Since my first university days back in 2010, Eighth Day Coop has been a regular on my food list. I first visited when I made a firm decision to ‘go green’ and eat super healthily, after having dragged out Freshers’ week a little too long. This deli-cum-restaurant-cum-café is stacked with healthy grains, farm-fresh yoghurts, organic sauces, an infinite range of Pukka Teas, bakery breads, fresh fruits and vegetables, and all the herbal remedies you could possibly need (and they know their stuff, so ask a member of staff for advice). The deli spread includes wholesome wraps, pies and pastries—all vegetarian and some vegan—and some delicious cakes and bakes made with healthier oils for a little less guilt. I love to nip in before class to grab their cocoa-raisin flapjack, made with chunky steel cut oats and sweetened with dried fruits rather than sugar. There is something about the slightly bitter cocoa that makes them irresistible to me; I can’t handle too much sweetness at breakfast time!
My lunchtime order is usually their smokey vegetable burrito; a colourful medley of vegetables bound together by creamy beans. This quick bite certainly lives up to its name—there is a wonderfully smokey BBQ flavour to the mix. Enjoy hot or cold—I prefer it heated up, although the wrap goes a little ‘wet’ in the microwave, so if you’re heading home, pop in it the oven. My must-try bake has to be the blueberry-caramel slice; a crisp biscuit bottom topped with lusciously sweet blueberries, spread with a layer of oozy caramel and finished with a crunchy streusel topping.
For the first few years, I didn’t venture downstairs to the café. To my surprise it was very busy when I finally decided to descend. Being a vegetarian/vegan health food shop, I would have expected the lunch crowd to be flower-in-their-hair, hippy folk; but there were students, business men, mum’s and daughters, groups of giggling friends and even the odd romantic lunch date dotted about. The atmosphere was vibrant, spurred on by the great mix of tunes seeping from the speakers. Each day, the café serve up a bake, a stew, a pie—either potato or pastry topped—, and a variation of their amazing daal, as well as having freshly made sandwiches, quiche, salads and cakes in the cold section.
On my first trip, I went for the daal. The generous ladle of wonderfully soft and delicately spiced lentils had a taste of fresh tomato giving a little sweetness to the mix. The lentils were creamy and the spike of chilli hit the back of my throat for a truly warming dish. The daal comes with a choice of sides; brown rice, vegetables of the day or salad. I asked to have a little of everything and they happily obliged. Today’s veg were curly cabbage and carrots; both had been cooked al dente for nice bite and were well-seasoned and sprinkled with herbs. The café often serve broccoli for the vegetable choice, which is cooked until lovely and soft; I adore the comforting texture of soft, seasoned broccoli, so much so that I always cook it for a long time at home (personally, I hate a crunchy stalk when it comes to broccoli).
Extremely happy with my first café trip, I have returned several times since; for a creamy plate of baked ‘gnocchi primavera’: soft courgette, leeks and peas bound in a flavourful cream sauce, a sweet oriental Chinese vegetable stew, another pasta bake; this time with penne, butternut squash pieces, fresh tomatoes and spinach, topped with a thick, golden mozzarella crust, a spicy tofu and vegetable Massamam curry with a rich spiced coconut, and finally a tasty Moroccan chickpea, apricot and vegetable stew, spiced generously with sweet-savoury cinnamon, and served with a lightly buttered couscous.
I am an avid believed in eating healthy, wholesome foods, with plenty of veg, and find it heartbreaking that students head to their nearest fast food joint or grab a supermarket sandwich for lunch when they can get a delicious, fresh, well-balanced meal a few feet away. So if there are any Mancunian students reading this, I cannot recommend Eighth Day Coop enough—you must be missing your mum’s home-cooked grub, so this is the perfect alternative! If you live elsewhere, scope out a great café like this in your area, and share in the comments below!
Eighth Day Cooperative and Café
111 Oxford Road
T: 0161 273 4878
Open 9:00am-19:00 (Mon-Fri) & 10:00-17:00 (Sat). Closed Sun.