David Adamson takes a mid-morning stroll past one bakery beginning with G and into another
Every morning I make two Moka pots of corpse-reviving, bible-black espresso and decant it into a flask to keep me periodically propped up until home time.
If you’re coppering up then it’s a cost-effective way to still enjoy one of the finer things in life. If you’re not coppering up, however, then I can see why you’d go to Gail’s.
The bakery brand has made a march on The North in recent months, with shops opening in the middling strongholds of Wilmslow, then Altrincham, then Didsbury, and now inside the 'castle's walls' of King Street in the city centre.
Come wintertime when the windows steam up and cafes become somewhere homely and incubating it will be fighting away hordes like Dawn of the Dead
I wandered down there from our office, past that much more ubiquitous bakery beginning with G, and treated myself to a few bits and pieces.
Kitted out like a kindly craft workshop - all soft wood tones, tidy brickwork and pastel furniture - it seems it’s been made up as somewhere to while away an hour or two, rather than for throwing a volcanic cappuccino down you before catching the bus.
I ordered a flat white (£3.60) and a ham and cheese croissant (£5.40) along with three madeleines (£3.60) and a pistachio, lemon and rose cake (£4.75) - such is the torture of reviewing somewhere, you need a full picture of what’s on offer. Therefore, dessert is just one of those things you have to suffer, even in the morning.
Ham and cheese croissants are one of those delights that can go so horribly wrong, speaking as someone who’s unwrapped a few sweaty efforts outside lonely petrol stations.
The ones on offer at Gail’s looked just right - sliced open to reveal the sedimentary layers of pastry, with deep pink and thickly sliced ham laid next to melted cheese that cools back into rich, chalky shards, all bound up in that lightly mustardy béchamel.
It would have been a winner, but they only serve them cold. I took this news with the crushing disappointment of someone who’d headed there looking forward to a warm and nap-inducing favourite.
The friendly server said the quality goes down when they warm them, and they don’t have microwaves. It was still nice, but in the competition for mid-morning breakfast it could have been a contender, were it not stone cold.
The flat white was picture perfect, the top swirled into a heart shape with such precision you wonder how many they must make in a morning, never mind a day. The coffee was very nice, and just bitter enough without tipping into the kind of taste that turns your face inside out. However, and not to sound like your nan in a National Trust tearoom, it wasn’t warm enough.
The madeleines were wonderful. That’s it. No notes. They achieve everything you want from that particular patisserie short of sending you tumbling through the corridors of your own hippocampus.
The pistachio, lemon and rose cake was similarly spot on - a perfect balance of the subtly nutty sponge, shot through with spots of lemon and generously topped with a rosey, slightly citrusy icing.
Gail’s has got everything a good bakery should and come winter when the windows steam up and cafes become somewhere homely and incubating it will be fighting away hordes like Dawn of the Dead.
But for the hottest bakery in Manchester, the coffee and croissants could be hotter.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type, so tea rooms are measured against other tea rooms, casual dining against other casual dining, fine dining against other fine dining.
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.
Flat white 6, ham and cheese croissant 6, madeleines 8, pistachio lemon and rose cake 7
Friendly, timely and attentive
A bakery can only create so much buzz, but nice for finding a quiet corner. Around lunchtime the till begins to resemble the starting grid at Silverstone.