WE love the word banter in sport. It covers everything from gentle ribbing in the showers to full-on abuse at a team-mate’s metrosexual tendencies. So we’d like to have been a fly on the wall when Jon Wilkin and Mark Flanagan announced to the St Helens RL squad they were planning to open a boutique coffee house together in Manchester.
“There was some banter, yes,’’ admits Mark, known to Saints fans as 'The Flash'. “But some of the lads have been in and loved the place.”
And it’s not just about coffee at Pot Kettle Black. The partners have already added Friday evening acoustic sessions, a book club and rooftop fitness work-outs to the sustainable coffee offering and snack menu.
There’s a lot to love in this high, glass-fronted space in Deansgate’s Barton Arcade that used to be Kitchen, dining arm of the private members Circle Club in the basement below. It’s a stark but warm hang-out where you could imagine ordering successive Flat Whites through the morning while surfing the net with the free Wi-fi.
Those Flat Whites (or whatever your cup of choice) will be made with beans from London’s Workshop roastery, run by Flanagan family friends. Mark himself discovered coffee didn’t have to be the dull, harsh beast flogged by the high street chains when he was playing in Australia. Hence the website call to arms:
"We want to challenge what is currently perceived as 'good coffee'. Over roasted, burnt and smoky flavours will be replaced by a lighter and much more delicate roast. The natural fruity tones of the coffee cherry will be extracted. Our suppliers are constantly tasting for consistency and we want to pass on their expertise to you. If you want the science we can talk about it. If you just want a good brew that’s fine by us too."
The core coffee PKB uses for standard espresso, Piccolo, Flat While, Latte and Cappuccino is Workshop’s ‘Cult of Done’. Prices start at £2.30 for an espresso, rising to £3.50 for a cup of one of their exclusive filter specialities.
Their filter systems enable them to explore more exclusive lots sourced by their Clerkenwell-based suppliers direct from farmers on countries such as Rwanda, Kenya and Colombia. From the latter Mark introduced me to Finca Tamina Lot No1. Read the label above to see its detailed provenance. And, yes, there was a honeyed nose (very like a Crunchie bar actually), followed by that balance of malt and gentle apple acidity. To appreciate, take without milk – a world away from the harshness of dark roasted coarse beans the big coffee houses inflict on us.
PKB’s rooftop fitness workouts
On Tuesday mornings there’s "PKBlast" bootcamp sessions with trainer Adam Crofts and on Wednesdays "PKBreathe" yoga sessions with Sarah Shimwell. Both sessions are from 7am until 7.45am. Sessions are £12 with breakfast and a coffee or smoothie.