Nibble, 36 Oldham St, Manchester, M1 1JN – Visit Now
Review by Chris Patrick
I sat down to write this review in a setting that was highly promising from the first. Outside the cafe but protected from the weather by the arcade, a nicely arranged vista of outside seating takes you back from Oldham Street – that famous strip, known for its vibrancy and contrast. Well, you know what I mean. You can just about hear the sirens, the growls of the Spiced and the tweet of the cool, but the setting makes sure that you are not overpowered.
I was able to read a book in peace instead of in bits and pieces – something of a test of a place’s ambience for me; if you prefer taking a person with you instead of a book I’m sure you would be able to carry on a conversation. An ashtray was provided on request – another test passed. We smokers are sometimes unwelcome in nice places, but not here.
Inside, the space is sparkling clean and very nicely decorated. I was surprised to discover that there are only four people working there: no chefs, no porters, and all the furnishings done by hand. The kitchen downstairs supplies the cafe upstairs. Chilli peppers and limes and herbs are grown on site. This has all been put together in the last few months, but you’d never guess.
The coffee comes in a cup that says ‘Hello Gorgeous’, and the salt and pepper come in tiny bottles. This is the sort of considered quirk that I like. Anyone can acquire a slab of slate from Travis Perkins, and serve pulled pork on it, but these tiny bottles had been carefully selected.
The food arrived. I had ordered from the hot sandwich menu, and I went for the slow-cooked oxtail with Monterey Jack cheese and gherkins, on bagel bread. I have a lot to say about the oxtail, but first the side salad: the potatoes had been enhanced with Dijon mustard, the chickpeas with basil and garlic. The fact that it was a side salad had not been taken as a chance to take it easy. It was almost a main act in itself.
Had I ever had better oxtail? I took another bite. Probably not.
Now about this oxtail. It had been slow-cooked for most of the morning in the kitchen, developing deepness and richness until it came to me. And when it got into my mouth it broke apart like a dream. I munched slowly. Had I ever had better oxtail? I took another bite. Probably not. And there was a lot of it, and it had the cheese to tuck it up and the gherkins to keep it awake. The bread and the cheese made this a filling dish, but just enough. It would make an ideal working lunch. In fact, if you work close enough to Nibble to get there within your lunch break I would suggest getting on it like a car bonnet.
It only occurred to me after I’d got through it that I was eating a cheeseburger, only one that had come from a world where people pay attention to flavours; a much higher, a transcended, form of the thing we know from greasier places.
Dessert was a pair of brownies, a standard brownie and a gluten-free version with avocado. I was also given a tiny fork, for this increasingly larger man to toy with. I rather felt like King Belshazzar. Both brownies were excellent, and there was no noticeable difference in texture or flavour between the regular and gluten-free version.
Nibble provides extensive options for vegan and gluten-free dining and also offers wholesale catering. This includes a local gym where they supply food without refined sugar. So if you work nearby, why not take this review to your managers and get them to order the stuff in? You have no excuse.