Deanna Thomas carb loads at Altrincham's latest trendy cafe
TOAST. It’s a word that conjures up mainly positive connotations suggesting warmth, comfort and blessings; 'as warm as toast', 'let's raise a toast' etc. Well ok, there's 'you're toast', but that's more of a limp-wristed shrug-off than a desire to wish someone genuine harm.
Though it may hint that they're not trying to re-invent the wheel, Toast is the name given to the latest food business to tag itself to Altrincham's recent resurgence. Owners Justin and Simon Orange, with chef Ed Carr, have decided to dig one deep hole and specialise in a safe concept beloved throughout the world. Carr has previous experience working at the Heston Blumenthal's Michelin star-heavy Fat Duck, which is no stranger to obsessive stretching of a single dish (egg and bacon ice cream anybody?).
They've struck gold here with the premises; a beautiful former bank on the main road, just on the cusp of Goose Green, and have done it justice with the fit out, managing to hit the right balance of warm welcome, trendy hangout and contemporary café.
The entrance area has been subtly portioned off - with a thought for those with dogs or bulky prams - into a well-designed garden room with exposed brick, hanging baskets, fairy lights and high-backed armchairs upholstered in a palm tree pattern. It stops just short of contrived.
We were dogless and pramless, so made our way through the doors into the café which was bustling, considering it’s only been open a week. A slightly pre-occupied Orange was on greeting duties, discovering in front of our eyes the difference between managing a business and the added responsibilities of owning one. When the queue threatened to grow to more than three deep, he was rescued by a sharp-eyed team member, who smoothly whipped us all into recently vacated seats as though he was dealing a deck of cards.
The menu is divided into toast for all day breakfast, for lunch, for a sweet tooth and toast-less; a selection of four salads. As you’d expect, Warburtons is not welcome here. The bread comes from Trove, the organic Levenshulme-based bakery. Everything is offered on a choice of white or wholemeal sourdough, gluten-free rye or a 'guest' bread, which this time was rosemary and olive.
We bypassed breakfast (mostly eggs various ways). Pick of the brunch was crab and lime (£9.50); a generous spoonful of creamy citrus-spiked crab and crème fraiche piled high with fresh rocket, coriander leaves and a spare wedge of lime to sharpen it up to your own taste. All good, but as fans of proper white sourdough can attest, those crusts need some proper back-teeth gnawing.
Sesame chilli prawn (£9.50) was simpler but less subtle or cohesive. If you’re expecting sesame prawn toast Chinese takeaway-style, you’ve come to the wrong place. Here, you get five whole plump prawns, rolled in sesame seeds, on top of toast spread with a thick sweet chilli jam – obviously home made, but the balance of sweetness and heatness just needs a little more tweaking. Son avoided the excessively chewy crust and just picked out the middle bit – he’s only recently got his full set of second teeth, so wasn’t taking any chances.
I went toast-less having generally cut down on carbs from October in a feeble attempt to limit inevitable festive damage. Soft boiled egg, peas, mint, ricotta and radish (£7) was like a successful lunchtime fridge forage, where you pile seemingly random things into a bowl and they all surprisingly work. I could have done with half the amount of mint because it’s such a bully, but the salad didn’t leave me feeling short-changed.
They have a small wine list, but I ordered a smoothie (£3.80), briefly scanning the long list of ingredients for each, not really paying much attention to their quirky names. Keen to bang my order in, I shouted “I’LL HAVE A HORMONE HELPER PLEASE”, as soon as a busy server orbited our booth. Never have I felt more sad and middle aged.
Desserts on toast were less successful because one bread does not fit all, no matter how organic, slow proved, or artisan. The components for marinated strawberries and rosewater ricotta (£7), or baked vanilla peaches with Chantilly cream and marscapone (£6.50) were good, but sourdough is really not the best choice for an eggy bread base. It has the wrong porosity, so you’re left with a kind of proteinous lump with impenetrable crusts. A brioche rethink would turn them around.
Toast is a decent café. It’s a gorgeous place to sit and, while they are serious about their food and drink, they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s a tad on the pricey side, but they haven’t compromised on quality. Just make sure to pack some strong denture glue in case all that artisan chewing dislodges a crown.
Toast, 63 Stamford New Road, Altrincham, WA14 1DS Tel: 0161 804 4580
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.
Toast with crab 8, toast with prawns 6, toast-less salad 7, toast with strawberries 7, toast with peaches 6, smoothie 8
The right balance of warm welcome, trendy hangout and contemporary café
On it like a car bonnet