One of Manchester's oldest lunch spots, Portico Library reopens with revamped kitchen

The ancient and beautiful library will host more food-focused events in 2023 as part of its role as a centre for food culture.

By Manchester's Finest | Last updated 11 February 2023

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Image: Portico Library

There is a lot of talk of new places to eat in Manchester, but what about the oldest places to eat? One of these is the Portico Kitchen at the Portico Library which has been feeding people for over 200 years. Now the charismatic library on Moseley Street has reopened after a period of time closed for refurbishment and its cafe has had a glow up too – with a brand new kitchen enabling it to expand its food offering for 2023.

The menu has changed quite a bit since the days of calves feet jelly when it opened in 1806. Those not enamoured by aspic will be pleased to hear the new menu is a bit more of a people pleaser. There are sourdough sandwiches with fillings like devilled egg mayonnaise, smoked mackerel with pickled cucumber and horseradish, and Lancashire cheese with Dijon mustard and spring onion.

Also on the menu are hot dishes including the Portico Kitchen’s own luxurious cheese on toast and Lancashire hot pot (or ‘not pot’ for vegans) with pickled red cabbage and sourdough toast. But what’s most lovely is you can enjoy these lunch dishes in the gorgeous surrounds of the library, with walls of books to gaze at while you eat.

Imagine eating lunch here. Image: Portico Library

You might not know that The Portico Kitchen is now also a centre for food writing and culture, bringing culinary history to life with all kinds of interesting events that are to be ramped up in 2023.

Expanding its events programme from March 2023, the first of its food related events is On Greens: An edible history of plant based eating. Portico Kitchen’s manager Joe Fenn will explore the history of vegetarianism, from its international origins through to the formation of the first vegetarian societies in Manchester and Salford and now the modern vegan movement. Joe will bring this story to life with accompanying dishes cooked to historical, contemporary, and futuristic recipes.

The space will host more exhibitions, talks and food writing workshops, alongside unique dining experiences throughout the rest of the year. To give you an idea, past events have included an exploration of gin and botanicals with forager Dave Winnard featuring canapes and gin tasters, and a deep dive into the history of American food with Dr. J. Michelle Coghlan complete with a menu of succotash and slow cooked beef chilli.

Twice a year, the library also holds Portico Feasts, serving extravagant multi-course meals in the grand setting of the Library. Themes in the past have included a Victorian Christmas dinner cooked from recipes found in the Library’s collection and a mid-summer French feast on Bastille day. Tickets to these events sell out rapidly, so booking early is advised.

The Portico is a true hidden gem. Image: Portico Library

The Portico library is one of Manchester’s most beautiful hidden gems designed in the Greek revival style by architect Thomas Harrison. Many of the library’s early members were free thinking rebels, with some of them also penning some incredibly important and influential books.

Celebrated Manchester author Elizabeth Gaskell, for example, used the Library while her husband William acted as its longest-serving Chair. Rebel or not, it’s a fascinating place to visit for so many reasons and the revamped Portico Kitchen gives you one more excuse to go.

You can keep an eye on all upcoming events via the venue’s website below or by following The Portico’s socials. 


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