Ten essential eateries in Ashton-under-Lyne
During shopping hours, and possibly up to the early hours, the possibilities of going hungry in Ashton are practically nil. There is a wealth of cafés, restaurants and chippies – many of which at affordable prices, suitable for various tastes.
Out of around 20+ establishments, we have whittled this down to ten for this month’s Not So Perfect Ten. Each of the eateries have been chosen in terms of ambience, service and quality. For the purpose of this entry, national chains have been excluded in favour of independent establishments.
The Ten Must-Visit Ashton Cafés:
- D’Oro: Ashton Indoor Market, off Wellington Road;
- Avenue 18: Market Avenue;
- The Old Town Café: Market Avenue;
- Sorrento’s Café: Market Avenue/Stamford Street;
- Thyme To Eat: Stamford Street;
- The Shubar Café: Old Street;
- Hanson’s Café: Old Street;
- Chris’ Café: Bow Street;
- Topaz Vegetarian Café: Katherine Street;
- Church of Nazarene Café: Stamford Street.
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1. D’Oro, Ashton Indoor Market
A short saunter away from the bus stops on Wellington Road is a small but perfectly formed establishment, which has been in business since early 2013. D’Oro’s café, owing to limited room, enables customers to eat in the indoor market’s seating area, or outside.
The café’s piece de resistance is their paninis, closely followed by its range of teas (Yorkshire Tea, Chai tea and Earl Grey as well as herbal teas). All meat is locally sourced from Pearsons’ Butchers, elsewhere within Ashton Indoor Market.
If you’re meeting someone it is in a prime position in Ashton town centre. The unit was hitherto the entrance to the Fish Market, subsequently Ashton’s first electricity showrooms. Prior to the 2004 fire since the late 1960s, the entrance to the food hall.
- Things we love: friendly service, cheerful staff.
- Room for improvement: size may be claustrophobic for some.
- Highly recommended: hot chocolate with marshmallows, the chai tea, locally sourced meat from Pearsons’ Butchers.
- Disabled access: excellent.
- Smoker friendliness: outdoor seating area, bit draughty.
2. Avenue 18, Market Avenue
Occupying a good position on Market Avenue, the Avenue 18 café has come on from its previous incarnation. Originally occupying a basement unit, it has in the last year expanded, taking up a street level unit.
On the plus side, this allows access for disabled persons. With the kitchen being at basement level, there is one downside. If a customer opts to sit at street level, his or her dish is brought upstairs from the basement, leaving the poor waiter to open two sets of doors whilst balancing their order.
On a recent visit, I was most impressed with the quality of our order opting for the Buck Rarebit at £3.99. Not only was it freshly cooked, it was well presented and tasted every bit as good as anything I’ve paid £10+ for in central Manchester. Plus I was full afterwards.
- Things we love: friendly service, bohemian atmosphere.
- Room for improvement: food orders being carted up from basement to ground floor.
- Highly recommended: the Buck Rarebit – probably the best in Greater Manchester.
- Disabled access: ground floor only.
- Smoker friendliness: no seating.
3. The Old Town Café, Market Avenue
Another café that has come up in leaps and bounds over the last year has seen cosmetic changes to its interior. As a result, it is both a homely and clean café, and one of the cheaper cafés in the town.
Since a previous visit that I made in 2009, the air conditioning, food quality and ambience has improved. Most commendable are their omelettes, especially their cheese and tomato one. The cheese and bacon one is pretty good too.
If you sit at the table closest to Wood Street/Market Avenue, it is a great spot for people watching, and watching the world go by.
- Things we love: cheerful staff, intimate atmosphere, great for people watching.
- Room for improvement: indoor seating arrangements limited for customers with impaired mobility.
- Highly recommended: the cheese and tomato omelette.
- Disabled access: very good.
- Smoker friendliness: outdoor seating area, limited number of seats.
4. Sorrento’s Café, Market Avenue
In the last decade, Sorrento’s Café has become a bit of an Ashton institution. Since taking on the former Koffee Pot unit in 2004, it has become a continental style café, and one which has won many local awards.
As well as its continental, mainly Italian style offerings, it can do a mean traditional English breakfast. Well, five different sizes and a vegetarian one. The Mamma Mia breakfast (their mid-range one) should be enough for most appetites.
Their quintet of breakfasts only scratch the surface of their abilities: try the paninis – most awesome and best enjoyed with a strong Americano. The café is still a popular haunt today; so much so it has enabled rival eateries to raise their game. At present, there is a number of other establishments equalling or surpassing them.
- Things we love: good variety, ever-changing specials board.
- Room for improvement: chairs could be comfier – low Metal Rear Rating (less than 10 minutes).
- Highly recommended: any of their paninis; the Mamma Mia! medium breakfast; their ground coffee.
- Disabled access: from Stamford Street corner entrance.
- Smoker friendliness: outdoor seating area on Market Avenue, limited seating.
5. Thyme to Eat, Stamford Street
Only a few yards away from the last establishment is a place I had often passed. I soon righted this wrong and somehow wished I called in more often. Thyme to Eat is another fairly new arrival, next to a Chinese restaurant.
Thyme to Eat in a nutshell is a sandwich shop with limited seating. On my visit, I was lucky to find a seat and ordered a vegetarian sandwich. It was freshly done and absolutely gorgeous. Most of the sandwiches have Mediterranean leanings, though there is still room for traditional English food.
As I went for a vegetarian option, I realised I missed out on their breakfast. The biggest selling point of which being the sausages. Riley’s Manchester Sausages, also available in ASDA and Ashton Indoor Market.
- Things we love: good variety of sandwiches, particularly Greek dishes.
- Room for improvement: slightly cramped, but good use of space given limitations of unit size.
- Highly recommended: any of their salad based dishes.
- Disabled access: none, slight step.
- Smoker friendliness: two seats outside.
6. The Shubar Café, Old Street
Many Ashtonians seldom need to travel to Manchester or Oldham for a decent pair of shoes. So much so that at one time (1998 to be precise), yours truly noticed that Ashton had a dozen shoe shops. Before we mention Cassons’ two stalls. Along with Edward Meeks, another long established shoe retailer in Ashton is The Shubar on Old Street.
Whereas Timpson used to use its first floor for children’s footwear, on The Shubar’s first floor is The Shubar Café. Traditional English fare, hot food and sandwiches is the order of the day. Nothing too exotic save for the odd dalliance with chilli-con-carne or chicken curry. All served in attractive surroundings.
Decor wise, it has the ambience of a traditional tea shop. The sort of place your grandma would be pleased with. Well, physically fit grandmas unfortunately; access to the café is via a set of stairs. That is perhaps the only fly in the ointment, though our fellows at The Shubar are able to make adjustments for mobility impaired customers.
- Things we love: traditional tea shop ambience, good cakes and light bites.
- Room for improvement: disabled access – a lift would do nicely.
- Highly recommended: their cakes and home made soups.
- Disabled access: none, though adjustments can be made.
- Smoker friendliness: 100% non-smoking.
7. Hanson’s Café, Old Street
If you demand something more substantial yet affordable, there is one place which is a familiar haunt. It is one of the longest serving cafés in Ashton and, in spite of its large size, always busy.
Hanson’s Café has been a regular haunt for most shoppers since the late 1980s to early 1990s. Food wise, traditional English fare – breakfasts, toast, and pies. And a decent brew, made with Yorkshire Tea. One other thing: no-one born within six miles of the St. Michaels and All Angels bell tower should leave this world without trying… The Famous Pie Meal!
Yes, the Pie Meal, which of late has gone past the £3.00 barrier and comprises of any Hollands pie or steak pudding, mushy peas, gravy and chips. And, why is it so good? Real chippy style chips, mushy peas and one of Walter Holland’s finest pastry products. Washed down with a mug of Yorkshire Tea… priceless!
- Things we love: speedy service.
- Room for improvement: can be busy, fair walk to the toilets for some customers.
- Highly recommended: the famous Pie Meal, Yorkshire Tea always spot on.
- Disabled access: very good.
- Smoker friendliness: limited seating outside.
8. Chris’ Café, Bow Street
Close to the top end of Market Avenue and facing the market is this highly popular café. It has occupied the same unit since 1974, next to what was TESCO’s Home and Wear store. Chris’ Café is more intimate than the previous one and attracts a mixed, mainly cost-conscious clientele.
Like Hansons, the menu is straightforward with a bias towards all-day breakfasts. It is a popular location for persons wanting a bog-standard bacon and sausage toast, which they do very well. The fare is freshly served and unpretentious.
There’s only one gripe: the rigid seating layout. Supposing I was to introduce a friend in a mobility scooter to Chris’ Café, there is no way I could accommodate him or her, without lifting my friend and leaving the scooter outside. Which is a bad thing, unless s/he is willing to sit with the smokers outside.
- Things we love: straightforward menu, handy for the market. Quick service.
- Room for improvement: a little cramped: rigid seating layout may be problematic for mobility impaired customers.
- Highly recommended: their bacon and sausage toast.
- Disabled access: none, slight step.
- Smoker friendliness: limited seating outside.
9. Topaz Vegetarian Café, Katherine Street
With the amount of meat based dishes stated in this round-up, there’s every chance you would fancy an alternative. A meat free one for instance within the town, though some distance from the crowds.
We have mentioned this place before in a previous article (a Trans-Pennine Café Trail entry of some sort) but it’s worth another mention. The Topaz Vegetarian Café has an excellent range of Vegan dishes cooked with organic produce, all locally sourced. You can also browse on the internet on their PCs whilst there.
Its long windows not only make for good people watching. It is the best place for Vegan bus enthusiasts with at least one bus every two minutes each way passing the place. MIND’s café, open since 2009, has repeated its success in Ashton by opening a community café on Gorse Hall Road, Dukinfield.
- Things we love: quiet ambience, away from the crowds yet only a short distance away from the main shopping area.
- Room for improvement: a bit small: getting a seat in busy times may be tough.
- Highly recommended: any of their salads.
- Disabled access: very good: ramp from entrance to café.
- Smoker friendliness: 100% non-smoking – no outdoor seating.
10. The Church of the Nazarene, Stamford Street
Now for something completely different! We have visited a café in a shoe shop; also one that was formerly the entrance to Ashton Indoor Market’s Fish Market. Our final one is part of a church, which at one time was formerly a branch of the National Westminster Bank.
The Coffee Lounge is in the easterly wing of the church. It is a tidy establishment which looks out to the gardens and (at this time of writing) a zombie car park on the site of Blues night club. Again, it is far from the crowds though still a short walk from the main shopping area.
Open twice weekly (Thursdays and Fridays from 10am to 3pm), it offers Costabucks style coffees at Chris’ Café style prices. For a single Americano opposite the Arcades Shopping Centre, you could get two. The cakes are gorgeous as well. Sandwiches and jacket potatoes are also available, subject to availability.
- Things we love: friendly service, again away from crowds whilst near the main shopping centre.
- Room for improvement: some improvements to disabled access may be required.
- Highly recommended: premium quality coffee at bargain basement prices.
- Disabled access: none; two steps from street level to café.
- Smoker friendliness: outdoor seating area within the church grounds.
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Is that everything, Sir…?
As always, feel free to elaborate on the ten aforementioned eateries. Honourable mentions of other coffee shops, cafés or restaurants within the Lancastrian town are appreciated. Favourite dishes? Add to list, more the merrier.
S.V., 12 March 2015.