Lucy Tomlinson bypasses the big brassy openings for a family run independent café in Broughton
Here at Manchester Confidential we see – and get excited about – a lot of new restaurant openings. And feel blue when some don’t work out. That’s the biz though – it is estimated that last year up to a fifth of restaurants closed (those stats climb higher when you look at restaurants in their first year). But wait, there’s a new trend in town: restaurants closing only to reopen with a new name/look/PR company a few weeks later.
The youngest member of our crew naturally gravitated towards this sugary dreamscape
You might think Aidy Byrne or Michael O ‘Hare (of big-money Restaurant MCRand Rabbit respectively) are pioneers of this new-fangled approach, but in fact I visited a humble little café round Salford way which was ahead of the curve.
The Treehouse Café (which opened late last September and probably had an entire fit-out budget worth about the same as ninety minutes in PR consulting time to Restaurant MCR) had been on Confidential’s radar as an outpost of whimisicality in Broughton’s more prosaic streets for a few months. But suddenly everything went quiet over the summer. It seemed like the owners had pulled the plug. Sad, but not unusual. However a few weeks ago the Treehouse café reopened - independent café back from the dead? Now that is quite curious.
It turns out that Amelia, the original owner, closed the café over summer for a breather and for some building work to be done, and, upon reflection decided to share some of the stress and financial burden with a new owner. It was smart thinking. Owning and managing a café is a stressful business indeed, not that you’d know it from the good vibes that radiate from the place.
To set the scene, the Treehouse is a cosy little spot on Lower Broughton Road, a turquoise haven of upcycling and cake. There is mandala wall art, fairy lights and a breathlessly peppy Instagram account and it’s all just delightful.
The menu is fairly fluid – as well as the usual café staples they make sandwiches-to-go for the lunch crowd, which the staff member promised could have “any filling I liked”. Although I was intrigued by the endless possibilities, I decided to stay within the boundaries of what the menu offered and ordered the Treehouse Pitta. The menu described it as being filled with chargrilled halloumi and a caramelised onion relish that tasted an awful lot like Branston’s. The side dish of super-grain salad was one of those healthy dishes that is wonderful when made and served by a professional, as it was here, and would be a horror if you tried to make it at home.
The rest of the menu is dominated by brunch-y classics such as eggs royale or buttermilk pancakes. We ordered the special breakfast burger in an attempt to get a representative sample (sans pancakes of course). It came loaded with sausage, spinach, bacon, eggs and hollandaise sauce. My only reservation was that it was served on a board rather than a plate (I asked for one) but otherwise it was a very nice hangover cure. Maybe I’d order a second if it was a particularly heavy night.
The savoury side of the menu does the job but the real attraction for is the bank of cake that greets you as you walk in the door. Resplendent in homely shades of beige and russet with the occasional pop of fondant pink icing, it closely resembles a children’s book illustration. Speaking of which, it was the youngest member of our crew who naturally gravitated towards this sugary dreamscape and picked out the pinkest, sweetest confection of the lot, namely the bubble-gum cake. The tooth-rotter, sorry bubble-gum cake, is two hunks of fluffy sponge layered with the most faithful recreation of my childhood forbidden fruit - why it would fool Mr Wrigley himself . Children and sugarholics will swoon.
As a grown-up lady who only dabbles in sweet things recreationally, I was much more impressed by the sticky orange cake served warm with a big blob of whipped cream. It was indeed sticky, and gloriously dense and squidgy, with that Christmassy, citrusy tang. How is orange both a winter and summer flavour? Its perfumed magic is perfect for both long summer days and dark winter nights, especially in cake form for the latter, it has to be said. The peanut butter blondies were less my cup of tea being a bit crumbly, and, being based on white chocolate, inherently suspicious.
The Treehouse is in the tradition of the independent café that prides itself on being very family friendly (along with the likes of Javes, Poppies 11 or Bambino in Worsley). The simple ‘kiddy menu’ (beans on toast or a hot dog plus a big glass of cordial is strongly erring towards simple, but then that’s what most kids like) is only £2.50, and there is a sweet little play room and changing area in the back. There are occasional activities on for kids, such as a Christmas craft session with Paper Town Crafts. I’m glad to see it’s sticking around.
The Treehouse Cafe, 304 Lower Broughton Rd, Salford M7 2HQ
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.
pitta 6, breakfast burger 6, bubblegum cake 5 (or 10 if you are child) orange cake 8, blondies 4