Regular readers know that I have a soft spot for Manchester’s Idle Hands, and its owners, Dave and Lucy. Having started as a pop-up near Piccadilly Station, Idle Hands is now into its fourth incarnation, although this location, in the heart of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, is its first permanent home.
In comparison to previous incarnations, the new location is huge, with plenty of seating and, for the first time, a large kitchen at the back. Idle Hands has always been known both for its coffee and its (sweet) pies, both of which are on display here. A true multi-roaster, Idle Hands usually has two single-origins on espresso, another on batch-brew and five or so on pour-over through either the Aeropress or V60, depending on the chosen bean. The options change regularly: whenever a particular bean runs out, it’s replaced.
When it comes to pie, there are usually five or six choices, all made fresh that day by Lucy. When a pie is gone, that’s it for the day, although don’t expect to see it the following day, since Lucy frequently rings the changes. In addition, there are now full breakfast and lunch menus, along with beer, wine, spirits and cocktails.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
Regular readers will know that, while I try not to have favourites, I make an exception every now and then. Such an instance is Idle Hands, who I first came across as a pop-up near Manchester’s Piccadilly Station in 2015. I next caught up with Idle Hands in its second pop-up, this time on Dale Street, in what was supposed to be a new permanent home. However, badly let down by the landlord, Idle Hands once again found itself homeless. Sustained by another pop-up at Grub (when it was at Mayfield), which I visited in 2017, Idle Hands finally found a permanent home, opening earlier this year in a spacious spot on the corner of Dale and Tariff Streets, ironically just across the road from the original Dale Street location.
Idle Hands shares an entrance with Beatnikz Republic Bar, both accessed via a broad flight of steps up from the street, the bar on the right, Idle Hands on the left. It occupies a long, broad, high-ceilinged rectangular space with a small niche at the front, which contains the door, extending off at 45⁰ on the right. Probably twice as deep as it is wide, the short side runs along Dale Street, where two sets of windows run the full width. These have window-bars, the first seating six, the second four (and it could seat six at a push).
You enter at the front on the right, with a large, three-sided counter, almost fully surrounded by the seating, along the right-hand wall. The espresso machine, a custom two-group La Marzocco GB5, faces the front, where, along with the window-bars, you’ll find the bulk of the seating: low, two-, four- and six-person tables, reminiscent of school desks. These are arranged in three rows running front-to-back, starting with a pair of two-person tables near the door, followed by a two- and six-person table in the middle row, with a pair of two-person tables flanking a four-person one against a wooden bench along the left-hand wall.
The side of the counter, meanwhile, holds the all-important pies and faces a second door, halfway down the left-hand wall. This leads to offices next door, but is tenants only. It’s flanked on one side by a high seven-person table with stools and by retail shelves on the other. Finally, the rear portion of the counter, which houses the pour-over, faces the back, where you’ll find the kitchen. There are five high-backed chairs at the counter itself, while between counter and kitchen is another row of four two-person school-desks.
I visited twice on consecutive days just before the Manchester Coffee Festival. My first visit saw a choice of five pies: cherry, banoffee, pecan, cookie dough and my choice, peach with an apple strudel topping, served, naturally, with a side of whipped cream. My only complaint is that it was so good that I’d eaten it before I’d really noticed anything else about it. Maybe I should have had another slice…
I paired this with a V60 of a Rwandan single-origin from Good Life Coffee, a Finnish roaster who I’d only ever seen once before, when I was last in Idle Hands. This was excellent, a really well-rounded, well-balanced coffee with plenty of body. My other choices were from Nude Espresso, another from Good Life, one from Strangers Coffee and two from Dark Arts Coffee.
On my return, I had the La Reforma Tablon El Salvador from Nude as a flat white, another excellent coffee, which went really well with the milk. I passed on pie this time, although my friend Alison, from BLK Coffee, did indulge, seeming very pleased with her choice!
December 2018: Idle Hands, Dale Street was a runner-up for the 2018 Brian’s Coffee Spot Special Award.
|35 DALE STREET • MANCHESTER • M1 2HF|
|Monday||07:30 – 18:00||Roaster||Guests (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:30 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Window-bar, Counter|
|Wednesday||07:30 – 18:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Pie|
|Thursday||07:30 – 18:00||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:30 – 21:00||Cards||Amex, Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||09:00 – 21:00||Wifi||Free (with code)|
|Sunday||10:00 – 17:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||1st, 2nd November 2018|
Liked this? Then take a look at the rest of Manchester’s speciality coffee scene with the Coffee Spot Guide to Manchester & Salford.
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