I had a bit of an experiment going this week. I was working at Salford Uni from Monday to Friday, and with a tenner in my pocket to burn on lunch, decided to see if I could get good quality and tasty lunches for under £2 per day. Salford's also a bit of a blank slate to me - I worked there for a few weeks about five years ago, but I haven't crossed the Irwell since.
Day 1: Adelphi Cafe.
17 Oldfield Road
Bacon on Toast: £1.50 (on a barm: £1.70)
Almost total unfamiliarity with the area around Salford Uni meant that some hungry striding ended up at the Adelphi Cafe (also a newsagents) for want of a better choice. I was the only person there. I'd been drawn in by the possibility of "bacon toast £1.50" on the sandwich board outside, but was slightly put off by the packaged offerings in their counter. Luckily, the bacon sandwich was tasty, and they didn't skimp on the bacon. Thick slices of white bread, plenty of butter and four rashers = perfection. The Daily Mail was gathering ketchup stains on the table (I'll only read the Mail when it's a) free, and b) there is nothing else to read, not even a menu or the back of a fag packet) so I got to get myself all lathered up into a faux-frenzy over asylum seekers, Muslims, gays, women, the youth of today etc.
Day 2: Caribbean Flavas
Jerk Chicken and Flat Dumpling: £1.80
Venturing further afield (0.8 miles, according to GoogleMaps), I went to a small Caribbean take-away that's slap-bang-next-to Salford Central Station. It wasn't line-out-the-door busy, but is obviously a favourite amongst local office workers and the local population. Caribbean Flavas offers a lot of food: jerk and curried chicken, two different kinds of wings, mac and cheese, roti and various fillings, and a lot more besides. As my lunch choice was listed under the Sides section, I was preparing to have to splash some cash on something more substantial (or 50p on a Wispa). When a man slapped down something wrapped in plastic that weighed only slightly less than a brick, I was intrigued. In case I didn't like this hefty wodge, I went to eat outside in the freezing cold down by the canal so that I wouldn't embarrass myself in the shop. I shouldn't have feared: my lunch was a dense flat-bread about the size of a personal pizza (the "dumpling") slit in half and stuffed with jerk chicken and generous lashings of sauce. It was so good. The chicken was recognisable as chicken (no reconstituted spongey stuff here), the sauce was peppery and sweet, and the bread was firm enough to not disintegrate but had enough give and a slight sweetness to make it interesting even in the parts the sauce hadn't reached. I ended up only being able to eat £1's worth, but I didn't start feeling hungry again for about nine hours. Bargain.
Day 3: The Farm
Corner of Church St and Birchin Lane,
Spicy Tomato, Pepper and Chilli Soup: £2
I wanted to check out the student protest so I trekked up into Manchester. I've waxed lyrical about The Farm before, so I won't take you through the litany of incredible things about it again. I wanted one of the roast pork sandwiches, but as I was still a bit full from yesterday's lunch and it was a bit parky outside, I decided on soup. The soup wasn't as good as I had been expecting. It was tasty, with a nice tingle from the spices, and the tomatoes and peppers definitely taste-able, and the huge hunk of baguette was fresh and went well with the soup, but there was something missing. Maybe it was because I deep-down wanted that roast pork sandwich. Maybe it was that the portion size was a little too small. I don't know. I had a nice chat with the owner, though. He's a nice bloke and will tell you the provenance of anything he sells. I should have had that sandwich.
Day 4: Adelphi Cafe (again)
Same as before.
I was curious about the community-run Creation Cafe diagonal to the Church of St. Stephen and St. Peter on Chapel St. I went in, opened the door to the cafe, and was greeted by what looked like a hundred pensioners playing bingo with the enthusiasm of someone who's stuck in a home. I couldn't face it. So I made my excuses ("Oh, this isn't Salford Uni," and the woman at the desk was good enough to say, "No, love, that's a bit further on") and went for a bacon sandwich and a read of the MEN.
Day 5: Shlurp
So, at the end of the week, I'd spent £8.75 on five lunches at four different good-quality establishments. Quite the bargain when you look at the signs a lot of places have offering fancy sandwiches for a fiver or salads with too many bizarre ingredients for three quid. All of the places I visited are simple, friendly, and offer food that you want to eat at lunch. Put down that portabello mushroom, tallegio and sundried tomato panini with aioli dressing, and get a heart-warming soup or bacon sarnie down you instead, you big jessie.