I think you guys know now, that the Northern Quarter is my favorite place to hang out in this foreign land. Having never lived in such a big city, I have learned the hard way that to make the best of your day in Manchester, it should be planned in advance. I, being a very messy, disorganised person, VERY RARELY plan my days ahead. I’d rather roam around without any particular destination on mind and end up in completely unknown little gems.
Back home, in the capital one can walk from China Town, to the Port-Louis Waterfront, and from one’s favorite coffee shop, to their favorite little sunny pub. Everything is close and everything can be reached easily by foot. Manchester is on the other hand so massive, that it makes me feel like the journey from Oxford road to the Northern Quarter takes at least three years. I however do not mind walking miles and miles if it’s all sunny and nice.
Random discoveries are probably one of the best things about Manchester. This feeling of amazement when you stumble into a vintage junk shop (Junk of Manchester) that smells of jasmine incense sticks with indian clothes and accesories, or geeky heaven (Forbidden Planet), or that cosy little favorite cafe (Blue Daisy Cafe, their vegan and veggie meals are to die for!) of ours that le boyfriend and me ran in, to hide from the rain. It is one of those coincidential moments that led to the chance encounter that was Chapter One.
Found on a corner of Lever Street, it used to have a very minimalistic outdoor decor, all in whites, greys and concrete. I said ‘it used to’ because if my information is correct (and according to their online blog), the outsides have all been pimped with warm blues and mint colours, with books carefully displayed over oh so cute flower parterres. When Shaun (le fluffy boyfriend – check him out here, you won’t be disappointed – WHAAAaat?! A wee bit of boyfriend promo doesn’t hurt anyone does it?) and I walked into Chapter One for the first time, it definitely was not because of the outside decor, which we barely noticed. We saw this very cute blackboard sign outside of the main door and on it was written ‘Books and Coffee’. What more could we ask for? Two of our favorite things brought together in one place!!
The decoration, the interior design, the open spaces and the layout of absolutely everything in this place just blew our minds. It was as if a very tasteful god of cosiness and style decided to design a creative but cosy haven and brought together all the colours, lights, bits of decorations and comfiness it (he or she) could think of. Everything from the books, the screens with motivational quotes from books, to the cosy couches, the tables and chairs, the hidden reading areas, the space that looks like you walked into a very stylish grandma’s tea room, to the little raised balcony with fairy lights – everything looks exactly where it is supposed to be. Being very open, very white, and very pleasurable to the eyes, Chapter One succeeds in creating this nice, calm, chill and cosy vibe that just invites you to dive into a book whilst sipping on hot heart warming beverages.
ALSO THEY HAVE THE PRETTIEST WATER FOUNTAIN EVER RIGHT INSIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SHOP!! I don’t know why the whole place reminded me of Greece with the “ambience epurée”and warmth it offers.
The book selection is very diverse and eye catching. Obviously Chapter One does not have as many books as a ‘normal’ bookshop would have, but in my opinion this can only be a positive. Don’t you sometimes walk out of bookshops with this weird nagging feeling of dreadbecause you did not have enough time to have a look at everything they have on display (or there was way too many books and after spending an hour in there you have to go back and face the world)? Well, this is absolutely not an issue in Chapter One. Books are intelligently displayed category wise everywhere. It is oh so nice to stroll around the shop and discover all the goodies they have on offer. I was very suprised to find a whole Paulo Coelho section and it made me very happy.
I shall not talk about a little suprise almost hidden back room they have near the toilets, for I’d like you people to wander there and be amazed. I shall only say that I discovered typewriter cubicles which can be used to stain blank pages, and that their horror book section is probably the best display and horror book atmosphere I have ever experienced.
Let’s now move away from the food for the soul yummies and get closer to the food for the tummy yummies (gosh I sound like a 3 year old, please blame the food). As soon as you walk in you will be greeted with warm smiles and gorgeous enormous cakes that will only make your stomach ache for them and shout CAKE!CAKE!CAKE! instead of salads! The smiles and warm welcome of the exployees made us feel comfortable and at ease instantly. It is nice to walk into a place, and feel wanted and welcomed. It sets the mood for enjoyable book and coffee times. Going back to the cakes; the gluten free chocolate cake is a complete delight for the tastebuds; spongy, very light, and full of chocolatey goodness. Another one of our favorites is the salted caramel cake which is so good it cannot even be described! Just know that Shaun and me often stare at photos of it in a creepy loving way whilst saying ‘I so want this now’ – yes, yes, things often get out of hand when it comes to food in our couple.
Everytime we visit Chapter One, even though he wants to try everything on the menu, Shaun (le fluffy boyfriend) always goes for their salmon and cream cheese eggstack. It is a meal that might look small, but will definitely fill you up and give you your money’s worth in terms of taste and satisfaction. I’d happily eat anything they have! The croissants, the baguettes, the shrimp salad, the focaccia bread with mozarella and tomato – just writing about them all makes me salivate! Tea lovers will absolutely love Chapter One with their wide variety of organic teas served in pretty transparent teapots (my favorite kind of teapots) and coffee lovers will not be disappointed either. Shaun, coffee expert who likes them strong and black (like me) definitely approves of their small but powerful (like me again) americano. I guess my boyfriend likes his coffee like he likes his women. This has gone wrong. Anyyyyywaaaaaaay….
To end this overly long blog post about books and coffee my dear happy hippie people, there is a new coffee shop in town, and you absolutely need to check it out. It is the perfect escape from a frantic day in Manchester, an instant rehabilitation if you have been shopping all day or if you just need some solitude from the crowds of the city.