When it comes to the perfect brunch indulgence, few dishes can rival the timeless appeal of French toast. It’s a firm favourite and if it’s on the menu, I’m guaranteed to order it.
If you find yourself in Manchester, a vibrant city with a thriving foodie scene, you’re in for a treat. Its Northern Quarter district is best known for its independent brunch spots – and while most of them are serving up their version of French Toast, no two are the same.
From cosy understated cafes tucked away down quiet side streets, to trendy eateries with queues down the road on weekdays. Manchester offers a wide range of options that have gained a reputation for their French toast prowess.
With its golden-brown exterior and sumptuously soft middle, it’s the ultimate pillowy foundation that allows culinary creatives to add their own twist, including biscuit-themed bakes, and square cubes of brioche filled with creme for the ultimate brunch experience.
Whether you’re a Manchester local looking for a new go-to brunch venue or a visitor seeking out the best foodie spot, I’ve done all the (very…very) hard work and tried and tasted each of these Northern Quarter dishes to bring you an extensive round up of the best the city has to offer. What’s more is that they’re all a stone’s throw away from one another – French Toast crawl anyone?
These are my top seven spots to get French Toast in Manchester’s Northern Quarter:
19 Cafe Bar
Typically in Manchester you’ll find shoppers queuing up outside cafes for one of three reasons: they’re giving away something for free, it’s ultra-Instagrammable, or the food is genuinely bang on.
The humble 19 Cafe Bar falls into the later cafe. It may not look much from the outside, and inside, it’s little more than your average cafe with a couple of homely touches – but they’re known for ‘serving up Manchester’s heartiest brunch and some of the fluffiest pancake stacks around’.
Opening at 9am, most Saturday’s you’ll see a queue of people outside, which only grows once the doors open. Walk in only, by the time I had sat down and ordered, the joint was full with enough people to fill it again waiting outside. And wait they will – because the food really is that good.
Service at 19 Cafe Bar is super friendly and their portion sizes are as big as their heart, using the freshest ingredients including sourcing local sausages and coffee.
When it comes to French Toast, the Lever Street venue has four delicious options to choose from at the moment, all of which are £10.50. There’s the classic, served with mascarpone, granola, strawberries and blueberries, drizzled with salted caramel sauce, or the Oreo French Toast, topped with an Oreo crumb, chocolate sauce, white chocolate sauce, vanilla and Oreo mascarpone and strawberries, or the highly tempting Kinder French Toast, offering chocolate hazelnut sauce, kinder bueno, chocolate sauce, roasted hazelnuts & vanilla ice cream.
However, I went for the Apple and Cinnamon French Toast, boasting a wedge of vanilla and cinnamon french toast, topped with apple compote, shortbread crumb, salted caramel sauce and finished with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The tartness of the apples paired with the sweetness of the vanilla and warmth of the cinnamon makes for a super cosy dish that definitely feels like you’re having dessert for breakfast – and I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. Oh – and the Biscoff Hot Drink is an absolute MUST, served in a proper mug too, just like if you were visiting your mum.
TAKK is an independent coffee company with three outlets based in Manchester, but I visited their Tariff Street branch, which is closest to Piccadilly Station. The Nordic inspired venue, which opened in 2013, boasts dried bloom centrepieces, wooden benches and cosy bookshelves inspired by a trip to Reykjavik – even the word TAKK means thank you in Icelandic.
Here, the focus is on coffee, with a small but carefully curated brunch menu, consisting of things like chilli scrambled eggs and smashed avocado and Bearnaise Benedict.
The hipster hangout also serves up French Toast, with their University Green site dishing up a version with mango compote, lemon ricotta, kiwi and pistachio crumb, while the one I had at Tariff Street saw a combination of peach, mascarpone and orange granola crumb atop an inches high slice of fried brioche.
Prices vary from site to site, but on this occasion, Tariff Street Takk was cheaper at £9.95, while University Green’s French Toast is around the £12 mark.
Service here is mostly via a QR code which I aren’t a huge fan of, but food came out quickly and tasted amazing. The peaches were soft and juicy, and when paired with the doughy bread, creamy mascarpone and crunch of the granola, it’s a sensory experience that is totally irresistible, especially washed down with a chai latte.
Foundation Coffee House
A little higher up Lever Street, set inside the Grade II-listed Sevendale House, you’ll find Foundation Coffee House, serving an extensive coffee menu to an eclectic playlist among a backdrop of white tiles, hexagonal wooden tables and hanging house plants.
Like TAKK, Foundation also has three city centre venues, but the Northern Quarter site predates its Whitworth Lock and Portland Street sisters.
Their food menu is constantly changing to give shoppers something fresh each time they visit. Their current French Toast offering is Lemon & Blueberry Cheesecake, made with Vanilla crumpet french toast, topped with homemade lemon curd, blueberry compote, cheesecake filling and a biscuit crumb for £10.
During my last visit, the special was Sticky Toffee Pudding French Toast, for £12 – which I thought was a bit expensive at the time, but they seem to have brought their menu more in line with similar city outlets, but I imagine it will also depend on the cost of seasonal ingredients.
The doorstop brioche I had was loaded up with toffee sauce, a scoop of vanilla mascarpone, and finished with a pecan and date crumb. You can opt to add bacon to any French Toast dish for an additional £3, for the ultimate sweet and salty combo.
Decadent, soft, sticky, chewy – Foundation’s French Toast ticks all of the boxes, not to mention that it’s served on Staffordshire’s own Steelite crockery, so they get bonus points for that.
If you love dessert style brunches and an excuse to satisfy a sweet tooth, thenFoundation’s French toast is an absolute must.
No matter if it’s a weekend or a weekday, you can expect to queue up to 40 minutes for a seat at Federal for their best-selling brunch dishes. When I visited on a Wednesday morning, there was already a flock of people waiting for a table, with a 30 minute estimated wait time. Luckily, because I was dining alone, I was able to beat the queues to get a seat quicker – dining outside can also get you sat faster, depending on how busy it is.
I visited their Northern Quarter site on the corner of Nicholas Croft, but they do also have spots on Deansgate and a stall in Altrincham – each one just as popular.
Since 2014, they’ve been ‘offering the city’s sunniest welcome’, come rain or shine, with a selection of fresh ingredients sourced from sustainable independent local suppliers.
Their French Toast is a firm favourite with locals and tourists alike, and you can see why the minute it arrives – thick brioche is topped with macerated berries, a white chocolate and almond crumble, whipped vanilla mascarpone and salted caramel drizzle. It’s absolutely a party in your mouth and I totally understand why people queue so long for it. It’s worth the wait.
Their Turkish Eggs are also to die for, and their chai lattes are like a warm hug. Whatever you fancy, Federal are sure to get you Fed and Watered with some vibrant, gram-worthy brunch dishes that will leave your followers green with envy.
Gooey by name and Gooey by nature, this High Street bakery churns out some of the most indulgent giant cookies, cinnamon buns and doughnuts to sugar-craving shoppers – but it’s theri French Toast that was made to impress.
With a jam-packed menu of sandwiches, brunch and lunch dishes, it’s even been praised by celebrities like Lizzo, who ordered takeout following her AO Arena show earlier this year.
Having launched during lockdown, the Northern Quarter bakery soon amassed an army of fans who are obsessed with their showstopper creations, with their £11.50 cube of fried brioche a firm favourite.
The menu asks customers to allow ‘up to 20 minutes’ adding that it’s ‘200% worth the wait’ – and they’re not wrong. It’s four times the size of a regular brioche size, with crisp, clean edges that appear to defy the laws of maths and physics. It’s filled with vanilla crème patisserie and dulce de leche giving it a creamy, butterscotch flavour, before being drenched in maple syrup, and a cube of salted butter for good measure.
It’s a dish that’s to die for – quite literally, since just looking at it is enough to clog your arteries and give you a heart attack.
If you are planning a visit to Gooey, I can also highly recommend their hash browns which are super crispy and lip-smackingly gorgeous, as well as the Classic Reuben sandwich, loaded with pastrami, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, pickles Russian dressing and French mustard.
It’s impossible to not leave without a box of bakes from the counter too. Your trip gets expensive fast, but your stomach will thank you – bank balance and diet, not so much. But in the words of Gooey – it’s 200% worth it.
Ezra and Gil
Last but certainly not least, there’s Ezra and Gil, which means Helper and Happiness. Their OG store on Hilton Street precedes its Peter Street location, with exposed brick walls and house plants galore and a brunch menu to boot.
A solid NQ brunch favourite, they serve a variety of wholesome all-day dishes including pasta, salads, sandwiches and poke bowls, with a rotating monthly specials menu to keep things exciting.
On the French Toast front, they’re currently offering a Jammie Dodger take on the classic. Costing £11.50, it features brioche French Toast coated with strawberry sugar, served with vanilla mascarpone, summer fruit compote, maple syrup and, of course, a Jammie Dodger.
Jammy, tart, sweet and creamy, Ezra and Gil’s French Toast is a real treat and is perfect for summer.
Another Heart To Feed
If you fancy being transported to the golden sands of Byron Bay, Another Heart To Feed will have you feeling some kind of way. The Aussie-inspired noshery started in Salford before moving to West Didsbury and opening up a second site on the Northern Quarter’s Hilton Street.
Another Heart To Feed is well known for its vibrant brunch dishes reminiscent of travels down under, and it truly is food for the soul.
Served on turquoise dishes, their brioche French Toast is dished up with vanilla mascarpone, summer berries compote, fresh fruit, pecan and maple syrup, with dainty edible flowers for that picture-worthy plate.
It costs £10, planting it firmly in the middle of the going rate for French Toast, with a savoury option in the form of wild mushrooms, creme fraiche, poached egg and truffle oil.
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Please note: All menus are subject to change and regularly do, so do check their most recent menus before your visit to avoid disappointment.