Restaurant Review: Federal Cafe & Bar NQ, Manchester

Banging Brunch At Federal Cafe & Bar NQ

Federal Cafe & Bar NQ’s been smashing avocados and the Trip Advisor rankings since 2104, so I was long overdue a visit. This trendy brunch spots also featured in The Manchester Cookbook: Second Helpings and The North & North Wales Indie Coffee Guide for services to hungover people.

I liked the clarity of the Federal Cafe & Bar menu, with food and drink offerings that were small but perfectly formed. Although the business owners are English and Portuguese, Federal Cafe & Bar is Australian / Kiwi in ethos. What that boils down to is friendly service, excellent coffee and lots of protein – what’s not to like?

There’s an element of hipster influence that comes with the territory of Instagram ready Flat Whites. Cutlery and condiments were housed in army mess tins and tap water’ served in recycled milk glasses; but, it all adds to the laid-back atmosphere and feels at home in Manchester’s quirky Northern Quarter

For all my love for food and drink in all shapes and sizes, the boom in hipster coffee culture has largely passed me by. If it’s hot, smooth, robust and wakes me up, I’m happy. I’m not arsed if it’s Guatemalan or Ethiopian, or whatever the exact ratios of espresso to foam are. That said, the coffee at Federal Cafe & Bar is excellent, supplied by New Zealand based O Zone Coffee. Unlike myself, if the phrase ‘Single Origin Coffee’ means anything at all, you’ll love Federal Cafe & Bar. I enjoyed a perfect Flat White, but Oat Milk Turmeric Lattes, Dirty Chai Lattes and a V60 from the Brew Bar (whatever that is) will be cheerfully served if requested.

Then there’s the issue of eggs. Oh my. The eggs are eggsellent  outstanding. Bright and fluffy white exteriors with glowing yellow runny interiors. However you prefer them dressed up, they’re the perfect food stuff to set you up for the day, or to recover from the night before. Federal Cafe & Bar gets theirs from The Lakes Free Range Egg Company, who evidently know how to raise chickens well.

Thinking about it, it was all bloody good. The freshly baked Sourdough bread was light, nicely chewy yet soft, with a clear crust. The Halloumi was properly crispy, with a delicious squeaky middle. The Turkish Eggs provided punchy chilli butter, matched with impacting garlic yoghurt. Eggs Benedict – the Mrs’ go-to option, delivered almost buttery yet muscular smoked salmon with a well-balanced rich Hollandaise sauce. Emily’s Banana Bread…I thought they’d come unstuck here…nope, it was soft, comforting with the ideal level of sweetness.

Federal Cafe NQ Manchester Review Breakfast Brunch
Halloumi & Shrooms
Federal Cafe NQ Manchester Review Breakfast Brunch
Turkish Eggs
Federal Cafe NQ Manchester Review Breakfast Brunch
Eggs Benedict

Federal Cafe & Bar NQ Wine Prices

Yes, Federal Cafe & Bar NQ served wine (and other alcoholic beverages)! There’s just one white (Trebbiano) and one red (Tempranillo) both at £18.50 for a 500ml carafe or a bottle of Prosecco at £25. The two wines are ‘natural’, meaning “nothing at all [is] added or taken away at any point”, sourced by the eco-friendly supplier Vinnaturo.

Federal Cafe & Bar Review Score

It’s no secret the product is bang on. Federal Cafe & Bar is small and busy, so you’re far from guaranteed a table at peak times. That said, the ever welcoming staff don’t mess about, service is prompt and tables turn around quick. It’s a shame the few outside tables only look out onto an ugly, busy road but there’s very little else to fault.

Atmosphere 9  Cost 8  Quality 10  Service 8

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NQ Manchester

Other Restaurant Reviews of
Federal Cafe & Bar NQ

  • Creative Tourist: “…both décor and menu find a balance between NQ hipster and ordinary punter”.
  • Eat Out Moore: “The Menu is just what you want – an array of mouth-watering dishes on offer and a very clear format…”.

Restaurant Review: The Barn at Moor Hall, Aughton

The Barn at Moor Hall Set Lunch

The Barn at Moor Hall is the more casual, lower-priced sister site of the newly Michelin-starred Moor Hall restaurant, that’s set within the same grounds. Propelled by the well-deserved praise of Moor Hall which overlooked from across the path, The Barn enticed with a three-course lunch menu at £23 plus service.

It was a long lonely walk from the car park to The Barn at Moor Hall table. The well-maintained grounds, deep ponds, and an empty patio area provided a peaceful, although strangely quiet atmosphere. Inside the large, handsomely converted barn, guests walk passed the glass-fronted room where meat is hung. Something to do with cheese is going on beyond another closed door. Everywhere was silent, everything was spotless.

The restaurant itself was well-crafted. Charming low wooden beams supported the ceiling creating a cosy atmosphere. Exposed brick walls and natural wooden floors with matching tables provided a modern-country look that worked well. Once seated, I had a good view of the open kitchen, meaning I didn’t have to make eye contact with the Mrs. The young chefs were all beavering away in a focused fashion and the clean worktops put my own kitchen to shame.

The Barn at Moor Hall’s frugal set lunch menu afforded a choice of only three starters, mains and desserts. Fine; however, one dish was out of stock. I thought it was poor that something else couldn’t have been whipped up, rather than removing 33% of the starter options.

Regarding food, the amuse-bouche was a posh slice of sausage roll, something I thought local rival Northcote had trademarked. Very good it was too, apparently. I’ve been pescetarian for the last year and wasn’t offered anything else. I politely asked for a bread roll instead, not too much to ask surely, but it was. At least I had some excellent tropical tasting Sauvignon Blanc before the starter to keep me going.

Moor Hall The Barn Ormskirk Lunch Menu Restaurant Review
Northern amuse-bouche, not great for vegetarians

Seduced by lobster mentioned at such a reasonable price point, two Lobster Muffins started the three courses. I keep making this mistake. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s too expensive a raw ingredient, restaurants (generally) aren’t stupid, and therefore punters don’t get enough of it. The lobster muffin was daintily arranged with pretty greenery; however, it annoys me when the main ingredient(s) are hidden. If you have to immediately decapitate the top level or rearrange the plate before the first bite is taken, it’s been plated up in too fiddly a way to begin with in my opinion. Anyway, the lobster itself was fresh, meaty and well-cooked, and the muffin was supple and evenly toasted.

Moor Hall The Barn Ormskirk Lunch Menu Restaurant Review
Pretty Lobster Muffin

For mains, the no-nonsense Roast Beef using Lake District cow seemed appropriate for a Sunday. The quality of the beef was very good; although, perhaps could have been served pinker. The chunky veg were fine but without note. I really liked how the mash was neatly housed within the Yorkshire pudding. Although proudly towering above the plate, the Yorkshire pudding was too dark and dense. The Goosnargh Chicken was bright, summery and elegantly presented. The meat was succulent, and the vegetables were full of life. The potatoes were excellent, gently paddling in delicious herb-packed dressing.

Moor Hall The Barn Ormskirk Lunch Menu Restaurant Review
No-nonsense Lake District Beef
Moor Hall The Barn Ormskirk Lunch Menu Restaurant Review
Elegantly presented Goosnargh Chicken

Desserts at The Barn at Moor Hall provided a neatly prepared Lemon Tart and Gin & Tonic Sorbet being a novel accompaniment. The tart was well-baked but was generally unremarkable. The Raspberry Meringue was completely covered in Champagne Sorbet which sounded awesome but was a waste of time. It was raspberry and meringue, nothing not to like, but far from memorable.

Moor Hall The Barn Ormskirk Lunch Menu Restaurant Review
Lemon Tart with Gin & Tonic Sorbet
Moor Hall The Barn Ormskirk Lunch Menu Restaurant Review
Raspberry Meringue with Champagne Sorbet

Service at The Barn at Moor Hall was fine but with zero rapport. There was an altogether lack of any sense of occasion. The well-presented front of house team were pleasant, but in an anonymous kind of way. A smart-looking young restaurant manager quietly patrolled the dining room, deftly overseeing a well-organised service, although provided no interaction.

The Barn at Moor Hall Wine Prices

The Barn at Moor Hall Wine List is relatively small and crowd pleasing, consistent with the food menu. The majority of the pricing is what most diners would consider sensible. The cheapest bottle of wine, excluding half bottles and service charge, are either a young Italian Pinot Grigio or Portugese Vinho Verde (White), an Italian Pinot Grigio Rosado (Rose) and a Chilean Carmenere (Red) all for £26. Spend a tenner more and you could consider half the menu. I very much enjoyed the smooth yet complex Valpolicella Ripasso by Cantina di Negrar which sneeked under my £40 budget. The most expensive bottle of wine, excluding service, was a 2003 Dom Perignon Champagne at £255.

The Barn at Moor Hall Restaurant Review Score

It’s unfair to compare the Barn to Moor Hall when the price point is different; although, probably natural when it’s next door. The Barn Set Lunch offered very good value albeit from a very limited selection of simple dishes. None of the dishes stood out and the atmosphere fell short of expectations; although, everything was certainly enjoyed.

Atmosphere 7  Cost 9  Quality 8  Service 7

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Other Restaurant Reviews of
The Barn at Moor Hall

  • Confidentials: “The Barn’s more prosaic attractions of Goosnargh chicken, belly pork, steak and chips play to the crowd.”
  • Square Meal: “A main of Herdwick lamb cutlets arrived perfectly pink and plump, dotted with jewel-like broad beans and charred gem, enhanced by a dinky shepherd’s pie…”

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L’enclume, Cartmel

L’enclume – Secluded Fine Dining

I wanted to love L’enclume, I really did. Never before had I booked a restaurant six months in advance and spent more than a weeks pay on one meal for two. Any restaurant that employs a full-time ‘forager’ activates my almonds and my excitement on the morning of the L’enclume booking was palpable. I felt like I was getting married.

The restaurant is a charming, eight-hundred-year-old former smithy. L’enclume means ‘anvil’, a homage to the former blacksmith’s workshop housed. I’m a massive fan of Simon Rogan, and unlike many chefs, has a more modest ego. His food philosophy is “a case of growing the perfect carrot rather than cooking it perfectly.” He knows he can already cook it perfectly but the point is two-fold. One, excellent quality ingredients should require as little cooking – read interference – as possible. Secondly, although cooking is undoubtedly skilful, the real challenge is in producing the ingredients in the first place. Simon Rogan puts the suppliers in the limelight, and lets Mother Nature do the talking. To quote:“My dream menu would serve 20 raw courses, but I know [he laughs] I’d never get away with that.”

I know Simon Rogan hates comparisons between L’enclume and The Fat Duck, but they are oddly similar in the superficial sense of you’d walk right past them both without a second thought. Both look like large cosy cottages, opening directly onto the quiet road, with barely a suggestion world-class activity was busy inside. Both blend into the background, nestled between residential houses, in tucked-away villages.

I was left with mixed feelings due to the expense and the operational issues. That said, L’enclume made me feel genuinely proud; therefore the meal was memorable. Simon Rogan stayed true to his word: “I decided to keep it British, celebrate the north-west and eliminate all foreign stuff. You can’t just say, ‘Right, that’s it, we’re never going to use a lemon again’. You need to identify alternatives otherwise your food is going to be crap.”

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel two michelin stars simon rogan
Beetroot leaves
RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel
More beetroot
RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan
Apple & oyster macaroon
RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan
Corn cracker thing

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan
The most delicate tarts
RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan
From the sea
RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan
RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan
Kendal mint cake

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan

RESTAURANT REVIEW: L'enclume, Cartmel lake district two michelin stars simon rogan

L’enclume Restaurant Review Summary

Atmosphere 8   Cost 5    Quality 10    Service 6

Find L’enclume Cartmel