Manchester’s first free-from cafe is a little oasis of calm in the middle of town


When it comes to food, I try not to think of things as being either good or bad. All food is food, and I’m the last person to judge you on your food choices. If you’re hungry, you’re hungry, you eat what takes your fancy.

But for some people, things are a little more restrictive. Allergies, intolerances, and just preferences for what and how we eat have had an impact on what we look for when we dine. And for Andy McGlynn and Katie McIntosh, the couple behind 3Squared Cafe, that was no different.

They wanted a balance. A comfortable, relaxed environment where they could sit and work and eat what they wanted. When they found themselves heading out of town to find it, they realised they had identified a need for somewhere serving nourishing, quality food in an inviting environment and good service.

And after taking some time to identify what they didn’t like about what was on the high street, they launched their own place at the Royal Exchange Arcade.

3Squared is a cafe that’s free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar. You could be forgiven for thinking that you’d walked into a restaurant when you walk in the door. It’s relaxed, with comfortable seating if you want to sit in. But even if you grab a coffee and go, it’s still a little oasis of calm.

We decided to dine in. I’ll happily admit that I don’t have any food intolerances. I briefly endured an issue with yeast, which was thankfully short lived, so I understand the frustration of removing something entirely from your diet and finding it everywhere, in everything, and that feeling of denial which immediately makes you crave what you can’t have. Now, no food is off limits for me, so perhaps that would make me more critical of the menu options.

For the most part, particularly on the breakfast and brunch menu, there’s lots of stuff that’s familiar. Full English breakfast, bacon butty, steak and eggs sit alongside sprouted oats and apple and cinnamon muesli.

For the uninitiated, sprouting grains like oats makes it easier for your body to access the nutrients inside them, meaning you get more of the good stuff in your tummy faster.  The superfood brunch option is a great blend of both worlds, softly poached eggs sit on top of slices of crisp sweet potato, softened spinach and mushrooms.

Moving over to the lunch and dinner side of the menu, things are perhaps a little less familiar.

The graze boards was where we started, a selection of toppings on slices of gluten-free bread. The bread is really rather good. Having only been subjected to the white, crumbly stuff in the supermarket that’s more like cake than bread, this was a revelation.

The toppings ranged from a simple heritage tomato salsa, to avocado and chilli, to a vegan carrot pate topped with cashew nuts that was surprisingly tasty. Oh, and a hummus topped with seeds, which is now my favourite hummus. So much so, I’m unsure if me working so far away is a good thing or a bad thing, as my lunch times will be missing it on a daily basis.

Moving onto something more like a main, we tried the Nourish Bowls. There’s something for everyone in these – fish, meat, vegetarian and vegan options, with nutty wild rice and a lightly dressed salad.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but when I have to physically move a bowl of roasted vegetables, chickpeas and rice away from me so I will stop eating it, that’s not a bad sign. Whilst my date enjoyed the steak, I kept going back again and again to the chickpea and butternut bowl.

For sweet options, there are plenty of bakes to choose from, and dairy-free ice cream, so we went with a little bit of both, and shared a fruity chocolate brownie, warmed and served with a scoop of ice cream on top. Lush.

3Squared is free from lots of things but it’s definitely not free from flavour. It not only serves good food, but it’s also a lovely little oasis of calm in the middle of town.

Even more exciting – for me anyway – is what’s to come from this partnership. GymSquared opens in March, promising to offer something different too. Alongside the usual suspects (cardio and weights) they’re also installing a climbing wall and will offer yoga, pilates, and strong man equipment.  See you at the sled track?

Unit 19, Royal Exchange Arcade, St Ann’s Square, Manchester M2 7EA


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