Lucy Tomlinson joins the brunch bunch at this sunny Sale spot
There are all sorts of little weird tells that we subconsciously use to define ourselves. Dog or cat lover. Manual or automatic. Mine is that I’m not really a breakfast person. Toast is boring. Cereal? You might as well eat a bowl full of those little paper circles you have to clean out of a hole puncher doused in milk. No, a vast cup of tea and a creeping sense of dread is enough to power me through my day.
A word of warning: if you are allergic to eggs, brunch at Blanchflower is not for you.
That is until about 10am, when the cold, blank feeling in my stomach is replaced by voracious hunger and I’m ready for something to eat. But not your overnight oats or your acai bowls. It’s got to be savoury and satisfying. Bacon sarnies, yes. A fry up, I won’t say no. Pizza and burritos are definitely under consideration.
I admire other cultures who embrace breakfast with gusto that bypasses fussing with dusty bits and bobs or power bars. Take Colombia’s fondness for arepas and huevos pericos, or getting straight into the rice, fish and pickles in Japan. I can’t endorse the Italian breakfast (shot of espresso matched with a cigarette) but I have to admit it does have a certain panache.
I was explaining my stance to a colleague, mainly to account for the fact I will sometimes be scarfing a sandwich and crisps (salt and vinegar of course) while everyone is nursing their mid-morning oat milk flat white. She pointed out that a proper meal eaten roughly halfway between breakfast and lunch isn’t some weird quirk but actually has a recognised place in the diurnal rhythms that we all live our lives by, ie mealtimes.
Basically, she accused me of being a brunch person. Dunk me in an Instagram-prop bathtub filled with prosecco, it’s true. Such are the dangers of playing identity politics with your food.
Still, the silver lining was that I felt pretty upbeat about going to review the new Blanchflower in Sale. When Jonathan Schofield visited the original Altrincham branch, he swooned over the pies, praising them with the immortal line: "The pastry was a joy, with the pie top collapsing as quickly as a Tory MP trying to prove party unity."
The Sale version, however, is focused on the early part of the day, though the lunch specials are definitely worth checking out. The interiors are fresh, with lots of clean blond wood and navy to make it feel like a very hip Scandinavian classroom. I especially liked a delicate arrangement of dried flowers and grasses that served as booth dividers – though the ethereal floral effect is somewhat lessened by the view of the back of someone’s head, it is pretty nonetheless.
However, on a sunny Sunday morning – prime brunching time – the most valuable real estate is an outside spot. Families swoop on free tables like avaricious seagulls on a cone of chips, confusing the orderly “please wait to be seated” system. As Blanchflower is walk-in only, this could get a bit tasty. My family joined the flocks and soon found its very own chip in the sun.
A word of warning: if you are allergic to eggs, brunch at Blanchflower is not for you. Pretty much every dish, apart from the granola, involves an egg somehow and I'm sure if you asked they'd stick an egg on that too.
Predictably, there are plenty of variants of the brunchiest of all brunch dishes, eggs benedict, on the menu. In fact, it has its own section, so dedicated is Blanchflower to the Benny.
The pastrami benedict (£12) is a Jewish deli-inspired version of the classic, with beef pastrami instead of ham, eggs of course, plus lashings of velvety hollandaise and a mustardy kick. One criticism is that the sourdough bread, as chunky as it is, is not in proportion to the lake of sauce and it’s a shame to waste it. I’d love to try this with a heap of crisp latkes instead.
The mackerel dish (£12) is wonderful – a thick hunk of sourdough soaked in piscine juices and smothered with plentiful fish topped with two slightly ribbony poached eggs that burst to reveal beautifully orange yolks. This is the Scandi brunch dream (if you like smoked fish of course). The key is the salty, crunchy capers sprinkled all over to give some textural contrast.
The kids were happy with granola (£7) and a bacon sarnie (£7, egg left off by request), thick tongues of dry cured bacon, nestled in focaccia. It struck me as a bit small but the dense bread makes it filling enough. I'm still a fan of the greasy spoon, white bread variety, but even posh bacon sandwiches have their place.
Blanchflower is owned by Claire and Phil Howells, who started their hospitality journey at Caffeine and Co in Longford Park. The ethos has remained the same throughout; fresh and simple food made (according to the sign) exclusively in-house. The staff assured me the pastries had just come out of the oven and I have to admit they did look good.
Before we left I sneaked a bit of the (mercifully egg-free) granola, crunchy and laced with cinnamon, sprinkled densely over thick yoghurt and lumps of mango. I still wouldn't really go for it at 7am but when the 10am rumbles come, it could definitely pass muster. Maybe this breakfast thing isn't so bad after all.
Blanchflower, Stanley Square, Sale M33 7XZ
Follow Lucy Tomlinson on Twitter @hotcupoftea
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: 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.
Mackerel 9, pastrami Benedict 8, bacon sandwich 6, granola 7
Calm inside, scramble for tables outside
A bit lost outside, though very helpful