A new building in Manchester barely raises an eyebrow these days.
The fidgety city centre has spent the past few decades putting high-rises here and corporate HQs there – moulding itself a look suited to its increasing reputation as an international metropolis.
The pace of regeneration has been incredible. Buildings have shot up and tumbled down in equal measure, yet a handful of special structures have stood with a sort of quiet dignity amid the racket of construction.
One such building complex is tucked away behind the skyline, around three miles south of the city centre: the The Toast Rack & Fried Egg
When the complex was completed in 1960, there was nothing quite like it.
Sixty years down the line, there still isn’t.
Created by Manchester City Council’s then Chief Architect Leonard Cecil Howitt, the Hollings Building (as it was first called) was a noteworthy anomaly in design; triangular shaped with curling concrete arches and a circular block alongside it.
Its structure adopted the appearance of an enormous toast rack (aptly reflecting its purpose as a catering college) with its round neighbour quickly becoming known as the ‘Fried Egg’.
Opening to initial bemusement, the breakfast-themed building eventually became a beloved part of the Fallowfield region – especially in the student community after it was purchased by Manchester Metropolitan University.
The design proved practical, too, – creating different sized learning spaces for various classes.
In April 1998, The Toast Rack was even granted Grade II listed status by English Heritage – who described it as ‘a distinctive and memorable building which demonstrates this architect’s love of structural gymnastics in a dramatic way’.
The city’s student buildings began to resemble something of a breakfast buffet when University of Manchester launched the big, round silver University Place – referred to on campus as the ‘bean can’.
But in 2013, MMU decided to stop using the Toast Rack – choosing to shift its student campuses further north.
Five years later, The Gym Group moved in – turning part of the site into a state-of-the-art leisure facility.
Generation Ltd is also delivering 210 apartments in the area alongside 20,000 sq ft of commercial space.
Still, after sixty years and numerous redevelopments, the Toast Rack & Fried Egg remains one of Manchester’s curious and intriguing architectural creations.
In true breakfast style, it set Manchester up for a brand new day.
Now, we’re watching structural innovation being dished out right before our very eyes.
Inside the new Simpson’s-themed cafe that has opened in Manchester city centre
A new cafe with food and decor inspired by The Simpson’s has opened in Manchester city centre, and it’s already proving quite the mecca for fans of the satirical American cartoon.
Called Desert Island Dumplings, the new cafe – which sells a range of non-traditional vegan dumplings, salt and pepper chips, hash browns, and naughty noodles – can be found on the top floor of Affleck’s in the Northern Quarter.
Bursting with The Simpson’s memorabilia, the team has really nailed the theme here with a giant chalk blackboard reading: “I will not eat too many dumplings” over and over again.
This continues with retro school desks, a painted ‘blue sky’ ceiling, a Simpson’s scarf, and a Bart-shaped gaming monitor hooked up to an old Play Station and Game Cube (complete with the original Simpson’s Road Rage game and The Sims).
The cafe even boasts a larger-than-life mural of Homer disappearing into a hedge, taken from a 1994 episode of the show where Homer attempts to befriend his neighbour Flanders.
Speaking on the inspiration behind The Simpson’s theme, owner Lucy Linford told The Manc that one day a customer brought in a The Simpson’s scarf and ‘it just grew from there’.
She said: “Some people are a bit confused and I guess it is a bit weird, but it started because I do love The Simpsons and I do watch it a lot.
“The Simpsons thing just, like, evolved. Some guy came to Ancoats with that scarf to give me, and then we had that hanging up, and then it just came bit by bit.
“If anyone asks it’s kind of like, I wanted to open a cafe that I’d go to and I’d want to go to a cafe that had Simpson’s stuff, so I made that happen.”
As well as featured plenty of The Simpson’s memorabilia on its walls, the cafe also boasts a host of Simpsons-inspired dishes.
On its menu, you’ll find the likes of non-traditional dumplings in flavours like cheeseburger, salt and pepper chick’n and overnight blueberry oat, alongside the likes of drunken noodles, salt and pepper chips and salt and pepper hash browns.
There are a bunch of Simpson’s-themed menu items, ranging from steamed hams to an array of combo boxes inspired by different characters in the show including ‘The Lisa’s Lunch Special’. ‘The Homer’s home Early Mega Box’, ‘The It’s All Coming Up Millhouse Special’ and ‘The moe Syzslak Mystery Mega Box.’
As for drinks, these are limited to soft drinks with favourites like Ribena and Coke available alongside delicious Columbian filter coffee, various teas and mugs of hot chocolate.
Where to find the best sandwiches in Manchester city centre and beyond
There’s nothing better than a good filling between two fluffy slices of bread, and we’re here to tell you the best places to find them.
From hot roast sarnies and hefty subs as long as your arm, to solid breakfast butties, giant Sardian schiacciata and saucy Napoli-inspired cuzzetiello, if you’re a sandwich lover in Manchester then you’re well catered for.
Keep reading to find some of the best places to get a sandwich in Manchester and beyond.
Ad Maiora, Northern Quarter
If you’re a fan of things in bread (and honestly, who isn’t) then Northern Quarter Italian sandwich dealer Ad Maiora is one that you absolutely need to get down your neck.
Collected from a door on a Norther Quarter back street (or available for delivery on Deliveroo), we’re talking giant handmade spongy schiacciata generously stuffed with the likes of ‘nduja, spicy Tuscan sausage, smoked scamorza, mortadella, burrata and red pesto.
With a total of nine different options to choose from, expect a huge array of different cheesy and meaty delights including parma ham, gorgonzola DOP, truffled brie, Milano salami and crumbled pistachios, plus a gorgeous vegan option with Italian hummus, roasted aubergine, olives, sundried tomatoes and rocket.
Run by in-laws Louise and Jack, The Bread Club sells some of Eccles’s fattest sandwiches (as well as the chunkiest hand-cut chips we’ve had in a while).
Equipped with a huge glass counter brimming with sandwich fillings, as the name suggests there is a good selection of bread to choose from with hoagies, bloomers, rye and more on offer.
On the menu, you’ll find eight different sarnies including the signature Taco Chicken, a hoagie stuffed with mix of chicken breast, peppers, and onions, all enveloped in a secret sauce, then topped with Swiss cheese and jalapenos.
Other highlights include the Cubano, a mixture of roasted ham, pulled pork, melted Swiss cheese, sliced pickles and house mustard, and the Rueben on rye.
First established in the historic Bury market 50 years ago, this cross-cultural deli and cafe celebrates the mixed roots of its family with produce from Cyprus, Poland and Italy, plus more from across Europe.
Specialising in sandwiches as well as boasting an impressive salad bar and carvery, its second site on Deansgate is just as well established after 30 years in town. An iconic sandwich spot, the lunchtime queues speak for themselves.
Made with bread from Chorlton’s award winning bakery Barbakan, the ciabatta is a favourite here but you do have other options. If you’re in a rush, or just in need of something comforting, the hot roast pork with crackling, apple sauce and stuffing hits the spot every time.
Other highlights include the veggie-friendly Zorba The Greek, and the hangover-curing breakfast sandwiches filled with your choice of bacon, sausage and fried egg.
This family-run VIetnamese restaurant in Manchester’s Chinatown opened in lockdown and has become popular for its bahn mi, which go on at midday and often sell out within the hour.
Only made ‘for the tradition’ in limited quantities for the lunch servicee, this fresh pickle and herb-topped Vietnamese sandwich can be ordered with either sweet soy, sriracha or spicy mayo.
Typically made by scooping out the inside of the baguette-style roll, here the chefs like to press the bread down instead to make more space for their fillings. Popular chioces include chicken and king prawn, with beef, pork, tofu and avocado also available.
This tiny Stockport sandwich joint is small but mighty, with sandwich fans travelling across Greater Manchester to sample its wares.
There’s not much room to sit down in the shop, but there is a very cute outdoor terrace that catches the sun perfectly at lunchtime.
Inside a big chalkboard menu lists its various options, with everythung from egg mayo and Italian meats to a funky vegan option with handmade onion bhaji, chutney and pickles.
Toasted sandwiches are a big speciality here, with highlights including a peppery Reuben and a three-cheese classic served with red onion dipping gravy on the side.
Famous for its saucy Neapolitan sandwiches, Mira has a lot of fans in Manchester but is now located permanently inside Macclesfield’s Picturedrome/
For its signature cuzzetiello, fillings include slow-cooked Genovese beef brisket stew, hand-rolled pork and beaf meatball ragu, and Aubergine parmigiana with cashew cheese.
There’s also good-sized focaccia butties and a breakfast menu of house-baked buns with fillings like smoked ham and cheese, hash browns, Lincolnshire sausage rings, vegan bacon, rocket and tomato jam.
First established in 2015, the grilled cheese OG’s have been serving Mancs their naughty, cheesy sandwiches for nearly a decade.
Widely considered one of the best places to grab a toastie in the city, its classic house staple features a blend of three different molten cheeses – all sandwiched in between golden sourdough bread – and is entirely customisable with extra free fillings.
For the adventurous, wilder options include the Bacon Frazzler with Frazzles crisps, streaky bacon, blue cheese, onion and sriracha, and the Mexican Junkie with chipotle mac n’ cheese, jalapenos and Chilli Heatwave Doritos.
Our go-to in the city centre for fresh falafel, technically this is a wrap but we’re going to allow it. It’s not just the herby chickpea goodness that does it for us here – it’s all the salads, pickles and other saucy ecoutrements that go in alongside it too.
Wraps are stuffed with your choice of pickled cabbage, potato, salad, tahini, chilli sauce and lashings of fresh hummus, with grilled aubergine and optional extra. Go Falafel also makes its own fresh juices to order, which are well worth a try.
Things In Bread
This one’s not in Manchester, but if you’re willing to travel for your sandwiches you should try Things In Bread.