SO Taste of Manchester has a whole new reason to visit Manchester Art Gallery beyond paying our annual homage to Sappho, Charles-August Mengin’s dark and disturbing portrayal of the Greek poetess (read this and understand why).
They’ve enlisted the help of acclaimed former Aumbry chef, Mary-Ellen McTague, to refresh the gallery’s café, making it a destination in its own right, not just a peckish afterthought to the art collection.
Opening on June 16, The Gallery Café will feature updated traditional and classic café dishes, with a focus on the Mancunian culinary heritage. Cakes, pastries, homemade sourdough, soups, sandwiches, salads, cheese boards and braises will feature on the menu.
If that doesn't groundbreakingly exciting from a chef with a CV ranging from Michelin-starred kitchens (notably Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck) to The Real Junk Food Project Manchester, where her pop-ups have spearheaded the fight against food waste, look more closely and it's thrilling.
Everything will be made in-house, including the bread and cured meats, to a standard never seen before in the catering operation. In a sweeping transformation of food values they are even creating a Victorian kitchen garden at the front of the gallery, in collaboration with Lucy Marshall of Lumen Landscapes, to provide some of the produce for the kitchen.
Mary-Ellen (above) said: “The café is in one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in Manchester, right at the heart of the city. Our aim is to create something for all to enjoy; we want to see people coming into our cafe whether or not they are visiting the gallery, because they can count on the quality of the food and drink and a warm welcome.
“We’ll be cooking classic dishes such as quiche and Welsh Rarebit; griddle scones, Chelsea Buns, lardy cake and crumpets; and reviving the Breville toastie.”
The raw materials will be locally sourced where possible, with the milk, eggs and butter coming from nearby farms in Cheshire and Lancashire, and the flour from Yorkshire.
The new drinks menu, to include wine, beer, tea, coffee and soft drinks, has been thoughtfully put together, also using local producers and suppliers.
The children’s menu will be created in partnership with Real Junk Food Manchester, to offer those meals on a pay as you feel basis. RJFM is a not for profit community interest company, sourcing perfectly good food that would otherwise go to waste and cook it up into meals, with a focus on health and nutrition.
The cafe offers 100 covers, table service, and outside seating in front of the gallery will also be available. The Gallery Café will be operational during Gallery hours from 10am to 5pm daily, while offering late night dining on Thursdays until 9pm.
Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3JL.