Breville toasties and Manchester tarts amongst new menu entries, as former Aumbry chef reopens café today with a focus on local dishes

The great British toastie revival starts here: Mary-Ellen McTague is breaking out the Breville toaster as she relaunches Manchester Art Gallery’s café today with a focus on local culinary heritage. 

The humble toasted sarnie is served up with the likes of Bury black pudding, rhubarb ketchup and Lancashire bomber cheese under the former Aumbry chef, who was recently brought in to refresh the café. Previously tendered by the council, it’s now operated through the gallery’s charitable trust as an in-house business, with all profits being ploughed back into the gallery.   

The change also means McTague (pictured top) has freedom to choose her suppliers, most of whom are local: from Manchester Veg People to Second City Coffee. Meat, milk, eggs, flour and herbs come from Gazegill Organics in Clitheroe while cheese is from The Courtyard in Settle - who also supply the likes of L’Enclume and Moor Hall - and butter from Williams Farm. Oh, and Portland supplies the wine. 

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Simple food made well is the premise, with the aforementioned toasties joining a host of baked goods spanning Eccles cakes to cinnamon buns and McTague’s famed treacle tart. Sandwiches featuring bread made onsite are another staple; with fillings such as home-cured salt beef, Old Winchester cheese, mustard and pickled cucumber.

Elsewhere find Derbyshire oatcakes with freshly-churned butter, soups such as celeriac with truffle oil and wild garlic plus a small range of cooked dishes like beef stovie, seared hake with cockle broth and (come September) proper English breakfast. 

The minimalist interior remains light and airy - with olive green walls, pine furniture and an open prep kitchen where visitors can watch McTague and her ten-strong kitchen team at work. 

Like the gallery, the café will be open 10am-5pm daily, with late-night opening until 9pm on Thursdays, when, on sunny evenings, visitors can take advantage of outdoor seating and a mobile wine bar. Brunch and afternoon tea are available, along with event catering, and McTague eventually plans to host gallery events. 

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Families are in luck, as the café now boasts a pay-as-you-feel kids’ menu, taking inspiration from McTague’s other role as director of the Real Junk Food Project. Soon to open as a café in Ancoats, this intercepts food that would otherwise go to waste and serves it up as flavoursome meals on a PAYF basis. Similarly to Real Junk Food, the Gallery Café will also work with local charity Back on Track, offering work placements to disadvantaged people and the chance to earn a hospitality NVQ.  

“They both have a similar ethos: community-focused, accessible and affordable,” says McTague. “Just like the gallery itself, which is free entry and a real source of civic pride.”

The Gallery Café is now open 10am-5pm daily (until 9pm Thursdays) - Mosley Street, M2 3JL