The eight year old was sceptical when I met him from school and said we were crossing town to have lunch at the Manna House Bakery on Easter Road.
‘There’s a bakery at Lidl just across the road,’ he said. ‘It’s nearer and they have nice buns and bread. And I’m very hungry.’ All true, I had to admit, and then spent the bus ride crossing my fingers and promising something special.
I needn’t have worried; one look at the cake display and he was sold.
In the interests of a balanced lunch – and review – we started with soup, and very interesting, substantialÂ soup, at that. I had ‘winter chickpea and pepper hunter’s stew’,Â which was happily warming, spicy and very tasty. Himself had the ‘red kidney bean, broth of basil and spinach, coconut and rocket (not sure I’m remembering the grand titles correctly, but you get the gist) which, after a moment looking askance at kidney beans floating in a green sea, went down equally well.
Now, I always feel it would be far more sophisticated to choose a colourful, original salad – and there were a selectionÂ (rigatoni with butternut and feta puree, basil and sunblushed tomatoes; quinoa with peppers and coriander) but…I just can’t resist a good, homemade sandwich.Â Again, there were several to choose from, so with a nod to Christmas I chose the ‘gravy-glazed turkey,Â smoked pancetta, brie and cranberry jam’. No, I didn’t need it after the soup, but yes, I did enjoy it very much – it was generous, the right side of messy, and the bread perfect
The eight year old was already devouring his cake – a strawberry creameux mousse and chocolate brownie concoction. He grudgingly offered me a sliver to go with my coffee, and then we made an executive decision to buy a selection to take home for the friends visiting that evening – and when Sam, the manager gave a us a few of his favourites, too, we were in cake heaven.
I’m not even going to try and remember their names, but from blackberry and passionfruit, to red velvet, to banana rum and caramel, and chocolate fudge (of course) and orange polenta cake, we, over the next two days, tried them all. The worry is that beautiful cakes will mean style over substance, but this time, the only one not Hoovered up was the orange polenta cake (variously, ‘too orangey(!) too dense, not cakey-enough), which I, alone, liked.
The Manna House Bakery, was, then, a total hit – and worth crossing town for. It’s a tiny cafe, three tables and a couple of high stools at the window (all were full, all the time we were there) and a thriving takeaway. Everything is made on the premises by Drew, the baker and owner, and whether it’s to buy a quick breakfast snack, or a meeting-friends-for-lunch outing, it’s highly recommended.
One thing that would make it even better – and this was a spontaneous and unanimous comment from the various visitors who ate the cake – a ‘tasting plate’: the opportunity to have, say, three small pieces of cake for the price of one big one…triple the choice and half the decision.
Soup and Bread Â£4; Filled Rolls and Daily Specials from Â£3; Cakes from Â£2.50
The Manna House Bakery and Patisserie, Easter Road, Edinburgh.
*My photographs weren’t, hence lots of words and no pictures.