Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery

unicorn outside

South Manchester’s Unicorn Grocery in unlike any supermarket I have found in the UK.   It seems completely foreign.

It is perhaps telling that it is situated in Chorlton, one of the most affluent areas of Manchester, where rock stars (most of them former rock stars, for the sake of accuracy) and footballers live alongside rich hippies and aspiring poets.  There’s probably a few employees of the BBC there, judging from the lack of regional accents. Chorlton essentially being an imported home-county, which I observe because it doesn’t really feel Mancunian at all.  And it has a village green.

Class may have something to do with the rudeness of some of the people you find in Unicorn, knocking you over, walking into you oblivious of anything but their NEED, their real dire need, to procure some obscure organic nut butter.  Jollying you along in the queue for the checkout in the hope that you, with your far more inconsequential purposes, will just hurry up and leave.  The atmosphere is actually not all that bad in the place, which is very bright, warm and colourful – it’s just noticeable that there’s usually one or two pushy mothers in there who only care about themselves.

Speaking of class, anyone who makes the switch from non-organic food shopping soon realises that money is a big factor in the organic food industry… which makes some people suspicious of whether or not the industry is just a massive scam.  It is certainly very easy to spend money in the Unicorn. However, if you maintain a strict relationship with your budget, it is also possible to do almost a week’s shopping there for about £20.

Two days ago I did my Christmas food shop there, and bought a massive bag of kale for 86p.  Some of the foods also have a non-organic variant, for example the dates, which enables you to buy big bags of pitted Iranian dates for 83p.  I don’t know of anywhere you can get dates that cheap (if you’ll excuse the unintended pun).  The vine tomatoes I bought, though perhaps not as ripe as they could have been, had a strong fragrance, making them a refreshing change from what you find in Tesco.  I was a little disappointed to find the sprout stalks not to the same excellent standard they were last year -but then organic shopping is often about being there at the right time, and I think I got there in between stock replenishments, as far as the sprouts were concerned.

The range of gluten-free supplies is fantastic, (though these are the £ burners) and the deli usually has very nice soups and cakes.  Gluten-free and diabetic friendly pies, burgers, sausages (all vegan/veggie), pastas, noodles… and I should mention the quinoa is the tastiest I’ve bought.  Popular health brands like Dragonfly, Happy Kitchen, Meridian, Clive’s and Laura’s Idea are all to be found in the Unicorn.  Going there has become something of an occasion.

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Earth Cafe, Manchester, UK

open             mon-fri  11am-4pm – sat 10am-5pm – sun CLOSED

address        16-20 turner street, manchester m4 1dz   

Perhaps my favourite cafe in Manchester.  Although in a cellar next door to the Buddhist centre, it has not been a part of the centre for 5 years now.   It still maintains the original Buddhist theme, with brass figurines of the Buddha and information about meditation to hand etc.

There is a mix of large and small wooden tables to sit at, as well as more intimate booths, perfect for a romantic occasion.

Always popular is the £6 food platter, which gets you 4 portions of food – up to 2 can be main courses, and the rest can be sides.  There are always gluten free choices available.  I tend to get the dahl, brown rice, carrot and apple salad, and roast potatoes.  The one criticism I have is that the variety of the food served rarely changes:  in other words, there is little variety.

Also available is an excellent smoothie and juice bar:  I often go for the Green Queen so I don’t miss out on my dose of green fruit and veg.

I can’t remember ever having any of the cakes, though they look good.  I rarely have enough room inside!

The atmosphere is that of a chilled canteen and the staff are friendly.