Jonathan Schofield wants everybody to go to this fine Salford addition to food and drink

What: The Old Firestation Cafe 

Where: Albert Bentley Place, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4NL. A fifteen-minute walk from Salford Central Station up Chapel Street.

Food/drink type: Café, Bakery, Bar, Brewery 

When: Tuesday to Friday 8am to 9pm, Saturday 9am-9pm. Food from Tuesday to Friday 4pm-9pm, Saturday 12pm-9pm.

Independent or chain? Independent 

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Exterior and terrace of the Old Fire Station Image: Confidentials

Décor and location: This week Sexy Fish on Deansgate had a press launch with dancing girls dressed as fish, a man in a sea god costume and all the sparkle, glitz and good taste of a restaurant bar in Dubai. The sommelier wore a gold jacket for God’s sake. 

You couldn’t get further away from all that fandango than The Old Fire Station. The outside is, as the name would indicate, part of the former Salford fire station and it’s a charmer, brick and glass from 1902, with a fine terrace facing a war memorial for the Lancashire Fusiliers topped by a Sphinx, recalling the campaigns in Egypt.

The interior is more functional but remains airy and comfortable with the thrill of seeing the beer engines through windows on the south side and the baking equipment to the north. All in all, it’s an excellent setup.

The location and area is going to become perhaps the best place to live in the central areas of Manchester and Salford. Development is accelerating up from the city centre, there are fine examples of old architecture, some excellent new work (and inevitably some less good), there’s Salford University over the road and bags of green space with the Meadow and Peel Park minutes away. The masterplan for the area looks the part too. Good operators such as Vero Moderno, Porta and The New Oxford are already in place down the road. 

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Inside the Old Fire Station Image: Confidentials
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The bakery kit Image: Confidentials

The main event: Archchi’s are the guest operators for food until March 2024. The two lovely folk who run the operation are Chloe and Mark. Chloe is from Blackburn with a British dad and a Sri Lankan mum, Mark is from the East Midlands and Cheadle is their base.

Their food journey started in a village in Nottinghamshire during lockdown, holed up with Mark’s family. The couple were wondering what to do when normality resumed.

They started cooking food inspired by Chloe’s mum’s Sri Lankan background and advertised it round the village with a curry Friday. Soon there were socially distanced queues of appreciative diners stretching from their village to the next with tongues lolling, mouths watering. They were on to something.

Manchester was obviously the next step. Obviously.

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Mark and Chloe in the Old Fire Station kitchen Image: Confidentials

Archchi's cauliflower bites (£6) are at once and instantly the best cauliflower dish in the city. They are gently spiced and cooked tender not loose, just so, with a fabulous sambol, a traditional Sir Lankan relish that comes with parsley and coconut. The sambol lifts and invigorates. 

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Cauliflower, properly cooked and decorated with sambol Image: Confidentials

Devilled fried chicken (£7.50) is another invigorating dish. The chicken flesh is perfect, moist and almost clean in its plump virtue while the panko breadcrumb coat with that devilled sauce plus chives and peppers combines subtlety and a pleasant kick. 

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The fabulous fried chicken Image: Confidentials

A big plate of rice and curry, the classic rice and three, (£12), is again a real treat. We had the rice with the chicken, mushrooms and dhaal. There’s a full vegan option as well. Again with this dish all is as it should be, everything tastes fresh, zingy, the dhaal, on our trip, was especially good and those mushrooms added to the joy. The rice was timed well. The sambol worked its magic again. The food we had was more than enough for two. 

We washed it down with the beer produced, in house, through those engine shed windows, at Lark Hill Brewery. I had an excellent cloudy and full bodied Easy Peeler IPA at 6% with a delicacy that gainsaid it’s strength.

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A lovely combo, rice and three Image: Confidentials

Judgement day: People moving into this part of the city are lucky. The Old Fire Station in Albion Place is a delight, a real charmer, with great beer and truly wonderful food.

The bakery is an asset for the area too, no need to shop at the Coop down the road for bread anymore. I have yet to sample its joys but it certainly complements the Old Fire Station’s hat trick of amenity. 

The Old Fire Station is a highly recommended venture, good architecture, good food and good beer. None of the people working there were dressed like fish, nor did they have a gold jackets, but they smiled, they talked, they served and this visit was, in sum, a completely enjoyable experience.

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The Easy Peeler IPA, refreshing Image: Confidentials
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That bread looks the part Image: Confidentials

The scores

All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, and ALWAYS paid for by 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.

If you want to see the receipt as proof this magazine paid for the meal then a copy will be available upon request. Or maybe ask the restaurant.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their type. What we mean by this is a restaurant which aspires to be fine dining is measured against other fine dining restaurants, a mid-range restaurant against other mid-range restaurants, a pizzeria against other pizzerias, a teashop against other teashops, a KFC against the contents of your bin. You get the message.

Given the above, this is how we score: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: sigh and shake your head, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: nothing's that good is it?

  • Food 8/10

    Cauliflower 8, chicken 8, rice and three 8

  • Service 4/5

    Easy-going with smiles and suiting the atmosphere

  • Ambience 4/5

    Calming, pleasant and made better with all those views of the gadgetry that provides much of the product