Newest Review: ... They are all genuinely friendly and the John Hurt look-a-like Keith just exudes charm and worldly wisdom as he sits with his everlasting... more
Manchester's Most Charming Cafe
The Ginnel (Manchester)
Member Name: Kjartan
The Ginnel (Manchester)
Date: 26/04/02, updated on 26/04/02 (307 review reads)
Advantages: Unique, chilled, and serves tasty food
Disadvantages: None unless you take partners who are obsessed with 50's/60's glassware
This secret hideaway is just off the beaten track in Manchester’s constantly changing city-centre. In a cappuccino-soaked city-centre full of chains of plastic coffee bars and trendy expensive sandwich shops, The Ginnel is an oasis – one of the few diminishing places left that has real charm, excellent service and delicious food for a reasonable price.
The Ginnel covers a vast area (larger than you realise on your first visits) in the basement of Lloyd’s House, Lloyd Street which runs off one of the corners of Albert Square, the city’s centre of government, law and finance. The Ginnel itself comprises of The Ginnel Gallery, a huge antiques and collectables centre and the café. If you walk through the hubbub of Albert Square and turn into Lloyd Street the pace immediately slows down and the atmosphere becomes calmer and more relaxed.
As you walk down the steps into The Ginnel the first thing to greet you is the café which is set within the antiques centre itself. Although set off from the collectables, the tables seem to be surrounded by strange and mysterious objects (and people do tend to go wandering off whilst dining coming back with glassware that we can just about afford to stretch our budget to). As soon as you enter you feel relaxed, away from all the city noise and chaos. The staff - Keith, Julie, Kay and Cath – always seem to be Zen-like in their state of chilled-out-ness. They are all genuinely friendly and the John Hurt look-a-like Keith just exudes charm and worldly wisdom as he sits with his everlasting cig only being interrupted to casually and graciously serve the food. (For the non-smokers, the café is split into non- and smoking areas, and the non-smoking is situated near the windows and the light.)
One of the qualities I love best about The Ginnel is its ability to cater for most (but all of mine) occasions. In the week, it serves the lunch-time city-centre workers crowd turning them
into civilized beings and even at the height of the lunch-time business it retains its relaxed atmosphere. It is the perfect place to meet and eat with friends and it is an ideal place to take any visiting relatives who are quickly charmed by its collectables and uniqueness (and afternoon teas). The best times for me yet though in The Ginnel have been the post-club very late Saturday mornings when you need proper food and loving care. Keith looked after us superbly letting us stay for hours talking and reading newspapers and bringing us strawberry milkshakes followed by free strawberry milkshakes and piles of toast followed by full-on lunch-time specials until we were fit to face the world again.
The fixed menu is quite extensive and caters equally for vegetarians and meat-eaters and includes (following lists are not exhaustive):
Appetizers – soup of the day, potato wedges, salads and Shashlik mushrooms (which I would recommend) – Prices range between £1.95 - £3.50
Savouries – Philly sandwich, Avocado Cheese Melt, Giant BLT, Steak sandwich, Home-Cured Salt Beef with feta, olives in pitta (again recommended), and a huge variety of sandwiches (cold, hot and toasted) and baked potatoes – Prices range between £3.25 - £5.50
Something more substantial – Fresh salmon, Cheese and Mushroom Puff Pastry Parcel, Pasta dishes, Steak & Mushroom pie (recommended), all of these dishes are served with potatoes (sautéed or jacket) and seasonal vegetables – Prices range from £4.50 - £6.50)
Salads – Salad Nicoise, Greek (recommended), Hot Lemon Chicken, Salmon & Prawn – Prices range from £3.50 - £5)
Pudding eaters will be satisfied with the range of cakes, ice-cream and home-made crepes.
In addition to the fixed menu, The Ginnel also has daily changing specials and these are very good both to eat and in price. Again the specials are balanced equally for veggies and carni
vores including for example, potato wedges with spicy mixed peppers, mushrooms, leeks and melted cheese and tuna fishcakes with lemon salad.
Food is served between 11am-ish and last orders are taken at 41.5pm.
Drinks-wise, The Ginnel has a range of teas, coffees, soft drinks, juices and milkshakes but it is also fully licensed and serves wines, beers, spirits and liquors.
On my most recent visit I was taken there by my partner to celebrate her new job and first pay-cheque and we had (this may look greedy but we were there for some time contemplating her new hair-cut):
3 strawberry milkshakes
2 apple juices
Shashlik mushrooms (extremely tasty, we were trying to work out the ‘special stuff’ they put in them)
Baked Potato with Brie and Coleslaw
Steak & Mushroom Pie with jacket potato and seasonal vegetables
Hot Apple Granny and cream (my partner swears that this was to die for)
Scone, butter and jam
Pot of Earl Grey
Pot of English
This came to £20 which for the stuffed-ness, chilled-out-ness and contentment we got was well worth it.
Before I finish, there are the antiques and collectables – another opinion in itself – but just to say that the Art Deco stuff and the 50’s/60’s glassware is fantastic. A word of warning – if you go (and you should) and if you like the rugs with the Andy Warhol prints of Marilyn, Elvis and Campbell Soup (which I do) – don’t ask Keith what price they are – they’re his treasures and not for sale no matter how much you try to persuade him.
So if you live in Manchester and you’ve never been or if you visit Manchester (which you should) then check out The Ginnel because it is unique, charming and what more can I say?
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