Mary-Ellen McTague finally launches her Gallery Café at Manchester Art Gallery today, introducing great quality British food to match the glorious setting.
The new concept is a radical departure from previous contractors catering at the venue, with Mary-Ellen delivering high quality, affordable food for visitors to the gallery as well as catering for events in the iconic space.
The changing menu is not just seasonal but dictated by what produce arrives that day from local suppliers including Manchester Veg People, who are committed to sustainability and reducing waste, and Real Junk Food, who create delicious, healthy and affordable meals using perfectly good food that would otherwise have gone to waste.
On the ethical side, as well as using the best local suppliers and making the right choices in terms of sustainability and waste reduction, in the coming months they will be working with Back On Track, a charity which helps get ex-offenders and homeless people back to work.
So what’s the food actually like? Well, it’s still primarily a café, but the difference is that all the cakes, pastries, soups and sandwiches are now being lovingly made from scratch, including the fabulous homemade sourdough. And Manchester’s culinary heritage is at the forefront of the food with Mary-Ellen’s stamp on every dish.
Celeriac, truffle and wild garlic soup was smooth, decadent, and whipped beautifully, the plate looking as pretty as some of the paintings surrounding us. It also tasted like it had been made to order it was that fresh and bursting with summer flavour.
It was carbs delight next as the table was filled with Breville toasties. Who knew Breville are based here in Manchester? Ish. Cheadle Hulme in fact. It’s a match made in heaven with the café’s homemade bread. Black pudding and Lancashire Bomber cheese are served with a particularly tangy and fruity rhubarb ketchup that gives a big thumping kick. Just as good are Tunworth cheese, spring onion, and truffle with a much stronger flavour like a very cheesy crisp.
Sandwiches of the untoasted variety come in the form of home cured salt beef, Old Winchester cheese, mustard and pickled cucumber or potted Lincolnshire Poacher cheddar, caramelised onion chutney, roast celeriac and pickled beets on rye. Both stunning, proper good and chunky sarnies.
Then there’s Derbyshire oatcakes with freshly churned butter, potted cheese, and home cured ham. We have a feeling these will fly out at brunch. As well as all these savouries, we also tried a selection of baked goods – crumbly and light as air scones, warm Eccles cakes with blue cheese – a combination that works surprisingly well -, treacle tart and Chelsea buns. All fresh and all fabulous.
We found it refreshing the food is so unpretentious, affordable, accessible but, most importantly, good. It may have been slightly carb overload today, but we can now say we have a very good idea what the Gallery Café will serve to the vast number of visitors every day as we must have tried the lot.
There will also be more restaurant-style courses plus bespoke menus for all events and private hire.
The Gallery Café is open from 10am to 5pm daily, and Thursdays until 9pm. They also intend to open earlier from September to serve breakfast, so watch this space.