The Manna House Bakery will be well known to people who enjoy the café life in Edinburgh. They make bread and pastries for cafés around town. To me, their brand is a selling point: a place with Union of Genius soup and Manna House bread is a place where I want to eat lunch. But what about the café itself? Christopher and I went to investigate.
It was a sunny morning and our second attempt at going to the Manna House. The first time I’d mixed up the days (gah!) so we arrived late on a Sunday when shelves and coolers were more or less empty. We suggested we’d come back when things weren’t so hectic. The Manna House makes brisk business at the weekend. There’s a steady stream of people in for loaves, or pastries, take-away salads and coffees, as well as people taking seats.
We sat towards the back where we had a good view of the sunny street and – more importantly – the coolers and the goodies behind their shining glass. Everything looked fresh and tempting.
Brunch part 1: savouries
We hadn’t had breakfast – sometimes the instinct not to eat is correct – so were very hungry when we arrived. We settled in with a coffee and I decided to have a salad plate to break my fast. I love fresh salads and the ones at the Manna House sounded so good. Crrrunchy Greens had peas and broccoli, Spicy Sweet Potato involved not just bright orange wedges of roast sweet potato but maple syrup, nuts and warming hint of chilli. The egg and potato salad was a deliciously healthy version of a familiar classic and the fregola was rich with mushrooms and scented with truffle oil. All different from each other, all very good.
Christopher went for the hummus roll with a side of sweet potatoes. He really enjoyed the bread: structured with a chewy crust and great flavour.
Sam, the manager, also brought us a chorizo tortilla and a corn fritter popadom. Now, watch me go into raptures. The tortilla was the perfect Spanish omelette layered with thin slices of chorizo, served with a garnish of salsa. It was rich and smokey and so very satisfying. I devoured it, there’s no other word for what happened.
The corn fritter popadom tasted as good as it looked: crunchy and soft, cumin scented and well matched with a sweet chutney. The popadum added drama and crunchy fun. I was really impressed by the breadth of flavours we tasted. Everything was very good and had its own distinct personality.
We couldn’t eat everything so it was with some sadness I left the goats cheese pizza and the pastrami sandwich in the cooler.
Brunch part 2: sweets
Refreshed with a second cup of coffee, we were ready to tuck into the sweets. We told Sam to surprise us and he did. I got two gorgeous mousse cakes: blueberry and white chocolate, and peach and raspberry. The peach was a shiny hemisphere with creamy peach mousse nestled around a raspberry centre. Sweet, but not too sweet, refreshing and delicate. The blueberry and white chocolate cake had a crumbly chocolate base and berries in the mousse. Again, it was fresh and lovely. I have a soft spot for blueberries and I think they match very well with dark chocolate.
Christopher avoided the gelatin of the mousse cakes and had an orange polenta cake that was perfectly moist and huge on orange flavour, and a Sacher torte on a crumble base. The team has worked a long time to perfect the polenta cake. The result is perfection.
Bread and croissants
We didn’t eat again until the evening and then I had a slice of salt and peper bread. The next day, we had tomatoes on salt and pepper bread for dinner (the bread was perfect with the tomatoes: extra seasoning was unnecessary because this is a bread that stands by its name). For breakfast, we had almond croissants – a little squashed after their journey to and from Glasgow ComicCon in Christopher’s back pack but still delicious. A lovely Sunday morning luxury.
Manna House Bakery has two locations: Easter Road and South Queensferry. We went to Easter Road and have friends who go to the one in South Queensferry. Both serve the same excellent cakes, bread and lunches. It’s a delight sitting in the bakery and see things be brought out: there’s constant activity in the kitchen. If you haven’t visited yet, do! Magic happens here.
22-24 Easter Road
Edinburgh EH7 5RG
Telephone: 0131 652 2349
Caroline was invited to visit by the Manna House Bakery.