Just my cup of tea
August 27, 2011
— Manchester, Northern Quarter, Sugar Junction, Tea, Tea Rooms, We Love Manchester Day
Yesterday afternoon was ‘We Love Manchester Day’; a chance to celebrate all that is good about the city after the sheer thuggery we witnessed on our streets a few weeks ago. Hitting back in style the ‘I Love MCR’ logo was out in force; on t-shirts, shop windows and even projected onto the city’s best known buildings. With bands, stalls and a bustle of people in the city centre, it was clear that the true spirit of Manchester was back in force.
I’ve lived in Manchester for just over five years now, and I like it very much. It’s been good to me. It’s brought me a husband, a career and some wonderful friends, but I can’t say I’ve ever fallen in love with it.
Mancunians can’t speak highly enough about Manchester, something I find rather endearing, especially as I come from a city where most residents don’t have more than two good words to say about it (lovely beach). But as much as I’ve tried (and I really have tried), it’s never felt like home. It’s open-minded and warm with a rich cultural scene and fierce civic pride; everything I wanted when I packed my bags and left my home town; but for some reason I’ve never settled, never stopped longing for a more rural pace of life and a sniff of sea air.
But yesterday I decided that for one day only, I really would love Manchester. That I would stop planning my escape (a whole 30 minutes train journey away) and would embrace whatever Manchester offered me. What I didn’t plan on was discovering Sugar Junction, and thus cementing a little bit of my heart in this industrial bugger of a city forever.
In November last year I bemoaned the lack of a decent tea shop in Manchester. Granted there are plenty of them, especially in the Northern Quarter, but none have quite hit the spot for me. From North Tea Power, to Teacup, to Oklahoma and the more formal afternoon teas offered by the Lowry and The Midland hotels, I’ve found them to be either too trendy, overpriced, suffering from poor service or offering mediocre food.
Sugar Junction is none of these. It’s a proper tea shop. Vintage inspired, warm in décor and in service, very reasonably priced with amazingly good food and teas.
I started with the spiced orange tea – a naturally sweet, full flavoured black tea with orange peels. It had a touch of the festive about it, perfect on a day where the Manchester weather was doing what it does best. The husband is not a tea drinker, but he was more than a little charmed by the vintage waitresses so decided to join in the spirit of things with a recommendation of the Lapsang Souchong Ospery. A fabulously smoky tea perfect for a whisky lover such as him. The marmite of teas he was completely won over, and has been banging on about it ever since.
The food menu was a triumph. As well as the usual selection of sarnies and cakes, standard in most tea shops, there was also an impressive selection of warm meals, such as cheese on toast and macaroni cheese. We plumped for the latter.
Macaroni cheese is my comfort food of choice. It’s what my Mum used to make when I’d been dumped by some spotty boy in my teens. Or when I’d fallen out with my best friend yet again. It’s what I want when it’s cold a wet outside. I have high expectations when it comes to macaroni cheese, expectations that are rarely met (even my Mums is a bit overcooked – although I think I’d be disappointed if she cooked it any other way).
Sugar Junction’s macaroni cheese was the best macarnoni cheese I have ever had outside of my Granny’s kitchen. In fact with my Granny being long gone, it almost brought a little tear to my eye.
It’s not fancy macaroni cheese; it’s not made with blue cheese, you won’t find a hint of paprika or any hidden ingredients in there. It’s not mac and cheese. It’s proper, old fashioned macaroni cheese made with good quality cheddar with a crispy cheese crust. It was wonderful. I added a dollop of mustard on top (because my Granny did) and I fell more in love with Sugar Junction with every mouthful.
It was also a generous served portion so I didn’t really need a cake to finish. I don’t even really like cake. But it just seemed rude not to. The husband was going to go for the Clootie Dumpling – a traditional Scottish pudding also made by Scottish granny’s everywhere. But he was swayed by the apple crumble cake with custard. He loved it. I don’t like custard so I left him to it.
I also don’t like Guinness, so I shocked myself by ordering a slice of chocolate and Guinness cake. It was a delight. You couldn’t taste Guinness per se, just a faint aftertaste of something boozy in one of the moistest cakes I have ever eaten.
Washed down with a Wendy tea, a blend of Rooibos Earl Grey, sweet South African honeybush, lavender flowers, rose petals and cornflower petals, it smelled like my Granny’s vintage powder puff. That wonderful perfumed smell that I’d almost forgotten and yet again brought back a rush of memories.
The husband, feeling adventurous after the Lapsang Souchong had a Gun Powder tea, a green tea from China with a robust taste. He liked it, but the Lapsang Souchong reigned supreme.
I left Sugar Junction with a full belly and a happy heart; ready to meet the Manchester rain head on. This city may not be the love of my life, but I can’t deny I’m feeling more than a little fond of it today.