Hidden away on an up-market shopping cul de sac somewhere between Manchester’s Spinningfields and Central Retail District, the location for The North’s most exclusive cycling cafe/shop couldn’t be more appropriate.
And with it’s cleanly designed shop front, ground floor espresso bar and subtle mannequin-fuelled nod to the wealth of beautifully-designed cycling apparel inside, exclusive is certainly the overwhelming feeling when you approach Manchester’s Rapha Club.
What else could you possibly expect? Rapha is synonymous with road cycling. The chosen clothing suppliers of the posers. The mainstay of the chubby MAMIL who wants to look as though he’s getting somewhere fast.
Of course, the espresso bar is just the beginning of it. Head upstairs and you walk into what can only be described as the perfect space for anyone with an ounce of interest in cycling.
“…the perfect space for anyone with an ounce of interest in cycling.”
The design – similar to that of London’s Rapha Club – is clean and sleek. Painted grey, the walls are adorned with cycling memorabilia and posters. Two televisions work to keep the cafes contents abreast of developments on the professional circuit.
But it’s the tables that complete the look magnificently. Glass topped, each table contains a vintage jersey, cap or similar. Within our table was sunk the classic Molteni kit, complete with cap. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted to smash it open and make good my escape.
The feel of Rapha’s northern cafe was immediately far more welcoming and accessible than its London branch. Perhaps the staff could have been more friendly, but that would almost go against Rapha’s ultra-cool reputation and ice cold demeanor.
They won’t retweet this review, you know.
The Coffee & Cake
But it’s the food and drink you’re really here for. You’ll not be disappointed.
Sample of the day was a truly exquisite brownie. The sort you know is going to be good before you even think about eating it.
If you can accurately calculate the density of a brownie at 50 paces then you’re on to a winner. And this brownie was so dense that light was struggling to leave its surface.
The flavour of the brownie was very good too. Not too dark and bitter, but not on the sweet milk chocolate spectrum either. An enjoyable middle ground and the perfect accompaniment to my cappuccino.
Let’s talk cappuccino. I’d say only 10% of baristas actually know how to make a cappuccino. Rapha’s barista doesn’t fall into that 10%.
The coffee was delicious, sweet and nutty. Delicately flavoured. Complex. But it was a latte, not a cappuccino. Where’s my smooth, creamy foam? Why isn’t it as strong and punchy as it should be?
Don’t get me wrong, I genuinely enjoyed my coffee. But it simply wasn’t what I ordered. ⅓ espresso; ⅓ milk; ⅓ foam. It’s a simple ratio.
But let’s not be too negative. Manchester’s Rapha Club is a great place to sit, relax and enjoy some cycling. The coffee may not be accurate, but it’s certainly flavoursome. And the cake is delicious.
Ironically, lack of outside seating and indoor space means that it probably isn’t a great stop pre or post ride for more than a handful of cyclists. But that almost doesn’t matter; it’s a hub of cycling for Manchester’s weekend warriors.