Manhattan Coffee House

August 27, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Posted in Cafe | Leave a comment
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It’s encouraging to take stock of just how many independent coffee shops are in Sheffield city centre. If you’re off the booze (i.e hungover) but still have a hankering for something wet, you can plump for Starbucks or Costa Coffee, or you can take a gamble on one of Sheffield’s many independent coffee shops.

I’ve walked past Manhattan Coffee House countless times, and there’s always someone sat outside with a newspaper and a cup of the hot stuff (I’ve actually seen some determined sod sat outside with an umbrella in one hand and a steaming hot cuppa in the other). So, this weekend we decided to see what these coffee fans knew, that we didn’t.

Upon stepping inside, we were immediately impressed by the size of the place. The handful of metal tables squeezed onto the pavement suggests a rather pokey venue, but Manhattan is a roomy cafe that isn’t stingy when it comes to dishing out the space between its many comfy chairs and sofas. There is also a pleasant, laidback atmosphere that you rarely get in Eccy Road venues – this is the sort of place where people come to do crosswords and read their newspapers in peace. The staff are polite and efficient, and the prompt table service means there’s rarely more than one party at the till. Manhattan is also onto a winner with the decor, which includes beautiful displays of white flowers draped around the ceiling’s exposed pipes, and warm amber lighting. The hustle, bustle and noise of Ecclesall Road feels a million miles away inside this chilled establishment.

So, top marks for the setting, but what about the coffee? The menu is extensive with a few twists to boot: cafeterias-for-one; a scrummy-sounding “hot chocolate sundae,” and plenty of icy, summertime favourites like frappucinos. I opted for an old favourite, a regular mocha (£2.60) which came with a rich layer of foamed milk and lashings of cocoa powder. It was also served with an obligatory biscuit, a nice touch that’s often missing from the big coffee chains.

Also arriving at our table was a cafeteria for one (£2.50) which isn’t a common feature on coffee shop menus (presumably because of all the washing-up it creates!) Manhattan’s cafeteria is available for several types of coffee, but our reviewer opted for columbian.

Besides the novelty value of plunging your own cuppa, ground coffee trumps its filtered counterpart everytime, and it’s refreshing to have the option of a cafeteria even if the other members of your party aren’t big fresh coffee fans. Manhattan also gets top marks for serving the accompanying milk hot. It’s these thoughtful touches that make independent venues like Manhattan worth a punt, rather than playing it safe with household names.

But Manhattan doesn’t just serve coffee, there’s a selection of indulgent hot chocolates too. The Manhattan Luxury Hot Chocolate (£3.50) is piled high with cream, pink and white marshmallows and finished off with a Flake.

This should be a sugar-addict’s dream in a mug, but the temperature of the hot chocolate spoiled this delicious-looking drink. Mashing the whipped cream into the hot chocolate (and let’s face it, who DOESN’T do that with a whipped cream topping?) made the drink unpleasantly cool. If you’re craving something sweet, you’re better off sticking to the Plain Hot Chocolate (£2.60) which is a no-frills mug of good old fashioned hot choccie. Ours even came with a pretty chocolate swirl etched into the milk; what more could you want?

Manhattan is a pleasant and surprisingly swankily-decorated, coffee shop. While it could take a leaf out of Tamper Coffee’s book and serve Our Cow Molly’s super fresh milk, it still stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Starbucks and Costa in terms of taste – even if it gets pipped to the post by Tamper.

A decent cuppa at a sensible price, in welcoming surroundings. If it’s a choice between Manhattan and the Costa Coffee just around the corner, there really is no contest.

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