Lucy Tomlinson enjoys the food but still doesn't know much about coffee
Everyone has their taste blindspot – mine is anything and everything to do with coffee. Which is not to say I don’t drink it, but more as a crutch and a deadline enabler rather than from a place of sophisticated appreciation. I’m not quite at the frappe-latte caramel shortbread frostino phase – which everyone knows is just a milkshake for people who can't admit their sugar addiction - but I have been known to make grown Italian waiters cry by ordering a cappuccino after noon. Sorry, lads.
Call me a snowflake but I actually prefer a bit of avocado and some artisanal baked beans to a sweaty sausage
Once upon a time a distinguished professor of neuroscience decided he was going to educate me about coffee, from the different terroirs (it’s grown in over 70 countries, fun fact, all between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn) to flavour profiles, from chocolate to burnt sugar to oranges. His only rule: never drink it with milk. Well I tried my best, but I still like a latte. Sorry, prof.
This is not to disparage people who know their aeropresses from their Keurigs. Good for them, in this capitalist age we all need our own particular minutiae to get obsessed with. But to me it’s like knowing about electrical appliances or researching energy tariffs. All solid information in principle, but in practice my brain checked out a while ago.
Even in my ignorance though, I know Seed & Cherry, the newish brunch and specialist coffee house in the Northern Quarter, is named after the parts of a coffee fruit rather than, say, types of cake, though there is a handy infographic on the wall in case I should ever forget. Luckily I’m not here to assess the speciality grade beans from destinations including Colombia, Rwanda, Brazil and Kenya; all ethically grown and processed with part of the proceeds going to support projects in the local communities. That's way above my pay grade. As usual, I’m here to fill my belly.
Seed & Cherry is concealed within the entrance of the old Pall Mall building on Church Street, which has the effect of being imposingly grand and intriguingly secretive at the same time. The interior is soothingly modernist, nodding to the usual tropes (lots of plants, dirty pastels) but avoiding the typical Northern Quarter self-conscious scruffiness. Instead, the high ceilings and European feel make it more like a place where spies with excellent taste in caffeinated beverages might meet to exchange intel.
As neither a coffee lover nor a spook, you might think that Seed & Cherry is not the right place for me. Actually as a coffee 'novice' (or, if you prefer, ‘idiot’) it should be great, as the brunch house promises to educate my palate, if I so choose, with coffee tastings. However, as a casual visitor it's all extremely low-key and non-patronising – all the names on the drinks menu are recognisable and pronounceable – and I’m keen to try out the less hyped part of the deal, the food.
First up is a very creditable vegan breakfast (£4.90) – which I instantly deveganised by adding a poached egg (£1 extra). These days I find vegetarian or vegan breakfasts preferable to their meaty sisters because I just can’t handle three processed pork products at once any more. Call me a snowflake but I actually prefer a bit of avocado and some artisanal baked beans to a sweaty sausage. The beetroot-based black pudding was an especially nice touch. I did enjoy one nod to naughtiness though - the deep-fried hash brown was straight from the McDonalds school of processed potato.
My friend ordered the roasted cauliflower and crunchy chickpea salad (£7.90) and very moreish those crispy little legumes were too. The cauliflower was a bit more forgettable, a missed opportunity to impart some spices during the roasting, but overall a good salad. Each dish was light enough that we felt justified in trying out some sides, too.
I adored the tamarind potatoes (£4), which came with asparagus and a perfectly cooked poached egg. Tamarind can be a bit of a tricky flavour because it can be bitter, but here is was sweet-sour and sticky. Likewise the halloumi skewers (£4.90) were satisfyingly squeaky, with the excellent coriander chutney making a pleasing contrast. I was less enthralled with the Parmesan truffle oil fries (£3.30), which were perfectly lovely chips but the truffle oil seemed like overkill.
Seed & Cherry doesn't serve alcohol, but it does do a nice range of smoothies if coffee isn't your thing. I ordered the cacao, maca and hemp chocolate smoothie (£4.80, which seemed like a lot compared to the rest of the otherwise not-too-expensive menu) and it turned up looking like an expensive candle but thankfully tasted a lot better. There is also not a lot of meat on the menu - just some chicken and fish - which is a refreshing change. The meat here is the afterthought, so, without feeling the need to be pigeonholed as a vegetarian cafe per se, Seed & Cherry will no doubt be popular with vegetarians and healthy types and I would have no problem recommending it as a 'veggie-led' cafe.
But I was still tangling with the coffee issue - should I be waxing lyrical about bouquet and cup character by now? Would the neuroscientist be terribly disappointed that I still order lattes? Next day I popped back in to meet another friend for coffee and a plate of vegan pancakes (£4.20) encrusted with cinnamon and served with a berry compote. I asked her what she thought of her flat white (£2.70). "It's great!" she replied, which, after all my worrying, was simple endorsement enough for me.
Seed & Cherry, 20 Church Street, Manchester, M4 1PN
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
(breakfast 6, chickpea salad 6, halloumi skewers 7, tamarind potatoes 8, truffle fries 5, pancakes 6)
They'll offer you coffee tastings if you ask
Quiet and soothing