31-33 Spear St.
Manchester M1 1DF
Soups: £2.85 - £3.25
Soup and a Sandwich: £6
This post was meant to be about Koffee Pot, but as they were closing when we arrived (2:45pm), we ducked across the road into Soup Kitchen instead.
Soup Kitchen is cool. You only have to see the neon initials in the windows, the arty magazines on the walls and the stripped-down communal tables to know that you have landed slap-dab in the middle of hipsterville. Luckily, the style does not dictate the food. Hearty soups and sandwiches (bread should come measured in slabs not slices) rub shoulders with vegetarian tarts and meaty stews. If you have ever become despondent whilst choking down a limp and lifeless supermarket (or, God forbid, newsagent) sandwich, then you need to turn in whatever direction will take you to the corner of Spear Street and Hilton Street and run there as fast as your under-nourished legs will carry you.
Although I usually review places alone, this time I was with an American friend, a New Yorker nonetheless, from Brooklyn. Soup Kitchen was, therefore, the perfect storm of style, substance, and low low prices, a combination that everyone can appreciate. Between the spicy, tomatoey, comforting mulligatawny, and the creamy-yet-flavourful leek and potato, I was hard-pressed to pick a favourite. My friend's hummous salad sandwich was declared "nothing special" (the hummous had little to set it aside from the supermarket kind) but was saved by the inches-thick slices of multi-grain bread, which made it worth eating. The poppy-seed whole-grain roll that came with my soup was also a delight: a stretchy crust and dense insides soaked plenty of soup up with each dip, resulting in a spotless bowl when it came time for me to deposit it on the tray rack for collection.
Since it opened, Soup Kitchen has provided Manchester's workers with a port in a storm. Reasonably-priced food and large portions in a place that feels like a friendly local even if many of its patrons wear skinny jeans, is not something often found in the heart of Manchester. Soup Kitchen remains the cool yet accessible friend you wish you'd had when you were younger, but this time it's up to you to make the first move.