Tea 42, 58 High Street, Manchester, M4 1EF – Visit Now
This newly opened café in Manchester’s Northern Quarter wasn’t our food enthusiast’s cup of tea.
Marble tabletops and bespoke white leather chairs. A Rob Ryan-style frieze of the Manchester skyline wrapping around the room. Street signs pointing the way to Darjeeling and Assam. This, my friends, is new arrival Tea 42, and it’s quite the spectacle. There are mystifying black and white photographs of pretty people and horrible verse with puns and hashtags on the walls. No ‘cute’ or ‘fun’ stone has been left unturned. They’ve all been turned over, buffed up and painted pink or white at a total cost of approximately £325,000. The result feels kind of like having tea inside the Barbie Dream House with Barbara Cartland.
All this is clearly targeted at the laydeez in town for shopping at the recently botoxed and vajazzled Arndale across the road. Yes, across the road, cut off by tram tracks, on a grim stretch of no-mans-land between two neighbourhoods. But the location is near Blue Rainbow Aparthotels, whose owners opened the place in November, and plan to roll out 20 more Tea 42s across this happy land, hence the lavish kit out for their mothership.
Tea 42 is like having tea inside the Barbie Dream House with Barbara Cartland
Okay, so the decorating isn’t my thing, but it hasn’t been designed to appeal to people who are happy skulking around Northern Quarter coffee bars full of mismatched furniture and odd smelling dudes. We’re already served by the market. These guys are doing something different, and some people will love it. For instance, if you know a grown woman who shops at the Disney store for herself (I think we all know one), take her here – the Jasmine tea is called Princess Jasmine! It’s one of 25 different loose leaf blends at £3.55 a pop. I had the lemon and apple Oliver Twist while my friend went for Peaches (no cream). They were suitably fragrant and served with honey. Tea-infused cocktails, and regular old wine, beer and cider are also on offer; evening opening is in the works.
The food menu is surprisingly vast, offering sarnies and platters alongside substantial mains like pork belly and braised shin of beef. It’s not what you expect from a tea room, but despite the name this place has aspirations to be the kind of all-rounder where you come for a meal, a snack or some drinks (like another new arrival, SuperStore). We tried the antipasti platter (£14.95), a sharing board featuring decent quality meats and cheeses, disappointing olives, and bread so characterless we basically forgot it was there.
Feeling duty-bound to submit to the high tea experience we worked our way up one of those stacked plate thingies, pricey at £18.95 per person, but we shared one. Ground floor: pleasant enough sandwiches and canapés. First floor: scones. These were good. Massive – slightly too much baking powder maybe – and studded with currants. Be ready to demand more jam and cream, you can’t fit much in the wonton spoons they serve it in. To the penthouse for intensely-sweet gluten-free puddings; Tea 42 offers whole gluten-free menus. We got a wee pink macaroon oozing chocolate, a tiny profiterole, and a miniature brownie that could see an anthill through winter. Weirdly, the doll-sized lemon posset wasn’t sweet enough.
Overall it was a pretty good, if slightly puzzling, experience. Needless to say, it’s back to the mismatched furniture and odd-smelling dudes for me, where my trip to Barbieland will probably come to seem like a sugar-induced hallucination. But you come and have a go, if you think you’re lady enough.
This is an independent review, but our writer didn’t pay for her meal. For more info on our editorial policy, read our About page.