A hipster breakfast in Manchester and shades of Airbnb…

WE are off for a hipster’s breakfast in Manchester. There isn’t time for me to grow a suitably resplendent beard, but to be fair there wouldn’t be if I didn’t shave until a year next Tuesday.

My reasons for picking this coffee shop are contrary. A feature in the Observer cites Takk as a tired example of the “hipster aesthetic” that is “taking over the world, brick by exposed brick”.

Instead of putting me off, the snooty feature makes me want to visit. So the writer of the article, Kyle Chayka, ends up advertising a place he affects to disdain. This notion pleases me as we head there in the Manchester rain. Other sorts of rain are available, but cliché dictates that this city does rain best.

Kyle Chakya was rude about Takk because of its big glass windows, reclaimed wood and hanging Edison bulbs. Such coffee shops, he says, mimic “the same old tired style, a hipster reduction with elements of history and the remnants of industrial machinery that once occupied the neighbourhoods they take over”.

My guess is that this look has been around for a long time in the capital, and the writer of the article has succumbed to London-centric weariness.

Anyway, we like Takk. The staff are young and pleasant, the coffee is good and the breakfasts even better. A bacon sandwich made with sourdough toast for me, and poached eggs with avocado on rye toast for my wife. My sandwich is substantial and comes with a dash of that hipster reduction. Or maybe it’s spicy tomato sauce. Whatever it is, it tastes good.

Elsewhere in a long article, Kyle Chayka also argues that Airbnb is to partly blame for a creeping worldwide conformity in interior design. He says that consultants who work with hosts leave all Airbnbs looking identical as “a certain sameness is spreading, as users come to demand convenience and frictionlessness in lieu of meaningful engagement with a different place”.

Well, I don’t know about that. The ‘consultant’ for our Airbnb just chose a shade of Farrow and Ball paint she liked, as she always does. The colour downstairs is often remarked on by our guests. I guess some Airbnbs are apartments done up to cash in on the trend, while ours is just a room in a family home.

The article also cites a Harvard Business School study which suggested that Airbnb hosts “are less likely to accept guests with stereotypically African-American names”.

Not true at this house, where all names are welcome, including Chinese symbols we cannot translate. Some young Chinese guests help out by saying that they like to be known by English names instead, Kevin or Sophie perhaps.

Anyway, that article annoyed me. So I have taken a small revenge.

The hipster aesthetic can be spotted here in York at places such as the lovely Fossgate Social, which I often recommend to our guests.

As for Manchester, I guess that city can look after itself. We stayed for a night in a cheap but not cheerful hotel. We were mostly there to see our son play in the band Sonic Bliss Machine at a place called Night and Day, but we made full use of our time, visiting the Whitworth Gallery, which has been splendidly revamped, and the equally impressive Manchester City Art Gallery.

Heading for lunch with our boy and his girl, we popped into the John Rylands Library. What an inspirational place, a stunning marriage of old and new, with clean modern lines and open white space giving way to long gothic corridors and libraries like something out of Harry Potter. We only had ten minutes to spare, but will return.

I grew up in Manchester, or rather at a suburban remove, and always enjoy going back. My inner satnav went on the blink though, and we traipsed a long way in the wrong direction before finding the Whitworth.

Manchester is being dug up for new tramlines so the city is in chaos, but still felt good: big and messy, mundane and magnificent all at once.

There were an awful lot of beggars and homeless people. If you gave money to all of them, you’d soon be reduced to begging yourself. All cities have homeless people, but they do seem very visible in Manchester. I don’t know why that should be, but it’s surely not good for them, and can be unsettling.

This city is well worth a visit, though. As too is that hipster coffee bar at number six Tariff Street.

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