Former Aumbry chef to refresh The Gallery Café menu, with a pay-as-you-feel option and a focus on local dishes

Manchester Art Gallery may have recently said goodbye to director Maria Balshaw as she takes over as boss of the Tate, but there’s good news for the venue’s café at least. 

Acclaimed local chef Mary-Ellen McTague is to help develop a ‘new and exciting concept’ for the gallery café, which will feature 'updated traditional' dishes, with a focus on Mancunian culinary heritage.

Opening on 16 June, The Gallery Café will serve cakes, pastries, homemade sourdough, soups, sandwiches, salads, cheese boards and braises, alongside classic hot dishes. Food will be locally sourced where possible; with milk, eggs and butter coming from nearby farms in Cheshire and Lancashire, and flour from Yorkshire.

A Victorian kitchen garden located at the front of the gallery, created in collaboration with Lucy Marshall of Lumen Landscapes, will provide some kitchen produce. And everything where possible will be made in-house, from bread to cured meats.

The children’s menu, meanwhile, is being created in partnership with Real Junk Food Manchester - of which McTague is executive chef - to offer children's meals on a pay as you feel basis, in line with the organisation’s ethos. The non-for-profit company intercepts good food that would otherwise go to waste, whipping it up into tasty pay-as-you-feel meals with a focus on health and nutrition. The waste warriors recently announced their latest pop-up, dinner on a double decker bus, ahead of a permanent Ancoats opening in July. 

Manchester Art Gallery
McTague is to modernise the gallery's cafe

Mary-Ellen McTague is best known for her award-winning Prestwich restaurant, which she ran from 2009 to 2014, but has also worked at the Michelin-starred Sharrow Bay Country House and developed dishes for The Hind’s Head: Heston Blumenthal’s Bray restaurant. She is also known for her creative collaborations and TV appearances, such as Great British Menu, and joined the Real Junk Food Manchester in February last year.

Of her partnership with MAG Gallery, McTague said: “The café is in one of the most beautiful and iconic buildings in Manchester, right at the heart of the city. Our aim is to create something for all to enjoy; we want to see people coming into our cafe whether or not they are visiting the gallery, because they can count on the quality of the food and drink and a warm welcome.”

“We’ll be cooking classic dishes such as quiche and Welsh Rarebit; griddle scones, Chelsea Buns, lardy cake and crumpets; and reviving the Breville toastie”

170517 Mary Ellen Mc Tague 2
McTague is also executive chef of Real Junk Food Manchester

Of course, with the Manchester Art Gallery boasting over six centuries of art and design, there’ll be no shortage of interior inspiration either.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Culture at Manchester City Council, said: “Manchester Art Gallery is not only a place where the city’s great art treasures are available for everyone to enjoy. It’s also a great social space for local people and visitors to the city. The addition of Mary-Ellen’s new café brings brilliant and affordable food to the gallery, to make a visit even better.”

Thom Hetherington, who has recently been appointed as a Trustee of Manchester Art Gallery, said: "The gallery has nourished the souls of Mancunians and tourists for generations, but it is important that it also fills their bellies. Mary-Ellen delivers clever, crowd-pleasing and ethical food which will match the ambitions of the gallery and undoubtedly attract a new audience to one of the city's most delightful dining spaces."

The Gallery Cafe offers 100 covers, table service and outside seating for warmer days. It will be open during gallery hours, 10am-5pm daily, including late nights until 9pm on Thursdays.