Food & Drink Survey 2014: Best Cafes, Northwest

Your votes in the Best Cafe category revealed you favour high quality but ultimately fuss-free coffee. And also, literally everything with inch-thick salted caramel icing

Feature by Jamie Faulkner | 06 Jan 2014

There was a time... a time when cafes were the place to be seen and heard; hotbeds of political fervour, brimming with debate and discussion. Imagine Sartre and De Beauvoir at Les Deux Magots in the 40s, and you’ll get the idea. Then, cafes were gradually superseded by the pub, and became something much tamer – more of a haven for freelance creative-types desperate to work anywhere but home than a revolutionary breeding ground. Now, if you’re seen, it should never be sans laptop and, if you’re heard, expect some death-stares over those flat whites.

But, in a certain way, this is what we love about them. They’re part of that paradoxically caffeinated yet tranquil realm where, if there’s any artifice, at least it’s quiet artifice.

Maybe that’s what you were thinking when you voted for Manchester’s North Tea Power as one of your favourite spots. It’s been doing rather well at the seemingly simplistic art of running a café for several years now in the Northern Quarter, an area that feels saturated by variations on the theme. Regardless of the name, they take their coffee very seriously: it’s all V60s and Aeropresses, coffee specials boards and latte art, while grilled and cold sandwiches, pastries and loose-leaf teas cater for the hungry and the foolish non-coffee drinkers.

Did we say the Northern Quarter was saturated? Considering the rate at which new places are popping up, Home Sweet Home are almost young veterans of the scene. They’re less a cafe and more an American-inspired diner (at least food-wise) that hovers between Britain and the States in terms of styling – but that didn’t stop you voting for them. It’s worth a visit for the cheeseburger toastie alone, but the cookies, cakes and shakes have also won many plaudits. Sourdough kings and all-round great bakers Trove – doing wonderful breakfasts and a regular pizza night featuring their bready wares – also made a name for themselves in your results.

In Liverpool, you liked Leaf. However, you also thought they were a great place for a first date (see above) so we shan’t repeat ourselves. That just leaves us (wahey!) with Bold Street Coffee, who’ve become, without too much exaggeration, a Liverpudlian institution. They've won many an accolade along the way, bordering as they do on the right side of indie cool: even though their coffee geekery extends to coffee processing tastings and stocking Has Bean, Square Mile and Workshop coffees, there’s a distinct lack of pretension about the whole endeavour of getting a coffee there.

Given that even this simple pleasure can often seem far too trying these days, that’s no bad thing.