Review: Federal Cafe and Bar, Manchester England

How would you describe Australian cuisine and dining culture to people from other countries? Generally, I would talk about our love of fusion cuisine and of modern interpretations of regional street food.

Our hottest restaurants are about modern Chinese, Malaysian, Japanese, Thai or Vietnamese street food, our coolest bars serve up American dude food and massive burgers, and we benefit from having cuisine from all different corners of the globe executed in an authentic and genuine way. It’s hard to have a truly terrible meal in Australia.


What I probably wouldn’t have described as Australian cuisine is our café culture. It’s something that I’ve never thought twice about – it seems so natural to be able to go out to a decent café and have smashed avocado and poached eggs on toast that it barely seems worth mentioning.

It wasn’t until we started travelling so extensively in Europe that we realised Australian café culture and cuisine is particularly unique to our corner of the world. Federal Café and Bar in Manchester is trying to bring a bit of this culture to northern England, and they’re doing a great job.


Located right in the centre of town, they enjoy a busy trade on weekends. We ended up having to wait for about twenty minutes outside in the cold before we could get a seat in their small thirty seater café.

Flat white coffee
Flat white coffee

Luckily, they were happy to serve us some takeaway drinks outside while we waited to help keep us warm. K was quite happy with his Flat White, rating it a solid 8 compared to the dismally rated drip or instant coffees he’d been stuck with on our trip.

Flat Whites by the way, are a particularly Australian-style of coffee in case you didn’t know! It’s only now that they’re beginning to catch on in the rest of the world. Greggs, an English bakery chain was advertising their brand new Flat Whites everywhere while we were in the UK – not quite the same as Federal Café though, considering that Greggs coffee comes from the push-button machine rather than an actual coffee machine!


Each table is set with a little range of sauces and cutlery that surprisingly includes a bottle of HP Sauce. While HP sauce isn’t often found in an Australian café, I suppose that’s Federal’s concession to their mainly English audience! I did like how the cutlery was served in a little Milo can though it did trigger some cravings for Milo!

Superman juice (avocado, ginger, kale, banana, lime, apple, pear, coconut water, omega seeds), 3.60 GBP
Superman juice (avocado, ginger, kale, banana, lime, apple, pear, coconut water, omega seeds), 3.60 GBP

I ordered a Superman Juice to go with my breakfast – while not freshly blended on the spot, it is created and bottled on site by the café on a regular weekly basis. I’m a big fan of green juices which help to make me feel a little more virtuous in my diet choices, and this was a particularly flavourful mix with a strong creamy yet tart taste. The only downside is that the inclusion of a mix of healthy seeds made the juice quite gritty.


To celebrate our discovery of an Australian-style café, K and I ordered the two dishes that seemed the most classically Australian. With healthy servings of smoked salmon, poached eggs, smashed avocado and corn fritters, the only thing missing was a sweet breakfast option like Bill Granger’s ricotta hotcakes – other than that, this ticked all the boxes!

Smashed avocado on sourdough toast with poached eggs and smoked salmon and rocket, 10 GBP
Smashed avocado on sourdough toast with poached eggs and smoked salmon and rocket, 10 GBP

K’s Smashed Avocado on Sourdough with Poached Eggs and Smoked Salmon featured the most beautifully cooked soft-boiled egg with a runny yolk. With the rich yellow yolk mixing with the savoury smoked salmon and creamy avocado before soaking into the chewy sourdough toast, there was really nothing to fault with this dish.

Corn Fritters stacked with smoked salmon, sun-blushed tomatoes, fried free range egg, tomato relish, sriracha hollaindaise and rocket, 11 GBP
Corn Fritters stacked with smoked salmon, sun-blushed tomatoes, fried free range egg, tomato relish, sriracha hollaindaise and rocket, 11 GBP

I chose the Corn Fritters with Smoked Salmon, Egg and Sriracha Hollandaise which just seemed to be the most Australian dish ever, combining some classic Australian café breakfast ingredients with our love of fusion ingredients in the sriracha hollandaise. While not the most aesthetically pleasing dish, it sure did hit the spot with its creamy and spicy hollandaise.

I honestly can’t fault the menu at Federal Café and Bar in any way whatsoever. They serve up Australian-quality breakfast dishes at what is quite a reasonable price by UK standards. The café itself even manages to channel the slight hipster quality of most Australian cafes in their use of décor. I’d return to Federal in a heartbeat the next time I’m craving a taste of home in Manchester.

Federal Cafe and Bar is located at 9 Nicholas Croft in Manchester, England.

Camden Markets and the Cereal Killer Cafe, London England

There’s a lot to love about the central areas of the city of London. Amazing skyline along the river, restaurants, cafes, theatres, shops, nightlife… there’s always something to do, something to see, and something to eat. If only London was cheaper, I could definitely see myself living there!

There’s lots to love outside of central London though, and the northern area of Camden Town is particularly well beloved by cool young millenials.


Camden Markets are full of market stalls catering to various sub-cultures – gothic, steampunk, hippie, retro vintage, and more. There are stalls selling souvenirs for tourists, many second-hand bookstores, and food stalls as well.


You can definitely spend hours just wandering around the markets exploring the different stalls. I loved looking at all the vintage tea sets and browsing through the shelves of the second-hand book stalls.


I got hungry before long though and we decided to settle for getting some lunch from one of the food stalls on the north side of the market. There are other options though if you’re looking for more variety – a wealth of Asian cuisine in the centre of the market, and a million food trucks and temporary food stalls set up in an area by the Camden Lock.


A Mexican food stall looked like the best of the options on the north side of the market – a vegetarian quesadilla for myself and a taco bowl salad for K which was actually presented in two taco shells rather than an actual taco bowl! The quesadilla and the tacos were quite flavourful and highly cheesy, but I think the real highlight were the corn chips which were so crunchy that it tasted as though they were freshly fried.


However, forget the Mexican food. The real highlight of our visit to the Camden Markets was visiting the Cereal Killer Cafe for dessert. You’ve no doubt read various condemnatory articles about the ridiculous Gen-Y hipster-ness of this concept. A cafe that serves cereals from around the world and charges over $5AUD per bowl for the privilege? It’s an incredibly overpriced first-world concept but I’m going to be honest – it appealed to the over-privileged hipster in me!


They’re not lying when they say that they offer a wide range of cereals – interestingly, healthier cereal options are few and far between as they cater to the nostalgic sweet dreams of millenials as they offer the most chocolatey, marshmallowy, honeyed, sugary cereals to be found. Their suggested themed cereal mixes (‘chocopottomus’, ‘double rainbow’, ‘feckin nut case’, mint choc cHipster’, ‘miss american pie’) speak for themselves.


Beside cereal, they also offer other naughty ‘breakfast’ treats – poptarts, cereal-flavoured lip balms, and more. Their primary market is catered to throughout the cafe as well – the walls are decorated with Spice Girls wallpaper, Billie Piper and other 90s pop stars blast from the stereo, decorated cartoon lunchboxes line one wall, and old CRT TVs play 90s shows such as Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Millenials yearning for the innocence of their 90s childhood is who they’re targeting, and they’re doing it well.


We were there for dessert, and I needed to choose one of their over-the-top hot chocolate concoctions once I saw the picture – this is a Stacked Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate. Served with overflowing whipped cream, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, puffed peanut cereal bits and rivers of chocolate sauce, I really shouldn’t have been surprised that I developed a sugar-related headache soon after I had this hot chocolate!

Structural integrity unfortunately is not a strength here – the hot chocolate quickly melts all the other elements and before long you end up with a sticky chocolate and peanut pond on the plate.


We finished off with one bowl of sugary dessert cereal to share – a bowl of Unicorn Poop. This is made up of Ricicles, Party Rings, Marshmallow Fluff, marshmallows, hundreds and thousands and semi skimmed milk. Colourful it is and sweet too…I suppose that unicorn poop really would taste like this!

Visiting the Cereal Killer Cafe would only make sense if you’re a young person in your twenties and thirties with a healthy amount of disposable income, a yearning for the innocence of childhood, and an irrepressible sweet tooth. It’s something you might visit once to say that you’ve been there, and you’ve ticked it off your ‘food fad’ list of must-dos.

I did note with interest however that they hold parties and functions in the cafe after hours – this would be the type of place that I would want to hold a retro nostalgic 30th birthday party…which eep, is coming up in November for me!

Cereal Killer Cafe is located in Camden Markets and also in Brick Lane.

Review: Touchwood Cafe, Richmond

After yet another early Saturday morning yoga session, I met up with K at Touchwood Cafe in Richmond. Part of the family of cafes that includes Square and Compass and Mammoth, Touchwood has been designed in much along the same lines though on a slightly larger scale. A mix of industrial chic with warm Scandinavian wooden tones, the cafe is definitely peak hipster.


The clientele of Touchwood seems to be slightly different as well. Perhaps it’s the larger size of the space inside or the inclusion of a handful of communal tables, but Touchwood seems to draw two extremes – either singles brunching alone lingering for two hours over the Saturday newspaper, or large groups of friends having a long leisurely brunch.

The large table we found ourselves on that morning  featured both types – a group of ten young women on one end, and a handful of single middle-aged men sipping on their lattes, flicking through the Saturday Age and stoically ignoring everyone around them on the other. Strangely, we seemed to be in the minority as a couple brunching together.

Health Lattes, Matcha, Tumeric and Beetroot, $5 AUD each
Health Lattes, Matcha, Tumeric and Beetroot, $5 AUD each

I think K was keen to order a normal cappuccino as he is wont to do, but I convinced him to share one each of Touchwood’s Health Lattes with me – matcha, tumeric and beetroot. While I’m a big fan of green tea / matcha lattes, I’d never tried tumeric or beetroot lattes before…and to be honest, I’m not sure if they’re to my taste. To be even more honest, I don’t think their matcha latte was to my taste either!

I think it’s the mix of coconut, almond and soy milks that are used in these health lattes which turns me off. I love soy milk and often make my own. However commercially produced soy milk like Bonsoy often contains extra ingredients that overly sweetens the product and changes its taste profile. This in turn has an interesting effect on the matcha, diluting its characteristic stronger and more bitter flavours.

PBJ Doughnut, $5.50 AUD
PBJ Doughnut, $5.50 AUD

Something that was much more to my taste were the deliciously and sinfully rich PBJ Doughboys doughnuts sitting on the counter. After waiting nearly forty minutes for our meal with no food in sight, I sent K to the counter to order a doughnut to stem our hunger pangs. Naturally, as soon as he came back with the doughnut on a plate, our food arrived!

Wholemeal Waffles, $17.50 AUD
Wholemeal Waffles, $17.50 AUD

I really didn’t need to order the sweet doughnuts given that I had ordered a semi-dessert brunch in the Wholemeal Waffles served with fresh berries, maple syrup, almond flakes, strawberry dust…and…peanut butter mascarpone. That last ingredient is every bit as heavenly as you would imagine, and you can bet that I’m going to make it at home as a priority for the next time I make pancakes!

Breakfast Tacos, $14.50 AUD
Breakfast Tacos, $14.50 AUD

K chose the Tex-Mex inspired Breakfast Tacos as his brunch dish – replete with scrambled eggs, avocado, baked beans, corn, potato, jalapenos, and lots and lots of cheese. It’s just about what you expect from a breakfast taco – so over-stuffed with ingredients that a knife and fork is the only way in which you can attack it. No criticisms or rave reviews here, it’s a pretty standard fusion brunch dish!


The long wait to place an order and receive our meals was a big strike on my book against Touchwood Cafe. I’m impatient at the best of times, and when I’m hangry after an early morning workout, you definitely don’t want to keep me waiting for food! The drinks were definitely a bit hit and miss, so it’s worth opting for a more traditional choice of drinks if you do choose to visit Touchwood. As for me, I think I’d only go back for another taste of that peanut butter mascarpone!

After we finished our brunch at Touchwood, we went for a long walk along the Yarra River – training for the 35km charity walk we’ve signed up for! Please consider sponsoring me if you have a few dollars to spare.

Touchwood Cafe is located at 480 Bridge Road, Richmond.