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.
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!
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!
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.
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.