The Northern Quarter success story now has three branches under its belt
We visited the brand new branch of Foundation Coffee on Portland street for a look around the space. Foundation is owned by design studio No Chintz who provide bespoke interiors and branding for a wide range of clients - including The Daisy and Banyan. The space is as carefully designed as you’d expect from such a creative team. It’s sleek, minimalist and classy.
It’s a level up from fair trade. They negotiate prices with farmers directly. It goes that one step further
This is the team’s third coffee shop in Manchester. Their original Northern Quarter venue is coming up to its fifth birthday and a second branch in Whitworth Locke opened a year ago. There's a concise breakfast, brunch and lunch menu available to eat in or take away along with a wide range of hot and cold drinks.
General Manager Hannah Beardwell was excited to show us their new coffee machine.
“We’ve got some of the best coffee equipment on the market at the moment. Our coffee machine is a La Marzocco KB90. It’s a new-to-market machine which No Chintz had custom coloured and painted so it really fits in with the space.”
It looks a bit like a sports car.
“All the kit is geared towards fast service because of our location. I think it’s going to be a nice busy site - which is exciting. It’s been curated to be the ideal coffee shop.”
Coffee nerds will tell you that Foundation really know their stuff. Their product is carefully sourced and they have regularly changing guest brews.
Hannah told us, “We work with Origin Coffee whose head of coffee goes on sourcing trips around the world and has direct trade relationships with a lot of farms. It’s a level up from fair trade. They negotiate prices with farmers directly. It goes that one step further and that extra ounce of care goes into every coffee that we serve. We’re launching with our new house bespoke espresso, a single origin Rwandan coffee, and a Kenyan guest espresso.”
Brand Director Katie Lea is excited to have a shop front for the first time.
“As a designer it’s a real challenge to get people through the front door when you can’t see that it’s actually a coffee shop. So having a shop front where people can walk past and actually see it is kind of a big deal for us.”
It’s an impressive expansion for an independent business. Katie explained that it’s all about making valuable partnerships with clients whom they meet through their design service. “Our studio has done the recent refit in this building for Aviva. There was a vacant unit that they wanted to put a coffee shop in. A similar thing happened at Whitworth Locke, they have been a long time friend and client of the studio. They know the value that we bring to the clients design-wise and as an operator so they are supportive.”
Dominic Beardwell, Operations Director told us, “It’s important to be picky. It’s really hard choosing a space, you could go down the road 50 metres and it might fail. It’s a real art. Where we are in the Northern Quarter is brilliant but if you pick one if those roads wrong it’s the difference between success and failure.
“The more successful businesses are around you the more somewhere becomes a destination to eat and drink, which benefits everyone.”
Portland street is previously unchartered territory for Foundation and they are hoping to bring a lift to the area.
Katie said, “You talk about regeneration - that leap of just allowing people to be open, to not have shutters and have street furniture creates the change in community and society. There’s a psychology about just lighting a back alley and all these little things that can make a city feel safe. Hopefully that’s something we’ll help with.”
It might be news to some that Foundation isn’t just a daytime venue for coffees and food, but a casual evening option too - the plan is for the Portland Street venue to open late from next year.
“At Whitworth and NQ we’re open til 10pm Wednesday to Saturday. We do alcohol and we do a lot of events. Everyone knows us for coffee but you can also come here for a pint or a glass of wine. We’ve got a range of cocktails made with tea infusions. People don’t come here to get smashed, it’s not a party venue but you can have a nice casual drink. We pick our alcoholic drinks with the same care that we pick our coffee.
“It’s not Fosters because it’s cheap, it’s Camden because it’s a really great drinkable drink. It’s an espresso martini made with our house espresso - we partner with Mr Black because they make the best products.”
Plant Shop Manchester will be hosting a pop-up shop with special in-store offers from Wednesday to Sunday this week and the team are keen to hold all kinds of pop-up events at Portland Street as they already do at their existing venues. Katie told us they love inviting creatives into the space as it’s refreshing to see the space enlivened by a new perspective - it keeps things exciting.
“Whoever wants to do a pop-up here is welcome - bring us an idea and we’ll figure it out.”
To celebrate the opening, Foundation are offering the first 100 coffees for free from 7am Wednesday-Friday this week.
Foundation Coffee, 11 Portland Street, Manchester, M1 3HU