When the cafe at Manchester Museum, Cafe Muse, shut down I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I had lost a local place to have a quick soup but on the other hand, I was excited to see what would be replacing it. In the past, Cafe Muse has had debatable food which I often felt was overpriced. With the announcement that Teacup (of Northern Quarter heritage) would be taking over, I was waiting in anticipation for the day it would finally be open. I had high expectations for this takeover and was keen to add another lunch place to my list. This is also fueled by the fact that they had open a stall inside the museum selling a few sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee. As soon as The Cafe at the Museum opened, I decided to go over there with a colleague.
Phil: And that colleague would be me. Another lunchification option is always welcome of course. This one I see as most directly competing with Christie’s and Kro in terms of price, menu and location. Let’s see how we go along…
There is still a lot of building work happening outside of Manchester Museum, so the entrance to The Cafe at The Museum can be hard to find. This is thankfully helped by a nice blackboard sign places outside the cafe (notable added a few days after launch and not initially). You can also enter the cafe through Manchester Museum itself.
Elsa: The Cafe has been refurbished with stark white walls, olive grey accent walls and dark wood and furniture. Several posters and banners are put up relating to the contents of the museum, but I can’t help but feel like the place feels awfully clinical. Perhaps a more cheerful colour for the accent walls? Or some plants? The cake table certainly makes an impact and the food in the display case looks appealing. I’m also quite fond of the clipboard wall showcasing items from the menu. I hope they change this up every so often!
Phil: I agree – the interior is stark right now. Too much white. The high ceilings make it feel quite airy, but then the long tables along the front wall in combination with the natural history/anatomical/botanical pictures lend it the feeling of a 19th-century biology lab. I’m not sure I want to eat and drink in a 19th-century biology lab. It’s an improvement on what was here before, but it needs some warmer colours across more of the wall space. The acoustics could use a little work too. Just a little absorption would work wonders – as it is the space is very hard and clattery.
The menus are relatively small in comparison to the Northern Quarter branch, but that’s to be expected from a smaller premises. The selection of teas is quite varied although at about £4 a pot it is quite pricey. When I came in here initially, my colleague and I shared a pot between us but on a second visit we were informed that one pot had tea for one person, so we were forced to get two pots. I found this unnecessary as despite the free water refills, in a short lunch hour we didn’t manage any on the second visit (we did on the first) and I felt the tea leaves were wasted as you weren’t getting all the flavour out of them.
The food is fairly pricey but made well. I found the portions ok, maybe slightly on the smaller side of things. They also do salads from which you can choose two of for £3 or three for £4. The range included a couscous salad, a lentil salad, some leafy salads etc.
Elsa: As per Teacup’s tradition, you are given two teapots when you order a pot of tea, one which contains the tea and the other from which to decant the tea into to stop further brewing. A timer is also given to indicate the strength of tea given for different brewing times, although this is a guidance only.
The teas themselves are very nice and good quality. With sharing one pot of tea, I found there was enough table space but if each person was given their own pot I found table space to be a bit of a struggle.
Phil: That timer! It is lovely and doesn’t feel too much like a gimmick, but the “strong” option isn’t. Turn the thing over to add another “weak” (7-8 minutes) if you want it strong. Selection of teas is good. I’m no expert, so it’s quite pleasant to have the opportunity to try some more esoteric offerings. So far: Rosy Earl and Assam. They have four or five different variations on Earl Grey on the menu.
Phil: The Eggs Royale (when it arrived…) was good overall and sufficient in size. Eggs perfectly poached, toast spot on. Plenty of smoked salmon. Hollandaise, though. What’s it for? And why bother when it apparently takes so much faffing about to make? It tastes basically like nothing and I even get the feeling what I had was a good Hollandaise.
Elsa: The eggs were maybe slightly underdone as they were wetter than I would have liked, but still very good. The toast was slightly more charred than I would have liked as well. There was plenty of chorizo though and it was flavoured well.
Additional photos from another visit
Overall rating and comments
Elsa: 7/10 Since writing this review, the salad bar has been my go-to place for a healthy takeaway lunch that’s different from other salad bars! This changes with the seasons. This has primarily affected my rating of the place from my first visit below. The clinical setting has warmed up since the addition of facilities to entertain children and I believe the staff have improved with the speed side of things. The portion sizing and pricing is still debatable depending on what you get, but the soup of the day, the bowl of the day and the salads are solid choices. I still find the cakes to be overly sweet though.
(5.5/10 -1 long wait for mains, -0.5 overly clinical setting, -1 portion size/pricing, -1 for teapot sharing rules, -0.5 oversweet cakes, – 0.5 slow staff. This is the first week The Cafe at The Museum by Teacup is open so there are obvious teething problems. We were informed on Monday that everyone working today is new, no one from the original Teacup in Northern Quarter was on hand to help so we waited a very long 45 min before our mains arrived. The staff have been very friendly despite all this so I can’t fault them for that, although it can take a while to grab the attention of a staff member for teapot refills and obtaining the bill. The cakes are huge for £3.50 but I found the icing used in all of Teacup’s cakes to be overly sweet. I much prefer getting my cakes elsewhere if I’m honest, especially because the selection is always the same at Teacup whereas it rotates in my favourite places, Sugar Junction and Richmond Tea Rooms.)
Phil: 6/10. I’m not going into ladles of detail here. Too long a wait for our food (with which I’m largely sympathetic toward owing to a couple of days they’d been open), but super friendly service, good food and drink. The interior really needs work, though – too cold and uninviting as it is.
Would visit again?
Elsa: Maybe if I was craving a breakfast meal for lunch. I have yet to give their sandwiches a try so may try that out next. I may abstain from the cakes as I feel there are better cakes elsewhere. The salads are the highlight of this place so far, but at the current wait times, it’s not worth the quick lunch I want from a place like this. Since writing this review, the salad bar has been my go to place for a healthy takeaway lunch that’s different from other salad bars!
Phil: Certainly, if only to see if and how they improve (which I hope they do) with age and experience.
Address: Manchester Museum, Oxford Rd, Manchester M13 9RN