Manchester is proving to be the place for vegan afternoon tea. Google as I may, it seems to be slim pickings out there for other cities. But this is my third in Manchester, and I’m hopeful of finding a few more. Teacup, for non-Mancunians, is a charming little cafe in the Northern Quarter, famed for its colourful and towering layer cakes.
Alas, it is not famed for being vegan-friendly: generally speaking, there are no vegan cakes on the menu. However, when I emailed an enquiry, they told me they would be happy to provide vegan afternoon tea, even breaking their own strict no-reservations policy (there’s often a queue out the door). And yet…still no vegan cake.
It was an unusual afternoon tea, but I really enjoyed it. Proceedings got off to a pretty poor start, when we waited thirty minutes for our afternoon tea (despite the fact that we’d booked it in advance), and had already drained our teapots. Fortunately we managed to get refills (rose tea is now my favourite accompaniment to afternoon tea, it’s glorious) when the elegant racks of food finally arrived. The savoury plate was different from the norm: a delightful falafel wrap (a little on the dry side though, and could have done with a slap of hummus), some nicely seasoned salad leaves, beautiful tomatoes and a little bucket of olives. It was like a normal sandwich dish condensed into finger food, and it was really good.
In the absence of scones and cakes, the only baked good was the biscuit. It was almost biscotti-like in its crispness, though the centre was a wee bit softer. The chocolate was dark and rich, and there was a nice touch of spice. I loved them, because I like dry biscuits, but my companions would have preferred just one biscuit alongside another treat. The two biscuits were accompanied by a little pot of raspberry sorbet, which had melted by the time we got to it. There were also two pretty little truffles from BonBon Chocolatier, just around the corner from Teacup. The gold one was described as “rum sozzled”, and that was certainly an accurate description: there was a lot of booze in there!
When I first saw there was a fruit plate, my blood began to boil. Fruit?! As part of afternoon tea? But I may have been a little hasty. The pineapple didn’t do much for me – it was sweet and fresh, but not really special. The jug contained a thin yellow drink that had no discernible flavour – we’d been expecting something lemon curd-based, or with tropical mango flavours perhaps, but none of us could identify the taste. The passionfruit was sublime, but the real star of the show was the strawberry. It was dipped in white chocolate and we could see something crunchy on the outside: nuts, we assumed. Yet as soon as I took a bit, the popping candy started whizzing and fizzing in my mouth. What an unexpected treat!
In conclusion, it was a surprising afternoon tea. I felt a little disappointed not to have had even a sliver of cake. I feel if a place that’s famous for its spectacular cake promises an afternoon tea, they should at least attempt a vegan cake. It was mostly delicious, and I wasn’t hungry when I left, but nor did I feel that I’d really had what I’d wanted. Is just a little bit of cake too much to ask for?