Lucy Tomlinson enjoys it simple, but rues a lost opportunity for the neighbourhood
When it comes to opening a café or a restaurant it turns out there's lots more to preparations than finding a venue, hiring a chef and letting it roll. Take the case of Javes, a new café in Flixton. I don’t normally focus too much on the fit-out but this place is quite special.
The space used to be a 111-year-old Co-Op (complete with butchers) and the owners have refurbed it sympathetically. It’s wonderful to see this glorious old building coming back to life. Those mosaics! Those tiles! Apparently it took weeks of scrubbing off paint to reveal their former glory. Total interiors swoon.
Javes actually reminds me of a very different kind of venue – the newly opened Mackie Mayor. Of course one is a café and the other a grand grade II-listed former market hall, but both have managed to preserve the best of their buildings and show how the oldest features can sometimes seem the most modern.
In fact, so modish is the atmosphere at Javes, I was surprised that they weren’t going for something more in-vogue in the food department. Not that there aren’t plenty of trendy elements on the menu (pulled pork, sourdough pizza, avocado: check) but this space could comfortably host a Dabbous-style, po-faced restaurant complete with nine-course tasting menu (whether the owners or clientele want it so is a different question of course). Instead the owners have gone for brekkies, brunches and pizzas with plenty for the kids. Nice but safe.
Going child-friendly is a good choice for the area – Urmston and Flixton are rife with families. And before anyone mentions how annoying children can be in restaurants, here it's cleverly done with a cosy toy section at the back leaving the main section in peace.
Three kids heavy ourselves, the toy section is where we inevitably end up. Here my friend ordered a veggie breakfast (£6.50), with talk, as it will do when two mums get together, turning to sausage. I was interested to learn that the make-up of a veggie sausage is hotly contested among the vegetarian community, with some preferring a ‘faux-meat’ style and others adamant that even pretending is a cardinal sin. Who knew? The Javes sausage was the lumpy, honest-to-goodness, peppered with chunks of carrot kind, so veggies who can’t abide a pseudo-sausage can breathe easy.
I go for the (very definitely real) pulled pork eggs Benedict (£8) from the specials board. The pulled pork was, as the best pulled pork is, tasty, sweet and falling to bits. The hollandaise smooth, the eggs poached to perfection… but it was all a little too much. Pulled pork is rich, eggs are richer and the hollandaise just sent it over the top. I couldn’t finish it. The shame.
We also shared field mushrooms (£7) smothered in a very creamy though weirdly uncheesy Stilton sauce with lashings of salt. Again, very rich, but a simple, well-executed dish I'll be back for.
The kids food seemed decent enough – mac 'n' cheese (£4.50) and a generous portion of pancakes (£4) with fruit, though the pasta would have benefitted from a few vegetable sticks on the side.
I was still puzzled though. The sense of the space was not that of a cosy café, but a place to while away an evening too. After a little Googling I discovered that when the owners made their planning application, residents were worried about the traffic and noise, so plans for an evening restaurant with a bar open 'til 11pm were scrapped. This seems like a real shame.
Still, Flixton’s loss turns out to be Flixton’s gain. While there's plenty of restaurant potential I do enjoy a good family caf, especially one which keeps the kids happy, with good coffee and free flowing mum chat. Javes is a great example of that.
Perhaps after a bedding-in session they'll be able to get that late license and start expanding their offering. They’ve done a fantastic job of stripping off the paint that concealed the building’s true beauty, now it’s time to strip away the layers of bureaucracy and let this place really shine.
Javes, 42-44 Brook Road, Urmston M41 5RY
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. 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.
Pulled pork 6, veggie breakfast 6, Field mushrooms 7, cake 7, kids food 5
High marks for interior but quieter than it should be
Brilliant with kids