Jonathan Schofield enjoys a fine lunch with his favourite coffee in the city

Everybody has their favourite coffee place in town. Mine is Starbucks. I mean Costa. I mean Greggs. I don't mean any of them, of course, although Greggs coffee is a better bet than the other two. 

My favourite is Mancoco. You just have to find it.    

A classic eyes-wide-open coffee filled with richness and punch

This paradigm of a coffee house sits in railway arches on narrow Hewitt Street between HOME Arts Centre and the Castlefield Gallery. It doesn't have tables and chairs on a terrace outside because there's no room but it does deliver a smooth and aromatic java. 

Take the long black with milk: there is a classic eyes-wide-open coffee richness and punch about the drink but with that characteristically smooth, pleasantly but subtly sweet flavour Mancoco seems to have monopolised. The trick of it is being a blend of 100% Arabica beans from Brazil and the homelands of coffee Sumatra and Ethiopia. 

The flat white is so smooth it could go dancing with Fred Astaire. Again it's that fabulous rich yet unmistakeable coffee kick that sets Mancoco apart from many of its competitors. 

There are simple sandwiches and snacks available. The mozzarella, tomato and pesto melt is typical fare at £5.25, locally made out at The Quays and a satisfying, moist blend of ingredients. 

Mancoco 5
The perfect flat white Image: Confidentials

Mancoco has morphed in the last year. From one railway arch it’s spread into a second to give breathing space to the roasting equipment. The second arch is now the coffee bar. It's got a homespun feel livened up with eye-catching artworks by Neil Dimelow who we profiled back in 2012

So what's the secret of the coffee I ask Darren Dawson, one of the owners?

"The quality," says Dawson. "Our coffee is sourced from all over, it's all speciality grade, from ethically sound businesses. We use importers who have strict codes of practice who will invest with coffee producers in the various countries. They give a good price to these producers which is significantly above Fair Trade prices. The quality we achieve through this is reflected in the flavours we produce."

Mancoco 1
The interior of the extended coffee bar with a Neil Dimelow mural Image: Confidentials
Mancoco Review 2
The counter area Image: Confidentials
Mancoco 3
Mozzarella, tomato and pesto melt Image: Jonathan Schofield

So why extend the business into two arches?

"It was time as the one arch we had was awkwardly split between the coffee bar and the roasting area," says Dawson. They had wanted to open the expanded space in 2019 but a combination of Covid and slow-moving landlords delayed the extension. 

"We got there in the end," says Dawson with a smile. "In an ideal world we would have opened up the arch and made it a bigger space. But the landlords were a bit nervous about making holes under railways. It was a slow start when we started in 2015 but people quickly started to discover us. 

"We're almost a community coffee shop now," continues Dawson. "Many of the people who live and work nearby know us and pop in all the time. In the seven or eight years since we've been open the development around here has been crazy, First Street, Deansgate Square. That's been good for us, thousands of new workers and residents. Fortunately for us they all seem to love their coffee."

Mancoco 6
The 'charming' entrance, well a bit hard Image: Confidentials

I ask: "With all that development why not move to a big modern rectangular unit under one of those new apartment blocks rather than staying put in an awkward pair of railway arches?"

"We like it here," says Dawson. "It's got charm, an aura about it. New people still find us or stumble upon us and think they've found a hidden gem."

Mancoco is a gem, whether hidden or not, people should seek it out. As for the name of the place we'll let you work that one out. 

Mancoco, 85 Hewitt St, Manchester M15 4GB.

This is a 10/10 coffee experience. Coffee is available as takeaway or for home preparation.