Sugar Junction, the Cakes have an Impressive Vintage of their own
There is no doubt that cakes are one of the worst inventions in human history. They fill no human need, they do not make life more efficient or manageable, and they are undoubtedly no harbinger of the continuing progress of civilization. Furthermore, cakes, rather than being of a dietary benefit, do not enhance the human body, but contrarily hinder it. Yet, it is precisely the uselessness of cakes that makes them so essential. Given that no one ‘needs’ cakes, they fall exclusively in the realm of ‘wants’ and cakes represent unadulterated pleasure. With their velvety textures, unbounded creativity and ambrosial flavours, cakes are unashamed in their temptation and remind us all that sometimes, a little bit of what you like, does you good. Cakes may have no need but that is precisely where their value lies, one can throw caution to the wind and indulge fully, knowing that their ensuing treat is a naughty little rebellion against the rules of nutrition and a revelling in deliciously decadent temptation.
Sugar Junction in Manchester is a place that allows such indulgences. Situated on Manchester’s Tib Street in the fashionable Northern Quarter, it is no surprise that confectionary decadence is given a trendy edge. Sugar Junction is a Tea House come cake emporium and is a beacon for scrumptious beverages and sweet treats. With a headline that reads ‘All You Need is Cake’, it is fitting that Sugar Junction imparts an obvious love of the craft when helping its customers meet its mantra. In fact, Sugar Junction was born from a self-confessed love for good and wholesome food, tea, coffee and unique drinks. Yet it’s not just a titular support of the sugary delight that makes Sugar Junction stand out. Sugar Junction is presented as a quirky vintage-styled café, where inspiration may be old school but thankfully does not include vintage rations in its parlour.
The Décor is an Urban but Tasteful Step back to the Past
The décor at Sugar Junction is individual and tasteful, and perhaps betraying its namesake, does not resemble a children’s sweetshop or Wonkaland factory. In fact, Sugar Junction is best described as a beautiful old-fashioned parlour room, with patterned wallpaper, authentic furniture and bespoke furnishings. The décor doesn’t come across as uppity or too formal however, in reality, Sugar Junction has a relaxed atmosphere and its decoration is given enough colour and charm to ensure it is inviting rather than imposing. Sugar Junction is light and airy during the day and intimate during the evening.
An Emporium of Cakes that Would inspire any Master Baker
Of course, it would be needless to say that a big talking point when it comes to Sugar Junction is its sublime array of cakes. Simply, they are divine and undoubtedly enough to give any dieter an afternoon off. Rather than having a cake menu at Sugar Junction, there is a new selection of newly made treats every day, ensuring that each batch is nothing but fresh and well thought-out. There is a minimum of seven different cakes available at anyone time so there truly is a delight for every palate. This is particularly so, given that Sugar Junction regularly offers vegan and gluten-free cakes to maximise the inclusivity of its sugary goods. Some cakes available during my visit included the devilishly moreish ‘Chocolate and Guinness Gateau’ (as pictured below), served with a creamy and sharp cream cheese icing.
Also available are treats such as the ‘Hazelnut Hedgerow Cake’ and the ‘Triple Malteaser Cake’, each made by one of the team of four talented bakers.
Alternatively, one may opt to order an afternoon tea option, which perhaps gives the most variety for your buck. For instance, the ‘Traditional Afternoon Tea’ comes at £15.50 and alongside the expansive choice of teas, provides a selection of mini muffin sandwiches, a fruit scone with clotted cream and jam and an assortment of the daily cakes and treats! Similarly, the menu also has some more consistent dessert staples, which are not subject to daily updates. For instance, the ‘Mama’s Sticky Toffee Pudding’ is as tempting as I’m sure you can imagine, with all its rich and gooey goodness.
Savoury Delights are too to be found
To round off the indulgences with a savoury edge, Sugar Junction offers great Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch options. The food is exclusively made with locally sourced produce. For instance, the bread is sourced from ‘Robinsons the Master Bakers’, which is the oldest family run bakery in Manchester. The meat is locally sourced free-range meat from ‘Frost Butchers’ in the nearby Chorlton-cum-Hardy. The freshness and attentive approach to good quality ingredients is apparent with from the wholesome yet spot-hitting taste Sugar Junction provides.
Although it’s perhaps not the most ‘haute cuisine’ choice on the menu, the ‘Tib Street Butty’, £4.50, at Sugar Junction is the best bacon sandwich I have had in Manchester. Freshly made doorstop bread is generously filled with the finest rashers of high quality bacon to ensure a satisfying breakfast.
For lunch, why not opt for the ‘Open Hummus Stack’ at £6, this dish is a Summery treat with the pan fried hallumi, roasted red peppers served with rich hummus and cleansing slices of cucumber. The Lancashire Beef Hot Pot is a source of regional pride, and perfectly pays homage to the warming classic, priced at £7.50.
Tea, Coffee, Milkshakes and Cocktails, hopefully not all at once
Sugar Junction, given its Tea House and Café elements, unsurprisingly offers a host of tasty blends and beans, from over 25 varieties of tea to expertly made South American Coffee. The tea is blended by ‘Blends for Friends’ and comes in the more traditional varieties such as Earl Grey and English Breakfast, alongside the more unusual ‘Chinese Gunpowder’ and flowering bud teas. Each option is undoubtedly delicate and refreshing and a perfect accompaniment to the richly satisfying range of cakes. As a coffee lover, I am happy to say that the same level of standards is adopted here. Sugar Junction serves what they call the ‘Coffee for Everyone, Red Mile’, this is a beautifully balanced blend of the best of the seasonal beans, including 60% ‘Fazenda Pantano’ beans from Brazil, 20% ‘Finca’ from Argentina and 20% ‘Gisuma Co-operative’ from Rwanda. The taste is a smooth yet powerful dark roast with notes of bitter chocolate and sweet berries.
Of course, Sugar Junction brings its titular sweetness to its drinks too, and it has impressive milkshake and upon the evening, cocktail menus. The milkshakes evoke the image of an American Diner and are made with the same tantalising ice cream varieties used when preparing the desserts. Opulent and divine is the ‘Cookies and Cream’ Milkshake, at £3.95, where chunks of baked cookies are met with a topping of marshmallows. The Rum and Raison is a more alcoholic blend that is reminiscent of both nostalgic childhood candies and adult alcoholic fancies.
Fitting with the décor, Sugar Junction offers ‘Vintage Cocktails’, which are a veritable pleasure by their own right. These expertly crafted creations are priced from £7.50-£7.95 and make a wonderful opportunity to turn the saccharine pleasures of a cake wonderland into a more mature affair. A personal favourite was the ‘Windward Tea Punch’. This rum based cocktail had a spicy-sweet flavour, with strong cinnamon and passion fruit flavours. The drink was served with caramel and salted pineapple slices.
Sugar Junction really is haven for the sweet-toothed out there. The excellence of its cakes and tempting treats is indisputable. For those who adore the sweeter things in life, and enjoy indulging in them in a beautiful environment, I really can recommend no place better than Manchester’s Sugar Junction.