Jonathan Schofield finds material benefit at Café Cotton

This is a very pleasant place to sit and idle over breakfast or lunch. Café Cotton at Halle St Peter’s in Ancoats sits comfortably on the ground floor of the 2019 extension, known as the Oglesby Centre, to the lovely 1850s former St Peter’s Church. The café and terrace surveys Cutting Room square with calm elegance, a quality lacking round much of the square come 8pm on a Saturday evening. 

The spirit of the food and drink is voguish, pick one of these adjectives, healthy, organic, wholesome

When the Oglesby Centre was completed it immediately became one of Manchester's best new buildings in the last decade or so. The design came from Manchester’s Stephenson Studio (now Stephenson Hamilton Risley Studio), uses brick, to reinforce the connection with both the older church and with the texture of Ancoats itself, and cor-ten steel which reinforces the same industrial aesthetic yet by some alchemy doesn’t jar or appear aggressive.

The design completes Cutting Room Square making it the most satisfying new public space in the city centre. The extension that houses the café is a lovely intro to the beautiful airy interior of the former church which is the main Halle Orchestra rehearsal space. Despite 162 years of history, Halle St Peter’s is the first building the orchestra has actually owned.

290921 Halle St Peters Church Hall
The lovely main rehearsal space in Halle St Peters

We’re fortunate to have the place. The charming and amiable building boss Martin Glynn told me this story in our architectural review in 2019. “We might not have had anything to extend if one local had had his way. I was outside the building a while ago and this man passing by said that several decades ago, as a protest about this part of Manchester being abandoned, as he saw it, he tried to burn the church down three times. I said to him, in that case, we're lucky you’re the world’s worst arsonist.”

290921 Counter Cafe Cotton Ancoats Manchester
The interior resembles a very calming and upmarket canteen
290921 Cafe Cotton Ancoats Manchester
Counter service for take away and waiter service for sit in

Café Cotton's food is good looking and can be taken with beer or wine or an assortment of juices, shakes and so on. Tea and coffee come from the marvellous Atkinsons of Lancaster. 

The spirit of the food and drink is voguish, pick one of these adjectives, healthy, organic, wholesome, and you’d be on the right track. There are loads of veggie and vegan choices on a menu which is heavy on sandwiches and salads; spot-on for the youngish audience packing the place out on my Monday lunch trip. It was as busy as an Ancoats spinning mill in 1852. There was good trade for both sit in and take away options. 

290921 Melt At Cafe Cotton Ancoats Manchester
Juicy and filling Italian melt at Cafe Cotton

My "Italian melt" sandwich (£6) was all very Mediterranean (the Med is the main food inspiration at Café Cotton) with hams, cheese and leaves. It was juicy folks, moist, succulent and a proper lunchtime filler as well. There was a pile of rocket sharing the plate and while the sandwich was moist that was, as usual, dry. I suggest putting some oil, salt and pepper on the table. 

290921 Borlotti Salad At Cafe Cotton Ancoats Manchester
A colourful borlotti bean salad at Cafe Cotton

A borlotti bean salad at £4 was a pretty thing of greens and reds packed with the stated beans plus celery, peppers, rocket and tomatoes. It glistened with oil and delivered a good crunch and again it was a filler. The salad combined well with the sandwich. A large bottle of Estrella Damm (£5) did the same and worked well with the fine carrot cake (£3.50). 

It’s my delight to snaffle the icing off carrot cakes first - or indeed any such item, get straight to the sweetness. This throws me back to the sheer joy of wiping round the cake-mix bowl with a finger when my mum was baking and I was about six. 

290921 Beer And Cake At Cafe Cotton Ancoats Manchester
That icing on the carrot cakes looks to have a very limited life expectancy

Café Cotton is very good but be aware this is not an evening venue. It closes at five on weekdays and six at weekends. 

Mind you it does open at 8am (9am weekends) and the full English breakfast at £10.75 looks beguiling with two organic poached eggs, Grandad's Sausages, smoked pancetta, field mushroom, slow roast tomato, hash browns and sourdough toast. I’d rather have thick-cut Warburtons toast. I’m a bit tired of the overuse of bloody sourdough to be frank, but I’ll definitely return for that brekky. I wonder if they’ll let me BYOT (Bring Your Own Toaster) to for the Warburtons. 

Café Cotton 40 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6BF

Cafe Cotton Bill

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.

  • Food 6.5/10

    Foccacia 7, salad 6, cake 6

  • Service 3/5

    Very good service. An error was quickly rectified with many apologies.

  • Atmosphere 3/5

    A very serene venue despite a hectic Monday lunch