Another Heart To Feed: The fold-out cafe feeding Didsbury neighbourhood during lockdown

Burton Road is quieter these days. 

This stretch of tarmac in Didsbury has been the home of proudly independent bars, cafes and retail stores for years; blessed with a charm that's even attracted city-dwellers up to the ‘burbs for a look around.

But today, the formerly bustling main street is deserted. Almost every neighbourhood favourite on the Burton Road strip has been forced to close… except for one little cafe.

Another Heart To Feed - an Australian-inspired pop-up tucked away inside West Village bar - has found a way to continue serving customers safely during the pandemic.

The cafe has been settled on Burton Road since moving from Chapel Street in 2018, and not even COVID-19 has been able to stop the clientele from coming back.

“It turned out to be a happy accident moving here,” staff member Roxy tells The Manc.

“Didsbury is a great place to be - and we’ve really found a loyal customer base."

The cafe was forced to close in March like many food and drink spots across the UK. But with some careful rejigging, Roxy and co have reincarnated Another Heart To Feed as a roadside takeaway.

The neighbourhood is delighted. For many Didsbury denizens, a visit to AHTF has become as routine as picking up a paper or two-pinter of milk in the morning, and whilst the cafe might look a little different with its makeshift social distancing design, its return has helped to reintroduce some familiarity to the community.

“Everyone seems to be really happy that we’ve found a way to reopen,” says Roxy.

“I think it’s helped to bring back a bit of normality.

“It’s great to see so many of the same faces that used to visit all the time. We do have lots of regulars coming here. But there have also been plenty of new faces, too.

“That nice atmosphere we created when we first set up is still here.”

The breezy vibe at AHTF is still very much the same; but the way the place operates has changed considerably.

“Our chef comes in and bakes everything fresh in the mornings before everyone else gets there with his gloves and his mask," Roxy explains.

“Then, two staff members come in and prepare before we open.

“We’ve got the two-meter markers on the floors, our team wear safety equipment, and food is kept under cover.”

In the current climate, many Manchester are being forced to flip their business models on their heads in order to survive.

Local brewery Shindigger have switched to a home beer delivery service, for example, whilst Northern Quarter breakfast spot Koffee Pot has been building lockdown kits for people to cook breakfasts and burgers at home.

AHTF, however, has taken advantage of the building design at West Village to transform from an intimate cafe into a collection point.

“We’re very fortunate in that we have bifolding doors; so we can put a table out front so it’s almost like a hatch," says Roxy.

“This way it works as a shopfront - and we never have anyone coming in or out.

“Before lockdown, local florist Bulb did our flowers - and now they’ve given us some plants which we’re selling.

“It’s great to see local people working together to create something quite nice.”

AHTF built its reputation on serving the kind of high-quality food you’d find in cafes on the other side of the world - moving things up a notch from small portions of crumbly snacks and pastries by cooking specially-made dishes.

On the menu at AHTF you’ll find the classics like coffee, cake and toast. But there’s also smashed avocado dishes, Turkish eggs with dyl, poached eggs and chorizo, and a selection of beer and wine.

“Our food is really popular, and a lot our dishes are a bit different and niche,” Roxy tells us.

“Also our coffee is really great - we get it from AllPress; an Australian coffee brand which helps give us an extra bit of authenticity.

“You can come in here for brunch, but it’s not like being in a traditional cafe; it’s a bit different.

“We’ve got specials on, the staff make time to chat to everybody, and we’ve got a lot of regulars that keep coming back.

“There’s about 15 staff here give or take, but of course we can only have so many on at one time right now.”

The future remains unclear for everyone in hospitality. But Roxy says AHTF has tentative plans to branch out a bit over the coming weeks and months.

“We’re hoping to start doing some of our most popular dishes for collection,” she tells us.

“We are potentially going back on Deliveroo - but we want to make sure we can do things safely as possible.

“Everyone should feel completely comfortable at work and we’ll need to examine whether we can operate with social distancing.

“It’s a weird time right now; we don't want to rush things or offer lots of things and end up disappointing people."

Not many cafes tend to build this kind of bond with their clientele. Roxy is under no illusions that her loyal customers have helped keep Another Heart To Feed alive, and she couldn’t be more grateful.

“We’d just love to thank everyone for their support,” Roxy says.

“People have been amazing - buying gift vouchers, coming down on their daily walks, visiting us regularly.

“We’d also like to say thanks to our suppliers who have been so patient with us whilst we have been re-opening; Allpress Coffee, Companio Bakery, Trove, Strawberry Catering, and Hopewall Farm to name a few.

“When that first announcement came out saying cafes needed to close, it was a bit of a scare. But we’re getting through it.

“It’s all about taking each day as it comes.”

Another Heart To Feed is located at 220 Burton Road, West Didsbury. Check out the cafe’s Facebook page here.

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