffee to stand up to the panini). It arrived in a carafe with a lid, the cup to the side.
Before I left, the baristas convinced me to try the espresso on its own, which I rather enjoyed, even if it did leave me somewhat over-caffeinated!
|84 HEWITT STREET • MANCHESTER • M15 4GB|
|http://ManCoCo.co.uk||+44 (0) 161 237 1916|
|Monday||07:30 – 16:00||Roaster||ManCoCo (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 16:00||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 16:00||Food||Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||07:30 – 16:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 16:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||08:30 – 17:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Chain||No||Visits||7th November 2016|
If you enjoyed this Coffee Spot, then check out the rest of Manchester’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Manchester.
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