The Food Review: Federal Café Bar, Manchester

Arguably the most fashionable, Instagram-worthy meal of the day, it’s safe to say that brunching has become a serious business. In Manchester alone, there’s an abundance of hip eateries armed with ample supplies of eggs and cocktails for its hungry guests; head to northern quarter and you’ll soon find it difficult to decide upon which one takes your fancy.

So if you do find yourself in a brunch-related predicament, get yourself down to Federal Café Bar. Situated on the very edge of northern quarter near the Arndale, it’s a New Zealand/Australian eatery not only offering your standard brunch fare with fresh ingredients from local suppliers, but plenty of well-thought out plates that will guarantee to put a smile on your face.

I’ve been desperate to visit Federal for ages, but for one reason or another, I’ve put it off. Mainly as I’d heard of how difficult it can sometimes be to get a table at this teeny-tiny venue, and couldn’t bear to get that close without managing to gorge myself. But for what Federal lacks in size, it more than makes up for in its quality of food, as it’s drop-dead delicious.

After waiting twenty minutes for a table (fairly reasonable considering there’s a no-reservation policy) we were greeted by a lovely bunch of smiley, happy staff who immediately provided us with some water and menus. Surroundings are stripped back and chilled, with plenty of exposed lighting and oh-so-cool art prints. It took me a while to decide upon a dish, as there’s just many tasty alternatives; breakfast is served until noon, with the brunch menu running all the way through to 6PM.

My friend Harriet decided upon a feast of ‘halloumi and shrooms’, consisting of pan fried halloumi with garlic and thyme mushrooms, free range poached eggs, spiced tomato relish, hazelnut dukka mix, rocket, and chorizo on sourdough toast. After much deliberation, I finally opted for French toast, accompanied by summer berry compote, almonds, vanilla mascarpone and salted caramel. We also made a unanimous decision to order cocktails (a blood orange Gin Fizz and a classic Bloody Mary) to help our food on its way.

It’s a bit of a pain to go and order up at the till, as you’ll spend a fair amount of time ducking and diving out of the way of staff and guests alike. That being said, this minor drawback is more than compensated by the standard of food, which is both aesthetical and tasty in equal measure. My French toast was nothing short of superb, and in fact the best French Toast I’ve actually ever had. Light and fluffy, with the perfect hit of sharpness from the compote, worked wonderfully with the almonds; pile on a dollop of mascarpone with a hint of caramel, and you’ll be transported to gastronomic heaven.

Harriet was in similar spirits whilst demolishing her shrooms, judging by her frequent outbursts of praise in between mouthfuls of food. I was permitted to sample some of her dish, and it was as equally delicious as my own, with each element cooked perfectly. With so many ingredients on the plate, and with so many orders coming through, it’s not unusual for certain aspects of the dish to be neglected in some cafes. But Federal clearly approach their cooking with such a degree of care and dedication, that you can’t fail to be impressed.

Our cocktails were also on point; I often get quite pedantic about my Bloody Mary’s, (I like mine with a generous helping of Worcestershire sauce) so was pleasantly surprised that Federal managed to hit the spot. However, with the café being so small, there can sometimes be a danger of having your drinks potentially knocked on the floor by other guests. Tables are crammed together here, to the point where it feels like you’re actually sat with another party, so if you have a tendency to get a little claustrophobic then it might be best to avoid at weekends.

While it has its minor downsides, Federal certainly offers plenty of potential to Manchester’s brunch scene. While it’s not always the most relaxing environment, it doesn’t detract from the absolutely knock-out food on offer. The menu is so inventive and imaginative, whilst cleverly managing to deliver crowd-pleasing dishes, that you can’t helped but be charmed by this quaint little eatery. For a grand total of £35, it’s sits firmly at the high end of the brunch market, but for a treat with friends, it’s totally worth it. Just make sure you’re prepared to queue.

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