ALL the Shapes is a new café bar in Prestwich, serving brunch, light lunches and simple suppers. The vibe is cosy Northern Quarter. Think found furniture and neon brights in an angular space decorated with stained glass windows and funky taps. Food, meanwhile, ranges from giant couscous and chargrilled meats to fish, roasted Mediterranean vegetable tartlettes and homemade coconut cakes.
...with a few tweaks behind the scenes (and no salmon thanks), it’s likely to grow into a café-bar worth travelling to
Breakfast looks good - eggs with asparagus, dry cured streaky bacon sandwiches - but we stuck to small plates with echoes on the evening menu. Spring tabbouleh salad, for example, and sweet potato frittata. Dishes like charred harissa steak and Moroccan flatbreads are perfect sharing material, and many have an Ottolenghi feel.
Food is artistically presented, but not annoyingly so, and the fat, baby beans dotted throughout tabbouleh (£6) are a seductive touch. I’m not sure the cucumber is pickled, but it’s certainly fresh. Tiny, pomegranate gems are a boost, and there’s just enough red onion to be moreish. Triple the amount of fresh herbs would have nudged this into Manchester’s top league.
In search of something filling? Lancashire Rarebit (£5.50) is a puffy sofa of a dish, layered over rich caramelised onions and served with onion and fruit chutney. A mustard bite would work better, but this won’t leave you asking for seconds. The roasted vegetable and goats cheese tartlette (£6.20) is okay if you haven’t tried one for a while, and the sweet potato frittata (£6.50) is a highlight.
Using the same ingredients in more than one dish suggests that the kitchen knows a bit about budgeting - and the frittata comes with the same roasted veg that made an appearance on the tartlette. This time it’s paired with chorizo and a guacamole bobble hat, topped off with a dusting of paprika. The bright flavours and colours are a winner. In fact the only real fail is the charred sesame salmon (£7).
Now, I love charred fish skin - so the gelatinous, beige-coloured sesame ‘crust’ is a particular disappointment. The flesh is underdone, the wild rice glutinous, and the ‘sweet Asian slaw’ appears to contain no lime, no fish sauce, no, er, nothing. All the Shapes is not throwing any shapes with this one.
On the plus side, countertop cakes come from Common’s new offshoot bakery, Blawd. The range changes daily, but we try the spiced chai muffin with a toddler-repelling dose of spice (more for me, thank you) and a surprisingly elegant slice of Bakewell Tart.
Drinks are great too. Admire the sculptural Bloody Mary (pictured) which comes with house spices (and your choice of heat), sup beers from Salford’s award-winning First Chop brewery and coffee by local roasters, Heart and Graft.
Overall then, the broad strokes in the kitchen don’t always work. However, All the Shapes has got the casual, day-to-night restaurant style of places like Common and Volta down pat, plus some great suppliers and details. I’m guessing that with a few tweaks behind the scenes (and no salmon thanks), it’s likely to grow into a café-bar worth travelling to.
All The Shapes, 8 Warwick Street, Prestwich, Manchester M25 3HN. Tel: 0161 798 5555
Food: 6/10 (tabbouleh 6, Lancashire Rarebit 6, goats cheese tartlette, 6, frittata 8, salmon 1, muffin 7, Bakewell tart 9)