The queues may be long, but securing a table at Mannion and Co is definitely worth the wait, says Elaine Lemm.
The City of York is pretty much saturated with cafés and teashops; some are great, some good but unfortunately many are spewing out far less than acceptable food to unsuspecting tourists. Not sure which is which? Easy. Their quality is directly proportional with the size of the queue to get in.
You will be hard-pressed to get a table at relative newcomer, Mannion and Co on Blake Street. The Mannion family and their famous greengrocery business have occupied the quirky building for the previous 25 years. That is until 2011, when they handed it over to their daughter and award-winning chef-cum-son-in-law, Andrew Burton. Mannion seniors are still selling fruit and veg, but you will need to head down the street to York Market. Or, alternatively, as they supply the bistro café, you can always join the queue and wait patiently for a table.
Andrew has been chef at some of Yorkshire’s leading hotels and restaurants, including Aldwark Manor, Swinton Park, Bettys Cookery School, The Black Swan and latterly the Star at Harome. I have followed him on this journey and am thrilled that he has now fulfilled his ambition of opening his own place.
I fully expected Mannion and Co to reflect the prestigious venues of Andrew’s career, but it doesn’t. He and the family have firmly stamped their own mark on the place with a subtle blend of French bakery, English country chic, and a continental deli. There’s a scattering of bread-making ephemera quietly reassuring me that the loaves in the window are made in-house; a smattering of appealing cook books showing a serious foodie is in residence and a tantalising aroma of coffee and home-baked cakes.
Like many York eateries, space is at a premium so seating is carefully arranged. There’s a lovely, large old table close to the deli counter, perfect for the European sharing a table with others style of dining, and a few smaller tables tucked against the wall. Beyond is a charming paneled room with precarious-looking bowed walls and a window offering a stunning view of the Minster and On the main menu is a range of platters with choices between charcuterie, cheese, smoked salmon and bread or bits and bobs which I assumed is a mixture of them all (£8 each). For those who are famished or like to share, there’s a larger grazing board (£14).
Blackboard menus boast an extensive list of sandwiches for around about a fiver, and having seen the sandwiches delivered to the next table I suggest they are not for the faint-hearted. There is a comprehensive list of very enticing specials; smoked salmon and eggs; mushrooms on toast; grilled mackerel; seasonal salads; burger, Boudin noir and fried eggs; prawns and vermicelli noodles... the list goes on.
A goats’ cheese and beetroot salad and eggs royale both proved irresistible, though, frankly, I would have been happy with any of the specials on offer.
Big chunks of delicate creamy cheese, slow roasted beetroot and tomatoes mixed happily with dill pickle and squeakily fresh salad leaves. All were delicately drizzled with oil and finished with tiny blobs of a balsamic glaze.
Perfectly poached eggs came smothered in a fine hollandaise and together wobbled precariously on thick slices of smoked salmon and a hefty chunk of bread. Delicious.
How easy it would have been to stop after eating mains as we both were so delighted with our food. However, once presented with the list of homemade cakes and tarts on offer, well, it would have been rude not to. The delicious treats on offer include brownies, meringues, macaroons and delicate French patisseries.
My immediate choice of an orange, spiced Moroccan cake, sadly was not available. According to our waitress, it is the most popular cake on the menu, and she suggested coming earlier for lunch next time.
Despite my disappointment, an almond and pear tart proved a fabulous choice, as did the chunky wedge of moist, squishy beetroot and chocolate cake. The coffee at Mannion’s has clearly been carefully sourced and is probably the best coffee I have had in York. It comes from artisan coffee roasters Ue Coffee Roasters.
Andrew and the family have covered all bases at their café-bistro. Go for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea. Outside catering is on offer. There are bread workshops on Sundays and once a month they open during the evening for a Tasting Menu (booked up until next March but there’s a waiting list you can join). Crikey.
Mannion and Co are on to a winner. Their formula may not be unique, but it is special and a breath of fresh air for York. They are working to their strengths and within the confines of an ancient York building and managing it beautifully. I look forward to returning and my slice of that elusive cake.
Mannion Co, 1 Blake Street, York, YO1 8QJ. 01904 631030. Open Monday to Friday, 9am-5.30pm; Saturday: 8.30am-6pm; Sunday: 10am-5pm. Mannion’s also has an utterly delightful sheltered courtyard. This may not be so appealing mid-winter but on a summer’s day is glorious.